Midnight Syndicate
Vampyre: Symphonies From The Crypt
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

This reviewer waits anxiously for each new Midnight Syndicate release simply because no one has yet to reach the benchmark of macabre and funereal orchestrations as Douglas and Goszka. By the time the listener hits track 3, you are fully enmeshed in this world, simply craving for more like an unbridled addiction. This duo clearly wants to give the fans the most for their money, as evident with each new release, and this one is no exception.

The cover artwork and insert graphic by Keith Parkinson and design by Mark Rakocy is delightfully macabre, that one can only hope this will be released as a poster at some future point in time. This artwork is a bonus that would make a great compliment to any gloomy style abode as well as to accompany this great ghoulish music.

It is no surprise that the vampire theme holds a great appeal for many people, particularly due to the metaphoric nature that can depict man and addiction or man as an outsider from the norm. Vampyre adds a bit more than just your garden variety of spookiness. There are clearly demarcations of bittersweet memories and forlorn emotions interwoven with some of the creepy elements. It is though we get a sense of the “life” of our undead travelers that flitter by in a subconscious way.

Without any authored prose or spoken dialogue to set the scenes as in previous releases, the macabre elements are given a three-dimensional aspect of the vampyric characters, deftly created via the utilization of sound alone. Any vocals that one hears, are simply mechanizations from the synthesizer, and not real, giving this the necessary otherworldly quality it needs.  There seems to be a bit more of a construction element delineated with this work, as the tracks are more in line with a cinematic rendition than ever before.

The opening track, "Awakening", brings the listener to the point of the nighttime, where our vampire is crawling out from the confines of his daytime slumber, sensing his hunger, urgency and need welling up within.

"Graveyard" intensifies the moonlit night, the foggy grounds and the surrounding graves. There is a bit of loneliness interspersed within confines of the dreariness,  which seems to bring the vampire to a more three dimensional level. We can identify with this metaphoric isolation that is overshadowed by years of bittersweet memory and longings that have gone unfulfilled.

"Unhallowed Ground" is bombastic, as though our vampire is fully cognizant of the eternal hell that he has been thrust into. Again, the orchestrations play with our emotions as we sense there is still that longing for the former world of love and laughter that is forever darkened by this afflicted curse, causing one to wander the night for time eternal.

"Crypt of The Forsaken" takes us to the confines with other like minds who similarly have discovered each other. This is an amalgamation of like minded vampires, some are friend while others are foes. However, it is their curse that keeps them bonded, as it is the only means for their survival.

"Winged Fury" creates the element of fleeting speed, as though our character must escape. Was there a diabolical foe in the preceding track who sought the death of our main vampire? His rush through the night is quite evident as strings highlight the elements of tension, dread, and at times excited exhilaration.

"Blackest Rose" is almost a vampires love song, if you can imagine that. There is an intonation of sweet somber sadness coupled with heartbreaking melodies and tones. Between the hissing in the night, the strains of the violin seem to beckon one forward, yet the bass line keeps a certain distance for fear of ravaging that which is too precious to violate.

"Ravages of Time" plods with booming orchestration as though one has been through centuries of damnation and accursed vitriolic barbs from the surrounding townsfolk’s and local church leaders. It seems as though one has reached the final straw just one century too long and is now at a point of anger and outrage. It is though the vampire enacts revenge on the accusers, making them just like himself so that they too can understand the curses they have wrought upon him, and now must subsequently suffer the same wrath.

"Catacombs" is a lilting dark piece with subtle decay. It is the place of solitude and peace despite the surrounding sadness. One can get a sense that the vampire surveys the life around him and must reconcile that this is indeed his fate forever more. His company is the apparitions at night, the dead and the dank cemeteries. His life is among those no longer of the corporeal realm, and it is here that he is safest from an unyielding world.

"Unseen Eyes" adds much more tension, as though something is about to jump from the lurking shadows. Thematically, one isn’t sure if it is the vampire who is about to strike, or an enemy who has been stalking and waiting for the final moment of attack.
"Undead Hunters" adds elements of tension and flight, as though we are privy to the vampiric midnight hunt. There is much action taking place, totally distinguished by the flux and rhythm of sound.

