I feel like I go through the motions every year, repeating the same diatribe, but this time, there is a minor change of circumstances, and even a little bit of excitement. After all, who knows what can happen next in this crazy time we live in? As the site, and ourselves by extension, enter a new decade, one that hopefully that leads to plenty of promise, and one that can only dismay us from the gradual doomsday scenario that the planet seems to be sliding into of late, we glance back one final time into the 2010s (the tenties?) and upon the last year’s worth of music. Compiling this list was somewhat difficult this time around, as I appear to have forgotten more incredible albums than I remember listening to. Even then, to get to the point of narrowing down a contendership of just ten albums, the list was very much disputed the entire time. Alas, the list was finally cemented, and here’s what delights 2019 provided my, and now potentially your, earholes.Continue reading
If you ever had any doubt that the nostalgia trend is absolutely back in full effect, as last decade touched upon lifting so many influences from the 80’s, this decade seemed dead set on reliving the 90’s, that abhorrent haircuts, tasteless clothing, and otherwise obsolete mediums are all the rage once more. Arguably, as much as the 90’s were a confusing and surreal decade in our lifetimes, it was an incredibly underrated decade in musical innovation. Crazily, dance music was scarcely dubbed dance music until the turn of the 90’s, despite music specifically recorded for the intended purpose to dance to existing for generations before that, going under numerous guises and evolutions. And in the grand spirit of that innovation, the very nature of dance music underwent such a radical transformation in that time period, that began with Eurodance and acid house, and ended with trance. Sticking with Eurodance, the treasure trove of that brief spell of musical history, is still unearthing rock solid tracks that the world had forgotten or had no idea existed, which brings us to Leila K’s Electric. A great success in Europe, and greater success in her native Sweden, the Moroccan-born singer and rapper resembled somewhat a solo Salt-n-Pepa for the rave generation, and Electric coursed with the kind of attitude and energy, that made it as inspiring as it was incendiary. Pulse-pounding though it still may be, Electric sounds very much a product of its time, approaching a quarter century in age and dated by its now primitive production package. Enter fellow Swede, and electro-pop anarchist Rein.
Joanna Reinikainen, better known by her stage name, exploded into the public eye in 2016, with her no apologies, take no prisoners fusion of pop, electro-punk, industrial and EBM, teeming with sociopolitical confrontation and fury at global injustices. In such a short space and time, she’s released two EPs, a handful of singles, made additional guest vocal appearances and been nominated for awards in her homeland. She even found the time to refuse to open for Marilyn Manson in that time frame. Her deeply addictive and frenetic assault of musical styles, along with Electric’s clarion call of unity, make her the prime candidate, to revitalise and empathise the vigour of this joyous gem from Scandinavia’s pop vaults. From the inset, there’s certainly plenty that embodies and mirrors the original, from the imposing buzz of the vocoder, the unwavering swagger in every syllable, even down to leaving Leila K’s name in the lyrics untouched, and the lush layering of vocal melodies at the song’s crescendo. The music video even bears a handful of similarities to its predecessor, despite the stark contrast between the cold walls of industry and the bright illuminations against woodland. It’s Rein’s distorted, driving waves of dissonance that ultimately begin to shift towards the version to call her own. The continuous kinetics of the techno arpeggio that the original gently builds itself around, is instead brought into motion by an aggressive pumping bassline, undulating as hard as putting fists to flesh, interspersed with ungodly screeches of synth. The verses of rapid-fire rap possesses so much more bite here, that extra degree of fire tremendous in spurring on listeners to invest in the song’s message. But the entire tone of the song isn’t all certifiably vicious, as Rein still retains the chorus’ soul-packed hook, taking on the delivery herself to demonstrate further dexterity in her already impressive vocal arsenal, alongside the same uplifting pads nestled within from the original, and the bassline dialled down into a throbbing disco-esque rhythm Giorgio Moroder would be proud of.
