11 June 2017

Beats, Blasts and Beauty #1

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Featuring new releases from Igorrr, Bong-Ra, Defeat, Rhys Fulber, Cubanate and Tear Garden.

A collection of new and forthcoming releases that loosely contain an electronic element. Some will scare you and some may just seduce you. Read on.

IGORRR – SAVAGE SINUSOID. I’ve followed the output from our friendly Igorrr for some while. And his work isn’t easy to follow, challenging even the most open ears.For the uninitiated, his previous outings have chewed up and puked up classical, opera, breakcore, metal, trip hop and the odd bit of oompah. Musically schizophrenic yet also dazzling and compelling. His last full album ‘Hallelujah’ was released in 2012 through much missed and in hibernation label Ad Noiseam, who also put out his split releases with Ruby My Dear and Bong-Ra. I enjoyed playing tracks from this album on my radio show as they would always get a mixed reaction of curiosity and bafflement. ‘Savage Sinusoid’ picks up neatly where ‘Hallelujah’ left off and fans will not be disappointed. The album opens with slap in the face ‘Viande’ and I was left wondering whether the love of metal has become all consuming. Thankfully, genres quickly get mashed up delightfully though I do detect a slight increase in the overall metal content. There is also a slight increase in cohesiveness. While the composite styles are still jarring and unexpected, the compositions feel more rounded and somewhat more comfortable to consume. Do not get me wrong though, this is still unmistakably Igorrr. ‘Problème d’émotion’ is operatic and noirish until stabbed through the heart with massive electronic percussion. ‘Spaghetti Forever’ blends Spanish guitar with metal that Devin Townsend would be delighted with, choral pads and break beats. I could describe each track in similar ways but instead I will say that if you can hang in there for the full ride you will encounter blast beats, metal riffery, some devilish dubstep wobbling, oompah, chiptune, choirs, funk, shouting, screaming, crooning, and I’m sure I missed just as many styles and genres out of the list. I enjoyed ‘Hallelujah’ a lot but I enjoyed this more. Highly recommended if you already like Igorrr, and also if you appreciate the output of Mr Bungle, Fantomas, Secret Chiefs, Bong-Ra and so on.

https://igorrr.bandcamp.com/album/savage-sinusoid

And while we’re mentioning BONG-RA, a two track release has appeared on bandcamp titled ‘ PALESTINA‘ with all pay what you like donations going to the Al Awda Hospital in Gaza. The two tracks on offer ‘Gaza’ and ‘Hebron’ both show a slower more doomy side to Bong-Ra, pushing towards the sonics and pace of former collaborator Author and Punisher. Massive guitar sounds still underpinned by muscular electronic elements. Grab it.

https://bong-ra.bandcamp.com/album/palestina

culturesofresistance.org/allied-projects-al-awda-hospital

DEFEAT – RISE. This is the seventh release to date for Defeat, a two piece act comprising Gary Walker and Anthony Matthews. This compact eight track release falls firmly on the well trodden ground that is electro-goth. Perfect for scanning green lasers, copious amounts of smoke, flashing strobes and wearing shades indoors, these sleazy and shadowy cuts are a decent listen. The selected synth sounds often combine a vintage 80s vibe with more modern electronic styles. Likewise, the percussion has that old school feel while the vocals are a sometimes playful combination of Jean-Luc De Meyer of Front 242 and Ohgr of Skinny Puppy. Musically ‘Rise’ lives closer to the synthpop and EBM elements of the scene, due to the catchy songwriting. ‘The Phoenix’ is really a dark pop song that could have been conjured up if F242 and Puppy met on a particularly cheerful day. ‘Dirty/Sick’ made me smile with its Global Citizen styled sleazy groove. ‘Nothing You’ ramps up the BPM in an early rough and ready EBM vibe while the title track and ‘Hurt’ show a moodier and more down tempo aspect to their craft. This isn’t a bad album at all and it should find favour with the rivethead crowd. However, I do wonder if I will be drawn back for repeated listens given the rather crowded nature and the genres flirted with here.

https://defeatmusic.bandcamp.com/album/rise

RHYS FULBER – REALISM. Cool! A four track EP from Front Line Assembly member release on Sonic Groove digitally and as a tasty 12”.Kicking off with ‘Effigy’, we find Fulber in strictly dark techno mode. An insistent 4/4 beat wrapped in an addictive snake like bass line, layered up with insidious pads and subtle bleeps, chatters and chirps filling the upper frequencies. ‘Reload’ is a more awkward beast, a battering ram electro industrial rhythm underpinned by a murky sub sonic and shot through with building arpeggiated keys. Minimal yet mighty. ‘Minsk Maschinen’ maintains, and indeed further embraces, a minimalist style. Returning to a 4/4 rhythm, the interest is added by soft pad swells and hypnotic beeps and blips. There are not vocal hooks, no verse chorus structures, this is music to close your eyes to and drift or dance to you depending on your location and the volume of playback. ‘Abstraction’ closes up this EP with another jagged slab of dark industrial electro. Sparse and stark, haunting too, laced with vocal snippets whip cracking snares. This four track release might typically wear thin on those seeking more structure and melody in their music. However, the production of this EP is pristine, warm and engrossing yet somehow also maintaining that crisper harsher edge when the composition demands. Infectious stuff.