"Ancient Tomes" has a dark whimsical harpsichord effect with ghostly voices singing in the background. It is hard not to imagine a dark room in a haunted place, where one finds the answers secretly hidden among the discarded treasures. The tension and malevolence seem to coalesce as though the information is clarifying certain questions while also pointing out some other accursed secret that had been kept from the light of day for almost an eternity.

"Dusk" delivers wind effects in a barren landscape. One senses that another like mind is calling across the great divide, taunting the memory of our vampire who seems to have trouble connecting with these fleeting thoughts.

"Spectral Masquerade" is a macabre waltz, as though ghostly images and vampires alike seem to be in the throes of long gone entertainment and dancing. They are aware of this midnight vigil while in their departed state, yet it brings them some comfort to re-enact certain elements from a life they once knew.

"Vampyre" once again utilizes a wind-like sound effect with more chilling voices calling from the abyss. Pulsations of energy surround the vampire and then a booming, dark orchestration and vocal seem to be the harbinger of that which cannot die. He is an almighty creature of the dark, one who has withstood the test of time, death, village and church attacks as well as the loss of love and all that he holds dear. He is a strong creature with a semblance of right and wrong, but totally living in the gray area of life.

Once again, Midnight Syndicate has stepped up to the plate to deliver eerie music for those longing for those darkened tones. While the underground music scene is in a state of flux with all the disco goth, it is refreshing to hear that some hold the dark music to their hearts and are capable of delivering it back to those of us adoring this style.

The magic behind Midnight Syndicate’s music is the ability to create “soundtracks for the mind as well as the movie that has never been made.” However, all of Midnight Syndicate’s work is simply prime material waiting to be tapped for future film scores. Recently, the astute horror maestro and film director, Danny Draven, featured their music in his film score of Witchhouse 3. (Available for rental at Blockbuster or for sale at www.dannydraven.com) Hearing their work coupled with the marvel of cinema is a natural progression and transition for this work. Hopefully, more in the filmmaking industry will come to realize this as well.

If you enjoy really macabre sounds and orchestrations of a cinematic nature, you simply must seek out this release!

Midnight Syndicate is Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka

Unhallowed Ground
Crypt of the Forsaken
Winged Fury
Blackest Rose
Ravages of Time
Unseen Eyes
Undead Hunters
Ancient Tomes
Spectral Masquerade

Website: www.midnightsyndicate.com

Sound samples at www.mp3.com/midnightsyndicate

Neurotic Fish
Les Chansons Neurotiques
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

If you haven’t heard of Neurotic Fish yet, in due time you will, as this is the new dance darling to hit the underground scene with a vengeance.  Right on the heels of the incredible Neurotic Fish release of Sushi, comes this new limited CD, Les Chansons Neurotiques. The talent of Sascha Mario Klein a.k.a. Neurotic Fish has been generating quite a bit of a stir and he is simply poised to be as popular as VNV Nation and Apoptygma Berzerk. I will even venture to state that his popularity could be as potentially enormous as Depeche Mode.

There is more than meets the eye with Neurotic Fish, from the double entendre of the band name, to the “EBM is dead” slogan that periodically crops up on the web page as well as in one of the tracks herein. Klein’s vocals do not have a great range, but he makes the most with what he does possess and is simply able to transport club revelers into another dance dimension. His singing style is rather comforting despite the intensity of the lyrical content. One must step back and delve into the psyche of Klein, who simply seems to be overflowing with unrequited love, heartbreak and disillusionment to also see the beauty beyond being merely a “dance” band.

"Startup" is simply what it states. 52 seconds of revving machines and gadgets that blend with music and a repeated welcoming introduction to Les Chansons Neurotique.

"Reinvent The Pain" is delivered with a similar sound to Depeche Mode. Klein manages to work the sentiment by also adding subtle background sound bytes that haunt us like a bittersweet memory. This is a highly club friendly track, yet the intent of the song and the pain with which it was crafted must have been during some rather desolate moments.

