Monday, March 8, 2021

Music Reviews

Minusheart: The Dark Side Of The Sun

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Artist: Minusheart (@)
Title: The Dark Side Of The Sun
Format: CD + Download
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: * * * * *
Here comes the second (and last) of the 2020 Echozone physical product albums I had left to review. Minusheart is a German electro project founded by Diver in 2007, now with several previous albums under their belt, mostly on the Echozone label. Diver handles the vocals, and there is also Chriss Rey on guitars, Robert Lee on E-drums, and Herr Hilter on synths. I haven't heard any previous material by Minusheart, but I can imagine it sounds pretty similar to what I'm hearing on 'The Dark Side Of The Sun'. Diver has a very distinctive style of speak-singing that will remind you of Dirk Ivens (Absolute Body Control, Dive, Klinik) and Nitzer Ebb, but maybe more of the former than the latter. According to Echozone's one-sheet, "Minusheart are mostly inspired by North America's industrial scene (What?? we have an industrial scene here? Where? please let me know!)...and have moved up to be one of the best industrial rock acts all over Germany.” Now that part I guess I can believe. The album has a very accomplished, professional sound. To me though, it sounds more EBM than Electro, but maybe that's just category quibbling.

On first listening, the songs on 'The Dark Side Of The Sun' might seem to sound too similar, in part due to Diver's distinctive punk industrial vocals. Subsequent plays though reveal that that isn't the case at all. The music is somewhat stripped down, edgy and the perfect foil to Diver's visceral lyrics in the dystopian world we all now live in. While most of the tracks on the album are really, really good, the one chink in the armor is "Ice Burns," the closest thing to a ballad in its slower tempo. Something about it just didn't sit well. Other than that though, the songs have plenty of chutzpah, verve, zest, whatever, with inventive arrangements and unexpected little touches that make 'The Dark Side Of The Sun' a real winner. I don't know if it will ever get better for Minusheart, but for now, it really doesn't matter. And how come these guys aren't playing Wave-Gotik-Treffen 2021? They really should be, as this is music that just screams crowd motivation.

Pyrroline: Struggling

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Artist: Pyrroline (@)
Title: Struggling
Format: CDx2 (double CD)
Label: Electro Aggression Records (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: * * * * *
No, the protagonists of Germany's Dark Electro/Industrial duo Pyrroline have never been that sort of loud-mouthed posers of the scene, although measured with their immensely talent they surely could! Schmoun and Arnte aka Pyrroline, one of my most beloved female-/male-duos out of this special niche of the dark music scene have always made their impact on me already with their very first beginning under their previously chosen project name Nordschlacht and their unforgettable debut “Silence, Beauty and Cruelty“ released in early 2007.

Nordschlacht became soon history because Schmoun and Arnte felt to that time that their chosen band name was sounding too martially, too aggressive – what the protagonists aren't and never have been. The music though hasn't changed too drastically. Now, 14 years later and with their fourth Pyrroline album (+ the one Nordschlacht album) in stock, the third signed to the Canadian label EAR, they start their epic sounding comeback and can be well sorted into the prominent row of quality Dark Electro music albums released in this very first weeks of 2021.Almost four years in the making after their last opus „In the Dawn of Freedom“, Arnte and Schmoun give us the expected kind of a comeback, the necessary daily doze of classically produced Dark Electro music with that so beloved old school vibe founded in the heydays of the late 80s / early 90s.

Pyrroline in the year 2021 stands for refining their audio perfection still woven into the known and beloved veteran-like sound design. As for the typically stereo-type rating which we reviewers always have been confronted with, just think about a musically intercourse between „Revelations 23“-Like M&tF, Placebo Effect and/or Abscess for possible comparisons. Yes, it's only meant to give you, the listener, a hint.To me actually Pyrroline stand on their own feet and are able to formulate themselves new and unique in their style. This mainly belongs on the fact that you'll get an artistically output filled with intelligent hints, with depths and springs of inspiration on which Pyrroline extract part-wise their lyrically content always infected with meaning and message. Writer and poets like James Montgomery, William Blake or Edgar Alan Poe find their homage with their inspirational works in Pyrroline lyrics and Schmoun and Arnte aren't also afraid to take The Holy Bible (“Nothing Besides You – Psalm 73”) into their composition process too. I guess it doesn't need to mentioned especially that this demanding content and concept stands light years above the pseudo-aggressive testosterone-driven muscle-and-sweat EBM formula. This is purest dark aesthetic.

„Struggling“ is the album title, but nothing struggles here, not at all. It is highly recommend to pick up the physically released product, which is a nicely designed DCD set. The bonus CD won't be available via digital downloading procedures and this DCD set is only limited to 500 exemplars. You know it... when there are gone, they are gone... so... what are you waiting for? Next point is the awesome looking bluish cover art painted by Sorin Sorin ( which shows an old sailing vessel trying to find it course through a stormy sea with jagged rocky coasts. An absolutely eye-catching kind of work and no digital download could be able to replace it.

