Posts Tagged ‘Synths’

Enigmatic Italian singer Elena Alice Fossi has released the next fascinating single, ‘Indigo Cypher’, which is taken from the forthcoming new full-length of her dark electro project SPECTRA*Paris. The fifth album of that band is entitled Modernism and has been scheduled for release on August 26.

Watch the seductive and deceptively gentle electro track ‘Indigo Cypher’ here:

AA

“Memories of a life that does not belong to you”, singer, composer, and lyricist Elena Alice Fossi muses. “If you don’t feel at least a bit like a fish out of water in this grotesque theater that is humanity, then this song is not for you! We were born in deception and there we stay until we realise that real life is running elsewhere. ’They’ shape us in order that we make our own lives and that of others worse. ‘They’ mold us to obey slaves and to become slaves ourselves. ‘They’ shape us so as to love our family even when it has nothing to do with us.”

1d8bbaf0-d471-0a26-3812-e34ebd719b54

3rd June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

My partner in power electronics, the man behind the white noise aspect of the ‘white noised and shouting’ equation that is …(something) ruined, Paul Thingumy (he has more pseudonyms and variant monikers than the devil himself, or even JG Thirlwell), has gone and self-released another EP. Well, less of an EP than an LP: it may only contain four tracks, but with a duration of almost an hour, it’s a very long play.

Residing in Mirfield, Kirklees, West Yorkshire – or, objectively, the arse-end of nowhere, where trains are infrequent and tend not to visit after 9pm – is probably very like any other Little Britain backwater with a Tory MP. And it’s so often from our immediate environs we draw our inspiration, as the album’s title indicates. For reasons I can’t fathom, the title reminds me of Peter York’s strange book Dictators’ Homes and some TV show I can’t quite recall – probably because I never watched it – about celebrity pads. Or perhaps I’m confusing it with Pimp My Ride or some other wank. Because it all blurs, and fast. Mirfield Pads is blurry, but in a different way: everything melts together to create an ambient wash.

In something of a departure from much of Paul’s previous work – and there’s a lot of it – Mirfield Pads is surprisingly mellow, melodic, accessible. There’s a hypnotic Krautrock vibe about the shuffling oscillations, with sampled vocal snippets buried low in the mix in places. It’s an overtly synth work with a vintage leaning that’s strongly rooted in the late 70s and early 80s. If there’s a debt to Kraftwerk here with elements of Mike Oldfield and Harold Faltermeyer, then equally, Mirfield Pads is Paul’s nod to Tangerine Dream, perhaps in part spurred by the recent passing of Klaus Schulze. You wouldn’t necessarily call it a tribute, but an inspiration, almost certainly.

Tapering tones interweave and turn, glistening, fractal, kaleidoscopic, like beams of light dancing on an illuminated surface, dancing lightly across a millpond or flickering on a wall. Not a lot happens, and it doesn’t need to: the sounds turn slowly on an axis that exists in a space of its own.

‘Crystal Airfield’ – a title that evokes the spirit of JG Ballard – hits the numerical sweet spot of 23:23, and with additional guitar work courtesy of Neil Campbell, longtime collaborator and one half of another project, Early Hominids, it’s a richly atmospheric piece that rounds off the experience nicely in a wash of elongated droning feedback paired with bubbling analogue sounds.

It’s the attention to detail, to the vibe and sensation that really makes Mirfield Pads intriguing. It feels more like a document from a past time more than a nostalgia piece, and this is a good thing, because nostalgia has become dreary and weary very quickly indeed – probably because the smell of cash is so unappealing.

AA

a3443859683_10

Enigmatic Italian singer Elena Alice Fossi, best known for being a member of Kirlian Camera, has released the first single, ‘Devious’, which is taken from the forthcoming new full-length of her dark electro project SPECTRA*Paris. Her fifth album under that moniker is entitled Modernism and has been slated for release on August 26.