"Waste" grinds with a bit of electro-noise and blips at the opening, which then percolates with a dance floor frenzy beat. Klein’s vocals are smooth as silk and then further on are given the vocoder reverb effect. This track is an admonishment towards one who seeks the easy way of living in a world over run with complications and forestalled dreams and enchantments.

"Prostitute" is the current maxi-single seen on a multitude of playlists these days.   Prior to the thrust of this track, we are informed that “electronic body music is dead.” The title as well as the lyrics depicts a testament to selling out one’s mind. One can almost envision that Klein speaks from some personal incident where his own integrity was up on the whoring block in a less than noble world.

"Wake Me Up" was also featured on the Sushi CD with various mixes of the same song. This is still an incredible song that harkens to the listener that if this feeling of total nirvana and bliss is that which is equated to death, then don’t wake us from this perspective.

"Modulator" simply squishes electronic elements during the intro in a form of mechanical eroticism. This isn’t the strongest track lyrically, but it makes up for it by ensuring that the kinetic dance energy is maintained at a high velocity.

"Breakdown" demonstrates that before breakthrough, there must be breakdown. Klein poignantly gives a small discernment into this introspective parameter. The  high end notes shimmer around slightly compressed vocals, sounding like the voice within the inner ear, creating his “vision” of the sound of perception.

"Darkness/Influence" is a tirade against the machinations of the modern age. There is an accusation for the negligent loss of self, dignity and all that separates man from machine.

"Stop & Go" sounds as though one is simply drifting into space. A female voice calls out from the distance, though it is tough to discern what she is actually saying. It is as though her words are not as important as the feeling behind their delivery.  Just as we get comfortable with this floating sensation, some percussion is added, though it is not at a level that would be meant for a dance floor.

"It’s Not Me" is an angst ridden track. We are brought a little closer to the first person essence of the lyricist. Klein simply goes to the other side of the mirror to extract the embodiment of self as weighed against common perceptions of the “norm.”

"Inverse", as with many of the other included double entendres, takes us inward as a means of personal transition during the static movement of cognizance.

"Need" bluntly states “ I can’t move you if you are blind.” It seems as though Klein finds a great necessity with crafting songs that include a strong obligation to influence the world from within the confines of his perceptions.

"Velocity N2" questions the boundaries of a world that is speeding headlong into nowhere. In that duration, we are thrust upon the realization about “that which we want, we cannot be.”

Neurotic Fish clearly and expertly delivers dance music for the masses. Klein seems to dig deep within his own personal world to devise lyrics that are at once meaningful, yet loaded with double meaning and a slight touch of ambiguity. In some way, one cannot help but feel that in addition to entertainment, there is more substance beneath the surface of a decent dance track. Similarly, VNV Nation crafts some rather heady lyrics as well, however, theirs are more from a perspective of one viewing the world in all its madness. Neurotic Fish, on the other hand, seem to focus more on the personal madness from the uncaring and apathetic which is leached out into world.  Klein’s lyrics belie the potential that many of these elements may have been derived from a personal reference, either experientially or through observation.

As far as dance CD’s go, the majority of these tracks will fill out a night in a club rather nicely. The only shortcoming with this CD was the fact that the lyrics were not printed in the accompanying booklet. Considering there were quite a number of pages in the booklet devoted to abstract art, it would have been a bit more apropos to have also included the lyrics. Nevertheless, Klein’s vocals are clearly discernable throughout the disc, ensuring that repeated listens will have fans singing along in no time. If high intensity electronic dance music is your thing, do add Neurotic Fish on your next shopping spree.

