Posts Tagged ‘Cyberpunk’

12th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Cyborg Amok’s eponymous debut. Sure, there’s the press release, and no, it’s not lazy journalism to take cribs and pointers from press releases. This one forewarns that Cyborg Amok ‘resides somewhere between the brilliance of twilight and the apocalyptic darkness. Their gothic infused synth-rock sound delivers the listener to a panorama of synthetic waves, twisted organic tones and a slightly pop crust … the language angels speak in the darkness.’

I don’t entirely compute the implications of this, can’t even really unravel them, not least of all because I can’t always grasp what passes for ‘gothic’ these days having lost the thread some time in the mid to late 90s with the emergence of cybergoth, which sounded just like so much bad techno to me, and a million miles from the post-punk origins of the genre, and the subsequent ‘waves’ of goth which coincided with myriad hybrid mutant strains. Perhaps I am something of a pursuit in my personal tastes, but as a critic, I try to be more accommodating. But sometimes, you just have to accept that music is music and it’s either good or bad, because your audience are unlikely to share your prejudicial quirks.

Cyborg Amok is Greg Bullock (formerly the keyboardist with RealEyes and Shamen) and drummer Brydon Bullock (no relation as far as is obvious), and their debut album is in fact bringing together their first two (now deleted) EPs, so, if I’m being picky it’s not really a debut album but a compilation (which is also true of The March Violets’ Natural History among others. Not that it detracts from the force of these seven songs pulled together in one place. Oh no. Cyborg Amok kicks.

‘Burden Away’ brings bulldozing bass and stuttering mechanised drums. The rhythm guitar trudges and grinds, while Greg’s brooding baritone vocals registers in the ribcage – but while it’s so much industrial grind, the lead guitars are warped country, and there’s a twangy inflection in the vocals to match. It’s solid, but if you’re looking for a pigeonhole, you’re going to struggle. Things get even more complicated with ‘Still Too Far Out’, which straddles Nightbreed-flavoured second/third wave goth with its organ synth sounds evoking sepulchral gloom against guitars that fizz in a swathe of chorus and flange… and then there’s a fuck-off keyboard solo that’s B-Movie and Ultravox and it may be incongruous by 2020s standards, but perfectly in place in context of those precursors.

With its space-themed title and snarling, bulbous, electronics, ‘Dancing on the Floor of the Sea of Tranquillity’ provides more of the vibes the moniker and title perhaps evoke, and if it suggests extravagant prog enormity, it’s no criticism to say that after its dark, stark intro, it slips towards 80s electropop in the vein of A-Ha.

There are some Cure-esque moments scattered about the album, too, but then this is an album, that assimilated huge swathes of 80s that’s not exactly band-specific, but the zeitgeist.

There’s some overblown prog guitar that’s Yngwie Malmsteen overdone, but once they’re done with the moments of indulgence (‘Choice Not Taken’ is perhaps the greatest showcase of guilt), they deliver some impressive musical moments, where the ambition is equalled by the ability.

They’re at their best when they keep it minimal, sparse, nailed down: last track ‘Another Turn’ bears solid – and favourable – comparisons to Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, with its steely beats and grey, steely guitars backing a gruff, ragged vocal delivery. It’s a style that works well, and while this compilation must provide a point at which to assess the trajectory of their career, the evidence here is that they’re doing everything right and need to forge ahead and capitalise on their work so far, because this is a strong dark album.

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Oracle Rouge – 28th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

French cyberpunk / dark-wave project Fixions are, they say, influenced by ‘classic movies such as Blade Runner, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, the extreme metal scene from the 90s, Amiga video games, Fixions evolves in a style mixing dark and surrealistic elements, bombastic, powerful production, and a solid 80/90s dystopic science-fiction aura.’ With this, their fourth album, they threaten ‘the most extreme and deep release they ever produced’ in the form of ‘a concept album inspired by classic cyberpunk fiction tales, where every track depicts one of the thousand dangers the “Edgerunners” will encounter when visiting the city at night [and] sees Fixions merging futuristic urban ambiances with dark epic elements and heavy, abrasive sounds’.

While the concept might not be rendered entirely explicit through the album’s 16 instrumental tracks, but themes emerge both from the audio content and the titles (not to mention the cover art) applied to the compositions: ‘Crimeware’; ‘Terrorwave’; ‘Black Chrome Riot’ all contrive to summarise the intent of Genocity, which to all intents and purposes does come across as a sort of reimagining of Neuromancer in audio form.

Jittery, skittery, interloping lead lines weave their way over thumping basslines that wow and drag, melded to stomping, insistent, industrial-strength disco beats. It’s all about the imposing soundscapes and minor chords, the tension and the relentlessly restive digital flittering. There are grooves aplenty – hard, driving eurodisco grooves packed back to back, interspersed with more contemplative Kraftwerk-inspired tracks.

Does it sound futuristic? Not really. The ‘80/90s dystopic science-fiction aura’ is all-encompassing. The sonic elements are all tried and tested, well-worn tropes which evoke the spirit of ‘the future’ as it looked in those line-green neon-hued imaginings from the 1980s. As such, it’s possible – and indeed hard to resist – viewing Genocity as a sort of nostalgia piece, in which the time and space being yearned for is a golden age in which the future – a future which ultimately failed to become the reality in the present in which we now find ourselves – offered exciting and near-infinite potentials. Perhaps the realisation of that failure is the thread which ties the fictional technological dystopias of the 80s and 90s to the bleak cyberreality of the Internet and the digital age as we now experience it. At least the dystopian digital futures depicted in fiction were, and are, just that – fiction. Artificial Intelligence and automation, a reality in which everyone carries a computer which pinpoints their precise location 24/7 have not given us more leisure time, or more freedom, but has instead overtaken and occupied every inch of everyone’s lives and resulted in the erosion of freedoms at a pace which perhaps even outstrips the technological advances themselves.

When faced with incalculable progress and its effects on the psyche, it’s only natural to regress to safe times. There is, beneath the tension and amidst the dark currents which flow through Genocity, a certain sense of a regressive channelling. And so while it may not be the sound of the future, it does provide a perfectly serviceable recreation of futures past.

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