Posts Tagged ‘Technoindustrial’

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

Cool Thing Records – 19th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

BAIT’s eponymous debut last year revealed a very different musical facet of Asylums’ Michael Webster and Luke Branch, switching savvy punky indie for something altogether darker, heavier, and more abrasive.

DLP, the first new material since Bait continues the same trajectory of socio-political antagonism delivered lean and mean. The initialism referring to Disney Land Paris (I wonder if so as to avoid hassle or even litigation, since Disney are notoriously protective of their brand, forcing obscure thrash act Bomb Disneyland to rename themselves Bomb Everything), the song addresses the pressure of life in a society where there is no longer conspicuous consumerism, only a conspicuous lack of consumerism, against the realities of living hand-to-mouth at the very limit of the ever-extending overdraft.

Apparently, we’re all worth it and deserve to be out there, living our best life and making memories to share on social media, while countless people are utterly fucked on zero-hours contracts and even healthcare professionals are reliant on food banks just to eke an existence. And this is where late capitalism has brought us: stressed and conflicted to the point of being semi-functional, alienated and trapped.

The band’s musical reference points – Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, Sleaford Mods, D.A.F, NiN, John Carpenter – are all very much in evidence on this slab of electro-driven frustration-venting.

‘Hooray, hooray, it’s payday’ snarls Webster bitterly over a stark industrial backdrop of stabbing synths and a gut-churningly dirty bass grind that’s melded to a murky, mechanoid beat. It’s as hooky as hell and packs a major punch. It won’t smash capitalism, but channelling anger into a three-minute sonic assault is an ideal way to release some of the tension.

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DLP Cover

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

Dependent /Amped – 26th January 2018

It would be easy to criticise Kirlian Camera’s new album for being a genre stereotype, entrenched in darkwave clichés of thumping disco beats propelling shuddering sequenced bass undulations and chilly, inhuman synth sweeps. But having formed in 1980, the Italian act, having mutated from pedalling synth-pop to progress into darker territories as the 8s progressed, are part of the first wave of bands to fore the style.

As maligned and misunderstood as it is, goth and its subcultures and musical substrains have endured, impervious to fashion, and any ebb and flow which has witnessed an upsurge in popularity has seemingly been coincidental.

I’ve no aversion to electronic music, but as a general rule, dark wave / cold wave music leaves me, well, cold. It’s not that synths and carefully produced vocals can’t convey emotional depth and that there is nothing to connect with, but as a style, it tends to lack humanity and consequently resonance. There’s music you hear, and music you feel. The electronic strains of goth all too often tend to be heavily stylised, entrenched in the well-established tropes.

As a listener and critic, I’m in no position to judge or undermine the actual emotional content of the lyrics or to question their sincerity. I am no-one to challenge how strongly any individual feels something, and I’m the last person to deride a so-called goth for being sensitive. It’s a matter of articulation: eternally drawing on a limited bank of metaphorical references and stock-phrase imagery, it feels more like the feelings are pulled tightly into a corset or genre conformity than a true release of pent-up, innermost pain. Moreover, the drama-focused delivery feels to careful, too meticulous in its presentation.

Despite a shifting line-up over the years, Elena Fossi has covered vocal duties since the turn of the millennium, and her melodies are excellent, strongly delivered with grace and nuance. So what’s the issue? It’s certainly not technical or compositional. It’s not about lack of range in terms of tone or tempo, either: ‘Helium 3’ goes all swampy, with whiplash snare and a stark, minimal synth chord sequence reminiscent of The Human Leagues ‘Being Boiled’ overlaid with creeping fear chords, atmospherics and samples. ‘Kryostar’ brings robotix vocals and a pounding technoindustrial beat, and a relentless juggernaut groove paired with soaring, choral operatics.

But whether it’s rolling piano and breathy vocals building the drama, as on ‘Traveller’s Dream’, or bombastic synth explosions, Hologram Moon feels very stylised, controlled. And thus we return full circle. It would be easy to criticise Kirlian Camera’s new album for being a genre stereotype, but however well-crafted, well-performed and well-produced, it would be difficult to compliment it for being anything more.

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Kirlian Camera - Moon

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

March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m not actually a fan of physical violence. The sight of blood – particularly my own – is enough to make me nauseous or even pass out, and I struggle with pain. And yet I’m also strangely, perversely drawn to violence. I consider the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom to be a comic masterwork. Why? Because violence at that level becomes absurd, as real as Tom and Jerry. It’s also perhaps important to distinguish art and life. So much brutal music and art is an outlet of the darker psychic states channelled by some of the mildest, sanest people you’re likely to meet. I haven’t met Tristan Shone so can’t vouch for his character, but his work under the Author and Punisher moniker is pretty brutal, and appeals precisely because of it.

The Pressure Mine EP, which finds Shone bring everything in-house to deliver five new tracks, all written, recorded, mixed and self-released by Shone himself balances brutality and beauty. What’s more, there’s a definite trajectory which runs over the course of the EP: something of a downward spiral, if you will, which sees each successive track prove darker, bleaker, heavier and more fucked-up than the one before. It may not be quite as gnarly and doomy s some of its predecessors, but that hardly makes this a stroll in the park and if anything, the absence of eardrum-shredding lasts of noise only accentuates the uncomfortable tension Author and Punisher is capable of creating.

First track ‘Enter This’ is a magnificent, mechanised droning industrial trudge, synths interlacing to forge a dark atmosphere over a battering mid-tempo rhythm. It’s all a backdrop to Shone’s vocals, which balance disconsolation and anguish. While reminiscent of Prettty Hate Machine Nine Inch Nails, it’s also rather more emotionally nuanced. ‘Pressure Lover’ lunges deeper into a woozy, nightmarish fugue, a dense, rumbling bassline and clanking percussion dominating.