Everything summates to a pop vessel, masquerading as a industrial strength wrecking ball but with more than an ounce of humanity in its approach, and if this doesn’t serve as the perfect entrance to Rein’s expanding realm of electro-punk antagonism, dive into her earlier work and start taking notes, as this outstandingly talented lady is only going to kick more and more doors down.
Electric is out now available for purchase at all reputable retailers and on all major streaming platforms. All Rein apparel and merchandise can be found on her page here, and keep an eye out for shows hopefully in a country near to you.
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Among all of the things that 2016 brought to us, no matter how good, bad or ugly, collectively, it was a very strong year for new music, hence why I have had an incredibly difficult task assembling a list of just ten albums that have lived on repeat and high volume. My only regret is that there are still albums missed I have yet to listen to, by artists I am yet to discover that could’ve been exemplary. If I were to just leave this to albums I’ve heard this year, Lantlos’ Melting Sun or Black Breath’s Slaves Beyond Death probably would have romped away with this one, despite being out in 2014 and 2015 respectively. There are so many honourable mentions too that a cephalopod with hands need be employed to even fathom counting. But, lo and behold, here are the ten albums from one of humanity’s most troubling years, that I personally consider to be certifiable must-listen experiences:
10. The Maras – Wax Beach
Having never met The Maras personally, it would be safe to say that the brothers from Ontario are a little hyperactive. Not purely because they’ve released a demo, an album and a brand new EP in the space of a year, but the speed, urgency and average length of their songs might have something to do with it. Though Wax Beach could be seen as an expansion of their already superb demo, the re-recordings sound a lot denser and deranged, letting their garage punk snarls and smorgasbord of influences flourish, on what is on one hand a damning indictment on mental health services, but on the other a dizzying rush of genre-bending bliss.
9. Cruz – Culto Abismal
From beginning to end, 2016 has seen some magnificent death metal releases, but few have been quite as memorable as Barcelona quartet Cruz’s Culto Abismal. Injecting crust punk deep into the veins of death metal’s old blood, this untameable hellbeast of an album charges fast and ceases to relent once in motion. Deep growls in their native tongue punctuate the onslaught as a cavalcade of riffs over 40 minutes keeps the monster moving, the perfect balance of speed, technical ability and sickeningly heavy tone serving as Culto Abismal’s addictive centrepiece. Spain may not have the most renowned history in death metal, but on the basis of a debut this strong, Cruz sees reason for that to change very suddenly.
8. Maeth – Shrouded Mountain
With every stride that Maeth take musically, it surpasses and obliterates the last, ensuring their status as one of metal’s must-hear bands. Shrouded Mountain is their third gargantuan footprint and maintains their unique, boundary-warping compositions which straddles the planes of psychedelia and sludge like no other band before them. They also play a mean flute too, to boot. So however Maeth choose to construct their stunning, mostly instrumental journeys, whether taking you soaring through the vast reaches of space or crunching hard down into the Earth’s crust, you can bet that it will be with an energy, passion and talent that you can scarcely conceive, and Shrouded Mountain does not disappoint. Not by a long shot.
7. Bossk – Audio Noir
Always a looming presence on the UK’s stoner/doom scene, even during their split, Bossk’s first release outside of their seminal EP trilogy has catapulted their gorgeous ambient passages and pummeling riffs to unprecedented new heights. Though can be listened as an entire conceptual soundscape, the fragmentation certainly aids the quartet’s longest opus to date and makes every change of pace and tone a stellar moment. Even vocals, while used sparingly, are utilised at their most impactful, shifting what already sounds like ripping your throat out intensity, into ushering in a new Armageddon. Bossk undoubtedly stamped their authority through live performances over the decade their name has existed, but Audio Noir distills that very essence into an immensely satisfying anthology, proving that they are here to stay.
