Posts Tagged ‘Nine INch Nails’

Cleopatra Records – 23rd April 2021

James Wells

Ahead of their debut album, set for release on longstanding industrial / goth-leaning label Cleopatra Records – who will forever be a favourite with me for their releasing Rozz Williams-fronted Christian Death albums in the early 90s, although their catalogue is impressive in its depth and breadth – Handsome Abominations deliver their debut single, ‘Slave’.

The band are pitched as purveyors of ‘sleaze industrial’ – but then, isn’t that so much industrial? Leading exponents of technoindustrial, like Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, and PIG are aaaaaall the sleaze, and NIN – probably the biggest name in the field – are hardly clean and family friendly (‘Closer’, anyone?). This kind of grind has long associations with dingy nightclubs, latex, and S&M, and Handsome Abominations are all about that scene here.

As Baron VonSchnell says, “When I heard the strong, primeval beat that Tufty Hacka had programmed, I instantly knew that we had to write a writhing, sleazy anthem that would suite a fetish club.” And that’s precisely that we have here: ‘Slave’ is grimy, sweaty, slippy, heaving with all the wrong desires, and it’s clearly pitched at a specific audience.

There’s a whole lot happening, and a whole lot to unpack and discuss. ‘Slave’ is, without doubt a quintessential industrial disco cut that combines that low-down groove and blends it with some less than subtle lyrics that are all the sleaze. Of course it does. Nor would the blurb be justified in promising a song where ‘a sleazy, groovy musical orgy breaks out’ if it didn’t.

But at what point does the world of S&M fantasy stray into something that’s uncomfortable? I’m no advocate of trigger warnings, especially having run into trouble over an absence of them when referencing suicidal thoughts at a spoken word night a couple of years ago, but sometimes it’s possible to wander over lines in the name of ‘provocativeness’. So when Mistress Misha moans ‘Tie me down and rape me’, it sends a prickle. What is the message there? I suppose the question may ultimately come down to an understanding of the scene, in that rape fantasy is an entirely separate thing from the reality of rape, and the rape culture under discussion in the media right now, although it’s likely difficult to understand the distinctions and nuances of the scene for a straight. It isn’t the job of Handsome Abominations to explain this, and nor should art have to justify itself: it’s just difficult to draw distinctions in the current climate. But one thing is without contention, and that’s that ‘Slave’ is a cracking tune.

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Chicago-based industrial rock band Nuclear Sun has released a new single/visualizer clip covering the iconic Nine Inch Nails  hit, "Head Like A Hole."  The track appears on Nuclear Sun’s new tribute release, Couldn’t Have Said It Better Vol. 1, available digitally via Bandcamp and all major streaming services.

Watch the video here:

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Fierce Panda Records – 24th February 2021

Here we are: it’s the end of February 2021, and COVID-19 isn’t still a thing, but just a few weeks short of a year after the first lockdown was announced here in the UK, it’s pretty much the only thing, and it dominates and dictates our lives in ways we could never have predicted back then – or, arguably, even in September, or at Christmas.

In a time when the music industry isn’t as much in crisis as halfway on its knees and wondering what the actual fuck to do while touring remains off-limits both home and away on account of the pandemic and Brexit meaning the future of the foundations of musicians’ livelihoods is in question, while at the same time the debate over the equity of streaming services for artists has stepped up several notches, the need for an indie label like Fierce Panda seems even more vital. They’ve never gone with the grain and have continued to carve their own niche, focusing on single and EP releases.

The Covid Version Sessions EP is a classic case in point: bringing together a selection of artists you probably haven’t heard of alongside a selection you really ought to have even if you haven’t, it showcases six standalone cover (Covid) version (boom boom) releases, recorded during the pandemic by acts striving to find ways of working together while apart or otherwise unable to operate as normal.

It’s an eclectic mix, with some interesting takes on some well-selected tunes. While we’ve already given praise to National Service’s stripped back, haunting take on The Twilight Sad’s ‘Last January’ (released this January), it’s Moon Panda’s slick, sultry jazz-tinged cover of ‘Call it Fate Call it Karma’ by The Strokes that raises the curtain on the EP. It captures the essence of the original, but somehow manages to sound more authentic, perhaps because of the lack of self-consciously ‘retro’ production.

