Alberich / Lussuria  ‎– Borgia

Alberich / Lussuria  Borgia LP Hospital Productions 2018

Here we have a reissue of a 2016 collaborative tape between Alberich and Lussira, which according to the liner notes was: “recorded live to tape using Korg Digital Synthesizers”.  With this release then being billed as ‘dark ambient’ it should be relatively clear that Lussuria has had a greater influence over the sound, particularly as what is offered differs substantially from the recognized driving and rhythmic industrial meets heavy/ power electronics sound of Alberich. However at the same time the sound is a fair bit more animated and digital in tone when compare the usual abstract approach and timeless quality which is characteristic of Lussuria.

Album opener Continuum features tensile but melancholic dark ambient styled atmospheres, while the following cut Antechamber amalgamates cyclic drones and washes of crumbling distortion which refract and fold in on themselves. Anti-Renaissance stands out in that pushes towards something resembling an Alberich rhythmic approach, yet here is remains muted in execution and backed with distant and cavernous squalling noise. Untenable is also noteworthy based on its incorporation of smatterings of sparse tribal-esque percussive textures within a maudlin power-drone framework. Alabaster is another offering which appears to be more strongly driven by Alberich’s influence given the programmed driving rhythm and melancholic synth elements, but they still remain understated in the overall sonic framework. For the final track Voice Of The Dagger it is an animated piece which features an excellent blend of of sub-orchestral drones, micro-tonal metallic textures and rhythmic throbbing undercurrent.

Although being billed as ‘dark ambient’, Borgia is varied in both approach and resulting atmosphere and maintains a strong sense of animated movement throughout. Although differing quite significantly from the typical approach of either project, both have a clear appreciation of the use of melancholic elements within an experimental dark ambient framework, meaning Borgia is a very enjoyable collaborative release. An edition of 500 copies (200 in purple and 300 in black vinyl) will likely serve demand, but won’t hang around long either.

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Alberich – Precursor

Alberich – Precursor MC Hospital Productions 2018

Kris Lapke has been issuing material under the Alberich moniker since 2005 and has amassed 18 releases in that time. But with many of those being issued on cassettes and in small runs, it has made it rather difficult to keep track of Alberich’s output, which in turn has created an elusive aura around the project. However, 2014’s 2xLP reissue of the 8xMC NATO-Uniformen (in a larger edition of 700 copies), functioned to raise greater awareness of the project and showcased the distinct blend of rhythmic industrial arrangements and controlled heavy/ power electronics atmospheres. While Precursor is technically the latest release, in actual fact it is a live recording from 2017, where the title should then perhaps be read as a statement given it has been issued prior to the upcoming and anticipated new full length Quantized Angel.

With Precursor being a live recording, as might be expected it plays out as a singular interconnected 35 minute piece which moves through a series distinct tracks and passages. In the process it then delivers all of the recognized and lauded elements of the project’s style, including: the driving rhythmic industrial beats, the pounding techno-esque movements; minor keyed melancholic synth washes; and sporadic but heavily treated vocals. In fact there are some massive artillery grade and explosively pounding beats on display here, with the melancholy synth washes offsetting those by providing an otherworldly tone.

Being expertly crafted and controlled in its delivery, on face value the recording does not at all sound to be a live recording, so I gather it has been made directly from the soundboard due to the clarity and volume of the sonics. Likewise, with is relatively short run time and brisk pacing of material the tape breezes by and concludes all too quickly, leaving a distinct sense of wanting more – a lot more in fact. So, here’s hoping that such demands will be duly sated by the upcoming full length – which is then pretty much guaranteed given it seems this live set features live versions of various new tracks. In the meantime this is a rather worthy tape to track down, issued in an edition of 300 copies.

Stromstad ‎– New Devoted Human

Stromstad New Devoted Human LP Malignant Records 2017

This debut release from Stromstad is revealed to be collaborative album between the Finnish duo STROM.ec and Norwegian Kristoffer Oustad – and what a debut it is. With STROM.ec being recognized for a highly refined blend of industrial and heavy electronics and with Kristoffer Oustad inhabiting an evocative industrial smeared dark ambient sound, the creative collaboration between the two was always going to be an interesting one. Yet the creativity and flair on display completely exceeds any initial expectations.