6. Vodun – Possession
Lifting its name from the homophone of voodoo, as well as incorporating aspects of its lifestyle and culture into this very music representing it, this trio from London perform an ungodly racket that’s equal parts punchy to pulse-raising. In arguably one of the most original takes on big, fuzz-saturated grooves in years, the literally spirit-fuelled Vodun drags stoner rock by its ankles and imbues it with a staggering amount of soul. Think Aretha Franklin fronting Kyuss and you’re damn near close. The presentation of the album in a semi-documentary form, with a ritualistic thread running throughout, is a neat touch and grants deeper immersion into Vodun’s already enchanting sledgehammer of force and one of the best hard rock debuts of the decade.
5. Losers – How To Ruin Other People’s Futures
With an album title that scathing, you wouldn’t be wrong thinking there is intense subject matter here. Suitably riled up trio Losers, well versed in their weaving of expansive, luscious atmospheres, frightening buzzsaw synths, distorted guitar attacks and truly thunderous percussion, unleash one of the most adrenaline-surging bouts of electro-rock charged catharsis you could ever hope to listen to. While How To Ruin Other People’s Futures features several bursts of pounding rhythms and explosive instrumentation, it allows enough breathing space for a whirlwind of ambience to take shape, for every conflagration and slow-burner, all with Paul Mullen’s dynamic vocal delivery giving a touch of humanity where chaos could spiral out of control at any given moment. A simply tremendous listen.
4. Youth Code – Commitment To Complications
Certainly one of the most talked about bands of the year and for excellent reason, the Los Angeles duo’s sophomore offering builds upon the vintage analogue synths and drum machines of industrial’s heyday and cleverly sprinkles the zest of their own hardcore upbringings into the formula. The results are nothing short of spectacular. The growth from their debut is undeniably evident, not just as tempos vary and tones are more exploratory, but their whole sound is gigantic on this album making every notion of rage and every raw nerve amplified tenfold. When beats vibrate your skull and melodies claw into your brain like Youth Code’s do, it instigates that addictive property that all EBM enthusiasts have been raving about all year.
3. Noisia – Outer Edges
After mentions for half a decade, then seemingly nonchalantly announced three months before its release, Dutch drum and bass production maestros Noisia have compiled their second studio album, far more abstract and experimental in approach than the trio’s previous Split The Atom. While you will find the same mind-altering, visceral bass lines associated with the Noisia name, it’s the deeper, darker and noticeably slower beats that become the show stealer here. Often quirky in nature and exquisitely composed to emphasise the very best of every minuscule detail, the heavy gestation period for every track, especially the beats-driven numbers, brings a world class finish to what could filter through as an oddity, but arrives as a masterpiece in sound design and further reason to immortalise Noisia as the one of the best the genre has ever seen.
2. The Qemists – Warrior Sound
In the six years since the Brighton drum and bass rock outfit’s last album, they’ve been honing their skills to create dancefloor anarchy on the live circuit, a tenure that has seen their reputation skyrocket as one of the UK’s best independent live acts. Now that energy has finally metamorphosed into The Qemists’ strongest, most consistent blockbuster yet. Fixing both live vocalists as permanent band members, has only benefited the original lightning strike of a production unit, and makes every word have purpose against the backdrop of all-out mayhem. Unforgettable, unbelievable and unflinching in the pursuit of perfect crossover bombshells, Warrior Sound is a sonic shockwave explicitly targeted to induce pleasure at an intoxicating level.
1. All Hail The Yeti – Screams From A Black Wilderness
Three years on from their scorching debut, the Los Angeles metalcore mob return with a follow-up that is perpetually more terrifying in every imaginable way. Spinning narratives so gripping and ghastly, the lines of fact and fiction dissipate into black mist as imposing, monstrous roars with some mightily impressive clean vocal support coalesce their strength as bloodthirsty wordsmiths. Though horror and the occult is the given flavour, Screams… exhibits a previously unseen versatility in All Hail The Yeti, in that their sound features much broader influences from rock and metal, that fires on all cylinders and mellows in acoustic gloom. A hard-hitting, yet gruesome landmark of metalcore, All Hail The Yeti have once again established that they are one of the most essential bands in modern metal.
