Plastic Noise Experience

Category: Electro-pop
Album: Maschinenmusik

Though this album is posed as being “Dark-Electro” and “old-school EBM,” it bears more resemblance to the Kraftwerk-ian experimentation of the 70’s and early 80’s. Plastic Noise Experience seems to be expert at taking a new wave flavor and updating it for today, though only barely.

Around since 1989, PNE should know about the 80’s electronic sound well, but why one would create this kind of throwback in this day and age is a bit beyond me.

The better tracks begin well, but never deliver anything interesting. “Koma” and “Neue Welt” have good beats and interesting programming and “Monoton Synchron” is decent for what it is, but they never move beyond the most basic layer of minimalism. Many of the other songs throw in almost kitschy Atari-era bleeps and other retro fodder that most bands left behind a decade ago. Its makeup is usually nothing more than a simple drum track combined with one or two light sequences or bass tracks, covered up with Germanic vocals and the occasional retro Moog noise or bloop to spice up the track.

My German is a bit beyond rusty, but I can still remember enough to know that most of the lyrics are silly in their simplicity and electronic fetishism. And it seems even stranger growled through the thick Laibach-like accent of the vocalist. Combined with the pure minimalism of the music, I can only imagine that the few people who will appreciate this album are the most die-hard Kraftwerk fans.

The pocket calculator set will surely enjoy some of this, but you have to wonder about a band that intentionally takes the tone that amounted to experimentality and originality in the days when electronic instruments were novel, at best, and try to update it to use the hard EBM drones and beats of other bands to accomplish the same sounds in this day and age, an age when you can do any or all of this on a laptop while grabbing a coffee at Starbucks. The bands that pioneered this sound have moved on with the technology to create more complex and interesting arrangements with broader themes and much more interesting sense of experimentation, but bands like this never seem to want to move past the era when this type of music was made out of necessity instead of laziness and as a throwback to someone else’s music.

So aside from questioning the relevance and motivation for this style of music, I do have to say that the remixes from the likes of :wumpscut:, Suicide Commando, and Armageddon Dildos make for a pleasurable change from the repetitive beats and tweaky noises. The remixes give greater depth and promise than any original track on the album does, which is sad in a way. It’s nice to think that there’s still a place for a little retro electronic music, but this seems a bit excessive in its lack of desire to create any more than the most simplistic track.

If the idea of Laibach doing the robot with Herbie Hancock doesn’t sound like excitement to you or you own less than five Kraftwerk albums, you probably wouldn’t enjoy Maschinenmusik. Though if you owned five Kraftwerk albums, you wouldn’t need it anyway.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~11/2004)

Panzer AG

Category: Industrial
Album: This Is My Battlefield

Panzer AG is yet another side-project from the prodigious mind of Andy LaPlegua. Not satisfied with just Icon Of Coil or Combichrist, Panzer AG is LaPlegua’s newest project, delivering the tones of :wumpscut: or Suicide Commando combined with the distorted, thin drums of powernoise.

While the music can often be interesting, the lyricism and vocals stand out like a proverbial sore thumb. They sit on top of the mix, the tone not quite matching the songs themselves. Meanwhile, the lyrics tear at the listener’s attention. Many of the songs sound as if LaPlegua is drawing much of his inspiration from Marilyn Manson’s Holy Wood, while others veer away from grammar into the land of “English As A Second Language” classes. Lyrics like “I am the ingredience/I am the ingredience/I am above all life/I am life it self” in “Chemical Breed” tear at one’s attention and pull you away from listening to music, though that song is one of the worst examples.

The tracks are very hit-and-miss in how well they manage to function. While some of the earlier tracks like “Filth God” and “Battlefield” sound a bit silly, though decent, “Chemical Breed” and many of the later instrumental tracks either don’t sound quite right, are too uniformly uninteresting, or come off as very awkward and unfinished.