Noting that each of the eight tracks are relatively confined (between three and six minutes each), this functions to generate a sense of urgency across the album, where its shifting and morphing elements draw from abrasive mechanical programming, controlled noise, lush sub-orchestral pads and gruff processed vocals. As an example, the fizzing/ buzzing looped static of the album opener Inherent Resurrection soon gives way to rolling tribal percussion and rough yelled vocals (clearly recognisable as those of STROM.ec), and functions very much as a statement of intent of what is explored over the balance of the album. Fever Wave Dream Function quickly following with woozy drones and off-kilter metallic clatter, shimmering synths and all underscored with a throbbing programmed element which leaps into heavily rhythmic section late in the track. The central buzzing tonality and stilted mechanical textures drives Blood Consciousness and when coupled with the gruff, slightly treated vocals is perhaps the piece most comparable to a straight STROM.ec composition.  The sub-orchestral strains of Nattsvermer constitutes the first effective respite of the album, being a semi-melodious cinematic drone-scape which reminds of mid era raison detre (and particularly so where some distant choir textures are used). In a somewhat unexpected guest contribution, Grutle Kjellson from Enslaved provides vocals on Reluctant Traveler, another track of stilted mechanical rhythms and buzzing fissures of static mixed with moody orchestral textures, while Gruttle’s vocals range from spoken, guttural chants and urgent yells (a late track guitar gives a partial nod to the current prog metal direction of Enslaved). The title track is positioned towards the album’s ends is in some ways the most straight forward with rapid fire looped beat, tempered static and vocals relegated to the middle of the mix, but in the later half it veers off into moody sub-orchestral territory, while the final album track Kosto then deviates the most, with a synth derived neo-classical piece of moody swelling strings, and with a definite modern sci-fi edge to the sound.

Not being an overly long album, all the same it delivers a heavy impact across its multiple creative arcs, and which consequently makes it feel to be a much longer album than its actual run-time. While New Devoted Human could be said to be of the genres it draws from, at the same time it steps well beyond them given its inspired use and application of such influences. Effectively the album excels by the fact of how vital the finished result sounds, and in the process generates new creative ways of approaching recognizable genre sound elements. Issued on vinyl in gate-fold sleeve, CD or digital formats, it is simply a matter of taking your pick of preferred format. But as a word of advice, do not let this album pass you by.

Genocide Organ – Kahane Chai / Ke/Hil – Atopical Exercises

Here are two new Tesco Organisation releases, both of which were issued as special items as part of the Tesco Organisation 30th Anniversary Festival in October, 2017.


Genocide Organ – Kahane Chai 7”EP Tesco Organisation 2017

Any new release from Genocide Organ is welcomed news, where for this new 7”EP the group’s analysis of ‘nationalism’ in all its varied perspectives has been applied to Rabbi Kahane and his radical Israeli Orthodox Jewish ‘ultranationalist’ political party Kach, which later splintered into Kahane Chai – a hard-line Israeli militant advocating for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel. Interview samples of Rabbi Kahane are used within both tracks, where it it becomes quickly apparent to why Kach as a political organisation was barred from elections on the basis of inciting of racism against Arabs. Two dates are also printed on either side of the vinyl, which reference the date of his birthday (1 August, 1932), as well as the date of his assassination (5 November, 1990).

To speak of the music, Kahane Chai on Side A features a backbone of straight forward wavering synth loops, mixed with mid-toned squelching textures, while the vocals differ form the usual style in that that are treated in a heavy wash of blurred distortion which bleeds from the top to the bottom of the mix (and consequential picking the lyrical content becomes extremely difficult to decipher). Kach on Side B is far less aggressive than the first, featuring a lone low pulsing synth line and coupled only with interview samples and slightly treated whispered vocals, and while extremely minimal by usual Genocide Organ standards, it is still a very effective mood driven track.

Via the two short tracks Genocide Organ again demonstrate their total mastery of using the simple and/ or minimal sonic elements, but wielding them in such a way to make them sound far more powerful than the sum of their mere parts. When this then is coupled with the strong conceptual underpinnings, it makes for yet another excellent release in their discography.  The festival edition of 250 copies (blue vinyl), and the regular edition (black vinyl) are already sold out (as might be expected), so happy hunting if you want to track one down at a reasonable price.


Ke/Hil – Atopical Exercises 12”EP Tesco Organisaton 2017

With many lamenting the demise of Anenzephalia in 2014 (excluding the brief reformation for the live performance at Tesco 30th Anniversary), the continuation of Ke/Hil was a partial consolation given it features the same duo of Brigant Moloch and Wilhem Herich. It has been a bit of a revelation to see exactly how far the project has evolved in sound and approach from the 2010 Ke/Hil debut Hellstation.

