Posts Tagged ‘Metropolis Records’

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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