If you liked the look of this list and want to hear more, then here is a handy Spotify playlist for you (except Maeth, whom you can find on their Bandcamp page):
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So this is a first for the site, as somebody sworn to never do live concert reviews, a run-down of ten stand out live acts that I’ve seen over the course of 2016. And I’ve seen a lot of them. It’s pretty self-explanatory really, only I’m not exactly reviewing them, just highlighting why they made this list. This isn’t limited to headline acts by the way. The only exception that I have made is to try and limit festival appearances, as there were numerous bands seen in the space of a day at some festivals that could’ve made up lists of their own. And I have had to discount one entry that should be on this list, that of being The Offspring and Bad Religion at Hammersmith Apollo. The reason being counting individual performances, both were absolutely superb on the night, more than satisfying the inner 13 year-old in me and being hard torn to pick a favourite, just makes it easier to disallow it altogether. Sorry, no joint entries for this one. Without any further ado, here’s who played stellar live shows in 2016:
10. Raveyards @ Camden Underworld (supporting Perturbator w/ Dan Terminus) – 08/06/16
Bands like Raveyards perfectly demonstrate why you should always try and check out the support bands for a live show. Knowing nothing of them, walking into Underworld with half of the stage consumed by mesh netting, projection screens and one of the most elaborate live musical setups I’ve ever seen was an eyebrow-raiser. Every component of an electronic music performance was in their control and performed in real time, with their expansive shadowy atmospherics and gigantic beats, matched with a kaleidoscope of visuals made for a spell-binding spectacle. Spectators seemed happy to have the space back afterwards, but Raveyards’ attention to detail alone has to garner recognition.
9. Allusondrugs @ The Black Heart, Camden (w/ Fizzy Blood, This Years Ghost and Snakes) – 03/08/16
Always a band on the cusp of greatness, the Yorkshire grunge revivalists played a packed Black Heart and showed everybody why they are one of the most talked about live acts going in the UK right now. Switching between slower psychedelic pinches and frenzied fuzz slammers, all delivered with their inescapable talent for writing infectious hooks, I went into this show, having had some personal bad news that day and left with joy and an affirmation of life once more afterwards. They near had to be dragged off stage after a storming 45 minute performance, but such is their allure and brilliance of their music.
8. Youth Code @ Electrowerkz, Islington (w/ Shallow Sanction and Evestus) – 14/10/16
If there ever was a band that embodied controlled chaos, then Youth Code is that band. Marking their debut in the capital city with their revisionist approach to industrial and EBM, there is no wasted movement from beginning to end of their set, both Sara and Ryan screaming and launching themselves across the stage in a frenetic display. Despite a breadth of luscious synth arpeggios and skull-rattling drum machines, it’s their sprinkle of hardcore, that makes every word screamed at you personal and elevates Youth Code’s all-out sensory assault to an absorbing war dance you never want to end. Can you say: the next Ministry?
7. Jean-Michel Jarre @ The O2 Arena, London – 07/10/16
It kinda goes without saying, that when you go to see a concert from somebody widely regarded as the Godfather of Electronic Music, as a pioneer whose forays into music and technology span 40 years and a former world record holder for the largest outdoor concert ever, you’re in for a spectacle. And having missed the chance six years previously to see him, he did not disappoint. Ever the showman, touring through his greatest hits and his frankly superb Electronica project, his inspiring ability to flawlessly recreate every nuance of his work, live, to a visual extravaganza that evolves much like his compositions can only cement his legacy as one of the most influential figures in modern music.
6. Petrol Bastard @ Resistanz Festival (Corporation, Sheffield) – 25/03/16
I do wonder how many people have said at a Petrol Bastard show, that the duo played their dream set list. I certainly can. Opening up Resistanz Festival in Sheffield’s Corporation was a 45 minute performance piece about masturbation, drinking and violence set to an unrelenting techno, gabba and drum and bass soundtrack… and it was some of the most fun I’d had all year. Forcing crowd participation with a tide of inflatable penises and unforgettable slogans, and with a little help from Johnny Ultraviolence, this crude, colourful riot was impossible to ignore and left many smiling from ear to ear. Plus how many gigs let your girlfriend try to sexually assault one of the band members with an inflatable penis?