First off, the main album starts with a slow and haunting Dark Electro pearl entitled „Decency and Integrity“ which is a co-composition with Martin Sane of Fix8:Sed8. Check it, consume it, inhale it – and play it with its epic Synth string pads side by side to Skinny Puppy's „Worlock“ - and it fits perfectly! Check also out the meticulously arranged bass line programmings especially on this one, the best under a quality pair of headphones. So much hand-made details between harmonic and filter resonance manipulation can be discovered quite seldom. „Battleground“ comes next and drags the scenario into a more pummeling and subliminal aggressive mood. It is one of the very few tracks breaking out of the mid-tempo scheme to a more straight and danceable environment and also Arnte's voice sounds more darker and fx-treated than usual. It is one of those Blade Runner-like classic early 90s-inspired Dark Electro tunes which can mess with the biggest hit tracks of comparable projects.
„Song of Deliverance“ is lighter-minded, almost catchy produced with a constantly well-balanced song structure. Arnte's nearly natural sounding sounding voice swims perfectly mixed in between the beautiful installed synth pads. Not a Synthpop track, no, but a quite accessible and suitable tune for a wider interested audience of . “Suffer” is another outstanding example of the lesson “how-to-turn-a-Dark-Electro-tune-into-a-space-odyssey”. Nearly completely exempted of all heavier percussive elements this track enters the galactic nebular with it's ambiance, various installed icy synth pads and Arnte's voice drastically manipulated with a vocoder effects. The nailing bass line bring in some unfamiliar restlessness into a track like “This Dusky Faith” while the majestic integrated synth pad bring back the beloved goose-bump-impression to Pyrroline's music.

“The Grave” is one of the earlier released appetizer tracks of this duo which offers opulent synth pad sounds pretty much linear installed into the parts and a rather forward-pushing attitude plus Arnte's heavily vocoderized vocals. It is straight oriented, yes, but at least lesser danceable like “Battleground” or “Song of Deliverance” for example. To me the strongest moments are following with the last few tracks as this are the moments when Schmoun seems to be taking more impact into the Pyrroline sound and composition process. “Chaos and Order” is a well-chosen title and services already perfectly into this review. This tracks starts unfamiliar chaotic with some noisy rhythm FX sounds and Arnte's deep dark distorted voice. This scenario leads us to the chorus where Schmoun takes control on this track with her beautiful voice and brings everything back into order.
“My Rebirth” is a breathtaking and very catchy mid-tempo instrumental tune filled with moody synth pads which reminds in its kind a bit on some Delerium works out of the Leeb / Fulber fame - at least this track can accomplish with them. Finally – and to me their best tune on this top-notch produced album – comes in with “The Divine Image” - another “Schmoun”-song brilliantly placed in the mid-tempo with her providing the lead vocals. Same impression here which I had already with opener: check out the bass line programming skills here! I love that wobbling creaking here as much as I like her voice on here. An ice-cold produced combination again filled with this special goose-bump-factor, but so damned epic and majestic above all expectations.

Have I mentioned before, that YOU MUST order this DCD set? YES, YOU MUST, because also the second CD of this beautifully styled digi-pack offers a rich and valuable content to fulfill your highest expectations.Three additional original Pyrroline compositions and with “Atelier Complex” another breathtaking Blade Runner-like instrumental tune which could be easily added to a FLA score album like “WarMech” and you as the listener wouldn't recognize an alteration of quality.
“State of Things” is a quite straight produced smasher with enough potential to rival with “Battleground” on the main album. Regarding the Leeb-/Fulber-like bass line programming skills represented here - somehow I'd wish that Arnte would be the producer for the next FLA album.Additionally 9 remix contributions provided by the creme of the creme out the current Dark Electro scene could be place with Placebo Effect, Jihad, Sleepwalk, Terminal State, The Opposer Divine, Fix8:Sed8, g.o.l.e.m. and Amorphous.
Yes, the surprise is Placebo Effect but not only for their comeback as a duo after 21 years at the end of 2020 and their self-released album „Shattered Souls“ (produced by Arnte...). PE haven't provided any remix for foreign bands with the one exception of La Floa Maldita in 1995, so to find them here featured with two fairly produced contributions of „What might have Been“ and „Suffer“ is a little sensation.

To go for the real deal and to point out the best remix contribution is kind of my very own taste and perspective – but what Mr. James „Jihad“ Mendez extracts out with his smooth piano inserts on the track „Where has no Child to Die“, a rather „normal“ sounding Pyrroline track, has left me absolutely speechless! This track in its original version is featured on here on this bonus CD too – but sorry to say that but this remix of James kicks out the already good original composition.
Also worth to mention is the straight and pounding interpretation from Amorphous on „Chaos & Order“. This is surely one of the most difficult remix works compared to the fascinating original composition on the main album and to to find it in this rather EBM-related danceable style is at least unusual - but solidly solved.