“When Death Embraces Me” stands out as one of the tracks where the balance is much more interesting. There is less of the powernoise influence and more of a throwback to the dancability of Icon Of Coil, though in a very :wumpscut:-like manner. “God Eats God” also seems to drink deep from the cup of :wumpscut: in the tone and construction of its slow marching theology-meets-militarism.

“Behind A Gasmask” does manage to throw in a few good touches in the usage of Steril-like combination of harsh electronics with metal guitar and, as such, pulls away from the rest of the album’s tone with something totally different and interesting to hear.

The album manages to mix tracks like “Bereit” and “Totale Luftherrschaft,” pure powernoise with more interesting industrial structures, with the cold piano & strings ballad of “Sick Is The One Who Adores Me” and the cold electro of Panzer AG’s collaboration with Symbiont on “Tides That Kill”. And the mix is satisfactory. This isn’t the band that will impress you and become a new classic or a favorite for all time, but there is something here to be enjoyed amidst the disparity of influences.

The willingness to experiment and crossbreed powernoise, metal, electro, synthpop, EBM and industrial manages to deliver some interesting experiments, though no real surprises.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~11/2004)

halovox

Category: Electro-pop
Album: halovox

halovox offers some very decent minimalist synthpop filtered through a few retro-industrial affectations. The songs are very reminiscent of the 80’s, while having a few of the modern touches that many of the European synthpop acts employ.

The tracks are often a schizophrenic mix, though. One lesson that halovox could stand to learn is finding a more signature sound. Tracks like “Worthy” and “Waiting, Watching, Wanting” are 80’s ballad treacle, whose overwrought lyrics threaten to capsize the momentum that the good tracks on the album hold.

And there are good tracks on the album. “Make Me Yours” stands up well against most of the EBM/futurepop dancefloor fodder that comes down the pike these days. It could easily win over the Seabound and Beborn Beton fans, as well as being very pleasing to the old school Depeche Mode fetishists. “Just Like Me” follows in the same vein. “Foolish Slave” combines more hard samples and sounds to bring a more energetic and less pop edge to the album, giving it some variety.

These good and bad tracks are balanced by very anachronistic 80’s-style retro electro tracks that generally have lyrics not suited for such minimal fare. “Save Yourself,” by its lyrical content, would be the type of song you would imagine an upbeat rock anthem to compliment. But the actual track accentuates the way in which the lyrics don’t fit with the music. Its new wave flavor does nothing to help cohesion. And this is typical of several of the songs.

The tracks are all very good, except for the more offensive ballads, but there needs to be more movement in the vocal style and a few more attempts to stray away from Depeche Mode and add more of an individual flavor to the music. Hopefully with some tweaking, trimming, and polishing, halovox will come out of the retro background and bring something fresh to the synthpop scene.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~10/2004)

 

Zog Welinski’s Day Off

Category: IDM
Album: The First Day Off

I can’t remember listening to anything more boring in my life. “He’s insane,” you’re surely saying. “There’s got to be a million things more boring than that!” Well, that may be, but I’ve never heard them. Plus, those things are probably better. Because if the music is worse, it can at least be funny. And if the music is better, then it wouldn’t be boring. No, the sheer mediocrity, combined with its tremendous length, makes The First Day Off the most boring CD ever.

Imagine: 7 songs taking 63 minutes to listen to… Hell, the track “End” is eight and a half minutes by itself! That’s not really an “end,” now is it? “End” implies that something reaches the point where it no longer continues and stops. Not so on this album. The “End” seems like it goes on just as long as the rest of it.

I imagine that the CD (and band) got the name in some way relating to the fact that it takes you an entire day off just to get through this piece of shit.

Okay, okay… It’s not that bad. But the fact that you’ve got 7 tracks of what is, essentially, music from a video game droning on, endlessly, for roughly 8 to 10 minutes per track… It’s pretty numbing. I would be on the computer and look away for several minutes from the CD player. Then I would turn back, sure that the track had changed. But the counter would be there, mocking me… “No, friend, you’re only 7 minutes into this masterpiece. You’ve got 5 more minutes to go!”