5. Monster Zoku Onsomb @ Boomtown Fair, Winchester – 12/08/16
Out of the inconceivable number of bands and pass times at Boomtown Fair, these guys could’ve been easy to miss on one of the smallest stages around. But once in range, you couldn’t escape from them and those onlookers in attendance never wanted this madness to end. A troupe of Australian musicians specialising in belting rave tunes, spanning a whirlwind of tempos, spliced together with B-movie references galore and occasional 60’s surf guitar, happily run amok in their 45 minutes on stage. Choreographed dance routines, inviting an adult baby on stage and what may have been a declaration about being in Eurovision 2017 only added to their unique brand of electronic dance carnage.
4. Toska @ The Boileroom, Guildford (EP Launch Show w/ Eschar, The Deadlights and Steal Rockets) – 27/02/16
Possibly the only headline band I have ever seen without knowing a single thing about, was also one of the most astounding. Made up of three quarters of melodic hard rock starlets Dorje, Toska sacrifice none of that intensity and churn out wave after wave of instrumental metal bliss, hurled at such force you’d think there was an earthquake. The energy they emitted could’ve powered large city blocks and their respective talents are hypnotizing to observe; simply everything about their performance was immense in stature, given their debut recorded release. They made crafting invigorating, progressive music seem so effortless and it was an absolute pleasure to watch them at work.
3. Lionize @ Desertfest London (Camden Underworld) – 29/04/16
In what is somewhat a recurring theme on this list, I went to watch Lionize, only knowing that they were Clutch’s in-house band and left absolutely speechless. Imagine if James Brown had fronted a balls-to-the-wall rock band and invited Bob Marley along as a touring member and that merely scratches the surface of what these gentlemen can do on stage. Ferociously charismatic and passionate beyond all belief, Lionize toured a myriad of genres and had tremendous fun doing it, all with every attendee transfixed at this true powerhouse of a performance. I’m surprised the Underworld didn’t burst having to contend with holding these guys back, one of the most impressive modern rock bands alive today.
2. Kowloon Walled City @ Camden Underworld (co-headliners w/ Minsk, also w/ Bossk and Wren) – 03/09/16
Credit where credit is due, Bossk were also spectacular on this night, but for a band that had never stepped foot in the UK before and had come to the end of a near two-month tour of Europe, emotions were always going to be high for these guys. Kowloon Walled City’s use of conveying so much intensity and feeling into their tone, while being pulverising in the same capacity, makes every note gripping to behold and very, very few bands can even touch them in making sludge sound so breathtaking. Spanning seven songs across 45 minutes, this set made a titanic statement as why Kowloon Walled City could be considered one of the best bands on the planet.
1. Placebo @ Wembley Arena, London (w/ Minor Victories) – 15/12/16
What more can be said about Placebo? Never has a band resonated with me emotionally and spiritually as Placebo has and likely I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Hell, I wouldn’t have a degree for starters. But there could be no more fitting show for them to play in their hometown on the 20th year of their inception. The atmosphere was electric and applause rapturous as the band strode through a terrific career-spanning set, that touched many through melancholy but lifted everyone through liveliness. Lyrically they have few peers and musically, their grunge-embezzled attack sounds as fresh as it did in June of 1996. Arguably, one of the UK’s greatest cultural phenomenons.