Neurotic Fish is Sascha Mario Klein
Web site: www.ebmisdead.com
And also at www.neuroticfish.com
Dancing Ferret: http://www.ferret.com/discs/

1. Startup
2. Reinvent The Pain
3. Waste
4. Prostitute
5. Wake Me Up
6. Modulator
7. Breakdown
8. Darkness/Influence
9. Stop & Go
10. It’s Not Me
11. Inverse
12. Need
13. Bonus: Velocity N2

Les Chansons Neurotiques
~reviewed by BlackOrpheus (Anthony Flores)

Neuroticfish first came to my attention on Halloween last year. I was strolling through New York's lauded LimeLight, from one room to another. In every room, a different genre of music was playing. I finally emerged into the sanctuary of the church(club) and something stopped me dead in my tracks. But it wasn't long before it put my feet back in motion. I was later to learn that it was "Velocity," a Neuroticfish dancefloor favorite. Upon my return to Seattle, I purchased No Instruments, Sushi, and the Velocity single. I soon become an avowed fan.

So, the new album came as a surprise. My feelings about Neuroticfish Les Chansons Neurotiques are mixed. Nowadays, with decent equipment and skills, anyone can make music. There are very few that actually succeed on anything approaching a "professional" level. Crafting great dancefloor singles is almost another vocation altogether, from that of creating an albums worth of engaging material. The two aren't always mutually exclusive.

Les Chansons Neurotiques is an example of this. No Instruments was a pretty even album, where this album is not. Expectations inevitably run high when the only material you're exposed to while awaiting a follow up album, are singles that are generally of above average quality, and ep's. This album is thirteen tracks long. Two of those tracks are previously released, and the albums first single is a snore. "Prostitute" is a BIG, driving song that sounds like it should hold some kind distinction for trying so hard. Unfortunately, it ultimately disappoints for that very reason. "Reinvent the Pain" succeeds for not trying. I think the best course of action next time around, might be to just concentrate on an albums worth of original material. Sometimes the old adage less is more holds true. But, I digress. The following are my favorite moments.

"Inverse" owes a debt to Depeche Mode, and I'm not given to making comparisons. I mean that as the highest form of praise. Hell, Depeche Mode doesn't do Depeche Mode as consistently as they used to. This is Black Celebration and Music For The Masses era material here. This is my favorite song, I think. It's well written and paced. It's slow, poignant and mournful.  It's really a very beautiful song, very much so. I'm a sucker for a ballad...

"Reinvent the Pain" should have been the first single in my opinion. The intro may be too drawn out, but that shouldn't rule it out entirely. This songs pleads for a skilled remix, and if it gets it, it'll run roughshod all over "Prostitute." It's got a driving dance floor beat, lyrics and energy that any potential dancer could tap into. Dance is at its essence, a primitive release mechanism for pent up emotion. Nothing generates more emotion than the sado-masochistic returns of those involvements we love to hate.

I'm not sure why "Wake Me Up" off the Sushi ep is included here. There is nothing in the liner notes, that made mention of this being previously released material. But, that shouldn't take away from just how good this song is. With it's chorus of "Just remember what I said, don't wake me up when I am dead," this song just SOUNDS like the instant synthpop favorite it's become. The beat's there, it's interesting to listen to, and most importantly it's catchy. If you haven't heard it, this is a great first introduction, as is the new remix of Velocity.

While Les Chansons Neurotiques isn't fated to become a cornerstone of the synthpop lexicon, it does deliver as many moments of pure pleasure as one can reasonably expect from any album in the genre. It's also important to remember that experience is relative. Your enjoyment may very well outstrip my own. Thank you.

Track Listing:
1 Startup
2 Reinvent the pain
3 Waste
4 Prostitute
5 Wake Me Up
6 Modulator
7 Breakdown
8 Darkness/Influence
9 Stop & Go
10 It's not me
11 Inverse
12 Need

Neuroticfish is: Sascha Mario Klein

Web Site: Neuroticfish.Com
Dancing Ferret: http://www.ferret.com/discs/

Prostitute (single)
~reviewed by BlackOrpheus(anthony Flores)

Neuroticfish's Sascha Klein, is the same man that gave us the club thriller "Velocity," and "Wake Me Up" among others.

"Prostitute" is the first single off "Les Chansons Neurotiques." I touched on my first impressions of this song in
my recent review of the album. But, in this review we'll delve a little further into my impressions.