So, this CD can only be recommended for the most devout electronic chill-out music addicts and terminal masochists. Just be sure to turn your brain off before you turn the CD on.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~10/2004)

Velvet Vimoz

Category: Trance
Album: Boy

Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive. Repetitive.

Annoying, isn’t it? Well, it’s more annoying when it’s the word “boy” being repeated about 7,000 times. “I wanna be a boy boy boy boy…” Is this really a pertinent us of vocals for this music? The one track to use vocals has to use them in this pointless capacity? Why must dance music throw in vocals that exist as nothing more than a representation of how pointless and repetitive the song actually is? Velvet Vimoz would be better suited to stray from this in the future.

They should stick with what makes up the other 5 tracks, typically generic but entirely servicable electronic dance music that could easily pass as background soundtrack for a movie or TV show or be background music for a video game. Either would suit its style and tempo… Whether it’s the end credits of a show on TechTV or the latest Japanese fighting game, either would be pleasing enough. But they should strictly forbid the usage of anymore vocals to harass their listeners.

They’ve included a video of “Boy” in all its glory glory glory glory glory glory on this enhanced CD, but I wouldn’t recommend actually watching it.

Velvet Vimoz may be skillful enough in the creation of its music, but it does nothing more than stick to the same formulaic electronica structures that have been grazed over thousands of times already.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~10/2004)

mindFIELD

Category: EBM
Album: Singularity

Firmly taking hold of the currently popular synthpop sensibility circulating through the industrial underground and giving it a good shove back into the territory of thick-sounding dark dance grooves, mindFIELD takes the better parts of the two sounds and makes them into a superior whole. Taking the tired and overused melodic male vocal that is often butchered by a variety of up and coming EBM acts and making it seem perfectly fitting, Gabriel Shaw delivers music that is satisfying to anyone who enjoys the lighter side of industrial. The sound is not underburdened with a lack of background noise and variety of sounds within the song structure. Minimalism is not what mindFIELD is about, quite fortunately. It’s a fine combination of the style and structure of haujobb combined with the sensibilities and tone of Unlearn-era Psykosonik. Even the darkest songs keep a strong dance beat and songs like “Out There” and “1:1.618” deliver a sound that is up for competition with most any electronic band out there today, even though it was recorded entirely on computer and without any of the more expensive and fancy tricks of a studio album.

The songs do blend a bit into one another with the similarities of keyboard tones and never-changing consistency of vocal style, to the point that the whole seems a bit too homogenous, but when the electro is kept so compellingly interesting and bereft of many of the clichés that seem to burden EBM these days, a little repetitiveness is entirely forgivable.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~10/2004)

 

Naltrexone

Category: Experimental
Album: Forever Screaming

Tasmania’s Naltrexone has self-released two CDs, small efforts, easily available free online, and I have been fortunate enough to have received a copy of the second.

I will not describe the listening material of the CD, Forever Screaming, as “great” or “enjoyable,” but I think that the music does present some interesting points.

Described by the band itself as an “bemused contrivance,” the point is made clear in saying that there is a “complete lack of pleasure in the sound” and that the goal “wasn’t attempting to make good music but to question the very assumption of what good music is.” And I applaud the band for its effort to inject a personal meaning into its own music, to use music as a tool of self-discovery and understanding one’s place in the writing process.

The music itself is not great. It’s comprised of loops, samples, vocals, and the occasional instrumentation, all mangled, stretched, compressed, and distorted out of shape. The assemblages are usually interestingly peppy and strangely enchanting, veering from a tone similar to that of the DJ-era electronica in the background of your average commercial to twitchy noise collages to spoken word over noise and light melodies. I found myself a bit detached but rather enjoying the product itself. While some tracks drone on with experimental touches, others stop long before their interest even reaches its peak.

