It Only Gets Worse – Fireplace Road MC Cloister Recordings/ Black Horizons US 2018
When I was first heard about this project I was unaware that it is another musical outlet for Maurice De Jong, he of the more widely recognized projects Gnaw Their Tongues and Aderlating. For this project Maurice has provided the music and has teamed up with American Matt Finney to provide lyrics and vocals, and based on the project name I perhaps excepted this would be death industrial type music, however that assumption was completely wrong. What is featured is a bit of an odd blend of post-rock musically sensibilities, ambient soundscapes and late 1990’s/ early 2000’s beat drive electronica.
On the opening untitled track a mellow post-rock mood comes through strongly, which is framed around piano and synths rather than guitars, while the following track Jackson dives headlong into a piece of mid paced kit drumming, programmed beats and squelching bass rhythm, with the guitars again being an understated element. In forging further variation, a mood of uplifting melancholy permeates the upbeat Lee, which is mostly derived from the layered shimmering synths. However to speak of less successful moments Painting On Glass contains fractured programmed elements which jar against the mood of preceding tracks. Beyond the music, the vocals on various tracks are spoken in a heavily inflected southern American drawl, which are musings on life, tragedy and loss, but handled in a poetically oblique and non-direct style.
Six tracks feature on the pro-duplicated tape, with around a total of around 24 minutes minutes of material, and while the end result caught me by surprise, it is an enjoyable tape all the same. So, if you are at all curious leave your expectations at the door as this is nothing like Maurice’s usual output, where perhaps the closest comparison is the less known side project Seirom which in the past has delivered some beautiful cinematic quality, droning instrumental post-rock/ shoegaze styled soundscapes.
Distel – nord 7”ep Beläten 2015
Veil of Light – Head/Blood/Chest 12”ep Beläten 2015
Since the last batch of tapes reviewed from the Beläten stables the label has grown substantially in profile and output. To this end the releases have evolved from tapes alone by stepping out with a number of vinyl pressings. Here are two more recent vinyls which highlight the label’s focus on ‘post avant-garde pop’, but again which highlights the diversity of sounds which can be captured under this banner.
Up first is the relatively new ‘angst pop’ duo Distel from the Netherlands, with this being their fourth release since 2010 (album, mini-album and two 7”ep’s). Fitting very much within a programmed synth-pop style, the cold electronics and ‘angst’ tag clearly directs it towards an audience of the lighter moments of the Galakthorrö label discography. The title track is a driving programmed percussive and synth heavy minor keyed mid paced song, complete with understated half sung male vocals and perhaps drawing reference to the Knife at their quirkiest. This is followed by ‘Zelf’ is then slightly more understated in its programming and abstract with the application of melody, to create a darkly twisting mood. The final of 3 tracks ‘raaf’ takes up side B, which is a longer form, more understated angular track built around a low techno throb, and interweaving elements, includes sparse synths and morphed vocals. All in all a very tasty, darkly hued synth-pop 7”ep.
Veil of Light from Switzerland are next, fitting more within a ‘post-punk’ frame of reference and have 5 releases out since 2013 (album, 7” single, MC ep, digital ep and this 12” ep). This 45rpm 12”ep contains 4 tracks (2 per side), where opener ‘All You Have’ demonstrates a clear adherence to ‘classic’ hallmarks of an 80’s post-punk style and sound where stoic mid paced kit percussion, gothic tinged keys and atonal male vocals are wrapped up in a sparse and deep analogue toned production. Simply sublime. Although following a similar tone, the sparse bass drum kick on ‘Adonis’ is processed to sound akin to exploding mortar shells, which giving the track a particularly distinctive edge. The first track on Side B ‘purple’ lightens the mood somewhat with a heavier focus on lighter synth melodies and slightly snapper and more urgent programmed percussion, with additional sparse synth stabs and emulated trumpet bursts. The final of the 4 tracks ‘MMZ’ – pulling back on the drive, the percussion is slow and understated, with the mood being driven forward by a lone guitar melody and single counterpointing synth line which builds to quite shrill crescendo heights over its length. Although quite ‘classic’ in sound and ‘retro’ in feel, Veil of Light manage a sound which replicates an obvious personal obsession for 1980’s post punk but deliver their music without sounding jaded or cynical.
