S. Sturgis

Category: Noise
Album: In A Haze

For those not “in the know,” Scott Sturgis is the mind behind Pain Station and Converter, as well as other projects, such as this one.

This is a CD of a live performance recorded early last year. It speaks more so to the electronic side of Mr. Sturgis’ work, forgoing the experimental side of Converter in favor of a more loopy electronic soundscape of glitchy noise, drums, and droning squeals of sound, providing an excellent internal soundtrack. It is not a catchy or fun listen, by any means, but rather interesting and complex way in which Mr. Sturgis goes about his creations leave you interested in the proceedings without it blurring into a monotonous haze.

Over the six tracks, you are led quickly through a world of ever-changing, engrossing material. This is suitable background music that tantalizes the mind instead of just providing noise to fill the empty space.

Sturgis would be best served to segue his musical abilities into the film industry, where his style and way with cutting notes would find a great home in the cinematic realm.

Regardless, with the exception of Pain Station, which was never a good stylistic fit, Scott Sturgis seems to set the bar in most areas he places his creative foot into. With the ingenuity of this project as well as the one-upping of powernoise by Converter, you are left to wonder what will spring next from his mind.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~2/2005)

Rotersand

Category: Electro-pop
Album: Truth Is Fanatic

I’ve wracked my brain for weeks trying to figure out why someone would like this CD. And, after all that time, I don’t think I’m really capable of figuring it out.

Rotersand, which apparently features members of 1AM and The Fair Sex, seems to be less than the sum of its parts. On the surface, they deliver just another variety of generic synthpop tracks, tarted up with the latest pounding drums. But, from the word on the street, I figured there’d have to be more than that. I’d listen again and again to the same tracks droning on endlessly, trying to figure out what someone would find interesting about these same tired electronic pop clichés laid over static noise and strange sounds. For the life of me, I can’t see it. It seems like so much recycled Covenant and VNV Nation to me. Though tracks like “Merging Oceans”, “Lifelight”, and “Electronic World Transmission” seem like decent enough club singles, there’s nothing new or relevant to them.

Never do the tracks really move far outside the realm of synthpop or rave-sounding club pop. But, when it does, it ends up seeming disconcerting rather than being a relief. Tracks like “One Level Down” come off as strange and misplaced and “Hush” seems to be nothing more than vapid treacle, fit only for easy-listening radio stations, and physically painful to listen to.

Some songs move past the simple generic nature of the music and become truly offensive. “Social Distortion”, featuring Sina Hübner of Pzycho Bitch “fame”, has to be one of the most rancid pieces of shit I’ve ever heard in my entire life. Her wretched, moaning, desperately “come-hither” spoken-word “vocals” tear at my brain with every listen, making me wince and fidget in a room by myself. I’d be embarrassed to be caught listening to such juvenile trash publicly. It makes me wonder how this trollop still has a career and why anyone would employ her to work on their album in any capacity.

All in all, I have no basis to really recommend or even discourage one from listening to this album, except for the case of “Social Distortion” and “Hush”. There is nothing pertinent here to listen to, despite claims by some that this is an album of merit. I am hard-pressed to find anything even memorable after several listens, despite trying desperately. And I can’t imagine mine will be the only case of feeling like this.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~2/2005)

Genitor Lvminis

Category: Ambient
Album: Virgæ

I think I’m suffering from clinical depression. I’m trapped in a dreary world that seems to be twitchy yet stagnant, nothing moving, life slowing down to a gray, soulless grind.

No, I’m just listening to Genitor Lvminis, whose 20 minute Virgæ 3” minidisk EP offers a dark wave of orchestral string patches, twinkling string-picking, bassy cello bursts and dark cinematic thumps. It’s a hypothetical soundtrack to the world’s dreariest, most depressing black & white student art film.

It is a well-mixed, beautiful-sounding piece of work. I will not discredit it on that account, but the most repetitive nature of the 13 minute “Virgæ (Part I)” is a bit numbing. The same orchestral cinematic strains continue to repeat themselves without variety for 11 minutes of the whole.