“What’s the moral conduct to follow?”, singer, composer, and lyricist Fossi asks. “This song certainly won’t teach us any morals! With a decidedly noir matrix and via its gloomy lyrics, it lets itself be crossed by a glamorous imprint where the blood goes to be combined with the enchanting reflection of a bewitching shadow. God’s body has indeed been invaded by his servants.”

Watch the video here:

AA

SPECTRA*Paris was conceived as an electronic rock oriented project in the wake Elena’s previous project SIDERARTICA. In 2007 she self-released the ultra-rare promo 3" CD-R limited to 25 copies "Spectra Murder Show" and immediately got picked-up by a label, which led to the acclaimed first album Dead Models Society (Young Ladies Homicide Club) hitting the streets in the same year. The debut reached the charts in many countries and went up to gold. Elena followed-up with two successful albums in 2010, License to Kill and Christmas Ghouls. Tracks from these recordings as well as the latest album Retromachine Betty (2017) have been used in tv and catwalk soundtracks.

With Modernism, SPECTRA*Paris chronicle Elena Alice Fossi’s musical prison-break into the freedom that only true art can grant. Aided by her accomplice and long-time friend Angelo Bergamini, who co-produced and supervised every sound in this chapter, the composer and singer has delivered a fascinating personal statement via a wide range of electronic music.

AA

SPECTRA-Paris_000_cover_Modernism

UK electronic quartet CODE earned their stripes in the electronic scene of the early 1990s and were championed by the likes of John Peel, John Digweed and Kiss FM presenters Colin Dale and Colin Faver. Their debut album, The Architect, was issued on the Third Mind label in 1995 just as that company folded, but has often been cited as a cult classic. Its follow-up, Ghost Ship, finally arrived in late 2020 after a 25 year journey and was enthusiastically received by critics and fans.

Like that album, Continuum has been assembled by remodelling material from archived studio sessions and sounds like it could have been made yesterday. Emotionally engaging and exquisitely produced, it is timeless music that, although carrying traces of influences such as Kraftwerk, The Blue Nile, Talk Talk, David Sylvian and Depeche Mode, also has a romantic techno intensity all of its own.

‘Acheron’ is the second single to be teased ahead of the album. An instrumental, it sits in contrast to its predecessor, ‘Pleasure’, which was a slinky slice of pop existentialism. Acheron is known in Greek mythology as the ‘river of lost souls’, although sci-fi fans are likely to be more familiar with ‘Acheron LV-426’, one of three moons orbiting the gas giant Calpamos. It was here that a crew member of the USCSS Nostromo first discovered the eggs of a species of alien that would go on to spawn a highly successful movie franchise.

CODE had embraced the tactile nature of analogue tech from the outset and often jammed ideas as their DAT machine recorded, with each band member presiding intently over one or more pieces of kit, including their pre-MIDI SH101 and Korg PolySix synths, slightly newer Roland drum pads, guitar, 16 channel mixing desk and cassette deck. One of these sessions saw them focus on a version of an existing piece entitled ‘Atlantic’, with the resulting new track being entitled ‘Acheron’.

The band explain that “the challenge was to retain the warmth and idiosyncrasies of the original recording whilst subtly enhancing definition and clarity. This primarily involved reshaping the original nine minute jam into a more concise form whilst enhancing key elements to create a more dynamic soundscape.”
‘Acheron’ appears on the CD and digital formats of Continuum, with the 2xLP release featuring a remixed/remastered version of ‘Atlantic’, which had been included on their debut album.

Watch the video here:

AA

fac0974c27ee288fc93c1e5f929c789fddc655ff

11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

When it comes to goth, you might say that the apple never falls far from the tree: there’s a long history of references and recycling, with bands often taking their names from songs or otherwise referencing other bands, and there is, or at least should be, a goth band name generator somewhere on the Internet, with ‘Children’, ‘Sisters’, ‘Grooving’, ‘Dead / Death’ and ‘Ghost’ featuring prominently in the not-so random permutatable word selections. Funerals and marionettes are pretty popular, too, from as far back as 1986, when The Marionettes began life as The Screaming Marionettes.