I think that the band may have sold itself short by saying that there is no pleasure in the sound. It’s not your typical pleasure, but the construction of the songs and the elements chosen often delight in the simple and uncharacteristic ways they combine, even when the intention for them to isn’t there.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~10/2004)

Various artists

Category: Compilations
Album: Melodies & Structures Vol. 2

Melodies & Structures is a compilation CD from a small Canadian label called 4mg that focuses on recognition for DIY electronic artists that would not normally see the light of day, musically, without some help on their way up. With only 1,000 copies in circulation, this is more of a labor of love than your typical music compilation CD.

Given that, how does the actual music fare? Well, some of it manages to be marginally interesting, while others fail to be more than the typical club fare.

While most of the tracks linger around the ghostly and ethereal typically trancey club numbers with angelic choruses of real or sythesized female vocals or experimental noodling, others strike out towards more interesting, less repetitive fare… Some are a bit confusing, like Promilla’s “Ancient Love”, which sounds like the latest Madonna track that would surely be carpet-bombed on radio and video television. Meanwhile, others slip away from the typicality of club music with sample-heaviness, such as The Weathermen’s “Daytime TV (The Afternoon Mix)”, which verges on the edge of good taste with overuse of George W. samples, and Adam X, which delivers a strong retro feeling that reminds the listener of some current club remix of a Clock DVA song, late-80’s industrial gone club-hoppin’.

Hypnotech 3 delivers what they call “melodic, ambient pulsebeat,” which I could better describe as music that could have been culled from the Nintendo days, brought back with a dance edge, echoed also in the music of Charon. Others, like Northern Electric, deliver straight-up 80’s new wave/synthpop with no bones about it, while Click Click hides theirs under a veneer of Talking Heads fed through electronics.

All in all, a compilation and label worth looking into for the electro enthusiast who doesn’t mind a little experimental trance mixed in with their retro 80’s goodness. But, for the more casual listener or genre whore, probably not quite your forte.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~10/2004)

Nerbe Exhibit

Category: Industrial
Album: The Horror Of Amusement

I hate to be unable to say anything good about a CD. If I’m unable to find any enjoyable quality in something, I want to be able to rip it apart and be as brutally honest as the CD deserves. Either way, Nerve Exhibit has left me with very little to say.

Like a softer-spoken, more poppy early Skinny Puppy, filtered through fuzz, there is talent in what is made from these tracks, but they never really pay off. The simple sequences that build towards what one hopes is a ripping chorus or additional complexity that will suddenly unfold before you, instead, leave you wanting, continuing on as they were for several minutes, whatever changes there are never bringing the satisfaction that one is awaiting from the tracks.

The songs continue to exist in the realm of experimentation without being fulfilling. It makes me think that there is a talent in Nerve Exhibit, but it’s being wasted by not unleashing it fully. One of the most important parts of music is its complex changes and movements. And while this music has no movement and no change, it will forever be relegated to the background.

All I can offer Nerve Exhibit is the hope that a more complex movement is learnt and that these tracks can fulfill the potential that is waiting there to be freed.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~8/2004)

David Reilly

Category: Rock
Album: Inside

David Reilly, former frontman for God Lives Underwater, struck out on his own after the dissolution of his former band and the destruction of his personal life. If one imagined that what he would produce on his own would sound like God Lives Underwater, they were only half right.

Surprisingly, the pop sensibility of God Lives Underwater has remained intact, while being stripped down to the most bare bones one could imagine. Reilly’s pinched, nasal voice hangs just over a void of sequenced bleeps, acoustic guitar strumming, and minimalist drum programming. And yet it somehow stands far above his previous music in its simplicity and honesty. Songs that one could imagine easily being sappy and melodramatic come off as exceptionally heartfelt and moving. And as much as one thinks that the songs are somewhat meaningless, you realize you still have them in the back of your head, playing on endlessly.

Probably the smartest and strongest move David Reilly could have made, this EP of new work is not only for fans of God Lives Underwater or acoustic music lovers, but for the masses of synthpop fanatics, open-minded industrial fans, and the radio-rock-friendly. And though the moping atmosphere of the songs may not be for all, there is something uniquely complex in every song to be respected.

 

from ReGen Magazine (~8/2004)