“Virgæ (Part II)” offers even less hope and more minimalism in the form of a most repetitious looping of drags across a cello with an array of slight background noises and string tweaks providing small amounts of movement throughout the whole of the seven and a half minutes.

Given the proper tools, motivation, and outlet, Magnus Engwall, the man behind Genitor Lvminis, could surely find a great home in the field of cinematic composition, even if those movies would have to be decidedly dark and hopeless.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~1/2005)

Flesh Field

Category: Industrial
Album: Strain

Industrial music used to be cool. There was a day when it was an edgy reflection of the dark parts of our society, harsh, unforgiving, defiant, rebellious. It got you excited. It raised your blood pressure. It made you want to kick the shit out of someone. It was music that you could just rock the fuck out to. Even the worst industrial bands still made an emotional connection, tried to get the blood pumping, the mind involved, and an emotional response (usually anger) from the listener.

Today our music is bland pastiche of electronic noise and beats mixed with the trappings of a variety of synthpop or repetitive dance beats run through severe distortion and covered in grainy samples. Gone are the days that music made you feel something, something more than a lukewarm happiness or a general sense of enjoyment. Today’s industrial has left behind the tradition of being the rebellious sister genre of punk and has instead become the sister genre of electroclash, an 80’s throwback genre more interested in dance beats and techno affectations than the roots of what made the music cool.

But some artists try defiantly to stay cool, to give the listener something more than the same clichés and melodramatic pop songs. They are fewer and more far between than ever. And they are considered dinosaurs of the 90’s, music that no one in our community wants. Industrial-rock is for kids and losers and metalheads.

But Flesh Field is bringing it back in a day and age when there is hardly youth in the scene anymore. Their peers are bands that have existed for 10 years or more and they easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them while all the other groups from this era churn out a thin gruel of industrial-rock mainly consisting of nu-metal with a sequencer backdrop.

Flesh Field’s Strain brings a cyberpunk sheen back to the genre. Some of the songwriting is not perfect. The male vocals are mixed fairly low and are a bit too deep into the mix for my liking. But all the right things about Strain that work more than make up for the few things that don’t.

This album sees the addition of a female vocalist to the group, something that I usually prefer to avoid. I’ve never liked female vocalists, but Wendy Yanko handles her vocal duties with a gentle touch, keeping it well within the bounds of becoming a metal vocalist or an ethereal goth crooner. Wendy and Ian Ross craft fantastic songs that may not be the catchiest that I’ve ever heard, but deliver with more ingenuity than I’ve seen in years.

Flesh Field favors orchestral samples mixed in with their unabashed electro-rock. I swear that one of the tracks features bits swiped directly from the score of the movie Titus. The mix of styles is very good and the touches of EBM, powernoise, and classical all blend into the rock in a way that suits the listener best.

Don’t be fooled by Metropolis’ name on this CD. This is not an EBM album, no matter what you might be told. The songs are all written like rock anthems, the drums are very organic and aren’t crippled by the hindrance of dance programming, and the guitar stays in the middle region between background instrument and overuse, exactly where it should be. The band finds more of a contemporary in Celldweller, whose music I believe it most closely mimics, than in any of the roster of Metropolis.

If one is inclined to look back fondly on the bygone days of industrial-rock bringing real feelings, passion, and drive to music, then this a CD that warrants your attention, hopefully the first in a new breed of musicians and albums that will bring the coolness back to industrial. If that’s not what you’re looking for, well, I don’t think that there’s any hope left for you.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~1/2005)

Various artists

Category: IDM
Album: Warp Vision (The Videos 1989-2004)

Warp Records has provided for those who enjoy IDM a massive collection of all the luminaries of the scene that have appeared on Warp over the years. In this collection you have a DVD of the 32 videos that Warp has produced over the past 15 years as well as a bonus CD featuring 11 megamix tracks, cobbled together by DJ’s Buddy Peace and ZILLA.

I’ll focus on the videos, as I’m no great fan of IDM music itself and would have no way of really comprehending its merits.

The videos are an odd, though often interesting, array of visuals. There are the many standards that most will be familiar with, such as Aphex Twin’s “Come To Daddy” and “Windowlicker” videos. The collection does feature all of Aphex Twin’s hits, as well as videos by the likes of Squarepusher, Autechre, LFO, Luke Vibert, and many others.

