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The more I review here on Chain D.L.K. the less I find myself aware of many worthy music projects I've never heard (or heard of) before even though some have been around for years and years. Not a bad thing though; I find myself in a constant state of "new discovery". Such is the case with Psy'Aviah. I had my doubts when I received the package- a
hand-colored and lettered envelope containing a USB drive attached to a joker playing card. My fear was that this was going to be "art school amateur". That was defintely not the case though. On the drive was everything I needed- all of the contact, photo and audio files, and more. Unfortunately some of the audio files were corrupted, but after emailing Yves he was kind enough to provide an alternate method so I could do this review.
Yves Schlepe, from Belgium is the mastermind behind Psy'Aviah, and 'Seven Sorrows, Seven Stars' is the 7th album by Psy'Aviah, and sort of a "magic number" in its ouevre. Faithful readers of Chain D.L.K. may even know a good deal more than I do about Psy'Aviah (previous releases have been reviewed here), but a condensed background is that the project started in 1999, released the first album ('Creationism') in 2007, also EPs, mini-albums, compilation contributions and remixes along the way, as well as being very active live on the Euro club and festival scene. Over a number of albums Psy'Aviah has a proclivity of
employing guest vocalists, and very good ones at that. On this outing you will find Kyoko Baertsoen (ex-Hooverphonic, Lunascape); Roeland van der Velde (Model Depose); David Chamberlin (Entrzelle); Mari Kattman; Bernard Feron (Med, Combat Voice); Ellia Bisker (Sweet Soubrette); Pieter Van Vaerenbergh (Metafuzz, Zelon); Andrew Galucki; Alvin River;
Fallon Nieves; Addie Nicole (Halocine); Miss FD, and Diana S. The songs are as varied and eclectic an assortment as the vocalists within the genre, which is a veritable smogasbord of electronica.
Beginning with the intro, title track "Seven Sorrows, Seven Stars", a female voice-over gives the impression of Enigma in space. "Alcubierre Drive" which follows (with Kyoko on vocals) is a slinky, sultry bit of electronica steeped in trip hop rhythms and EBM basslines wrapped in spacey synth gauze. "Face to Face" could be an instant club hit with
Roeland's superb vocals and a killer hook. Dialing it back a notch, David's soulful voice on "Looking Back" expresses a bit of regret on this introspective number, yet still with a beat. What we learn from "Lessons of the Past" is that Mari Kattman is a vocalist to be reckoned with. No surprise that Yves chose to work with her again. The song is a good moody one too. 'From Another World' (Bernard on vocals) is a neat, medium-paced future pop classic. The anthesis of "Looking Back" is "Never Look Back" and Ellia's vocals are just right for this cool bit of pop electronica, and the music video for it is pretty cool too, in a still-life kind of way. "Opia" is a ballad (sans beat) that tugs at the heartstrings with Pieter on vocals. Well done, but not my kind of thing really. Nothing frozen about "Frozen" with hot vocals by Andrew on this nifty, catchy electropop number. Promising singer/songwriter Alvin River (from Italy) takes the lead on "Liberosis", stepping out of his acoustic element for this heavy dance track guaranteed to get 'em moving in the clubs. The singers take a break in the instrumental "Peace Paradox" but Yves can't resist filling in the gap with some appropriate dialogue samples. Another good club-friendly track. The next number is "Not What I Expected," literally. It's a sardonic electro stomper spoke-sung by Fallon sure to become a fave in dark music dance clubs. (Sort of goes back to Psy'Aviah's roots.) Addie's stellar vocals push "Stronger" over the top to be another potential dance club megahit. Are you ready to take a little "Wild Ride" with Miss FD? It's like Nine Inch Nail remixing Curve. Way cool! It all winds down ethereally with spoken word courtesy of Diana (who likley was the voice on the title track). A beautiful ending to a stellar album. But wait, we're not done yet.