Taking their name from the Charles Gounod composition of the same name, best known as the theme music for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Funeral March of the Marionettes go back to that mid/late eighties heyday (broadly 84 or 85 to 87 or 88) that saw ‘goth’ solidify from being a nebulous array of post-punk bands (The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend) being lumped under an umbrella by a lethargic press into an actual genre with more defined stylistic boundaries, typically drawing on the aforementioned acts, but with more indie-leanings typical of The Mission and the style of guitar Wayne Hussey introduced to The Sisters on his arrival in 1984

The Funeral March of the Marionettes, from Rockford, Illinois, cite The Cure, Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and others among their influences, and while they describe their latest offering as something of a departure, it’s still dense with latter-day gothic tropes, albeit leaning more towards the atmospheric post-punk/industrial crossover space, whereby you’ve got Depeche Mode covering Joy Division, a brooding atmosphere as cool synths drift in an ocean of reverb while angst oozes from every corner of the dense, gloomy production.

Yet for all its adherence of those tropes, for all its stylistic familiarity (just look at that cover art, that’s The Sisters of Mercy / Merciful Release meets Joy Division via Rosetta Stone), ‘Slow’ hits a spot, because it’s dark, dark, dark, and the execution is spot on, sending a shiver of torment down the spine that entices you to bask in the gloom.

AA

203094

Over twenty years and a dozen albums, The Birthday Massacre have become prime exponents of goth synth pop. They describe Fascination as ‘at once the most fully realized album with the bands signature blend of haunting vocals, captivating electronica and aggressive guitars and their most accessible’.

It’s this accessibility that immediately announces itself from the outset. The title, ‘Fascination’, immediately makes my mind leap to the song by The Human League, and this is unquestionably poppy, but this is in a different league instead. It’s the title track that opens the album and it’s a colossal anthem. It’s in the slower mid-pace tempo range, and the production is so immense as to be arena-worthy, the slick synths drifting over big, bombastic guitars. Some may baulk at the notion, but it’s pretty much a power ballad. It paves the way for an album that’s back-to-back bangers.

I mean, make no mistake, this is a pop album in a pure 80s vein, and pushes tendencies that were always in evidence in BM’s work. People often seem to forget just how dark a lot of mainstream pop was in the 80s, but listen to A-Ha, even Howard Jones or Nik Kershaw objectively and the currents of darkness are clearly apparent amidst the clean lines of the clinical synth pop production of the day. It’s perhaps time to re-evaluate what actually constitutes ‘cheesy’ – an adjective so often pinned to the 80s with no real consideration – and cast aside the idea of ‘guilty pleasures’ when it comes to a lot of music of the era.

‘Stars and Satellites’ is bold and brooding, and probably the most overtly ‘goth’ track of the album’s nine, although ‘Like Fear, Like Love’ grabs bits of The Cure and tosses them into a stomping disco tune. But those drums… they’re great, they’re huge, but they really are the epitome of the 80s sound. Elsewhere, the guitar line on ‘One More Time’ actually goes 80s U2 with heavy hints of Strawberry Switchblade (and they weren’t goth either). Step too far? Maybe for some craving the chunky chug of industrial guitars, because this is fundamentally a riff-free zone, but Fascination works if you embrace the spirit of its being easy on the ear and accessible.

It feels fresh for the band, but also feels like a relatively safe step in the direction of commercialism. It’s ok, and the songwriting and performances are solid throughout, that much is undeniable. It’s one of those albums that may take some time to sink in, in the way that Editors’ On This Light and on This Evening and The Twilight Sad’s Nobody Wants to be Here, Nobody Wants to Leave, felt just that bit mainstream initially. Digesting an overtly ‘pop’ album or a change of direction – and while the direction of Fascination is something that’s always been a part of The Birthday Massacre’s sound – hearing it placed front and central inevitably feels like a shift. And it is a shift, of course, just not one of seismic proportions.

