Original Sin is a 4-track techno EP with a gritty and direct industrial feel. Over staccato pulsing synth basslines and simple driving kicks and snares roll a relatively sparse collection of upper elements.
“Pandemonium” has the classic gravelly industrial shout-sung vocal on it, but washed in so much delay and looping that it becomes indistinct, more of a tone than a message. “Straight Outta Hell”’s repeated sinister chants of ‘we are ancient’ are initially clearer, over a faster and more aggressive beat, before opening up into a throat-smashing thrash metal-esque vocal.
“Evil Disorder” is a highlight for me as it feels like a throwback- in a good way- to the energetic trance-techno crossovers of the ‘90s, letting synth and acid high notes off the leash on a slow and sparse journey in the higher register whilst the drums pound hard underneath. It’s a technique that’s repeated in a more low-end-heavy way in final track “The Furnace”.
It’s formula stuff in one way, but it’s nicely executed and produced, and in the aspects where it seems retro, it manages to pull it off.
Endless is a deep house track built on a recipe that’s very familiar, but which still has power. The approach of drifty female vocals over steady, soft-synth-bassed house stepping has been done a hundred times, and examples like “My Head Is A Jungle” can’t be far from mind when listening. But, thanks to a emotive vocal performance and a fairly catchy melody, it does still work, and still feels relevant to the current lockdown ennui even though nobody will be dancing to it any time soon.
The extended mix sets the tone first, and the three remixes are fairly faithful to it, changing sounds and tweaking tones but generally keeping the song structure and overall casual vibe intact. The M.E.M.O. mix is based on slightly harder percussion and sharper, more acidic sounds, while the Odagled remix has a clappier, almost U.S. tribal house vibe to it and lets the chord atmospherics loop around a bit more freely. But frankly, more casual listeners might struggle to spot any key differences, and the two mixes would vie for the same spot in a DJ set.
Of the remix bundle, it’s the Juanjo Tur mix that works best for me- a slightly bouncier bassline and more stripped-back approach lets the melancholy of the chords cut through, playing nicely against a slightly crisper rhythm.
It’s a strong original track, with a nice mood to it, but a bit more remix variety and some changes in energy level would have given this a boost.
Atmosphere is key on Volans-1800, the second album from Switzerland’s Ian Mason. At 18 years old, Mason’s musical palette already incorporates ambient, drone and noise music and elements of avant-garde classical, all fused together with what Mason calls a “punk rock attitude”.
The electronic soundscapes are bleak, dark, brooding and otherworldly. Samples of string instruments provide minimalist melodic or chordal interest and tension, and spacey sound effects creep in and out.
Mason has a very strong grasp of harmony that would put a lot of far more experienced noise / ambient producers to shame. His use of musical intervals to create tension and resolution is admirable and lends a journey-like quality to the music that can sometimes be lacking in works from this type of genre.
Through the five tracks of varying lengths - all titled simply Volans-1800 with a Suffix denoting the track number - the droning unease continues and follows peaks and troughs. There is a sense of chaos, mystery and even the reverence of contemporary classical music within the deep tones. There are some truly magical moments. “Volans-1800, Pt Four” features a descending drone section which made me want to either throw up or grab on to something for dear life.
On occasion Mason’s relative lack of experience shows. The intention of using the string samples is ambiguous. Are these meant to be electronic / “keyboard” sounds (in which case the sounds could be made to be more robotic or lo-fi) or are they meant to sound like real acoustic instruments (in which case actual string players or a much more fine-detailed approach to programming and effects could be employed)? They don’t quite sit in either category and this can jar a little.
Album closer “Volans-1800 Pt. Five” is very different. A drumless psychedelic Stooges-esque wig-out; here we get to witness Mason’s rock influences. As the song disappears I am left not entirely satisfied with this musical journey, but equally aware that this album shows a great deal of promise, talent and creative drive.
Ian Mason says “Volans-1800 is my sound”. It certainly captures a moment, and it lays bare Mason’s determination to create idiosyncratic and challenging music. Mason’s sound will no doubt continue to twist and change. He can go in any direction he wants to. And he probably will. Watch out for him.
Volans-1800 is out now on streaming platforms including Spotify and Bandcamp.