This new three track 12″EP Atopical Exercises has followed quickly on the heals of the third album Syndrome/Antidrome (also from 2017 and reviewed here). Repulsive Appreciation leads off and sets the scene with wailing emergency sirens and a heavy and hollowed out loop, before a wonky rhythm and maudlin synth drone kicks in hard along with the apathetic yet semon styled vocals (which aligns with the established theme of social conditioning through urban design). Very much of the now established Ke/Hil heavy electronics style, this is also a pinnacle track within their catalogue.  Little Rose follows in a laid-back style, and while simple in construction, it is a very effective example of hard hitting minimalism. With a central revving ascending/ descending drone and a scattered backing of echoed junk metal elements and a muted vocals delivery (which rather than lyrics appears to be the reciting and repeating two lines of a poem). Syn/Kope features as the final track on Side B and is more akin to a sprawling death industrial style given its slow bass kick, wavering lower end textures and cavernous sonic aesthetic. While a dialogue sample also sit within the mix, it takes a secondary position to the main vocals which sit prominently front and centre, which strongly advises us to “beware the beast-man”.

A clear observation to be made is that this new 12”EP is very much a continuation of the gradual honing of the sound of Ke/Hil, and certainly bodes very well for what is anticipated to still come from the project. Limited to 250 copies and surprising that it is still available at the time of writing.


 

Unsound Recordings – New Releases 2017

Unsound Recordings functions as a side label to Unrest Productions, where I understand its role is to allow smaller releases to be issued more quickly with simplified packaging. Although the last items on the label date from 2015, now in 2017 it brings new releases from two young projects and new signings to the roster, namely Detrimental Effect and Code Neda. A brief rundown on each follows below.


Detrimental Effect – To Brandon Bryant MC Unsound Recordings 2017

Thematically speaking, the US military/industrial complex may be nothing new for industrial and power electronics music. However, on this debut tape Detrimental Effect have taken a different and interesting angle by focusing on Brandon Bryant – a US drone pilot and later whistle-blower who highlighted the detached methods of killing in modern warfare. Musically speaking this is clean, loud and modern sounding, which also draws heavily from traditional German power electronics/ heavy industrial sound (and perhaps Ex.Order is the closest comparison to make?) . As such the tracks are based on honed structures of shuddering loops, waving sonic elements and bristling distortion which gradually ramp up in intensity. The mood is further elevated through the heavily treated vocals (flanged and echoed), and delivered with spite and tinged with indignation.

Specific samples relating to the theme further fleshes out the concept and are used as intro or outros, or otherwise are incorporated within tracks. That Others May Die is individually noteworthy based on its base of scattered distortion, queasy central oscillation and deadpan spoken vocal line (slightly treated and echoed). Equally noteworthy is the overt fierceness of the final track Total Denial with its tonally buzzing loops and antagonist vocal attack, amounting to a very effective power electronics barrage. Direct and to the point, the material on this debut is delivered with both skill and conviction, which on occasion rises to blood boiling intensity.

Six tracks in all feature on the tape, with perhaps 30 minutes of material on offer. Without doubt Detrimental Effect is project to keep an eye on, given it also fits neatly alongside many of the other projects on the parent label Unrest Productions (such as Kevlar, Kontinent, Uncodified etc.).


Code Neda – The Death of Neda MC Unsound Recordings 2017

Code Neda are another new project signed to Unsound Recordings, but this time I know nothing about this project or who is behind it. This however appears to be Code Neda’s debut tape, and limited to 80 hand numbered copies.

Musically speaking it features sweeping death industrial which on occasion is blended with elements of ritual tinged heavy electronics (something akin to mid to late 1990’s heavy electronics sound of Loki Foundation projects is a partial comparison).  To speak of notable tracks, Tigray uses stilted heavy rhythms which provides structure to a widescreen atmospheric soundscape and sampled religious chants. Another particularly noteworthy track is ABC – Protection, which is framed around deep sub-orchestral drones, militant percussion, scraping textures and muted garbled vocals. The final track The Machine Will Be Prevented from Working at All, is perhaps the most direct death industrial track based on its heavy pounding structures, bristling loops and treated samples (and perhaps vocals? Not completely sure).

On the one hand Code Neda’s sound is dank and pounding in tone, but on the other it is balanced with other ritualistic and atmospheric elements, which functions to create an individualistic approach. Thus with six varied tracks and around 20-25 minutes of material, Code Nera have issued a very strong and interesting debut release and consequently are another new project to keep a keen eye on.


 

Kevlar – New Fears New Fights

Kevlar – New Fears New Fights LP Unrest Productions 2017

Since 2014 Kevlar have issued two full lengths and a cassette EP, with New Fears New Fights constituting their third full album. In then making a perhaps obvious comparison to earlier output, while I do like Kevlar’s prior albums (Alpha Strife and Criteria), at the same time I found they tended to not stay in rotation long in favour of other listening choices.  But it is from this perspective where New Fears New Fights standard apart, given there is an immediate sense of urgency, increased aggression and overt antagonism to this which elevates it to the next level.