‘Is anyone real anymore?’ they ask on ‘Precious Hearts’ before the final cut, ‘The End of All Stories’ goes Cure again, only this time with monster power chords that border on metal to fill out the mix.

Dig it, soak it in, play it a few times. You’ll probably like it, even if not on first listen.

AA

a2672010454_10

21st January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Slowburn’ is, true to the title’s promise, a slow-burner, and as a single, it’s solid – not immediate, but appreciation evolves with repeat plays. The track itself is, in many respects, very much in the darkwave tradition, with cold synths and equally cold, almost monotone vocals that also carry an ethereal quality.

There’s a mesmerising, hypnotic quality to the original song, which, we learn is ‘a song about passion; passion- a deep love/emotion that consumes body and soul. It is about depth of feeling for a person, place, process or thing.’ Against brooding piano and backed-off beat, it calls to mind Jarboe-era Swans and some of her solo work, in no small part due to Cat Hall’s powerful but understated vocal.

Cat explains the origins of the song as follows: “I wrote this as I was considering the many all-consuming passions of my life. Passion to write. Passion for art. Passion for nature, for the planet. Passion for science. Passion for humanity. Passion for the individuals I love. Also, the painful realization that despite my intense feeling, actions and orchestrations, these things, places, people, and processes come to an end. I come to an end. My passions die with me.”

Our passions drive us and keep us alive, and without passions, what have we and what is life? And what passion is there in a set of remixes?

My standard complaints around remix EPs are that they’re essentially lazy and eke out the smallest amount of material for the most physical space, and that they’re something of a short-change for fans; then there’s the fact they’re often really, really tedious, with the same track or tracks piled back to back and mostly sounding not very different apart from either being more dancy or dubby. This set is a rare success, in that the remixes are so eclectic and diverse half of them don’t sound like the same song, but without doing that whole thing of deconstructing it so hard with ambient / techno / dub versions that there’s nothing left of the original in the versions – another bugbear.

The Von Herman Lava Lamp Mix piles on the soul and sounds like Depeche Mode circa Ultra, while the Kirchner Charred Mix is a straight-ahead, thumping electrogoth dancefloor-ready banger. The Haze Void Mix cranks up the grind, with oscillating electronics more akin to Suicide than any contemporary act. This is the biggest, densest, and most transformative reworking of the lot, venturing into space rock territory as it thuds an d rattles, twisting the vocals against an urgent, throbbing sonic backdrop and throwing in some hints of Eastern mysticism for good measure. It’s an intense experience. The Hiereth Lonely to a Cinder mix brings some brooding piano and even harder hammering beats, landing it somewhere between the Floodland-era sound of The Sisters of Mercy and that quintessential Wax Trax! technoindustrial sound.

It’s a corking single, and as remix sets go, this is a good one.

AA

a3299441169_10

10th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Anyone who doesn’t fall into the trap of swallowing the bullshit and climbing the corporate ladder to become the person they hated when they started out knows that all the motivational stuff is absolute bollocks, that wellbeing in the workplace is bollocks, and all the new age shit that people plaster all over social media is bollocks.

They’ll tell you that if you ‘Change your thoughts, you can change your world’. What they won’t mention is that the world is behind you, ready to stab you in the back and fuck you up the arse. They’ll tell you to believe in yourself. But that’s because no-one else will, because you’re a talentless sack of shit.

Vex Message have seen through the spin of self-affirmation. Derek Meins (lyricist/lead singer/button twiddler/strange dancer) who was once part of Rough Trade signed indie band Eastern Lane points the finger squarely and unapologetically at “Those cringe-worthy motivational mantras you see some chumps regurgitating,”, adding “‘It’s a beautiful day to go after your dreams?’ Fuck off. How about? ‘Aren’t you wanting to despair about your terrible hair and your coming demise?’ That’s more like it.”