The deluxe package also contains a second CD, the remix album! Remixers include Etasonic, Alex Dalliance, Skyshifter, People Theatre, Liquid Divine, Cutoff:Divine, VV303, rool, KONER, Cyborgdrive, Girlflesh, Implant and Amarta Project. If you're a regular reader of my
reviews, then you know I'm not big on remixes, but there are some interesting ones here over fourteen tracks of eight of the original album's songs. Don't know why "Wild Ride" got three remixes and "Liberosis" didn't get any, but...whatever. "Opia" gets a nice boost from Liquid Divine, and with the rhythmic backing, Pieter voice reminds me a bit of the Cruxshadow's Rogue. I especially enjoyed Implant's quirky industrial synth-heavy remix of "Not What I Expected", but not Girlflesh's clunky minimalist remix of "Wild Ride". The one outstanding remix of that track goes to Amarta Project. A bit old school in a pop-happy way, but welcome.
'Seven Sorrows, Seven Stars' is a real contender for album of the year. Yves' synthwork and production is stellar, and the album flows very well through its peaks and valleys. With such an array of talented vocalists and great writing, there is never a dull moment. The total package isn't cheap - 18 Euros or $20.00 U.S., but worth it for those that want the full experience. If want to skip the remixes, it will only set you back $13.50. Right now it's in pre-order as the release date isn't until April 15, plenty of time to set aside the cash, unless that's your doom-date for the I.R.S.
The mixing board of Alexey Sysoev has no input, but its hissing white noise sounds like a fog which gradually submerge the hits on piano's strings and board by Yury Favorin and the strangled sound that got emitted by Konstantin Sukhan's trumpet, two instruments which are closer to somehow phantasmagorical entities in the rising magnetic saturation of seemingly empty noises or I could rather match them to dangerously radioactive objects, whose radioactivity got measured by the noises coming from the mixer in the first part of this release. The second part got ignited by the ringing noise of a sort of broken intercom, where this skilled sound artists implanted a set of almost disturbing interferences, a sort of metallic chewing and locking that got supposedly derived from piano elements, a wheezing tone of trumpet and occasional hits on piano keys by rendering an electrically charged cloud, which gets more and more evanescent, but the peak of compression got reached on the third and last part of this output, where the three sonic entities seem to mirror the noises of invisible bugs in a nocturnal urban scape. Anyway don't try to look for a meaning of what these guys made while Maxim Khaikin recorded their sessions in Moscow (it dates back the 1st of July 2014), as It Do(es)n't Mean a Thing and this kind of intellectual honesty can only be appreciated.
It seems as though there's been a lot of synthpop coming out of Scandinavia lately, so it's not surprising to find that It's A Synth is from Copenhagen, Denmark. They're a duo consisting of Andreas Fog-Petersen -what else but synths! and Casper Clemmensen - vocals. While this isn't their first foray into music, 'Curiosity' is their first official release, and WOW!, is it ever a doozy. Right from the get-go these guys draw you in with "Bring It On," a medium slow neo-psychedelic synth stew that latches on to your psyche and won't let go. "...I will always find a way to get to you and numb your senses, Feeling so underrated, they..never will speak the truth...it's underestimated...yeah, they all dismiss you..." It's a bit dark, but not typical of this album. Casper's vocals are perfect for this kind of thing. "Endless Endeavor" peps it up for the dancefloor and Casper employs a little vocoder assist for this tune. Now the pop portion of this synth band kicks into high gear and drills directly into that happy portion of your brain and implants their infectious hooks. Unless you really hate synthpop, they've got you. And so it continues with the anthemic future-poppy "Almost". I can picture a huge crowd waving their hands in unison in time with the beat. These guys have lucked on to the magic formula that most synthpop bands strive for, namely to create music that you just can't get out of your head. And the weird thing is, it's so bloody simple. Fog-Petersen's synthwork is very good, but not ground-breaking. (Is there any more ground to break in this genre?) Clemmensen has the knack for writing melodies that are uber-appealing. "The Last Cell" isn't the greatest track on the album, but lots of synthpop bands would be satisfied to come up with something as good as this. Even when the band doesn't seem to be trying hard, as on "Pen to Paper", where the hook has only the words "there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason...ahhhh" it will melodically bubble up in your brain long after you've heard the song. I thought after this they might be spent, but no; wrong on that account. Blam, blam...two more infectious tracks - "Somehow" and "Piece of Me". After that "Steps" attemps the same formula, but isn't as compelling as anything that preceded it. "Moving" is much better with an old-school psychedelic chorus - "How will I find you?" repeated anon. The last track, "Spirit" is a bit heavy-handed with it's pounding staccato beats and really only serves to sum things up in a grand finale. As far as tunesmithing goes, It's A Synth makes bands on the order of Fischerspooner sound lame, and that's no small feat. I have heard the future of synthpop, and definitely, It's A Synth.
