Institution D.O.L. ‎– Exzess

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Institution D.O.L. ‎– Exzess CD Klanggalerie ‎2016

Prior to the release of this album it was preceded by a short promo video of main member Barbie B Dot sitting at a large professional studio console while listening to the new album, before turning to the camera and yelling “This Is Power Electronics!”.  While I am assuming this promo video was intended with a degree of ‘tongue in cheek’ humour, equally did not resonate with me in a positive way as a promotional tool, as is not at all representative of what I have come to appreciate artistically from this type of music.  Yet even in making such a criticism, it is exactly this video which highlights the professional means of recording, production and studio mastering which has resulted in an amazing sounding album.  Being far from crude or lo-fi, there is a clinical and clean punch to the sound, with a crystalline production and balancing and separation of sonic elements (….perhaps the clean and focused sound of modern day Control is a relevant point of reference). Thus with its mix of clean power electronics with slightly more subdued brooding post-industrial soundscapes, musically speaking this is a very strong, focused and expertly executed album.

‘Where Darkness Is The Brightest Place’ opens the album with multiple buzzing frequencies and looped mechanical machine samples which compete and intertwine.  This sonic base sets the scene and provides the backing for a nihilistic interview monologue from Werner Herzog referencing the violence, pain and indifference of the primordial jungle (…incidentally recorded in South America during the filming of ‘Fitzcarraldo’ in the late 1970’s).  The track itself exceeds 10 minutes and is split into two parts, with the second part following the conclusion of the Herzog sample and achieving a massive impact with a crushing machine rhythm.  Vocals throughout this section amount to gruff yells and are immediately recognizable as those of Marco Deplano of Wertham infamy (…which are further mixed with elongated vocal chants).  ‘Burning Paradise’ displays another excellent example of looped filed recording elements and buzzsaw noise which are wielded with loose statico rhythmic form and further coupled with sharp static and low end distortion.  The title track ‘Exzess’ is another piece exceeding 10 minutes, choosing a post-industrial soundscape route with a slow and gradually building tensile atmosphere. Mid track the sonics falls away into minimalism before ramping up again with sharper metallic tonal elements to chaotic squall in the final minutes.  Along with the album opener, ‘Exodus’ is another contender for the album standout, being a perhaps slightly more subdued soundscape piece featuring mournful minor keyed ‘power-drone’ melodies, coupled with a hard and emotive vocals which are again courtesy of Marco Deplano.  The final of 7 tracks is ‘The Last Rearing Up In Fire’ and is a churning and blood boiling mass of distortion and an appropriate way to conclude the album on a high (…and also features the album’s notable phrase / manifesto: “Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World”).

With the meticulousness of the album’s sonic construction this a joy to listen to, and despite its heavyweight sonic impact it retains a mournful undercurrent and brooding quality across the album, where only on selected moments it break out into overt aggression. Graphically a full colour 6 panel digi-pack rounds out the packaging on this recommend release.

Institution D.O.L. – 17 Shameless Years

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Institution D.O.L. – 17 Shameless Years CD Klanggalerie 2015

Although being previously aware of the project by name, this is my first introduction to their actual music and with this album representing the project’s reactivation, it is a good a time to become acquainted. In then taking a cursory overview of their back catalogue, 5 earlier albums were released between 2000 and 2007: however when contemplating their chosen titles, they hardly fill me with confidence as to what type of material and attitude they might encompass (i.e ‘(Cultural) Death By Consumism / Die Macht’, ‘Diskotheka Dekadenza’, ‘With Her I Had Some Tropical Feelings’, ‘Eleven Anticlerical Supersongs’ and ‘Instructions For Modern Weakniks’). Yet given this review is not about focusing on the past, at least ’17 Shameless Years’ seems to displays a degree of seriousness not previously evident.  From a further interrogation of the liner notes it also revels this not a brand new album rather constitutes a collection of 6 new tracks which are interspersed between radically reworked versions of 11 older pieces, whilst highlighting that main member Barbie B Dot has been assisted by MK Vermin (whom herself is part of Magadan).

To cut straight to the chase: this is an album which will specifically attract fans of an archetype European power electronic to industrial and heavy electronics sound, whilst also displaying a few experimental quirks and sporadic appearances of neo-classical, dark ambient and martial percussive elements.  Although in the most part the music is sonically loud, harsh and abrasive, there is also a ‘cleanness’ to the tonal palate and a meticulous layering of sound elements (as opposed to being crude and loose in delivery). To then throw in a comparative marker of where this album socially sits, later day Ex.Order certainly comes to mind during more than a few moments.

‘With Burning Heart’ functions as the opening track and bodes rather well for a solid album, being bleakly oppressive in the best way possible.  Here a short choir chant introduces the piece before the sound hones in on a direct and focused buzzing heavy electronics attack built around a militant rhythmic underpinning and apathetic, distortion treated vocals courtesy of MK Vermin.  Despite the rather appalling track title of ‘Very Vicious’ (which is only excused as it is contextually derived from the utilized sample), it is actually an excellent ‘classic’ toned industrial/ power electronics track. Here nauseous oscillating distortion, scolding static blasts and semi-buried religious focused sample function in a simple, direct and absolutely effective manner.  Noting that selected tracks skirt dark ambient territory (such as ‘Moral Conflagration’ with sparse soundscape, thudding beat, choir samples and whispered/ agonised vocals); yet others are more left-field experimental offerings (such as ‘Plastic Society’ with its sparse glitchy rhythms and treated spoken ‘industrialised’ vocals).  Late album cut ‘Daydreams All Ablaze’ is a further step apart with its martial industrial/ neo-classical type song format, featuring rousing orchestral synth pads, air-raid sirens and ‘call to arms’ type speech sample.  However apart from these singularly placed compositional diversions, the album’s broader attention is squarely focused on industrial/ power electronics / heavy electronics sounds.  This is clearly evidenced through tracks like ‘Unforeseen Annihilation’ which feature a focused bout heavy electronics, whilst ‘The Deceased Mind’ ramps up into barely restrained power electronics violence. Following a similar stylistic pattern the album concludes with a pair of tracks ‘Universal Peace’ and ‘The Last Rearing Up’ which focus on direct power electronics and sweeping heavy electronics respectively.

Given the degree of stylistic divergences between tracks, the album comes across as a collection of individual songs, which is obviously the byproduct of the methods in which the album was constructed (i.e. reworked older material in combination with new material).  Although this results in a slight lack of overall coherence, this is only a small gripe given ’17 Shameless Years’ represents an enjoyable collection of industrial/ heavy electronics/ power electronics focused material.  Given that it is understood that a new album is already the works, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in terms of theme, scope and overall coherence, but in the meantime this is an agreeable album in its chosen styles.