https://sonicgroove.bandcamp.com/album/realism-sg-1778

CUBANATE – BRUTALISM. Anyone who has ever had a conversation about electronic industrial music with me will know how much I rate Cubanate and their contribution to the evolution of angry electronic music in all forms. Their fusion of electronica and razor sharp guitars was a the top of its game at the time and had a large part in influencing how my own guitar sound took form in my own band. Post Cubanate I have also thoroughly enjoyed the output of Be My Enemy and Marc Heal. Now, hot on the heals of the return of Cubanate to the stage we have this compilation, remastered and ushered upon us by Armalyte Industries. So, being a remastered retrospective collection I feel my review needs to serve two purposes. Firstly, for the unfamiliar I need to discuss the music, and secondly, for the familiar I need to discuss the impact of said remastering. So, the music always comes first. Tracks are lifted from the first three albums ‘Antimatter’, ‘Cyberia’ and ‘Barbarossa’. The fourth and somewhat divisive album ‘Interference’ is left on the sidelines. The selection of tracks includes the familiar singles ‘Body Burn’, ‘Oxyacetylene’ and ‘Joy’, with other club staples ‘Hate Song’ and ‘Junky’ and thoroughly rounded off with a selection of album tracks. The only noticeable omission other than the aforementioned ‘Interference’ album is ‘Metal’ which also saw light as a single in some form. The selected tracks gel well together and sound robust. This is tribal and aggressive, hard hitting in a way that the likes of scene darlings Combichrist struggled to match at any time. Cubanate managed this by welding the metallic guitars solidly into their mix. They never took over or overwhelmed but they definitely added bite. The result was a band that were as at home on a club dance floor as a grimy live venue. The music to my admittedly biased ears still sounds vital, fresh and brutal and I would simply urge anyone who has a Cubanate shaped hole in their music collection to do something about it. Onwards to this remastered collection. On first listen it sounded great to me, not weak in any way though it has to be said I do not recall any weakness in the original masters. Further investigation was therefore required. So, I loaded up the originals and remasters in my DJ software for closer inspection. It is there that the remastering reveals itself. Every track sounds brighter and crisper without losing bottom end clout. However, there are subtle differences in how tracks have been affected. The guitars in ‘Barbarossa’ and ‘Skeletal’ stand prouder while those in ‘Hate Song’ and ‘Industry’ feel a little moire subdued, perhaps because other mid to high frequency elements of the song are further forward in the mix. The synths in ‘Lord of the Flies’ are noticeably more proud too. So what is the judgment? Those with no familiarity with Cubanate should definitely start with this collection. Those with a slim collection would also benefit from padding it out with this offering. If you, like me, already own everything one one format or another, whether this collection is essential will be a personal choice. I personally enjoyed the flow of this collection and the deluxe packaging with a healthy booklet including liner notes from Heal certainly adds value. Still an essential band, new music please!

https://armalyte.bandcamp.com/album/cubanate-brutalism-2

THE TEAR GARDEN – THE BROWN ACID CAVEAT. This, the eighth album from The Tear Garden marks their 30th anniversary and apparently also 50 years since the first Brown Acid Caveat was issued to a million hippies in a field at the first Wood- stock Festival. I became enamored of The Tear Garden through cEvin Key as I was (and still am) a bit of a Puppy completist. The involvement of other key member Edward Ka-Spel then led me to The Legendary Pink Dots who I have also become fond of. A new album from The Tear Garden therefore excites me, especially one with such great cover art. For the uninitiated, the resultant sound is exactly what you would expect from this union and more besides. Their previous releases have contained many moments of psychedelic beauty and sonic mystery. ‘The Brown Acid Caveat’ furthers this journey in most pleasing ways. Opening track ‘Strange Land’ is perfect surreal pop with such an uplifting effect. I had to immediately repeat the track I enjoyed it so much. My journey further into the album revealed no disappointments after this highlight. Lush electronica is elaborated by acoustic rhythms, swirling choruses guitars and warm swelling timbres before Ka-Spel adds his unmistakable and ever engaging voice. His voice always manages to communicate a sense of joy, sometimes subdued and sometimes ecstatic, and also an innocent wonder. This makes the resultant fantastical maelstrom mesmerizing. Clever minor key shifts and melodic counterpoints frequently add an alien element while playful structures add a sense of the dramatic. ‘Amy’s Personality’ is a fine example of this. The pacing of the album only further serves to keep the listener engaged. ‘Sinister Silence’ bubbles and blurps mystically, managing to be disjointed and fluid at the same time.’Lola’s Rock’ exudes a higher energy level before ‘Kiss Don’t Tell’ has a romantic woozy swing to it. A trippy dub element is introduced with ‘The Sound of Space Escaping’ with suitably sci-fi warbles and bleeps suiting the tone perfectly. The album doesn’t so much draw to a close but reaches a climax with the lush and dramatic ‘Seven Veils’ which is classic Tear Garden and manages to pass more than seven minutes with ease (as do a number of tracks on the album) before the final ‘Object’ leaves us with an abstract and fragile farewell. This, as with much of The Tear Garden’s work, is an album that will reward repeat listening as there are so many elements hidden in so many ways that will reveal themselves dependent on your mood and location. A thing of weird and captivating beauty.

Due in July through Metropolis Records.