Posts Tagged ‘Metropolis Records’

Raymond Watts aka PIG began his musical crusade in a Berlin basement in the shadow of the Wall back in the mid-1980’s. Perhaps it was the terror and turmoil that  lends a certain sense of menace to the trademark decadence of his group’s sound. When the Wall fell, our salacious saviour set out into the desert on a journey that has spawned countless albums and projects….not only PIG, but some of KMFDM’s finest material and numerous other collaborations that have included scoring for Alexander McQueen shows, as well as installations and exhibitions.

Our sacred saint of all seven sins has now delivered a new divine declaration in the form of Pain is God. Fourteen tracks of swine and swagger, it is an exegesis of excess – glitches and guitars, allure and libido, danceable decadence – and the weaponised word of the Lord of Lard, here to save your skin from the wages of sin.

A single from the album entitled ‘Rock N Roll Refugee’ is out now. A delicious taste of electronic rock, Watts describes it as “the demon seed of glam and electronica stirred to an apotheosis of ejaculating guitars and lamenting vocals. A song that’s loose enough for your vices and tight enough for your virtues.” The hook heavy song features backing vocals from Michelle Martinez to add an extra touch of soul, and also sees Watts reunite with guitarist Steve White on record for the first time since PIG released albums via Nothing Records and Wax Trax! in the 1990’s.

A video for ‘Rock N Roll Refugee’ (directed by E Gabriel Edvy) is a decadent dive into Pop art influences, but can be seen as more of a nod to the Fluxus movement and the likes of Nam June Paik or George Maciunas rather than the mainstream Warhol-ian aspects of the genre. The song and video interplay as a homage to Intermedia, filtered through the mind of the Swine.

Watch the video here:

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Metropolis Records – 23rd August 2019

In my world, The Legendary Pink Dots were just that: legendary. Heard of, often, heard, never. I’m embarrassed by this, but also accepting. There’s simply too much music and too little time, and when confronted with a band with an output as vast as theirs, where it’s impossible to know where to start, it’s easier to simply give up without starting. It’s a hurdle I overcame with The Fall in the early 90s, and maybe, just maybe, it’s time to make the first attempt at an inroad into The Legendary Pink Dots.

The album’s first cut, ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ is structured around a shuffling beat and some sparse, echo-soaked guitars. It’s got a vaguely psyche edge, but having spent the last decade immersed in some of the most far-out avant-garde oddities emerging from all corners of the globe, it seems pretty tame and safe to my ears. This is largely true of the album as a whole, although it does have some more interesting moments: ‘Junkyard’ sounds like it could be a recent Foetus outtake, and ‘Neon Claculators’ plasters scraping electronic pings and quacks and parping sax over a bubbling Donna Summer synth rhythm track before drifting into some kind of avant-jazz spacerock oddity, and ‘Itchycoo Shark’ at least had a vaguely amusing title, but sounds a bit David Tibet only minus the pseudomystical bollocks, and ‘The Photographer’ is yawningly neofolk.

The trouble – if ‘trouble’ isn’t too strong a word – with sustaining such a lengthy career as an ‘experimental’ outfit is that all too often the hunger to innovate fades, and the songwriting gradually falls to formula. I can’t think of many artists who’ve become weirder, wilder, and more challenging over time, especially not over a career spanning almost 40 years.

Angel In The Detail is 50% atmospheric and interesting, 50% tedious and pedestrian, subscribing to too many well-worn ‘experimental’ tropes, which the band themselves were instrumental in establishing. It’s ok, and given their reputation, fanbase and career place (over 40 albums and counting), is likely to be just what the fans are after. And fair enough: they’ve nothing to prove at this juncture, and questions of relevance are ultimately irrelevant.