This, I can get into straight away before I’ve heard a note. Given just how many people – especially creatives – who slug it out in dead end jobs just to pay the bills and cram entire careers as musicians, artists, writers, into their spare time, I’m amazed there aren’t more who don’t use their medium to rage against the machine. And anyone who says bands should steer clear of politics is simply wrong. We live in a capitalist society, and capitalism is politics, and more to the point, it’s a system that means your life is not your own, and even your time outside the workplace is dominated by agents trying to flog you stuff you don’t need to be paid for with money you don’t have.

As Meins explains, “The verses are structured in such a way as to emulate the trend for advertising slogans which ask you questions, suggesting their product has the answer. In summary, it is a tongue-in-cheek proclamation that you don’t need all the shit they’re selling, it’s all a load of bollocks and you’ll just have to get on as best you can in this modern hell-hole.”

Yes – it is a load of bollocks – fact. And the majority have been sucked into the consumerist cult, having to have the latest iPhone, a TV the size of a cinema screen filling the wall of a poky flat, and it’s neverending.

One thing that thankfully isn’t bollocks is this single. Over a gloopy Krauty synth paired with an overloading guitar chug and motoric beat, Meins writhers and yowls and whoops and croons with all the rock ‘n’ roll strut and swagger. It’s as gloriously OTT as the guitars are noisy and the drums are punchy. It’s theatrical but cathartic at the same time, parodic yet packed with a certain conviction.

B-side ‘And the Land Stayed Still’ is more overtly electro, propelled by a thumping disco beat, landing like a hybrid of Daft Punk and Sleaford Mods – or something. You hopefully get the idea.

It all stacks up to something quite different, presenting a twist on familiar tropes, and ultimately, it all stacks up to something brilliant.

646532

Mongkong Music – mkng-01

Digital release date: 4th June 2021 / Physical release date: 4th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Having been introduced to the world of microtonal experimentation around a decade ago, I’ve found a certain fascination in those close lenses on the most minute of details – the musical equivalent of peering through a microscope and seeing objects and life forms on a granular, even cellular level. I’ve also learned that anything that can be rendered or viewed from a micro level, it’s probably been done, or otherwise is within someone’s sites to do, or I simply haven’t found it yet. Take, for example, the ensemble Microtub – not a small bath, but a trio of microtonal tubas.

Mycrotom is not a microtonal tom drum, nor a microtonal extension of the work of the Vegetable Orchestra (a ten-piece collective based in Vienna who make music using instruments crafted from actual fresh vegetables). In fact, the moniker is somewhat misleading, for as the press release notes, ‘Tom Simonetti alias mycrotom has created rather large-format sound carpets in the Bertolt Brecht mechanical engineering city of Augsburg. He now presents the same: soundscapes on which you can go out of work and walk away.’

So, it’s actually about sound carpets. I have to confess that I chuckled a little on reading that, before reminding myself of my own habit of describing works as ‘sonic tapestries’ and going into detail about the ‘fabric’ of numerous compositions – and that was before I listened to the album.

The pieces are built on interesting juxtapositions – sparse motoric beats click metronomically through gloopy synth basslines that could have been lifted off early 80s electro cuts on Wax Trax! while xylophone-type chimes ring out lilting motifs. Extraneous sounds are looped to forge unusual rhythms, and there’s a muddy, murky aspect to the sound that makes it difficult to separate the different elements.

Many of the synth sounds are vintage in style, squelchy, thick, fuzzy-edged, and while the arrangements are sparse, the effect is far from minimalist: there’s quite some density to the sound, and what’s more, a lot of Ratoratiyo pursues quite danceable grooves, and with a hybrid of 90s minimalism and 80s robotix, it feels completely removed from anything human.