There are many that are nothing more than trippy eye candy or boring filler, but many are revolutionary in their sense of weirdness. Most of the better ones are those directed by “Come To Daddy” director Chris Cunningham, who adds an air of professionalism to the proceedings. His dark visuals, combined with David Slade’s video for LFO’s “Tied Up” add a sense of dirty darkness to the typically very minimal fare.

The other less interesting visual presentations are broken up by gritty Burroughs-esque surrealism from Antipop Consortium, excellent computer-generated visuals to compliment Autechre’s noise, Japanese schoolgirls freaking the fuck out in LFO’s “Freak”, and the absolutely bizarre corporate life-meets-fetishism-meets-cannibalism of Plaid’s “Itsu”.

If one is in the market for some of what Strange Days would have referred to as “eyefuck”, then one could do worse than check out this interesting collection. The videos do justice to the atmosphere of the music and, despite a variety of missteps and boring moments, the majority of the material is well worth a look if not exceptional.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~1/2005)

Home Video

Category: Electro-pop
Album: Citizen EP

I can’t say that I’m much of a fan of the slow, mellow, atmospheric groove music that makes its way around. I never cared much for Underworld except for “Dirty Epic” and I shouldn’t really like Home Video. But I do.

There’s just something about the lamenting nature of the music, its quiet solitude, its strangely gentle vocals that draw the listener in and make them accept the music for what it is.

It’s not something you sing along to or listen to in the car (unless you want to drift off to sleep at the wheel), but it’s calming to listen to the groovy Underworld-funk-meets-A Perfect Circle-moaning-vocals or listening to the repetitive hat-snare combination and peppy funk bass lines that make you wish it would just kick up into a strong guitar-filled chorus. At least just once, so you could feel like the songs carried the power they deserve with the emotional impact they have.

But they continue along, combining their minimalist electro and poppy drum machine programming with dark ambient drones and cold, saddening vocals that you never quite focus on, instead taking in the whole of the concoction and marveling at how expert all of it seems when combined. And, most importantly, it never runs too long or breaks into just being monotonous repetition.

If someone is looking for some dark, emotional electronic pop music, Home Video may be the band to check up on, because one could do much worse than to invest in the cold quiet simplicity of this EP.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~2004-2005)

Ultra United

Category: Ambient
Album: Ultra Audience

Ultra Audience is a collection of Carlo Magno’s work between 1998 and 2001. It has a certain atmospheric vision to it that is consistent throughout, droning strings and light metal percussion that give it the flavor of a dark, moody, and introspective film soundtrack. And that much is commendable.

Though, on the other hand, nothing stands out too far from any of the other tracks and the whole homogenous sound is somewhat dull in its lack of further complexity.

As a writer for soundtracks, Mr. Magno could likely find some good usage of his talents, though I can’t begin to imagine the experience of performing or viewing this kind of droning noise live.

As a matter of production and writing, Ultra United excels at its finely-layered and moody soundscapes and the mix is very satisfying. Those in the market for droning ambient white noise, light ambient, and dark semi-orchestral music could do much worse than looking into Ultra United, but as a matter of longevity, it washes over you like a wave of static and is gone.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~1/2005)

Mortiis

Category: Industrial Metal
Album: The Grudge

I was familiar with the name of Mortiis. I hadn’t heard of his change from the ways of black metal, so I was a bit surprised upon listening to the album The Grudge, his latest (which he refers to as “Era 3”). Mortiis, with the help of his very cyber-looking backup band and Stephan Groth from Apoptygma Berzerk, amongst many other minor contributors, brings his rubber nose into the industrial-metal scene.

At the same time, it’s not terribly satisfying music. Though well-written in a chaotically proficient way, there’s something lacking in the presentation, something slight throughout that you can’t place your finger on, but seems somewhat hollow. You must give credit to the goblin-in-charge for having the initiative to break out with a whole new sound, really giving it a magnificent production sheen, and growing as a musician. But, still, his vocals are, at best, secondary and, at worst, grating. And the strange changes in the midst of songs, dropping from a hard electro-metal mishmash of sequencing and guitar directly into the midst of some gravely-voiced, lamenting, gothy black metal cliché, then back again, can often grow tiresome on those few tracks that he uses them.