‘New World’ warps and grinds, a dislocated discord emerging from the echoes and twisted vocals, and the last track, ‘Black Wand’ comes on like Depeche Mode on a cocktail of Ketamine and LSD. It’s not entirely pleasant, but it is unsettlingly awesome.

 

Author and Punisher - Pressure Mine

Christopher Nosnibor

Forget the ‘failed musician’ angle: any serious music writer (journalist might be stretching it, certainly where my own work is concerned) is likely to be a music fanatic first and foremost. PIG is a band who’ve inspired a degree of fanaticism on my part for a long time: since I first discovered them as the support for Nine Inch Nails on the Downward Spiral tour back in 1994. The nature of their scattered catalogue makes tracking down even a reasonable chunk of their discography extremely difficult, and they hold the perhaps dubious honour (through no fault of the their own) of being the band who I’ve paid the most for an album by, with the (then) Japanese-only Genuine American Monster skinning me for some £50 over eBay back in 2000.

It really has been 23 years since they last toured the UK, and it’s fair to say that York on a Monday night struck me as an odd choice. Suffice it to say the 400-capacity venue wasn’t exactly rammed, but the double-header tour did manage to attract a devoted bunch of oddballs.

Glasgow trio Seraph Sin made a decent fist of opening. With smeared makeup and lank locks, there’s a black metal element to the presentation of their grindy, metal-edged industrial rock riffage. Delivering some full-tilt noise, they play the ‘menacing’ card nicely. While there are some clear and quite accessible choruses to be found in songs which are perhaps a shade, dare I say, obvious, they boast a gritty, earthy guitar sound which really cuts through, especially when heard from a position close to the front, where the full force of the back-line has maximum effect. And their drummer sounds like a machine, which is admirable.

Seraph Sin

Seraph Sin

Also admirable are Mortiis. It transpires that shunning the band on account of the eponymous front man’s prosthetics – something I considered to be rather cheesy – has been my loss all these years. Still, the advent of Era 0 and the latest album, The Great Deceiver, has marked a shift of both style and sound, marked by an absence of prosthetics and an abrasive technoindustrial sound reminiscent of Ministry.

They’re still big on the theatrics, though, from the big, moody intro of drums and grinding guitar before the entrance of the man himself, to the smeared corpse paint. Håvard Ellefsen strolls on, barefoot and resembling a decayed suicide, and proceeds to stomp around the stage radiating petulant energy. Despite the absence of a live bass, the threesome forge a throbbing sonic intensity with a dense and murky sound counterpointed by a bright, ear-shredding top-end. The set is drawn predominantly from the latest album, which both makes sense both promotionally and in terms of rendering a cohesive performance, and it’s a performance which is powerful and intense. Yes, there are clear elements of rock posturing in evidence, but it’s played knowingly, and manifests as an aggressive channelling of a deep fury, making for an uplifting catharsis.

Mortiis

Mortiis

For a man spitting fury and venomous rage, Ellefsen smiles a lot. Granted, with the makeup, his grin takes the form of a maniacal, murderous leer, but it’s clear that this a man who’s having a pretty good time channelling his demons into his art and releasing it all on stage. It’s not hard to determine the reasons: as his skeletal guitarist, who has highly vascular arms, peels of sheets of blistering noise it’s all coming together perfectly out front, and Mortiis are a band on top form.

PIG crank up the rock posturing to the power of ten: Raymond Watts is a man who not only gets irony, but breathes it and chews on it slowly, savouring the flavour, as he throws his shapes around the stage amidst a musical tumult and a whole kitchen sink melange of electronica and grinding guitars on full thrust. He enters the stage in a preposterous fur number and gives it the full works on the posing front for the set’s slow-burning opener ‘Diamond Sinners’.

PIG 1

PIG

I’m immediately transported back to 1994: supporting Nine Inch Nails at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall, where they audaciously opened with ‘Red, Raw and Sore’ over any of their throat-grabbing, up-front crowd-pleasers. But then, the appeal of PIG has always been their perversity and their stubborn refusal to do anything obvious. Having supported Nine Inch Nails, they could have been propelled, if not to a stratospheric level, then perhaps the upper strata of the troposphere. But, as I subsequently discovered, their material was almost impossible to locate, especially in a pre-internet age, and it’s a situation which hasn’t really changed over the last two and a bit decades.

As with Mortiis’ set, there’s a heavy leaning toward the latest release: the accessible industrial pop chop of ‘Found in Filth’ is dropped in early, but then there’s a reasonable plundering of the back catalogue, too: ‘Everything’ lands as the third song on the set list, and the atmospheric spoken word work ‘Ojo Por Ojo’ prefaces a pounding rendition of ‘Wrecked’ (which more than compensates the fact it doesn’t lead in to ‘Blades’ as it features on The Swining by virtue of its throbbing intensity). Really, it’s absolutely fucking blistering. The same is true of ‘Serial Killer Thriller’ from 1995’s Sinsation.

PIG 2

PIG

The fact that the current line-up features both En Esch and Gunter Schultz not only makes this incarnation of PIG something of a supergroup, but also illustrates the expansive nature of the musical family centred around KMFDM to which Watts belongs. And while there’s also a shared territory in musical terms, PIG have always sounded unique, and continue to do so. Watts’ showmanship is something else, and while there isn’t a weak element in the band’s performance, he’s indisputably the focal point, radiating a charisma that elevates the band to a different level. He’s a tall, limby guy, and he uses this to fill the stage and to dominate the space around him.

It’s a triumphant, and above all, thoroughly enjoyable show. Here’s just hoping it’s not another 23 years before they return.