The single has 3 versions of "Prostitute" and the fourth song is "3 Minutes Breakdown." It left me wishing for a decent b-side. "Prostitute" isn't a bad song in and of itself. It is interchangeable with so many other songs just like it. The beats, tempo, and effects are incestuously recycled over and over again, especially in the Euro disco setting. It may be a particular styling they're partial to, I don't know. But, what makes this particular song so offensive to me, has to be the rhyming scheme. It isn't unusual, it's just more obvious and intolerable in this setting. It makes Klein sound amateurish, as this is to be expected from less experienced hands than his.

It may be just me this time around, but I have little praise for the album, and even less for this song in particular. The remixes did little to enhance this song's defects. I don't recommend the single, unless you're a diehard fan.

Track Listing:
1)Prostitute (Single Version)
2)Prostitute (NYC Club Edit)
3)Prostitute (No Pop Mix)
4)3 Minutes Breakdown

Neuroticfish is: Sascha Mario Klein

Web Site: WWW. Neuroticfish.Com
Dancing Ferret: http://www.ferret.com/discs/

Making Cannibals of Birds
~review by Jezebel

Joe Pazo's work has been compared to Placebo and Depeche Mode and those influences are obvious. Yet - as obvious as they are - the inspiration doesn't seem to translate well into what is on the CD.

Another artist that seems to not only believe his own press, but has written it as well, there is, especially in Track 4, "Obligatory Witches", more drone and drag than there is substance and quality. Of course, this is not one of the "essential tracks," as indicated with a sticker on the front of CD, so let us go to these.

Track 1, "Purity in Pornography" is a listless start to the CD, more easy listening musak than music. As I am told that "love is masturbation" I try to listen to the music. Simple tune, with very little complex layering and this is as perhaps intended. But there is a fast difference between talented simplicity and simplicity because of emptiness. There seems to be no journey this song goes on, it is simply offered up, very simply and expected, in some way, I would guess, to intrigue me. Joe Pazo's voice is a soft whisper, which after a few bars gets tiresome and begs to be either released to actually go full voice or to be restrained. Perhaps these is a production choice, but just as when you can hear whispers and voices for a while and not make them out, this has that same eventually annoying quality.

Again - going to the "essential tracks," I click over to Track 9, "Waiting for the Hears" (oh isn't that oh so gothic?) which starts with a slight boppier sound, a dance song perhaps? But depressingly, this is a revamp of track 1, I am sure of it; the sound is so similar that I swear I could have played one right after the other without realizing it. And to me, in my opinion, although an album should have seamless transitions between tracks, they should not sound all alike. Wanting to prove myself wrong, I leave the essential ones and jump back to track 2, "This Blackened Hole".

But although ever so slightly more layered, tempo, sound, message seems to be essentially the same. No real transition. There is perhaps more of Joe Pazo whispering a bit more intensely.

Track 3, "The Last Day of the Rest of My Life", brings us a bit more electronic piano, but with one of the worst opening lyrics, "if you think that I care, well I don't, if you want me, to share, well I won't." More likely to be found in a teenager's letter to her or his sweetheart (or ex sweetheart to be)….I find this CD as trivial as it can be.

So - off to Track 4, more dismal than when I started to listen and feeling a bit sleepy from the lack of energy, focus, strength, and well, sound from the CD. It's more of the same, more of a pre-programmed (i.e. it came with the computer) drum beat, more of keyboards that are just really plunking and playing with cubase.

None of this music goes anywhere. It just keeps marching in place to rigid seemingly pre-programmed drum beats. It's hypnotic in the sense that it just drones on and on over and over again.

Here I am on Track #6 and I cannot for the life of me differentiate between the tracks. I skip to the final essential track, track 13, being "If You Bring The Night". Tick tick tick….nope, no difference. Just more of the same drivel.

Mr. Pazo should check out the artists that he, and some reviewers, have compared him to. All of these artists gave us complete and fully evolved CDs (for the most part) which gave us ebb and flow, different melodies, rhythms, sounds, effects. They lulled you to a peaceful place in one song, brought you up and dancing around your living room in another, transported you musically to a club in another, reminded you of a lost love you hate, a lost love you still love. All different, yet somehow unified.