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Legendary Pink Dots – Angel In The Detail

Metropolis Records – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Dark, slithering atmospherics – the sound of a postindustrial, postapocalyptic, Bladerunner cityscape, with twitching broken cables fizzing sparks showering into anonymous alleyways – mark the opening of Nero Bellum’s solo debut. A low, gut-churning bass grinds in against hefty beats – not snare drums, but blasts of distorted noise, and as such, ‘Another Prayer to Lucifer’ sets the tone.

Representing two years’ work, with each piece being recorded live, ‘improvised, with no overdubs, and without the use of computers in the creative process’, NFRNº marks a clear departure from the industrial metal of Psyclon Nine.

It’s still got an industrial feel, but it’s about atmosphere rather than brutal attack. Everything is dank, murky, indistinct, and while many of the arrangements are sparse, there’s an oppressive density which permeates the album as a whole. Monotonous, hammering beats thud dolorously, pounding relentlessly against whirring electronics with serrated edges, and each piece bleeds into the next to forge a sprawling mass of discomfort. The album’s impact stems not from its range, but precisely from it’s lack, bludgeoning the senses with trudging repetition and tonal similarity. There is next to no light here, only varying shades of darkness and inhuman bleakness.

‘An Angel’s Offering’ hints at some sort of redemption, with blooping, skittering interloping synth lines that venture into (comparatively) accessible dance territory, before ‘The Beauty in Something Broken’ offers the first pang of melancholic yearning from amidst the relentless stream of emotionally-desensitised machine-made noise.

The reprieve is but brief, though, and ‘Stranded’ wavers back down the path toward darker territories, casting an air of uncertainty and trepidation with its quavering drones. The closing pairing of ‘A Candle Once Burned’, which is more the sound of hope being extinguished rather than light, and the onset of a purgatorial emptiness, and ‘Never Good Enough’ wanders in shadow, formless, with no sense of closure as it fades to nothing.

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Nero Bellum – NFRNº

Metropolis Records – 8th February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

In a sense, I was raised on so-called ‘industrial’. It was the very early 90s and I was in my mid-late teens: Ministry had broken through to the MTV major league with ‘Psalm 69’ and I worked weekends in a second-hand record shop. The other hired hand, who worked when the owner wasn’t around and drove the van carrying the shop’s contents to record fairs on Sundays, was around 15 years older than me, and was massively into all sorts, but particularly punk, new wave, and industrial shit. He’d feed me stuff like Pigface and Lard. Records and CD had a pretty rapid turnover, so recent releases often landed with us for resale within a few weeks of release after a rush of ‘mistake’ purchases off the back of reviews in the music press, and at record fair, it was possible to swipe Wax Trax! remainder12” – which included albums, often still sealed – for a pound apiece.

The fact there was a certain similarity of sound across many of the releases was, in a sense, part of the appeal: the uniformity of industrial civilisation and its attendant culture, reflected in musical from echoed a blank nihilism that simultaneously accepted and confronted the grim harshness of daily reality.

But it’s 2019 and many of the old bands are still cranking out the same trudging grind, and there don’t really seem to be that many emerging bands in the field, making for a genre that’s increasingly stagnant, continually cross-feeding from within itself without drawing inspiration or air from outside its hermetic grey-hued space. The additional contributors featured here is a case in point: the album features contributions from Robert Gorl (DAF), Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost), and Chris Connelly (Revolting Cocks, Cocksure). As a catalogue of luminaries from the scene, it’s cool, but it’s the same catalogue as you might have seen as far back as twenty years ago

Wake Up the Coma isn’t bad by any means, and it certainly has its standout moments. It’s brimming with thumping industrial-strength disco beats, bubbling basslines and stabbing synths, and in this field, songs like ‘Hatevol’ are exemplary. The minimalist slow grind of ‘Tilt’ sounds very like PIG with its woozy, grimy, stop / start synth bass and snarling vocals, fuzzed at the edges with a metallic distortion. Then again, their cover of Falco’s ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ (with Jimmy Urine) stands out for less good reasons: it’s 100% straight, with negligible deviations from the original save for a more industrial beat. And I can’t help but think ‘what’s the point?’ there have been plenty of inspired industrial covers, and I will always cite RevCo’s take on ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’ as an example of irreverent and inventive adaptation.