Since already this DCD set is worth enough to pick it up only thanks to the three original Pyrroline compositions, I again strictly advise you to purchase it. Again, it is only limited to 500 exemplars. Regarding the whole package I will have again sleepless nights from now on because this Pyrroline album is another contender for the imaginary „album of the year“ contest surely together with Fix8:Sed8 latest album – but I hardly can't decide so far.

Today it is Valentine's day – also today is Schmoun's and Arnte's wedding anniversary! And the release date of „Struggling“ is set for today too! Congratulations to you both and all the best for your further mutual walk of life.

Normally you both deserve all the praise and presents and not contrary.

But so it is – this album is a gift for all fans and friends of quality produced Dark Electro music in the classically style!

Sinitsin: Borderline State

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Artist: Sinitsin
Title: Borderline State
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ukonx Recordings
Rated: * * * * *
Andrey Sinitsin is a guy coming from Moscow who in the past played the drums in a rock band. Since his interests aren't limited to rock music, he explored also electro, i.d.m. and techno, finding his place creating a mixture of the previous genres under his moniker sin:it:sin. During 2020 he self-released six EPs (available at his Bandcamp at a pay what you want basis along with an EP of his new techno project New Terrain), two digital EPs for Urban Connections, a split with The Droid for Crobot Muzik and a tape for Raw Russian. That's a lot of music for one guy but maybe the lockdowns helped to find inspiration and time. The new year finds Andrey back on track producing new music and he just release for Ukonx Recordings his new four tracks EP titled "Borderline State". "Pathfinder", "Borderline State", "Digitize" and "Maschine Learning" are the tracks that you’ll find on the release and they show mostly the electro space side of sin:it:sin, while singles like "Fire/Tunnel" (available at his Bandcamp) were more focused on techno. I think that the tracks born from jams, as he did for the "Checkbox" EP, because they tend to revolve around one idea and then the sounds and rhythms come and go creating movement. The sound is the classic one you would expect to find on Ukonx: rich, powerful and upbeat.

Francisco Meirino: A New Instability

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Artist: Francisco Meirino
Title: A New Instability
Format: 10"
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
“A New Instability” was first presented as a 32-channel piece at Ina-GRM in Paris, who commissioned it. Now, it has been mixed down into stereo for more casual consumption- a two-part, thirty-minute gradually unfolding pseudo-drama of noise, drone and human atmospherics. In varying combinations- sometimes slow waves, sometimes more abrupt drops and switches- drones, hums and glitches are introduced and removed.

A kendo dojo in Switzerland provides the majority of the human sonic material, and the pull between crowd fighting sounds- even if only practices- and the resolutely sombre and arhythmic drone work provides the contrast at the core of the work. The fighting sounds sometimes seem quite brutal, though their usage and volume is so subtle that it’s hard to be sure. The fighting records remind me of CNSNNT’s’ “J”, even though that piece is brutal and this work is an exercise in softening the violence.

Side B offers up more in the way of short electronic bleeps that feel skittish and make proceedings feel more uncomfortable, and longer alarm-ish sine waves that provide an uncomfortable tension- amplifying the contrast between the percussive but ultimately safe fighting sounds and the digital drama happening alongside.

It’s an unusual work, and in stereo, curiously understated- experiencing it in a higher-channel-count environment could potentially have been very disorientating, whereas here, the disquiet is a gentle itch rather than dizzying. Intriguing soundscaping.

VV.AA.: Inside The Univack, Vol. 6

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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Inside The Univack, Vol. 6
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Univack
The sixth six-pack compilation from the Univack label is half made up of the winners from a competition called “Progressive En España”, where a jury selected their favourite progressive house tracks from submissions. So in a genre where to be steadily unnoticeable is not always a criticism, there must have been something the jury heard in these tracks to impress, and if I had to guess I’d say it was production quality rather than originality.

Not Demure’s “Hang In There” ticks along until a nice toothy, decidedly synthwave drop, while Daniel Camarillo & Noil’s “Caresess” features a range of vocal snippets and effects that make it feel like a dub version that ought to have a full vocal version floating around somewhere. Orgymu5ik’s “Space” has large doses of ‘90’s progressive, adding a little urgency and then plenty of sci-fi atmospherics and reverb in the drop.

The three competition tracks fit in well with the other three tracks in the release. High On Mars’ “The Dark Bedlam” isn’t bedlam but it’s dark, with an entertainingly ravey stab lead melody arriving just before the three minute mark. Despite its name, “Symphonic” from Nasser Tawfik and Messier is quite unambitious and feels a bit routine.

Whosane! & Essio’s “Flying Spaced Tipsy Stoned” is the anachronism of the pack, thanks mainly to spoken-sung vocals from Eva layered thickly across the whole track. It’s got much more of a party vibe but it’s interesting to hear that get melded with moodier prog house elements.

It’s a very strong pack of tracks- unsurprisingly, since half of it was chosen by a jury- with an undeniable production quality. Only one of the six tracks seems to want to stand out, but as a DJ friendly reliable bundle it packs a lot of quality.