His previous album "Soldier's Requiem" on Erik Skodvin'd Miasmah deeply captured my imagination as well as the imagination of many listeners a couple of years ago and I think that this new release by Vancouver-based guitarist Gabriel Saloman, one of the former wings of Yellow Swans alongside Pete Swanson. As many listeners already knowws, Gabriel followed completely different explorative paths to the ones that his former partner-in-art, who kept on diving into sonic explorations over rougher water, has beaten, but the choice of more etheric sonorities should stand for happy-making perceptions: the two-tone waves and the gradual implantation of other faint whispers over a background noise in between the noise of distant traffic and stormy waters has a somehow sinister nuances; the sprays of snare drums and other resonances sound like a dampened incitement to react against an oppressive flatness, even if this dynamic element paradoxically seems to amplify the creeeping friction of the sound, also when it sound like flowing on the second half of "The Disciplined Body". The cracks of the first that he opened on the first part seem to get filled by antacid, but still anxious, sonorities of the second part on the flipside, which almost renders the somehow tragic increased awareness that follows the tempered enthusiasm of a nascent state as well as a drifting heart-rending return to life.
Building upon the dubstep-dabbling introduced in their previous release, 2012's AirMech, a soundtrack to the eponymous real-time strategy video game, Front Line Assembly's 18th studio album, Echogenetic, reflects a blend of experiments in dubstep and FLA's classic electronic body music sound.
Each FLA fan has their preference and opinion on what constitutes FLA's best work, whether the early era of conventional, classic EBM (such as Initial Command and Corrosion), metal-influence and guitar sampling (such as in 1994's Millennium, and to a lesser extent, 2010's Improvised Electronic Device), albums bordering on techno, or the melodic, danceable EBM introduced in 1992's Tactical Neural Implant and heard in various albums since. Accordingly, every fan is likely to have a different opinion on Echogenetic. Dubstep-influenced beats and structure are heard throughout Echogenetic, such as in tracks "Leveled," "Deadened," "Exhale," and "Prototype." These elements are not omnipresent, thereby ensuring Echogenetic holds one's attention and remains listenable throughout.
The introductory, bass filled track is the dark instrumental "Resonance," which ends on a dramatic and sudden note to transition into "Leveled," which jumps right in with the syncopated beats that characterize the dubstep genre. Leeb's effected vocals in this track, and indeed, throughout the album, are rather reminiscent of Tactical Neural Implant-era FLA. "Leveled" stands out as a surprising track, its mood temporarily lightened in an otherwise dark song with around a minute of minimalistic keyboard in a major key in the middle of the song. This type of juxtaposition is not an uncommon element in FLA's music, and while a bit disorienting this early in the album, it somehow works and prepares one for more surprises later.
"Killing Grounds" sounds as though it could be the industrial music anthem for 2013. It is a pounding dance track with repetitive vocals and more sound- and vocal influence from Tactical Neural Implant, particularly in the breakdown. This track is among the highlights of the album, along with the hauntingly (no pun intended) sorrowful and beautiful "Ghosts," which incorporates synthetic strings and vocoded effects. The band re-visits the somber sound later in the dramatic "Exo."
"Blood" is undoubtedly the catchiest track on the album due to the hook in the lyrics of the chorus: "You've got blood in your eyes / you can't see past your lies / You are the one you desire / Because you've got blood in your eyes."
The title track is the most dubstep-heavy on the album. The album then concludes with "Exhale," another danceable track ready for gothic-industrial club play, and "Heartquake." Not the strongest track, "Heartquake" nevertheless literally winds down the album nicely.
Overall, Echogenetic is a very strong, well-produced, and riveting release, arguably among the strongest Front Line Assembly albums in the past decade. While dubstep has largely become stigmatized, particularly due to the criticism it has received since breaking into mainstream music since 2009, Leeb and his collaborators continue to be talented musicians who know how to work with trends without compromising the core sound and principles that made FLA one of biggest industrial and EBM bands to date.