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History has gone to show it is infamous for remembering and celebrating the individuals and the cults of personality that have walked among us at one time or another. I’m sure that you really don’t need me to go above and beyond to name a few here, you could all name a handful of people off the bat. Their influence and importance of course relies entirely on you as a person, which is perhaps why I’d say it’s unfair to suggest that one person is of far greater importance than another. It’s all subjective. On the other hand, history has shown that it can be just as good celebrating couples and pairs. You may be a little harder pressed to name some off the bat, but I can give you a few of varying life paths. Bonnie and Clyde, Torville and Dean, Brad and Angelina, Elvis and Costello, Jack and Jill… You get the idea. The point is they’re all remembered for something, no matter their significance to you as a person. You’re aware of them regardless. At first glance of the pairing of Randolph and Mortimer, you could assume they operate as a construction firm, (like Gibbs and Dandy if you hail from the UK) or the surnames of serial killers, or war criminals. The truth kind of combines the two in some capacity. Dependent on how you label bankers and politicians.
The name actually derives from the film Trading Places, where two stock brokers, going by the names of Randolph and Mortimer switch places with two gentlemen in less fortunate social and financial circumstances, as an experiment to experience life on the other side. Which in today’s political climate we seem to be calling for a lot, to the governments and fat cats who more likely have never struggled in everyday social and financial situations. It certainly makes that name far more poignant. The Sheffield three-piece (yes, despite going under the moniker of a duo) practice a manifesto of condemnation and repulsion, punctuated by a series of electronically driven, industrial rallying movements. Powered by the analogue synths and percussive might of the 80’s, it only makes sense that visuals match the sonics, with wireframe silhouettes and what resembles Thatcherite Britain providing the backdrop for the ire unfolding. Most recent single Citizens isn’t so much a feast for the disenchanted, more a capitalist brainwashing broadcast if such an occurrence were to play out. Brought to a marching pace by booming snare hits and dampened synth arpeggios, the beat very much tribalistic in tempo and timbre, the checklist for what constitutes a valid member of society is rolled out, as well as quasi-motivational slogans in how to do so. A heavily distorted voice calls out in the distance, reaching indecipherable levels but certainly adds a touch of unease and morality to this otherwise calming instructional narrative. Later, a ferocious sawtooth synth wave cuts through the rhythm, near stopping it in its tracks, while a brighter counterpart, still as abrasive as its bass-heavy contemporary, layers atop before bringing the beat back and ushering in a new breed of arpeggios to meld with the originals. In the end, all of the individual synth lines piece together and play out increasingly chaotic percussion, to one last eerie inquisitive dialogue against a wall of noise. This is best experienced as an audio-visual sensation to truly get the best feel for the message Randolph and Mortimer wish to convey, but the music itself is just as an exciting head-trip in its own right. Though the political agenda is unmistakeable, these guys are producing stellar industrial in the veins of the old blood and will most likely not remain an underground sensation for much longer. History has every right to remember the constructs of these gentlemen.
Citizens has yet to see a release date, but no doubt will have a digital release at some stage in the near future. In the mean time, their $ocial £utures €P and single Enjoy More are available from their Bandcamp page, in addition to other singles and numerous remixes of theirs that can be found on most respectable music retailers.They are also playing the Saturday line-up on the main stage of Resistanz Festival 2016, but look out for a gig near you soon.