To then comment on a projects within an industrial/ power electronics style, clearly there is no shame in reflecting inspiration, but this is also on the proviso that the end result needs to be more than a mere copyist project. Although direct comparisons can be drawn here to now classic elements from German and UK scenes (i.e. simple shuddering synth lines, layered loops, cascading distortion and antagonistic flanged vocals), with their focused and honed style Kevlar absolutely achieve a personal and most importantly a current take on this sound. 8 tracks feature on the album, with each spanning 4-6 minutes each, which should give an appreciation of the direct focus on display.

With a battle cry sample of “we must not be afraid to define our enemy”, Triumph Of Fear kicks in hard with driving loops buzzing distortion and crowd and alarm field recording adding to the overall tension. A great start.  With Power To Act feeling as if a lengthy bridging piece to the more focused Power Of Blade, with the later being a standout track of burrowing distortion, layered loops and flange treated if the attacking and antagonistic vocals which are mixed prominently upfront in the mix (…and which partly reminds of The Grey Wolves classic track Victory Through Violence). The title track then rounds out Side A with a stuttering rhythm, bulldozing drones and proclamation styled vocals. Another excellent track.  Mechanism opens Side B, and another example of simplicity creating fist pumping and blood boiling impact, achieved via urgent cascading loops, a general buzzing and queasy tonality (…and while a number of vocal samples are employed the main decipherable element is repeated word “incompatible”). Martyrs Crown with its brooding and atmospheric tone and looped method of construction reminds of German styled heavy electronics/ power electronics approach not too far from that of Ex.Order or early Anenzephalia. Despite is forceful tone, blown out oscillating noise and jagged tonal outbursts, Barbed Wire is entrenched with a morbid by aggressive tone to round out the album.

Based on Unrest Productions’ current roster, the label is shining a spotlight on the UK underground which from the outside looking in appears to be the strongest and most active underground scene currently operating, with Kevlar’s New Fears New Fights being a pinnacle example. Packaging wise the simple greyscale cover and insert features only basic information and functions to hammer home its direct impact. Although not reinventing the wheel Kevlar have issued an extremely impressive industrial/ power electronics LP and which is absolutely representative of the best of what the underground has to offer right now.

Am Not – The Developing World

Am Not – The Developing World LP Tesco Organisation 2017

Based on the debut album Unpunished from 2015 (reviewed here), Am Not made a strong impact on the underground. Now two years on Tamon Miyakita returns with his follow up, but this time noting a move from the original home of Unrest Productions to Tesco Organisation.

Before providing commentary on the music, an analysis of the album’s art is warranted given the cover appears to be embedded with layered symbolism. To this end an observation to be made is that the main image showing Helios, the Greek Sun God, and based on Plato’s Republic Helios is the symbolic offspring of the idea of ‘goodness’. This image is then overlaid with a semi-transparent photo of a modern skyscraper, while the album’s title is designed backwards and can only be read properly in a mirror’s reflection. An interpretation of this combined symbolism could be as a comment on whether the principle of progress and subsequent global hegemony forms part of the greater ‘good’ of the evolution of society, or in fact should be regarded with caution by developing countries as a controlling corporate agenda with negative consequences (…although these observations may be completely off the mark and others interpretations may yield other interesting and divergent results).

To then the speak of the music, the element of surprise which was generated via Unpunished has given way to a degree of expectation for this new album. Upon first listens the same song based format and meticulous approach to the construction of the tracks is noted, but at the same time the sound palate is more varied and less sharp edged or clinical, but instead opting for a rougher and harsher tone in its blend of industrial and power electronics elements. The detached and strongly observational lyrics delivered in an apathetic or deadpan style are again a standout, although the vocals on album tracks Martyr’s Little Helper 1, Market Penetration and Beleaguered and Native II do rely on a heavily flanged treatment to excellent result. Likewise the guest vocals courtesy of Martin Wilford/ Shift on The Hunt differ by being a heady barrage of unbridled anger, functioning as another layer within the sonic framework of forceful cyclic drones, spitting static and pounding junk metal clatter. White Crimes is a particular album standout, being a contemplative piece of subdued rhythmic programming, squelching/ fluttering noise and sustained drones, as the vocals drive home its clear message within a understated but anthemic style. Perhaps then constituting the ‘hit song’ of the album, Home is a revelation, with its melodious organ drone, swaying rhythm and cyclic percussive beat and now trademark spoken vocals (…which is a thematic imagining of the People’s Republic of China welcoming Hong Kong back into the fold in 1997).

With this album Am Not clearly demonstrates a project which understands its context and linage, but has taken such a template to make an individual, forward thinking thematic approach. With a highly varied sound over its 10 tracks The Developing World is no mere retread of Unpunished, but builds upon what has come before to exceptional result. The LP version comes with a full colour A4 12 page booklet with graphics and all lyrics, and overall is clearly another high recommendation.