Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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Music Reviews

PlanetDamage: Relapse Protocol

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Artist: PlanetDamage
Title: Relapse Protocol
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
Most of Planetdamage’s debut album “Relapse Protocol” follows an electro-cyberpunk formula that is, on the surface at least, very familiar. Pulsing synth lines and drum patterns are the bed on which are laid angsty, semi-shouted, mildly distorted monologues about politics and the state of the world, infused with frustration and determination. It’s the lyrics that are placed centre stage, while the electronics are mostly there to provide a frame and a sense of urgency.

“Kompromat”’’s assertion that ‘history is deepfaked’, and “So Is Europe”’s talk of ‘sandbox fuckery’ (I think) and the remarkably understated side question, ‘what about the US?’. “Hi Rez Lo Life” turns its attention to online and social media, talking about pays per clicks and demanding “got no need for engagement” (always a difficult claim for musicians trying to promote themselves online), while “Vex” resorts to naming a selection of multinational companies to be viewed with suspicion. “The Mark” resorts to the chant of ‘question authority!’, which I have to suspect is a message that will only reach those who already do. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with any of it, it does feel somewhat mansplained at times.

Unfortunately, despite being relatively short (40 minutes), it ends up being a little bit undramatic and one-note. The fact that the tracks are segued together seamlessly, sometimes a really interesting musical move, in this case unfortunately only serves to highlight the excessive similarities in tone and pace between each of the tracks. The vocal delivery is the same throughout all the tracks, which under-sells the message it’s trying to convey at times. There’s a decided lack of drama in the delivery, both lyrically and musically- the synths are mildly aggressive but never really given teeth, and fills and drops are sparse, curt and simple. The opening of “Regret Gunner” shows dramatic promise, then flattens out. And while not trying to bow to mainstream popular culture, a few stronger hooks or riffs would not have gone amiss.

There is some great techno work under there- “Firewalls” into the light acid tones of “The Mark” was a highlight area for me musically- but in the social-media driven industry that the lyrics complain about, I don’t think there’s enough distinct character, nor lyrical insightfulness, for this to really gain traction.

TC75: Popmusesick

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Artist: TC75 (@)
Title: Popmusesick
Format: CD + Download
Label: 9XO-Media / Razgrom Music (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: * * * * *
It has become routine for Tino Claus to release a new TC75 album year by year. “Popmusesick” is already his 4th official full-length album, if we count only the official works since 2017 (“Tracks ”, “Tension”, and “Morphed”) which have seen the light of a professional CD release in support by the Russian label Razgrom Music. Before his signing to this Russian label, there have been three earlier, self-released CDR's available which can be still purchased via Tino's Bandcamp website (please check below).

A word of introduction to Tino as he is one half of the renowned German Dark Electro-duo Amnistia and can look back on a long career in the Electro-/Industrial-scene with additionally appearances in projects like MRDTC or lesser recognized with the old-school EBM pendant Neukampf. Also TC75 isn't a newcomer project as Tino started already in 2007 with this solo effort.

Due to the fact that I am not too familiar with his earlier works under the TC75 moniker, it was at first the intention to figure out the differences between Amnistia and TC75. Yes, both projects are without doubt deeply rooted into the European style of EBM / Dark Electro music genre but there are omnipresent differences between them. While Amnistia is pretty much based musically to pick up some Dark Electro traditions of Canadian veterans like Numb, Puppy or the FLA league mixed with straight European EBM elements, TC75 follows demonstrative the path and sound ideas of Belgians old school formula of EBM.
The glorious early years of The Klinik, Vomito Negro, early recordings of Insekt, Suicide Commando or at least the 242 camp – from all of these projects Tino has at least collected some musically ingredients to be discovered on this “Popmusesick” album.And there's especially the work of Dirk Ivens and his famous project Dive worth to mention: several tracks are available on here, which could be directly stolen out of the sound archive of this prominent and exceptional artist (“Desire”, “I Swear To God”, or “Back In The Place”).
The track “What You Don't Know” for instance plays pretty much with multiple percussion elements mixed precisely with icy sequencer lines and seems to be rather infiltrated with that typically Klinik-ally impact. The straighter tunes like “Save Face” for example maybe tend to remind to the Front 242 hall of fame.
However this all is meant and how much stereotyped-thinking I need to throw into this review, it needs to be clearly pointed out, that TC75 isn't at all a copy-cat of Belgian traditionalists. Tino picks up ideas and starts to experiment with these elements to bring out a refined form of straight EBM with “Popmusesick” under up-to-date recording possibilities. And the result is absolutely convincing.