For what it is, it has exceptional variety. Mr. Mortiis moves in totally different directions, delivers EBM-like sequence and drum lines as quickly as harder ones and keeps you guessing where he’ll move next, even though it all sounds like Mortiis. But the tracks rarely reach their full potential. Though when they do, you’re proud of the little troll. But much of the time the sequencing sticks to a certain tone and variety and the guitar comes in at all the same places in the same ways to give the album an over-homogenized tone.

One looking for metal-industrial or coldwave could do worse than to give this album a try. The worst you could probably say is that it’s clichéd, angsty, overwrought, and not terribly inventive in its instrumentation. Often it sounds like a demo a decent local metal-industrial band would put out before being signed. But, damn it, if that little prosthetic-covered man doesn’t deliver a few good mainstream industrial tracks, despite it all.

Keep going, Mr. Mortiis. I’ll never take the silly make-up seriously, but you’re on the right track.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~12/2004)

 

Industrial/Coldwave New Music Reviews

Yet again we start out on this journey through the current landscape of unsigned bands. There are far too many CD’s and too little space, so let’s get to those that made the cut…

I had hoped that I’d receive Firewerk’s Circuits And Curses after hearing their first self-produced album Amplified Fragments. And this issue I got lucky. Though Circuits isn’t as catchy or finely-honed as Fragments, it is nevertheless a work of excellence and one of the best CD’s of the past year. Firewerk brings back the 90’s coldwave sound in a way that no other band has managed. Their perfect blending of catchy and danceable electronics and artificial drum programming with just the correct amount of guitar and powerful vocals should be impressive to anyone. It is without a doubt in my mind that Firewerk is simply the best up-and-coming band today, hands down. All coldwave fans take note. [contact:  www.firewerk.com; info@firewerk.com]

Chronotrigger is Japanese. This is obvious from the incredibly bad pidgin English that they use in their lyrics. If you remove the importance of lines like “I am so all impostor/you are so all dreaming realist” from the mix, which is simpler given the fact that you can’t really understand any of the shrilly-screamed vocals anyway, then what you’re left with is an entirely decent hard electronic industrial band that knows how to use guitar, sequencing, and fast-paced drum programming to its advantage. It’s not brilliant, but for something very small out of Japan, its effort is to be applauded and appreciated. [contact: Chronotrigger, 101 2-841-2 Shimizu Higashiyamato-shi, Tokyo 207-0004, Japan; tokyo.cool.ne.jp/ctrigger/]

Lust Murder Box is made up of the remainder of the band Terminal 46. And, despite the silly band name, Lust Murder Box has improved on whatever merits Terminal 46 possessed. Excellent programming and sequencing combine nicely with guitar and female vocals to create a beautiful, seething atmosphere of very professional songwriting. And I’m not usually fond of female vocals, but these manage to ride the middle between the ethereal Collide wailing and the hard-edged Voodou scowling to create an excellent mix. This is what Evanescence would sound like if they were industrial and didn’t suck. [contact: www.lustmurderbox.com]

There’s a talent here in Gristle Cradle’s album. I’m not sure what the talent is or what it’s for, but I think it’s buried underneath some of the static crap passing for music. It’s minimalist programming with layers of guitar and loud, boring, overdriven vocals. And, of course, the lyrics are the usual type of crap that will make anyone short of a Bile fan wince in discomfort. I have to credit these Oklahoma lads for trying, all the way out in that wasteland, but for the rest of us it just comes off like your typical bad local metal-industrial band with nothing interesting to say. [contact: www.geocities.com/gristlecradle; gristlecradle@yahoo.com]