‘Logic by Machine’ contains human voices – sampled, distanced, detached – against a sparse, rhythmic loop. It’s anything but comforting, and leaves one feeling even further adrift, alienated. It’s a strange experience that twists at the cognitive filters in unexpected ways. After all, none of the elements are new or particularly unusual – but their assemblage is, and in ways that are difficult to place a finger on. And it’s that difficulty of placement that lies at the heart of the challenge for a listener. You ask yourself ‘how does this fit with my experience?’ and ‘where do I belong in all of this?’ There are no handholds or footholds in terms of emotional resonance, in terms of experience. And precisely what does this convey? The sounds may be warm, but the experience is somehow cold, with a sense of separation.

It’s from this place of distance, a position of removal, isolation, that we begin to explore the spaces of Ratoratiyo, and the exploratory adventure begins.

AA

mkng-01_front

Klanggalerie – 18th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no questioning Eric Random’s pedigree, having begun his musical career with The Tiller Boys with Pete Shelley and Francis Cookso before becoming part of the post-punk and experimental milieus of both Manchester and Sheffield, recording his first solo works at Cabaret Voltaire’s studio, and later fronting Nico’s band until her death in 1988. But while many artists dine out on their former glories – and it’s true that since the majority fail to scale to any great heights, a brimming resumé is something to celebrate, there’s equally a certain truth in the belief you’re only as good as your latest work.

No-Go is his fourth album since his return in 2014 following a lengthy time out. Pitched as a step further into an electronic dance direction, and inviting comparisons to Wrangler and Kraftwerk, No-Go is brimming with 80s stylisations, and all the 808 and Akai snare cracks and robotix vocals you could imagine are crammed into these eleven tracks.

A jittery stammer runs through the entirety of the opener, ‘Synergy’, while all over, multiple other synth sounds swipe and bleep over the ultra-retro groove, and all over, Random recaptures not just the sound of the late 70s and early 80s scene in which he was so deeply immersed in, but also the feel of the period. It’s easy to forget just how vibrant the energised spirit of newness was around that time, with the rapidly evolving – and ever-cheaper – technology opening new doors to seemingly infinite possibilities. This was music that sounded like the future in every sense, and while a lot of it may sound dated now, the fact there appears to have been some kind of revival or renaissance under way for the best part of the last 30 years speaks volumes. Of course, where Random differs from the oceans of retro revivalists is that he’s not attempting to reconstruct a fantasy version of a bygone era: he was there, at the cutting edge, doing precisely this.

‘Compulsion’ is a bleak wheezy cut with tinny marching drums and vocal that are oddly reminiscent of early New Order in their flat, distanced delivery. It’d Depeche Mode that spring to mind in the opening bars of the buoyant yet bleak ‘Is the Sun Up’, but then

‘Sinuous Seduction’ leaps out on account of the sample of William S. Burroughs narrating a segment of Naked Lunch, and while one of the numerous passages about giant black centipedes may not be revelatory or even particularly inventive, it does serve as a reminder of Burroughs’ vast influence on music, in particular acts like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, who swiftly recognised the analogy between the cut-up and the sample, something Burroughs himself had initiated with the experiments he conducted with tape in the late 1950s and early 1960s with Ian Sommerville. But then, equally, there’s just something about Burroughs’ creaking, dry-as-sticks monotone that is just unbelievably cool, and also sends a unique shover down the spine, distinctive to the point of being immediately recognisable, and also really not of this world, that detached, flat intonation about stuff that’s plain weird is perfectly suited to the music of the early years of the electronic age. The track itself is sparse, monotonous, robotic, and while it’s as much an example of doomy Eurodisco in the vein of The Sisterhood’s Gift, it’s not a million miles away from The Pet Shop Boys circa Disco – and that’s by no means a criticism.

Sandwiched between this and the blustery hard-edged disco of ‘No Show’, the ‘It’s come again’ offers some welcome respite with its more loungy leanings. Things get lively to the point of dizzying with the last few tracks, which are uptempo an mega-layered with bewilderingly busy arrangements, and it’s a tense climax to an album that shudders and judders, bubbles, foams, and fizzes with electronic energy.

In going back to his roots, Random has really hit the zone and delivered some old-school stompers in the process.

gg347_front