We have here 10 original tracks all based between 2 and 3,5 minutes – not too long at least – plus a special 11th track entitled “Obituary”, which at least clocks up to more than 40 minutes of playing time.“Obituary” is massively different to any of the other tracks. It is a slow stalking collage, a multiple-artist-effort with sinister and dark layers and it is filled with ominous whispered vocal inserts Tino's music friends. The row of the artists involved looks like a list of the who is who in between the scene:

Andrea Morsero (In.Visible)
Martin Sane and Persephoniis Phoenix (Fïx8:Sëd8)
Lauro Guedes Junior (kFactor)
Patrik Lev (Depressive Disorder)
James Mendez (Jihad)
Jens Plesner (No Sleep By The Machine)
Sasha Rempel (thewalkingicon)
Javi Saez (Vein Cramp)
Emese Árvai-Illés (Black Nail Cabaret)
Sinan Jafan Schmoun (Pyrroline)
Sebmer (Wülf7)
Jan Dewulf (Mildreda)
Dirk Ivens (Dive)

Did I mention somewhere before that this 40-minutes ”Obituary” is only an edited version to be fitted on this album and to respect the length of a CD release? Well, indeed, the original version of this track stops after at least after more than 75 minutes!!!
“Obituary (Total Annihilation)“ is an exclusive Bandcamp release and can be seperately picked up there,

But asides of this, go ahead and pick up this wonderful, fluffy piece of finest „Popmusesick“.

Dæmon & Endgame: DXE

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Artist: Dæmon & Endgame
Title: DXE
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
“DXE” brings the moody grime lyrics of Dæmon alongside the equally moody subbass-rich Hyperdub-style slow beats and atmospherics of Endgame. It’s a confident, easy fitting match that feels natural and assured, and it’s surprising to learn it’s a first link-up.

The whole affair is heavily reverb and effect-laden, to the extent that you need to really focus in on the lyrics to even pick them up, otherwise they will roll over you thanks both to the treatment and to the rather droll, casual delivery. As far as I can tell, then, “Let Me Breathe” has a topical and political leaning, as well as the EP’s catchiest hook with its “passive” mantra, and “Caged” is born of deep frustrations, but mainly it does fall back into the over-familiar grime themes of lechery and thug attitude.

“Queue” has shades of dancehall swagger about it, which contrasts against the urgent and somewhat leery “Eye Teeth”.

It’s a consistent dark EP with an exquisite amount of polish, though it does maybe feel a little too washy and toothless in parts.

Anma: Kick 'em All & Kick 'em All Remixes

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Artist: Anma
Title: Kick 'em All & Kick 'em All Remixes
Format: 10" x 2
Label: Syncopathic Recordings
Originally cutting his teeth on drum’n’bass production with the alias ‘Sub’, Anma’s style has evolved over time into deeper and more experimental territory. However he acknowledges that “Kick ‘Em All”, as an EP, has shades of the former styles in the melting pot as well- certainly not in the tempo, but absolutely in the crisp subbass and sharp production that pervades through the 4-track EP.

The title track is a rolling 87bpm behemoth driven by a relentless non-4/4 but steady kick pattern, with tense alarming atmospherics over the top. “60Hz Stomp” is about 10bpm slower, making it feel like a d’n’b track at halfspeed, with a similar kick-centric tone and slightly more complex pattern, but essentially more of the same.

“Witchdrum” takes the balance a little differently, still subbass-rich but concentrating more on the sinister, soundtrack ebbs and flows of minor synth chords, a modern-day witches-chanting-around-the-cauldron theme for the post-rave generation. “Diode Chatter” is slower again and has a slightly more upbeat robotic swagger to it, with shades of grime, and a really bold, 90-degree turn in its later breakdown.

The package is backed by a couple of real d&b remixes that are bundled separately. Fre4knc’s take on the title track is a straight-laced and energetic take that adds in the rest of the percussion around the original kick and revels in the more fun side of the robotic and electronic sounds. Double 0’s take on “Witchdrum” is far darker, twisting the pulsing atmospherics of the original quite a lot and giving a more aggressive form of menace.

There’s an irony, or a deliberate idiosyncrasy to the imagery of the delicate flower used in the artwork. There’s nothing fragile about this release. This is beefy dark kick-heavy electronica with bite- more of a venus fly trap than a rare orchid.

Oliver Leith: Balloon / Slide

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Artist: Oliver Leith
Title: Balloon / Slide
Format: 10"
Label: SN Variations
This short 10” release from London-based composer Oliver Leith was originally commissioned by the London Sinfonietta as an acoustic piece, performed at the Sound Unbound festival in 2019. This arrangement, however, has been reworked for “synthesizers of many tunings”.

Over the course of three parts, each a little under five minutes, it’s an interesting and somewhat pointed exercise in obtuse melodic tuning. Vaguely “ethnic-sounding” synth notes are played with some leisure, but also a fixed sense of discord, or if not discord, then at least something slightly ‘off’. The third part in particular feels like an odd pastiche of the Chinese pentatonic scale somehow.

Bonus piece “Slide” uses a similar source palette of Eastern-sounding notes and plucks. It’s one of Leith’s first purely electronic pieces and grew out of his discovery that on his old software, tweaking parameters with both a mouse and trackpad at the same time would cause jumps and glitches. Apparently a software update has put paid to this ‘feature’, which is certainly a shame, as the additional post-production trickery, and a few extra ambient noises, elevate it a level of interest above “Balloon”.

It’s a curious and compact little release, though it doesn’t bewitch either melodically or sonically.