I’ve long had a soft spot for Pulp’s This is Hardcore album, not least of all because of the admiration inspired by their apparent commercial suicide in following one of the biggest albums of the Britpop era with such a desperately dark pop record. But also, because it has so much more depth and resonance. Desperate Journalist have an ear for drama, so their covering ‘The Fear’ is pretty much faultless: again, it’s a straight rendition, but magnificently executed. The same is true of Jekyll’s rendition of Japan’s ‘Nightporter’, which captures the understated, brooding theatrics of the original.

After Johnny Cash, is there any point on covering ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails’? Ghost Suns arguably step back closer to the original with electronic instrumentation, and in fact swing more to the other side, landing in ambient / synthwave territory. It’s not as good as Cash, and nor is it a good as the original, but then, it was a hugely ambitious undertaking and yes, it stull brings a lump to the throat – because it seems no matter what spin you put on this song, it is a classic that can’t be contained or twisted to be anything other than a blow directly against the heart.

The Covid Version Sessions may not offer much cheer: in fact they’re draped with sadness and remind us of all we don’t have – but they also remind us that we’re not alone in being alone, that it’s ok not to be ok, and that sometimes, the solution is to just take some time out, listen to some haunting melodies and remember that tomorrow is another day, and that for better or worse, nothing is forever.

28th January 2021

James Wells

This seven-tracker follows the same format as previous EP releases from the past couple of years, and features Dissonance’s collaborative duel with Melodywhore, ‘Damage: 1st Assault’, augmented with six remixes.

The remix package very much has its roots in the field of dance, from whence the work of Cat Hall – aka Dissonance – has emerged – although, as her bio notes, it ‘incorporates elements from industrial, pop, and alternative rock’ which has seen the project ‘compared to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Curve, This Mortal Coil, and Information Society.’

Coming together with Melodywhore has facilitated the exploration of the darker, harder-edged leanings of the Dissonance sonic palette, which places ‘Damage: 1st Assault’ very firmly in NIN territory, with an erratic stop-start beat dominated by a whipcrack snare driving a bubbling synth bass, which in turn underpins some dark atmospherics. It lands somewhere between Pretty Hate Machine and the electrosleaze of ‘Closer to God’, and it’s solid.

The remixes – being remixes from a selection of guests – accentuate different features, with Joe Haze’s CF2 remix pumping up the bass and beats to create a driving, dense backdrop to the backed-off, breathy vocal (which also highlights the Curve comparison), while the more stripped-back Machines with Human Skin Corrupted remix comes on more like the original Pigface recording of ‘Suck’, but with soulful backing vocals that owe more to Depeche Mode.

Steven Olaf’s remix is dirty but also beholden to 80s robotix synth, and so it goes. The REVillusion Revision Remix is a spaced-out stomper that goes for the slowed-down anthemic vibe.

The one thing that’s conspicuous is how the remixes stay fairly true to the original form and structure: there isn’t one reworking that takes the song somewhere entirely different, and there’s nothing as daring or brain-mangling as, say, JG Thirlwell’s radical remixes of Reznor’s cuts, and there’s nothing wrong with that by any means – it all just feels a little safe and reverent. And without any of the versions doing anything particularly radical, it does get a shade monotonous listening to the remixes back-to-back.

Still, it’s a decent enough tune, and if you’re prone to playing songs on a loop, this will save you hitting repeat.

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“It seemed to make a lot of sense to strip it back of all the industrial electronic sounds and leave it with just a guitar that sounds like it’s lost in an empty void, because that’s pretty much what’s happening to every town and city around the world right now”

For Sky Valley Mistress the lockdown couldn’t have come at a more challenging time, you see March 20th was the release date of their debut album Faithless Rituals an album that had already had a rocky road to get to the finish line and as momentum grew and everything started to fall into place the reality that the world would soon be standing still and for a period of time the band would have to sit back and not be the centre of the universe albeit for a short time has been testing. With all promotional duties and tour commitments shelved and working out the challenges of lockdown Sky Valley Mistress have simply just got on with it.