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It seems a complete mystery to me over how the phrase high-functioning is always perceived, or used in negative connotations. You would think that you were able to describe so many more items or activities in society as high-functioning in the way they are able to perform or fulfil that purpose to an exceptional degree. That tends not to be the case. While you could say that autism and Asperger’s could be fulfilling their role as a disability with flying colours, in making people’s considerably harder for them in a social and personal capacity, understandably we take that as an unfortunate and often horrific set of circumstances. Sadly, it is still often stigmatised, purely by those who don’t understand or are afraid of things not of the norm. But they are all human beings at the end of the day. They all have the same right to life as you, me or anyone else. They simply have to live life in a different or more difficult manner. Genetics is a strange thing. Which maybe makes the task of decoding what High-Functioning Flesh means all the more trickier. Is it labelling people who are capable of extraordinary prowess? Or is it that our own skin or being within ourselves, is a social disability or disease we all struggle with without realising? This is all speculative of course, but judging by their title of Human Remains, forthcoming from their second album, there’s an inkling or two you can take from it. Amongst the wave of troupes reinstating the old blood of industrial’s heyday, this duo from Los Angeles melds a warm, squelchy sequence of keys against the cold mechanical precision of programmed beats, whilst they dictate through the discourse of harmonised aggression. Defiantly old-school in practice, they take the scathing disenchantment of punk’s youth, piece it together with sheet metal from industrial’s proposed collapse of society, and drop a tab of techno to bring it to life, but not overclocking the construct. Human Remains sounds slightly more refined from a production standpoint compared to their previous works, smoother-sounding audio flowing from the keys at the inset, as a bouncy bass hookline interspersed with brighter stabs of synth create an optimistic tone in the track. The continual looping and manipulation of a voice recording and eventual introduction of tightly compressed percussion through out the first minute carry on this ideal, right up until the vocals break through. Then all projected optimism is stripped clean away, given the ghoulish subject matter of the lyrics. It feels like a battle between the expanding vibrant glow, characteristic to the building layers of analogue synths, and the harsh monotone truth of the spoken word, acting as the shroud of darkness, effectively warped by the phasing and pitch-shifting placed upon it. How this transforms the mood from a beautifully blended, 80’s nuanced discotheque floorfiller into a greyed cold wave manifestation of dread and sociopathy, is astonishing and more than a little uncomfortable. But my presumption is that what makes High-Functioning Flesh all the more of a spectacle. Their music is more than just a renaissance period for electronic musicians. It’s a wake-up call. Rather than seamlessly weaving the timeless ambience of three decades past with a fierce beat, they’re taking paranoia, fear and loathing and turning them into a occasionally understated, brutal sensory attack to shatter the illusion of day-by-day modern life. From what I’ve seen and heard, these guys are one of the most cleverly calculated punk bands in the business right now.
Human Remains will be released as a single on 26th February (also my birthday) and is taken from their yet to be titled second album forthcoming on Dais Records. Whilst you keep a look out for that, you’ll be pleased to know they are prolific, with their previous EP and demo available from their own Bandcamp page and first album Definite Structures is available from Dais Records own store. Most respectable music retailers still apply.
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Technology always finds a way to astound us as human beings. It seems that however our civilisation conducts ourselves, there is something beyond our imagination that we hadn’t considered or we didn’t believe was possible. That is whether a new mechanical marvel or edging nearer photo-realistic graphics in a video game, just to name two examples of possibilities, constant breakthroughs or refinements, or even building something entirely from the ground upwards keeps us on our toes, wondering what is next to come. I find my relationship with electronic music is very much a similar affair. Only you occasionally have to excavate producers or musicians who dare to innovate or engineer like no one before them. That certainly seemed the case with the one man electro-industrial project The .Invalid, a true beacon of hope in the bland landfill of harsh distorted vocals and overly intense synthesisers. The vision of Edinburgh resident Seamus Bradd, The .Invalid ties together dual vocals leaning on a metal sensibility of clean and screamed, but atop a mountain of utterly breathtaking ambience and jaw-dropping production values, especially for a debut LP. For something titled The Aesthetics Of Failure however, unless in reference to the vast soundscape of emotions and moods linked to such that is explored on the album, the end result is nothing short of triumphant. Ranging from four to the floor soul-charged EBM stompers to atmospheric marvels to downtempo tugs of the heart, even more synth-pop orientated numbers, there seems to be very little the undeniably talented producer can’t do. In an album full of stellar, stand-out tracks, wittling down to a personal favourite seems incredibly unfair for undoubtedly one of the best albums I’ve heard last year. The honour does go to, as also indicated by my favourite songs of last year, Blind Myself for balancing everything that this album accomplishes so well into just over four minutes of EBM magnificence. From the introduction of rhythmic static, it leads in a beat engineered to thump you hard right in the chest, while warm arpeggios bubble beneath it, but never overpoweringly so. If anything is overpowering, it’s the euphoria from the emotional intensity from both sets of vocals, especially against the melody of the bright, airier synth in the chorus, which in its own right, hands down one of the most beautiful moments on the entire album. While lyrics are hard set on settling the score on a heartbreak, they really strengthen the impact of every intricacy and nuance in the sound design, no matter which tone is in use. The entire track is just the total package of what an unforgettable floorfiller should be: a memorable hook, a beat that shakes you to the core, perfectly complimenting layers of instrumentation, an atmosphere that expands any venue tenfold and the added emotional depth of a familiar life situation. Make no bones about it, the talent that this man has is unreal, and for a first LP, the energy and due care shown in his production defies vocabulary. This album is by far the most exciting injection of lifeblood into electro-industrial, in a very, very long time and broadcasts the emergence of an extremely capable producer, destined for greatness down to his extraordinary ability.