No-one looking for a solid Front Line Assembly album is going to be disappointed by this. And since FLA, now thirty-three years and almost twenty albums into their existence, are always likely to be preaching to the choir, they’ve delivered firmly with Wake Up the Coma.

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Front Line Assembly – Wake Up The Coma

With the release of their collaboration ‘That’s The Way (I Like It)’, out today via Metropolis Records, industrial-rock act PIG and author/singer/actress Sasha Grey have premiered the video for it via Pornhub before making it more widely available.

"I think it’s about time that people stop being ashamed and furtive in their relationship with PIG,” says band mastermind Raymond Watts about the song – a cover of the perennial classic by KC & the Sunshine Band – and video. "Being on Pornhub puts us in the mainstream and will stop the stigma that has been attached to the secret and underground world of listening to PIG. People can stop listening to us in darkened basements in constant fear of being exposed….our fans have lived in the fear of discovery for too long!"

Directed by Gabriel Edvy, the sexually-charged black and white video is a dark disco romp, shot intimately and playfully with disco balls, light BDSM and sweat. "The idea behind the video was how to bring a darker, more sinister overtone and texture to what seems to be an initially ‘upbeat’ song," says Watts. "The foreboding nature of the video is despite of rather than because of the bright shiny disco elements in the song. Although we use some imagery that suggests a good time is being had….all is maybe not as it seems, possibly a reflection on the current situation we see when looking around at what is happening today in the world. Who is it telling us that everything is better than we could possibly imagine and we are drowning in delusions and force fed lies? But whose lies? Which side of the mirror is looking through a broken lens?”

Watch the video here:

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PIG and SG

Metropolis Records – 8th June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

After an eternity on mute and with Raymond Watts seemingly in a creative wilderness, the PIG renaissance continues apace with the emergence of Risen less than two years after The Gospel and last year’s remix EP Swine & Punishment, as well as four digital / or tour-only releases off the back (bacon) of The Gospel. Risen finds Raymond Watts on fine form as he unleashes porcine pundemoneum once more.

As the press release proudly proclaims, ‘the Lord Of The Lard calls on Ben Christo, Z.Marr, En Esch, Tim Skold, Marc Heal, Phil Barry, Mark Thwaite, Anita Sylph & Emre Ramazanoglu & gets to work on bringing glam to the damned’. It is a hell of a lineup, and pleasingly, Risen is a hell of an album. It’s actually a lot less overtly glam than The Gospel and finds PIG at their eclectic best.

‘The Chosen Few’ opens and hints at a return to the darker industrial grind of Sinsation and Wrecked. But while it’s a mid-tempo slow-burner, this being PIG, it’s not only got poke, but layers: hints of gospel lace the chorus, and it builds through a sinewy lead guitar break to a towering churn, with orchestral strikes and strings adding to the sense of drama. It’s impossible to declare anything to be truly ‘vintage; or ‘quintessential’ PIG: Watt’s project has always been built on hybridity and eclecticism. But against its predecessor or releases like, say, Pigmartyr, which were more direct, paired and back and rock-orientated, Risen draws together all of the divergent elements – from classical samples to battering technoindustrial antagonism – from the beginning of the band’s career onwards. Strings bolster up-front metallic guitars and thumping disco beats, and the sleaze is amped up to 11. As such, it’s all going on on Risen, and it’s something to see PIG rebuild the momentum and exposure they achieved in the mid-90s having benefited from association with Nine Inch Nails.