Seeing the band live is a sight to behold and the real frustration is that the “Faithless Rituals Tour” and the preparation that went into it hasn’t happened and when it does it can’t help but be different from the Pre-Covid version, we know venues and live music arenas won’t be the same, but we also know as a band Sky Valley Mistress won’t be the same, they haven’t really took to or got the luxury of performing streamed shows but instead have been putting together enough material for a second album and even though its all been done from a distance the band have never been closer and when the time is right they’ll be working in the studio.

To begin their lockdown endeavours and armed with Trent Reznor’s Tambourine which Max & Kayley required live from a Nine Inch Nails Scala show in 2013 they have recorded a version of ‘Everyday Is Exactly The Same’, each part has been performed, recorded and mixed remotely and strips back their usual sound to create a sombre version of this 2005 NIN classic, accompanied by a video created, directed, edited and featuring Kayley filmed in Isolation.  

Watch the video here:

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Pretty Ugly Records – 13th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So I stumbled over Sex Cells by practically sticking a pin in last year’s Live at Leeds programme, and it paid off. Ok, that’s not quite true: while surveying the schedule, they looked interesting and probably worth a punt, so I took a gamble it paid off, with the their tense industrial-edged electronica that reminded me of Pretty Hate Machine era Nine Inch Nails, only weirder and sleezier. Coupled with the duo’s slightly oddball, even vaguely awkward, presentation, it was compelling. The same has been true of their releases to date, which lead us to this, their debut album.

The album’s cover is a bizarre watercolour-style tableau of the pair, and on the one hand, it’s naff (and I’m being polite: the more you look at it, the more awful details reveal themselves. Like, is the cat really supposed to be licking her nipple? What’s that on his dick?), but on the other, it’s a perfect encapsulation of their perverse, quirky style. They don’t play by the rules. And if their name is a play on the adage and Soft Cell, then it’s entirely fitting. If it isn’t, it maybe ought to be.

The headline here should perhaps be that David M Allen is the lead producer here. Renowned for his work with The Human League, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Depeche Mode, The Psychedelic Furs, Wire, The Associates, and The Chameleons, little more probably needs to be said here, beyond the fact that in terms of production, ‘That’s Life’ sounds like you’d probably expect.

‘That’s Life’ bridges the gap between The Human League and Nine Inch Nails, and doesn’t include any of their previous single releases apart from leader ‘Deranged’, which crashed in with a suitably salaciously shocking promo video in March, demonstrating their tenser, harder-edged side while at the same time nailing everything about the band into a box of two-and-a-half minutes.

Opening song, ‘Shimmer,’ is dominated by a low-slung oscillating bass and trudging drum machine that provides the backdrop to Matt Kilda’s monotone spoken word vocal and Willow Vincent’s lost, demented banshee shrillness that calls to mind Skeletal Family, early Siouxsie, and early Cranes.

‘We Are Still Breathing’ is a neatly-crafted reflective electropop tune. It’s got hooks, melody, and a dreamy quality. Things take a dark turn on the next song, ‘Human Costume’ a spiky post-punk electrogoth stomper that screams Hallowe’en and horror, with some pretty barbed lyrics that turn the mirror on society and the human psyche. And it still packs a killer chorus, too.

They go full death disco with ‘Cruel Design’, and Willow coms on all breathy and ice witch in the vocal department, bringing a contrast between the vibrant energy of the instrumentation and the cold detachment of the voice, in a role reversal between human and machine. It’s a complete contrast to the final song, ‘Hang the Flowers’, which is a sparse, folksy number that ripples dappled shade to fade.

The combination of shock tactics and neat dark-edged electropop is a well-established tradition that can probably be traced back as far as Suicide, but really became a thing in the 80s, and as such, Sex Cells should by rights be a yawn, their edginess predictable, their material laden with well-worn tropes, and the metaphorical shrug of a title does nothing to raise expectations. And yet they make it work, and make it exciting.