Traces of The .Invalid and Seamus Bradd appear to have disappeared from social media (apart from his personal Twitter account which I’m not gonna link to for privacy’s sake), he currently is now providing sound design for a new Halo mod, but please please please go listen to and buy The Aesthetics Of Failure from Bandcamp, it is an investment you will not regret. Also available at most respectable music retailers too, but just go give the man money.
And if you think I’ve done this gentleman justice, maybe you’d like to show me some support too by giving me a digital thumbs up, like, follow or subscription to the blog, all entirely optional of course:
Crossover at times seems to be somewhat of a dirty word, only because bands can often transcend genres so much, that there simply isn’t a label or category to pigeonhole them into. No actual scientific research has gone into this, but it roughly gathers pace, and quietens down again shortly afterwards around the start of every decade. Not to say that some others don’t brew under the surface in between, but they seem rather few and far between. In the eyes of Colombus, Ohio’s Flesh Field however, their magnum opus came at the time Celldweller announced himself to the world and many an impressionable teenager with an internet connection (not to discredit his influence whatsoever, I am a big fan of his work for definite). Whereas Klayton can mask incredibly infectious pop songs in an electro-industrial facade, Flesh Field made a harsher, harder-edged discography for the darker side of the dancefloor. Smashing together an industrial attitude and a gothic aesthetic, with dark electro, sharpened metal guitar and pounding EBM, 2004’s Strain is a sprawling underground epic that sinks its talons deep and smothers listeners with a sinister embrace. The Collapse is excellence in its execution, the siren’s call elevating this stomper far beyond the realm of any shadow-shrouded industrial before it.
2004’s Strain is the only album available for purchase albeit rarely physically, but readily digitally. For any other of Flesh Field’s older material, you may need to do a little digging, but it exists out there.
There’s a trend of bands or groups taking vowels out of their names, the problem is, it’s getting harder to distinguish if they are words or abbreviations. My guess with this Belgian electronic duo, is I haven’t a clue. All I’m interested in is the blurring between the boundaries of 80’s synth-pop, industrial and some colder, darker electronic ambient compositions. Sadly, the group have split has of 2012 (I’ve had a real morbid obsession with dead or defunct bands recently, fuck), but their music could just as easily score a factory production line as it could an EBM club. Although their murky, gritty synths and basslines prowled the seedy underbelly of the latter 00’s and early 10’s, there’s a satisfying timelessness to the drum machines and keyboard arpeggios. Not to mention, whilst the vocals take upon a harsh tone, it’s not excessively aggressive nor drenched in unnecessary distortion, unlike so many of the genre’s stalwarts. There isn’t an abundance of their material around the internet, but People Like Gods from the 2009 album of the same title, emphasises that perfect reproduction of the synth-pop/cold wave sound, whilst bleeding through shades of that EBM club floorfiller personality that other songs personify better. A true underground gem, this pair of Belgian producers, although gone on to pastures new, had a winning formula on their hands, it just seems a shame it never gained greater exposure.
2009’s People Like Gods and 2011’s Hardlines are available at most select online retailers, in a noticeably expensive physical format or digital mp3.