It’s the electro aspect of Pig’s sonic arsenal that leads the swaggering groove of ‘Morphine Machine’, which echoes the ham-glam of The Gospel. The opening chords of ‘Loud, Lawless & Lost’ sound very like The Yardbirds’ ‘For Your Love’ before swerving into a lift of Bowie’s ‘Fame’. The nagging, clean guitar and funk is sort of perverse in its presence, but this is a PIG album, and anything goes. There’s always been a tongue-in-cheek element to Watts’ approach to both lyric-writing and composition, his infinite wordplay and musical intertextuality and hybridity representative of a postmodern playfulness, and it’s on display in full force here. Moreover, Watts dominates every bar with his JG Thirlwell-esque throat-based theatrics.

‘Truth is Sin’ plays the slow-burning anthem card to good effect, while allowing Watts space to spin infinite spins on clichés, and elsewhere, the solid chug of ‘The Vice Girls’ and ‘Leather Pig’ comes with instant hooks that are hard to resist.

PIG have always been about the remixes, and quite (but not entirely) unusually, have been given to chucking remixes of previous prime cuts onto new albums: as far back as 1992’s A Stroll in the Pork, Watts &co have been slipping remixes and multiple versions, and five of the fourteen tracks on Risen are remixes, while ‘The Cult of Chaos’ first appeared on the Prey & Obey EP.

None of this makes their discography any more navigable, but and it’s often difficult to describe any ‘new’ album as being entirely ‘new’, but again makes Risen entirely representative of the PIG oeuvre. And this is perhaps the most welcome addition since their return. Praise the lard indeed.

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Metropolis Records – 6th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

However much music you know, there’s always a near-infinite realm beyond your ken. Until now, German electronic crossover act Haujobb – a hybrid of electro, noise, IDM and techno, who lean toward the more mainstream electro-industrial sphere – have existed beyond my range of awareness. I can’t imagine why.

I would rarely recommend a live album by way of an introduction to any band, but then again, it was by listening to Concert that I found the motivation to explore The Cure in more detail, and it was Welcome to Mexico… which compelled me to listen to releases beyond Gub.

So, we’re presented here with ‘a career-spanning collection of the band’s most beloved songs, recorded at various recent concerts throughout Europe’, which, according to the blurb, ‘stands as a testament to the band’s live prowess and unique creativity’.

They’ve produced a vast body of work over the course of their 25-years existence, and Alive gathers 15 cuts from across it, opening with the slow-building ‘Machine Drum’. Lifted from 2011’s New World March, it’s brooding, dark, and angry. But – overlooking the absence of audience noise, which on one hand can interfere with the listening experience, but by the same token is also pretty much integral to the live experience, and I always eye (metaphorically) a live album with no audience noise suspiciously – the question of how representative it all is encroaches on the enjoyment of such a release. And sequencing matters: is this live collection in any way representative of the actual live experience? I suspect not. The sound quality is pretty consistent given that it’s a compilation culled from various shows, but then again, the slickness and uniformity mean it doesn’t feel very ‘live’, and equally, with so much of the instrumentation sequenced and preprogrammed, meaning that it’s a little hard, perhaps, to convey the band’s live prowess.

‘Renegades of Noise’ – and a fair few others, if truth be told – sounds like a Depeche Move studio offcut, as remixed by RevCo. Elsewhere, ‘Input Error’ is driven by a clanking industrial beat and a bucketload of aggression and anguish. As on ‘Let’s Drop Bombs’, The anger is palpable, while electronic stabs rain in like gunfire from every angle near the end. And while Haujobb occupy well-trodden territory, the semi-familiarity of the structures and delivery doesn’t undermine the fact they’ve got some strong songs and a mastery of driving beats and hypnotically looping sequenced grooves. In all… it’s not bad.