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4th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Having just completed a major tour with 3Teeth, which found Raymond Watts and co performing live in the UK for only the third time in their 30+ year career, PIG announced a new EP for release in June. And then, seemingly from out of nowhere, this landed at zero notice – a collaboration with John Fryer, who the press release reminds us is a ‘legendary producer and artist in his own right’ (and there is no escaping the fact his resumé is beyond incredible), the form of ‘the latest offering from his Black Needle Noise project.’

When it comes to both BNN and PIG, ‘industrial’ feels too limiting a term for artists who’ve expanded the territory with a rare imagination, not to mention a sense of grandeur, equally matched by a certain postmodern knowingness, humour even, particularly in the case of PIG.

For all the US and mainland European leaning of the genre, it’s perhaps the Englishness of these two artists which sets them apart and makes them stand out. It’s difficult to pinpoint, but it’s a factor.

‘Seed of Evil’ is a proper technoindustrial banger that’s reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails circa ‘92 and, er, PIG from around the same – the time when they toured supporting NIN on their Downward Spiral tour. It’s all in that distorted digital snare sound that sound like ‘Reptile’, the bubbling bass synth, the, cyclical repetition.

Even its very title revels in cliché and its seedy to the core, as Watts delivers a quintessentially grimy vocal, part gasp and part growl, over a gut-trembling synth bass, and it all explodes into a stomping chorus. In short, it’s got the lot. Get down.

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Adult Swim Singles – 30th January 2020

Christopher Nosnbor

This one’s crashed in seemingly from nowhere, and because it’s Uniform, it crashes in hard. Promising ‘the first taste of a new song cycle that doubles down on the most immediate aspects of the band’s sound’, with shouter Michael Berdan drawing attention to the more dance-orientated sound.

And indeed, the groove is built around a steady, monotonous dance beat, but it’s a pounding industrial beat that’s reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. The opening segment is sparse, with just drum and vocal and some rumbling extranea forging a claustrophobic tension before everything goes classic Uniform with a pulverizing blast of noise that packs all the abrasion, and again, it’s Broken era NIN that comes to mind as they meld devastating guitars to live drums hammering out mechanoid rhythms.

The guitar overdrives to the point of overload, and Berdan’s anguished holler channels the anger and anxiety of the song’s focus: “‘Awakening’ is about the daily frustrations of a complacent existence in late capitalism. Some might take it as a protest song. However, it’s to be implied that waking up with a deep seeded anger is something that happens every day. We know they are mad, but we don’t know if anything will ever change.”

If any band articulates the suffering that living in the present can create: the relentless sense of pounding your head against a wall, screaming into a void, unheard, in the face of endless idiocy and sheer brutality at the hands of a capitalism so hard that it’s beyond dehumanising. Compassion and care are out of the window as everyone is too busy climbing over everyone else just to survive, while the upper echelons crow and don’t even bother to pretend to cast down their crumbs as the pretence of any trickle-down is erased in the face of sheer greed. The power elites hold all of the power, and the rest of us are powerless to effect change.

And so many of the oppressed are oblivious to all of this, enabling the oppressors in supporting the Trumps and the Johnsons, feeding the instruments of their own oppression while failing to see the cycle they’re perpetuating, blind to the fact that ‘foreigners’ aren’t ‘stealing’ their jobs and sapping the welfare coffers, but propping up a fragile boom and bust economy by doing the minimum wage, zero-hours, per-delivery drudge jobs no-one else will take.

You wake up, burning with incendiary rage that these people, who’ve swallowed the propaganda wholesale wont; fucking wake up, and you veer wildly between wanting to kill ‘em all and killing yourself, but in the end you do neither because you’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed so you do nothing but work and hate yourself for it until you crash out to suffer nightmares and then rinse and repeat the next day and the next.

That sense of confinement, of futility, and endless fury, that is what Uniform distil into four minutes of pounding anger.