Jailbird is a French industrial-rock band. And I’m not sure if the French-ness is the only reason, but they sound like a more traditional rock version of The Young Gods to me. That may speak to my relative inexperience with The Young Gods or just the tone and mild unintelligibility of the vocalist. But it’s a pretty damned good band, given that it’s a very late-80’s style of industrial-rock, along the lines of Ministry/Jourgensen side-projects and other darker, more bland guitar-industrial from the Wax Trax! era, only with vast improvements in the use of electronics. Their album, …inside nonsense, is yet another exceptionally well-done effort from the ever-growing French industrial scene. [contact: jailbird@geska-records.com; www.jailbird.free.fr]

Masterlast provides very conventional mainstream metal-industrial with a hoarse female vocal and radio-friendly guitar riffs on their Think Of The Day EP. In fact, the singer seems to want to either be Rob Zombie or that chick from Otep. Combined with the exceptionally minimal backing noodling of sequences and loops, it doesn’t leave much for those looking for more than your typical radio nu-metal band. [contact: Masterlast, c/o Media Extreme, 117 W. 25th St. 2nd Fl., New York, NY 10001; www.masterlast.com; info@masterlast.com]

Circus Of Dead Squirrels is far too talented for the idiotic songs that they’re writing. Combining excellent production and programming work with catchy metal riffs and growling vocals, Indoor Recess proves their abilities, while at the same time making you wonder what the hell exactly you’re listening to. The lyrical content of the tracks may be intentionally braindead, but you have to wonder about songs revolving vulgarly around the Mario Bros. and Sea Monkeys. [contact: www.circusofdeadsquirrels.com]

Psionic is the metal-industrial equivilant of Faith No More mixed with Front Line Assembly. The vocalist seems to emulate Mike Patton’s voice, or at least the timbre of it, and the keys often have a certain similarity, as does much of the other instrumentation, to FNM. On the other hand, the lyrics have an embarrassing technological obsession that would make Bill Leeb cut his own tongue out in apology. Their album Nu-Tech Cyber Sorcery is filled with wretched clichés regarding semi-sci-fi ideas, magic, demons, and other things wholly retarded. The music isn’t badly made, but given the other elements of the band, it makes what is good about the music that much more suspect. [contact: Psionic, P.O. Box 892125, Temecula, CA 92589; www.psionic.info; inquiries@psionic.info]

Dope Stars Inc. has been building quite a fanbase with their 10,000 Watts Of Artificial Pleasures EP. They definitely have the makings of being a large-label band. Despite coming from a genuine underground background (and being European, for that matter), they offer the sensibility that will make them palatable to the Orgy and Manson fans out there in teen nu-metal land. Given a better shine of production on their music, they are surely destined for large things, unless they intentionally stick to their underground roots. Offering something between the atmosphere of Zeromancer and (decent) Hanzel und Gretyl and tuning up the pure electro-punk, they will undoubtedly find fans all over the globe with their tight and proficient style of electronic rock. [contact: www.dopestarsinc.com; info@dopestarsinc.com]

Well, that closes out another one. Thanks for one more go and keep the CD’s coming.

 

from IndustrialnatioN Magazine #21

Neuroticfish

Category: Electro-pop
Album: Bomb E.P.

Neuroticfish borrows heavily from the style of VNV Nation and Assemblage 23, delivering hooky electronic pop songs with only a mildly dark edge separating it from being club synthpop. Obviously, comparisons can be made to Depeche Mode, as well.

Bomb pulls heavily from the rulebook of earlier futurepop luminaries, giving catchy beats along with repetitive programming and pop vocals that, if done incorrectly, could be horrible, but Neuroticfish manages to keep their band competitive with the rest of the future/synth-pop pack.

“The Bomb” is a well-made track, giving one the feel of Tom Shear’s musical designs and structures. The other tracks, other than revisions and remixes of “The Bomb”, on the single all show promise. One is entirely unreleased and two are revisions of previous versions.

All of the tracks are interesting and worth a listen for the synthpop fan. Every song knows well how to capitalize on its hooks and melodies and deserves kudos for knowing how to write pop songs correctly. It’s nice to hear a band step up to the challenge of delivering more than just cookie-cutter copies of the latest electro-pop hit and actually write something that you’re forced to appreciate, even if it isn’t quite what you wanted to hear.

It gives hope that Geld, the upcoming album featuring “The Bomb”, might very well be worth your time and money.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~12/2004)