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Metropolis Records – 13th October 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve lost count of how many bands and songs I’ve encountered that reference ‘dream machine.’ The first was perhaps back in maybe 1992, aged seventeen, on purchasing Scenes from the Second Story by The God Machine. Although I had read Naked Lunch, Junky, and Queer (which was the limit of William Burroughs material available in my local Waterstones), I had yet to discover the weirder and more wonderful, experimental side of Burroughs, let alone his accomplice Brion Gysin, who was as responsible for the advent of the cut-ups as Burroughs himself. It was electronics technician, computer programmer, and peripheral Beat Generation associate, Ian Sommerville who invented the stroboscopic device know as the Dream Machine in 1960. I do sometimes wonder how many of those references to Dream Machines are aware of its origin and history, but given Burroughs’ popularity in industrial / related circles, the chances are probably fairly high. Which then leads to the question – just how much is this about trip, and how much about hip?

Inertia have been kicking out technoindustrial tunage for almost two and a half decades now. Over that time, they’ve acquired a respectable fanbase and released a slew of albums. As is always the case with the ‘goth’ scene, it’s all happened more or less invisibly, underground, and internationally rather than domestically.

Dream Machine is very much an album which follows established templates: insistent, bubbling synths heave and grind over thumping sequenced beats with a toppy edge and hard dancefloor edge. It’s solid, and it has tunes. It’s got the right balance of attack and melody, edge and groove. In fact, it’s pretty much back-to-back tracks you could get down to on the dancefloor at a goth night, and steel toe caps would be recommended.

The drum pattern at the start of ‘Only Law’ is a near-lift of the intro to ‘Burn’ by The Sisters of Mercy, before it all goes Music for the Masses Depeche Mode. It’s not just the insistent synths and jittery sequenced bass, or the hard-edged beats, but the soulful, melodic, backing vocals. Elsewhere, ‘Thorns’ goes Ministry circa Twitch. But for the most part, as is so often the case with longstanding technoindustrial acts, I hear Depeche Mode, with a dash of early Nine Inch Nails. I’m by no means averse to the sound, the style, or the influences: in fact, I’m a huge fan of both DM and NIN and have more Wax Trax! 12” than I could play in a week.

So where’s the beef? It’s all a bit samey. I feel like I’ve been listening to the same hardfloor techno-driven industrial-strength electro grooves for more than twenty-five years. Cybergoth, Darkwave, EBM, Aggrotech, Industrial Dance Music… the terminologies matter not. Some came, some went, but musically, it’s much of a muchness and I’m not up for debating the semantics of microgenre aesthetics.

Dream Machine is ok. It’s got some decent tunes. And it sounds like countess albums I’ve heard before.

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Intertia - Dream Machine

Metropolis Records – 5th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Having recently completed their ‘Swine and Punishment’ double-header tour with Mortiis, PIG, previously having lain dormant for the best part of a decade, are returning with a vengeance. Billed as ‘a supplemental sermon’ to The Gospel, Swine and Punishment, with its audacious combination of literary allusions with shameful puns, is a remix album which slots into neatly into the already extensive PIG oeuvre.

Comments on social media and YouTube suggest that The Gospel has elicited something of a mixed reception, on account of it not being as good as some of the albums released during what they perceive as the peak of PIG’s carer. Many seem disgruntled by the more overtly glam / pop direction of the album. But these people have clearly missed the fact that Watts’ output under the PIG guise had a strong pop sensibility from the very outset: A Poke in the Eye and Praise the Lard are both pop albums first and foremost, with Watts revelling in the incongruity of combining dark lyrics with often quite buoyant tunage. They’ve also clearly missed the fact that Watts’ tongue is usually positioned somewhere in his cheek, and never more so on the knowingly song-orientated and accessible Gospel. In short, to criticise it for being the album it was intended to be is erroneous.

While remix albums are – as I’ve said and written more times than is remotely interesting, but hey, I’ll say it again – often difficult, thorny and sometimes thoroughly pointless, debasing exercises, Swine & Punishment does a good job of capturing the spirit of The Gospel while at the same time extending its scope.