Te/DIS – Comatic Drift LP Galakthorrö 2014
Following the debut 7”ep ‘Black Swan’ from 2013 (also released on Galakthorrö) Te/DIS – aka Tempted Dissident – have quickly followed up with their debut full length album to further hone their chosen 80’s tinged post-punk/ cold wave/ angst-pop amalgam.
While the tone of Te/DIS’s style is one which is influenced by ‘industrial’ music, the actual music is not harsh, nor in any way abrasive. Being very much in a bleak, cold and clinical analogue programmed guise, the straightforward and direct songs are mostly driven by mid based beats which intermingle with icy synths and rhythmic stabs. Likewise the vocals remain as a distinctive and trademark element where, where the clear male vocals are delivered in a commanding monotone style. Given the cold feel of the music is very ‘German’ in style, the vocals (albeit exclusively sung in English) suit the music very well; however I could imagine that these would be a ‘love’ or ‘hate’ element for some listeners. ‘Close Range’ begs a particular mention, with low slung bass driven groove and interweaving synth lines, which differentiates it from the stilted electronic patterns of earlier tracks. ‘Shootout with a Stranger’ is another particular album standout given its slight sonic deviation of doom addled minor tuned synths, throbbing bass and some animated mid paced drum machine/ high hat percussive elements, again completed with the commanding semi-sung vocal presentation.
If any criticism were to be leveled at ‘Comatic Drift’, it would be that there is a general ‘sameness’ to the overarching style and sound of the twelve songs and which is perhaps not as diverse as that demonstrated on the debut 7”ep. But aside from this very minor gripe Te/DIS’s formal debut album fits perfectly within Galakthorrö’s roster.
Herz Jühning – Paradise 7”EP Galakthorrö 2014
Herz Jühning is an existing member of the Galakthorrö roster but has only issued three releases since 2007 (consisting of two 7”EP’s and a full length album). This is his third and latest release containing 4 tracks spread across 15 minutes of wax. Whilst drawing broadly from an German industrial and power electronics sound it is also driven by a more song focused sensibility to be the epitome of the ‘angst pop’ style which defines segments of the Galakthorrö roster. The sound of ‘Paradise’ is also noted to slightly differ from the more direct industrial/ power electronics approach of Herz Jühning’s earlier material.
‘My Confession’ is the first track and is based on a clinical and jittery beat and squelching rhythm. Likewise with the inclusion of understated female lead vocals it definitely spans a German ‘industrial’ style (in terms of sound and productions) and ‘song’ approach (in terms of succinct catchy structure), hence justifying the aforementioned ‘angst pop’ tag. ‘To The Stars’ follows and for this reviewer is the absolute stand out track of the EP, featuring a throbbing rhythmic groove and energetic mid paced ‘pulsing’ programmed drum machine structure. Additionally the monotone heavily accented German vocals (half sung/ spoken in English) perfectly suits this melancholic yet head nodding tone of the track.
‘Road To Paradise’ opens the flip side and is more of a minimalist industrial composition consisting of clinical programming, minimalist synths, meandering bass and understated semi-chanted/ spoken vocals. For the final of the four tracks ‘Im Totraum’ is the most understated and ‘industrial soundscape’ track on offer, where maudlin spoken vocals, vague industrial rhythmic clatter and shuddering bass toned synths characterise proceedings.
On ‘Paradise’ (and with particular reference to side A), Herz Jühning has certainly nailed the ‘angst pop’ sound within his general approach. Whilst this release won’t alter anyone’s established perceptions of ‘angst pop’ influenced German industrial, this is of little consequence as the physical format of 659 copies is long sold out from Galakthorrö, obviously snapped up by fans and aficionado of Herz Jühning.