It Only Gets Worse ‎– Fireplace Road

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.

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Herz Jühning – Paradise

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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.

Blitzkrieg Baby – Kids’ World EP

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Blitzkrieg Baby – Kids’ World EP MC Beläten 2014

Promptly following the 2013 debut, the twisted musical offspring of Kim Solve has returned with this cassette only EP (…also available digitally).  But rather than constituting new music, this release features a collection of unreleased tracks and previously issued compilation appearances.  Also interestingly this ‘EP’ has a total play time in the order of 40 minutes, which dwarfs the shorter length of the debut at 33 minutes. Confusion is the key it seems!

The first side of the tape collects together 4 previously unreleased compositions and opens with the title track, being a mid-paced militant industrial ditty, featuring a stoic mid-paced industrial beat, ominous horns and commanding spoken/ sung vocals delivering sarcastic lyrics describing lost innocence and violence desensitisation. ‘Loop’ follows and sits more towards a dark ambient/ death industrial sound of grinding (…you guessed it) loops, complete with a recorded diary entry articulating a bleak scene of subtle menace and paranoia.  Up next ‘The Swine Supremacy’ again morphs in style, being a plodding rhythmic industrial soundscape with the cleaver use of spoken vocals which recite random phrases in ‘media newspeak’ styled delivery.  Noting the variety displayed on the first three tracks ‘Those They Could Not Fuck, They Killed’ shifts yet again, being an instrumental track which is an excellent example of an ominous widescreen industrial soundscape, further accentuated by catatonic bass thuds.

For side B of the cassette it brings together 4 previously released compilation tracks and 1 previously unreleased track. The strange yet intriguing track ‘Half Pig Half Man’ is up first, where shuddering, off kilter loops provides the basis and a degree of urgency for the sardonic vocal mutterings.  ‘Broken Child’ follows in subdued fashion and contains a morose atmosphere of wavering synths, rhythmic bass loops, upon which understated and fragile sung vocals are overlaid.  ‘Incinerator Symphony No. I’ is a standout offering, here evoking the best of the pummeling and shuddering bleakness of ‘The Slaughterhouse’ era Brighter Death Now, where sparse harmonic notes (xylophone perhaps?) provides a nice sonic touch.  ‘Children In Uniform MMXIII’ (an alternate version to that featured on ‘Porcus Norvegicus’), returns to composed song based approach with militant rolling beats, shrill orchestral strings and yelled/ echoed vocals.  This version is noted to differ from the original by the orchestral string being pushed to the background and a plodding bass brought to the fore.  On the final track ‘Your Happy Place’, it is the track which deviates most significantly from the material which precedes it (…to the point of feeling almost tacked on), given it is a composition which flirts closely with dark industrial pop style.  Here a plodding bass, two-step beat and programmed synth drive the piece forward, complete with spoken vocals and synth break flourishes (…whilst interesting, this style is something these ears are typically accustomed to).

Noting the ‘Kids’ World EP’ brings together earlier existing material, where this succeeds is with its further display of the wide variety of sonic approaches and playful nature that Blitzkrieg Baby employs under the ‘industrial’ banner.  Likewise with its even greater deviance in sound and approach than was displayed on ‘Porcus Norvegicus’, it raises the question of exactly where Kim will take the project on the upcoming sophomore album?

Marrow Mandler – Escapist Grounds / German Army – Burushaski / Veil of Light – Veil of Light

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Marrow Mandler – Escapist Grounds MC Beläten 2013

German Army – Burushaski MC Beläten 2013

Veil of Light – Veil of Light MC Beläten 2013

I have to admit that up until recently my interest in Beläten’s releases had been targeted towards their ritual / industrial styled tapes, rather than those which more appropriately fit with the label’s ‘post avant garde pop for a pre-apolcalyptic world’ description. Nevertheless, here are the three new tapes which make up the latest batch releases from Beläten, which more faithfully align with the ‘post avant garde pop’ tag line, despite sounding absolutely nothing alike.

On ‘Escapist Grounds’ Marrow Mander deliver a sound which merges jittery programmed beats with cold minimalist synth style, maybe sounding something like the a bastard lovechild of Kraftwerk and Devo attempting a German industrial / synth pop album.  In other words bizarrely excellent.  The monotone commanding male vocals are also a highlight of Marrow Mandler’s sound, which in some segments are morphed and slightly processed for good measure.  ‘Bound Forward’ is also a stand out track with the elephantine sway of its programmed beats and commanding half sung/ half spoken vocals.

German Army are up next (hailing from LA of all places despite what the name suggests), who deliver the most experimental of the latest batch of tapes being something like abstract post punk.  The material on ‘Burushaski’ ranges from programmed compositions to relatively abstract soundscapes, which are constructed with manipulated tape experiments, morphed radio samples, fractured tribal-esque beats, occasional wayward guitars (meandering bass and screaming solos), hallucinogenic vocals etc, which are wrapped up in hazy lo-fi analogue aesthetic. ‘Stone Walls’ rates a mention, featuring some excellent mid paced clinical beats, vague melody and distant spoken/ sung vocals.

For the final of the tape batch Veil of Light deliver their debut EP, being a solo project hailing from Switzerland which aims at a ‘classic’ 1980’s goth / post-punk sound of Joy Division, early Death in June and the Dead Can Dance debut for suitable reference.  Across the six tracks Veil of Light blend stoic drum kit percussion, plodding bass lines, jangling and intertwining guitars, serpentine melancholic synths and commanding male vocals, which are presented as straightforward and catchy songs.  For its apparent lack of originality, this is of little concern when the material presented is this strong, not to mention being absolutely faithful to the sound and era it emulates.

The slick presentation of the pro-print tapes and covers feature Beläten’s now trademark graphic design template and aesthetic (including individual runic symbol for each release), which only adds to the sheer collectability of this emerging cult label.  Whilst the tapes are work owning for their packaging and presentation alone, if you have any doubts about the music they contain, the complete Beläten catalogue is available for streaming on their website.