One of my frequent gripes about remix albums is the track repetition, and on this score, Swine and Punishment is guilty, in that it’s largely built around three tracks from The Gospel, namely ‘Viva Evil’, ‘The Diamond Sinners’, and ‘Fly Upon the Pin’; however, it benefits from the inclusion of reworked renditions of ‘Drugzilla’ and ‘Found in Filth’, as well as the previously vinyl-only ‘Violence’. Moreover, the individual mixes ae diverse and divergent enough to make for an album that’s varied and doesn’t sound like the same three tracks dished up, reheated, with a range of subtly different sauces. The sample-filled, lopping grind of the MC Lord of the Flies remix of ‘Found in Filth’ (courtesy of Cubanate’s Marc Heal) is exemplary, particularly when places alongside the stuttering, abstract electro reinterpretation of the KANGA remix of ‘The Diamond Sinners.’

The St Gregory mix of ‘Fly on the Pin’ is perhaps one of the strongest examples of how a song can be given new life by means of serious mangling, and while there’s nothing as extreme as JG Thirlwell’s treatments of ‘Wish’ to be found here, Swine and Punishment invites favourable comparisons to NIN’s Fixed by virtue of the quality and range of the reinterpretations it contains.

Pig - Swine and Punishment Cover

 

Pig - Swine and Punishment Cover

Metropolis Records – 12th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a full thirty years since Sam Rosenthal began operating as Black Tape for a Blue Girl. Over that time, there have been ten albums showcasing ethereal, gothic (in the theatrical, brooding sense, rather than goth-rock sense) and dark ambient sounds which established them as pioneers of American darkwave. Perhaps it’s because of their vanguard position that they’ve maintained a relatively modest cult status in the shade of various associated acts and artists they’ve influenced.

These Fleeting Moments, their first album in seven years and released to coincide with their thirtieth anniversary, sees the return of original vocalist Oscar Herrera, after a seventeen-year hiatus from music. It’s perhaps fitting, then, that the album represents something of a return to the roots of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, a name which conjures uncomfortable images while simultaneously evoking doomed romance and the extremities of twisted devotion.

Opening the album with a seventeen-minute behemoth is a pretty bold move. ‘The Vastness of Life’ encapsulates its own essence within its title: a track that builds from a brooding neofolk strum and drifts through a succession of transitions through weeping string and passages and segments of wispy, ethereal ambience, it’s an epic journey which is practically an album in its own right. The twin vocalists emote achingly and pour every last drop of soul into these rarefied moments. Where could any album go from there? With the exception of ‘Meditation on the Skeleton’, with its ten-minute running time, the remaining twelve tracks are relatively concise, with ‘Limitless’ a quintessential example of the 90s goth darkwave sound as exemplified by the likes of Every New Dead Ghost and Suspiria: fractal Cure-esque guitars reverberate around cold synths by way of a backdrop to a melodramatic baritone vocal delivery. But neither track individually represents These Fleeting Moments as a whole. In fact, no one track does, and the album’s diversity is quite something, spanning shoegaze and folk and neoclassical, often simultaneously.

Much of the instrumentation is organic and natural-sounding, with piano and strings at the heart of many of the compositions. These are used to diverse effect, from the sparse, haunting moorlands of ‘Please Don’t Go’ to the insistent throb of ‘Six Thirteen’. But for all the range, all of the grace and elegance, a darkness hangs over every piece: ‘Bike Shop’ is no whimsical indie pop ditty, and elsewhere, ‘You’re Inside Me’ invites comparisons to both Scott Walker and Marc Almond, and ‘Zug Ko-In’ is a slow-turning hypnotic track which calls to mind both The Doors and more recent Swans and features a soaring guitar solo.

It’s an album which is more exploratory and expressive than linear: the track flow together to form a much greater whole, forging a work that’s immersive and meditative. Yes, it’s an album one listens to, and it’s not one to dip in and out of or select highlight tracks from: rather, it’s an album to make time stand still and to get lost in.

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