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Uniform - Awakening

Uniform US Live Dates (all w/ The Body):

March 01: Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge

March 02: Vancouver, BC – Biltmore Cabaret

March 03: Seattle, WA – Laser Dome at the Pacific Science Center

March 05: San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop

March 06: Los Angeles, CA – Zebulon

March 07: Las Vegas, NV – Bunkhouse Saloon

March 08: Phoenix, AZ – The Rebel Lounge

March 10: San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger

March 11: Dallas, TX – Three Links Deep Ellum

March 12: New Orleans – Gasa Gasa

March 13: Atlanta, GA – Food Court

March 14: Durham, NC – The Pinhook

March 15: Washington, DC – Black Cat

March 16: Philadelphia, PA – Boot & Saddle

March 18: Brooklyn, NY – Market Hotel

March 19: Somerville, MA – Once Ballroom

March 20: Providence, RI – Columbus Theatre

March 21: Montreal, QC – La Vitrola

March 22: Toronto, ON – The Garrison

March 24: Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle

March 25: Minneapolis, MN – Turf Club

June 05 – 07: Austin, TX – Oblivion Access

Buzzhowl Records – 12th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Dingy’ as a descriptor isn’t to be taken as a negative here: and it’s a dingy mess or murk that opens Damn Teeth’s second album, with the intro to the first track, ‘You’ll Only Make It Worse’ manifesting as extraneous noise before the beats and the bass kick in to drive a snaking electrogoth behemoth. It’s Depeche Mode with the pained twist of Nine Inch Nails and the abrasion and detachment of the classic Wax Trax! sound. It’s a development from their 2016 debut, but make no mistake, they’ve not mellowed any, instead utilising the same elements to present something more focused and harder-edged.

And so Real Men pounds and grinds, at times bordering on the psychotic, as grinding Suicide-inspired synths provide the backdrop to vocals that veer wildly from snarling angst to clinical robotix. I could sling all the quintessential electro-based industrial acts in here by way of touchstones, but I’d only be filling space, because the chances are you already get the gist. Bu it’s also way, way more than that: the helium-falsetto on ‘MRA Soundsystem’ is unexpectedly more reminiscent of the late Billy MacKenzie of fellow Scots act The Associates (who also had tendency for ‘busy’ arrangements).

‘Dominant Muscle’ may be manic, even shrill and frenzied, but musically, it’s pretty lightweight and calls to mind Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s ‘Love Missile F1-11’ crossed with the first Foetus album, in that it combines a relentlessly driving synth rhythm backing track with extraneous noise and deranged vocals. And this is really the shape of things: jolting, jarring, jerking all over, Real Men is an album that doesn’t sit comfortably, instead revelling in layers of anguish, pain, discomfort, with a substantial dose of self-loathing in the mix. But as much as it’s got masochism in its soul, so the sonic pain inflicted on the listener is a wilful act of Sadism.

‘Deserving Pest’ comes on like NIN on ‘Reptile’ – all the sleaze, all the S&M, and I can’t help but be reminded of Marc Almond’s early output: it’s groove, but it’s also got a strong current of self-punishment. ‘Pink Pitbull’ pursues new levels of annihilistic torture, a hybrid between Dead Kennedys and a Swans album played at 45rpm. It’s fucking horrible, and so, so, disorientating, but simultaneously so magnificently punishing it’s positively addictive.

‘The People vs The Real Men’ feels kind flimsy with its throwaway synth groove that’s equally retro and low-budget, but it’s redeemed by the distorted vocal barks that provide a grit that cuts against the mechanoid backdrop, and it culminates in crescendous multitude of screaming, maniacal vocals that penetrate and remind us that lo-fi electronica doesn’t correspond with tame.

Closer ‘Coasting on Genetics’ feels a shade derivative, but that’s by technoindustrial standards, and even then, it packs a punch as it whips extraneous noise into a whorl of noise.

Real Men is a challenge, and it’s unquestionably niche. But it’s a work of twisted genius that will repel the majority, while those who dig it are going to go absolutely nuts for it. and yes I’m going completely nuts.

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Damn Teeth - Real Men

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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