Distel – nord / Veil of Light – Head/Blood/Chest

B2 B1

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.

Advertisements

Blitzkrieg Baby – Kids’ World EP

BBKW

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

MM

GA

VoL

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.

Poena – Likboden

Poena

Poena – Likboden MC Beläten 2012

Given that Poena is a new project, after reading the promo blurb I was admittedly sold before I had heard a second of this release – and I quote:  “Poena – the spirit of punishment as channelled by Kristian Olsson (Survival Unit/ Alfarmania) and Christian Godin – perfectly blends the rank atmosphere of early Brighter Death Now with the obscure ritualistic rattles of Zero Karma and Ain Soph. ‘Likboden’ was recorded in the old morgue of the Sidsjön mental hospital in Sundsvall, a fact that permeates every death reeking, unsettling second of this 30 minute piece”.

With its single abstract composition ‘Likboden’ commence with assemblage of slow wavering bass drones, ritual chimes, loose percussion, rattling chains and distant groans emanating from the depths.  Following on crude rhythmic beats are pounded out in the bowels of the asylum, whilst sustained vocal wails inject a tenseness to the dank atmosphere.  At about the 10 minute mark the ritual percussive elements fall away into a cavernous death industrial territory, complete with bass loaded synth drones and the sporadic wailing of a horn that build to occasional tonal crescendos.  For the final 10 minute stretch the track moves towards slightly noisier territory, with metallic scraping textures and animated vocal/ horn wails, whilst some forceful percussive ritualistic elements are resurrected late in the piece.

Noting there is a general looseness to the way to the track plays out, this possibly alludes to a semi improvised live context during which this material might have been recorded.   With that said ‘Likboden’ is not without focus and structure, as clearly the duo of Poena know what they are doing given the degree of restraint displayed in the way abstract material such as this unfolds.  Certainly the chosen recording location is also clearly reflected in the distant cavernous sound production which has been captured.  With pro-printed tape and cover, everything from the sound to visual design, reeks of old school ritual industrial, done in the best way possible.