Various Artists 
Working with Children and Animals: Volume 1 
(Wasp Factory Records)
~reviewed by Steph

It was, I believe, W.C. Fields who refused to work with children and animals. He couldn't stand to be upstaged and did not want any competition from anything smaller or cuter than he was. The artists on "Working with Children and Animals: Volume 1" are neither small nor cute, and being upstaged should be the least of their concerns.

Wasp Factory Records, who take their name from Iain Bank's delightfully mordant novel about killing one's relatives for fun and profit, have put together a fearsome, impressive compilation showcasing their roster of fiercely individual acts. This collection of harsh gems will knock the complacency out of the most zombified music listener.

Wasp Factory masterminds The Chaos Engine kick off the compilation with "Me & My Army", which rattles out of the speakers like machine gun fire. The dense wall of noise envelops you and makes you hear strobe lights in your head. "Complicit" boasts space age sound effects, rather like being stuck inside an echo chamber, while warm guitar fuzz roars forth and fills in the gaps. There are no sanitized pop offerings here; The Chaos Engine ooze slithering menace.

Cyberpunk misfits Arkham Asylum are frantic noise mongers in a desperate race for the finish line. On "Frantic" and "Get Some", they grab you by the throat and drag you along on a dizzying, unsettling ride."Frantic" embodies the cyberpunk ideal of a man-machine fusion in the desperate, pleading chorus of "I wanna be a machine!".

The mysterious Leech Woman create unforgiving sonic mayhem with harsh, distorted vocals and pounding rhythms with sudden hollow drops. Pure perfect noise to lose yourself in.
I used to go and see a great local industrial band called DHI (Death and Horror Inc.). They used great samples, lots of spooky
vocal effects and played keyboards in a way that reclaimed them forever from poncy poufy-haired new wave bands. (Not that I'm putting down poncy poufy-haired new wave bands, you understand.) Goteki* remind me a lot of them. "Disco for the Dead" deserves major club airplay. 

Tarantella Serpentine is, bar none, the greatest band name I have heard all year. Marcus Lanyon, who is Tarantella Serpentine, looks like a young Marc Almond. I almost felt duty-bound to like the music, but I was absolved of all decisions from the first note of "Cocaine Disco Riot". Pseudo-techno beats that harken to late 80ish dark electronica meld with sex club beats and vocals that grip you like an iron hand in a velvet glove. 

Straight ahead punk with added distortion issues forth from Hydra, a three piece who operate on instinct and energy. "Try not to think so much!" they order on "Wake". Good idea. I think I'll shut up and keep listening.

Squid lead us into the homestretch with a mixture of club-ready goth rock, industrial noise and low-key electronic effects. Plangent vocals are the crowning touch, especially when they turn nasty without warning. "Khurkh of the Binary Khrist" is a supreme catharsis.

At the end of it all is a lovely surprise, the Skinflowers. They owe more to James and Radiohead than Ministry. They can create noise with the best of their labelmates, but they interject odd little moments of melody and introspection. The CD's closing track, "Mad Powder Keg", blends a lilting bassline with an almost anthemic guitar riff before scaring the living daylights out of you with a blast of static. The song then settles into an indie-ish vocal pattern. Compellingly odd.

Track listing:
The Chaos Engine-
Me & My Army

Arkham Ayslum-
Get Some

Leech Woman-
Section 13

Disco for the Dead
We Can Rebuild You

Tarantella Serpentine-
Cocaine Disco Riot
Sugar Sugar


Khurkh of the Binary Khrist
Chasing Dragons

Contact info:
Wasp Factory Recordings
PO Box 270
GL51 9YE
United Kingdom

*Editor's Note: You may have heard "Disco for the Dead" in relation to the band SNEAKY BAT MACHINE, which is what Goteki used to be before they decided they needed a name changee.