While it is true that most good IDM music has some element of melancholy to it, this reviewer has yet to experience one with this level of gloom. Calling Everything an IDM release might be a bit of a stretch, closer to melodic ambient and drone, there is one such track on this release. The impetus behind Everything’s darker side of the emotional spectrum is Ocoeur aka Frank Zaragoza’s contention that our society is increasingly consumed by mobile devices and attendant apps while oblivious to the world around. Therefore, Zaragoza wants the listener to not only tune in to his music, but the environs immediately outside devices, to absorb everything once more. Opening track, “Ascent” immediately instills a sense of gloominess with its subdued, bleak melodies and despite picking up mid way through, never leaves the dark cloud. Title track, Everything, follows almost dirge-like, keeping in gloomier territory and even the crunchy fragments of beats mid way through does not propel out of its overcast state. “Current” follows in gloominess, albeit briefly, while also maintaining a pensive and introspective side. Therefore it is a relief to immerse in the sole proper IDM, “Glow” with its more assertive scale-structure-like melody that builds in delicious tension before launching its defining steam-punk-robo-glockenspiel-angular-rhythms in tandem with said melody and both pair beautifully. “Glow” gradually unfurls throughout, both elegant and uplifting though still having overtones of melancholy, like most good IDM. Tracks, “Dawn” and “Dusk” are said to be companion pieces and could easily belong on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2 the way subdued, bleak yet seductive melody forms at the start of the track and then gradually strips down to ambient-textural-drone overtones, mere vestiges of its former self, like the decay of an old-school musical loop machine. “Dawn” and “Dusk” are your melodies on pharmaceuticals getting to work and gradually winning. For this writer, Ocoeur is among favoured artists and this time he challenges the listener to appreciate a different side of his art, even if we are to accompany him on the rainy side. The journey of Everything is well worth it, bring your galoshes.
If you remember British alt-rock glitter punk band Daisy Chainsaw, then you know KatieJane Garside, one-half of Liar, Flower. If you followed her career after Daisy Chainsaw, you may even know that she collaborated with the industrial band Test Department in 1995 on their album 'Totality.' After a couple years break from music and a move to England's bohemian Rigg Beck in the Lake District, she reunited with Daisy Chainsaw founder and guitarist Crispin Gray to form Queenadreena, an even heavier noise-rock band than Daisy Chainsaw. After four albums garnering plenty of critical acclaim but unspectacular commercial sales and charting action, KatieJane left to form Ruby Throat with guitarist Chris Whittingham. That project was nearly the polar opposite of Garside's previous efforts; a complete turnabout from the screaming riot-grrrl vocals she had been known for. Now her voice was soft, sylphlike and ethereal. If you haven't heard her, maybe you remember The Cranes' Alison Shaw as that's sort of a close comparison.
Liar, Flower is Garside and Whittingham bringing everything to the table from previous endeavors, then pulling off the tablecloth with contents in tow, and sweeping up the rubble melancholically to the dustbin. Okay, well what does all this have to do with the music we cover here you might ask. Punk, alternative noise-rock and even ethereal (without being goth or darkwave) aren't staple categories of Chain D.L.K. 'Geiger Counter' is just so weird, so impossible to categorize that it makes more sense to review it here than perhaps anyplace else in the mainstream. The album careens like a pinball in a demonic arcade machine from the moment the plunger is pulled - calm to chaotic, banging bumpers, heading down unexpected paths, kicked into holes by noisy flippers and scoring enough points along the way to guarantee a replay. Beginning with the elfin "I Am Sundress" (She of Infinite Flowers) with Katiejane singing alone (in Italian at first) sweetly and innocently in her little girl voice accompanied mostly by an autoharp, you'd think this was recorded in fairy tale forest. When she slides into "My Brain is Lit Like an Airport" (best song title on the album) you know you've got the old wild-child KatieJane back again. There's a muscular malevolence at work on this track that intentionally tears down any "nice girl" illusions you may have had previously going into 'Geiger Counter.' If that wasn't strange enough, there is the ambientesque "9N-AFE" where KatieJane's wordless vocals mix with processed guitar and electronics in a surreal stew of oblique dimensions. "Mud Stars" bubbles and boils in a hot mess of down and dirty bluesy, noisy filth. Back on cloud 9, KatieJane and her autoharp step sweetly into "Broken Light" which has one of the best lyric lines I've heard in a while - "i was in a band called where's my fucking phone, stranded on a hillside of spectacular bodies ..." It's almost expected you'd be diving back into the mosh pit with "Even The Darkest Clouds" that follows. And so the album continues vacillating from the quiet and contemplative to the belligerently boisterous with not a whiff of self-consciousness to spare. Sometimes both sides of KatieJane's vocal split personality emerge at once, such as her Banshee howling in the otherwise kind of placid "Baby Teeth." It all ends enigmatically enough with the instrumental "Doors Locked, Oven's Off" a little guitar and autoharp duet that sounds like a Pink Floyd acoustic outtake from their Umma Gumma days.
While often fascinating and inventively engaging, 'Geiger Counter' isn't a perfect album by any means. Opening track "I Am Sundress" is too long by at least half; the quieter moments of KatieJane singing with her autoharp tend to be too similar; and the self-indulgence is palpable. Be those things as they may, this is certainly unusual enough to warrant some serious attention, which I'm pretty sure it's getting. For serious collectors the album will be available on limited edition (500 copies) double 12" vinyl (with bonus songs) that includes two 12”x12” frameable prints (cover print signed) and a limited edition CD in glassine envelope with a pressed flower in glassine. For us mere mortals who can't afford half-a-hundred British pounds, there is always the digital download at substantially less.