This isn't unified, it's uniform.

Ominivoyeur is Joe Paxo

Track Listing:
1. purity in pornography
2. this blackened hole
3. the last day of the rest of my life
4. obligatory witches
5. already wet
6. torture by design
7. my last breath
8. everyone I've known
9. waiting for the hearse
10. give it up
11. portico
12. my gorgeous facsade
13. if you bring the night


Opium Jukebox
Never Mind the Bhangra: A Tribute to the Sex Pistols
~reviewed by Kimberly

This is not your mother's Sex Pistols; because, well, your mom was around to hear them live. Unfortunatly for those of us who were still in diapers when Sid took his final plunge, we have to be content with CD copies of Holidays and mp3s of "God Save the Queen (Symphony)". Never Mind the Bhangra is a refreshing change from all this. You just haven't lived until you've heard the Sex Pistols being covered with sitars.

Distributed by Caroline with no vocals, the album can only be described as post-modern muzak to be thrown on when one of your friends have come over with a joint and you want to impress them with your electic tastes while still being mellow. The album, produced and heavliy contributed by the legendary Martin Atkins of PiL fame, truly defies description. Inspired, interesting, deeply involving, I have to reccomend this one.

Unfortunatly, I couldn't find any information about this band online.  Not even a bio on Underground, Inc.'s website, though I could gather that Lee Fraser (Sheep on Drugs) and Bobdog (Dog Eat Dogma) are also part of the ensemble.  I did find a shopping cart through Underground for their first album, Music to Download Pornography By which covers songs like "Smells LIke Teen Spirit" and "Tainted Love" in the same vein as Never Mind. At $13 each, do yourself a favor and get both to add to your collection. This album rocks. Now scroll down to the link and buy it.

Opium Jukebox is:
Martin Atkins
Lee Fraser

1. Anarchy in the UK
2. God Save the Queen
3. Pretty Vacant
4. Bodies
5. Holidays in the Sun
6. EMI
7. My Way
8. Anarchy in the UK #2
9. New York


~reviewed by Dibrom

P-Brane opens with a Plaid-styled otherworldly melody.  Epic in nature and with implications of what's to come, it sets the stage for the rest of 4 tracks totaling 20:39 minutes of playtime.  Also present on this EP is a very nice video of the track "Eyen" off their last LP: "Double Figure".  I really enjoyed the inclusion of this because Eyen happened to be one of my favorite tracks off of that album.  Those who are curious can check out this video via the uber-cool warprecords.com website, along with loads of track samples from almost their entire catalog, including those from P-Brane.

Getting back to the music, the first track -- Coat -- follows its lovely opening with an almost funky groove compiled of rhythmic droning and buzzing sounds, blips, and some processed and instrumentalized vocals. All this trudges forward to create a nice dynamic sound as it begins to intersperse with a greater melody which is subtle, yet very mood setting.  Towards the very end of the track, the melody eventually overcomes all other aspects of the sound, only to fade away and be replaced by short-lived and minimalist glass-like tones, alternating in resonance.

Diddymousedid picks up where Coat leaves off and livens things back up a bit.  The track begins with somewhat subdued and toy-like notes which flutter in and out of the sound field.  Drums begin to build up momentum and simple repeating melody begins to form in the background, fortified by punchy bass notes and warm midbass synths.  Before you know it, the sound has become detailed and complex, all aspects colliding to create a rich and engaging experience.  At around the middle of the track, rapid drum rolls come in and out in short bursts giving a mechanical quality to the song.  Shortly following this development things begin to slow somewhat as, yet again, a strong melody rises up from amidst the mesh of activity to present a very strong and coherent feeling for the track.

Rapid clicks and beats, minimalist drums, hauntingly downtrodden melodies and various videogame-type sounds signal the start of Stills. Quickly entering the foray are short bursts of noise and sweeping tones which glide back and forth across the soundstage.  At about 1:30 minutes into the track, most of the other bits of sound subside and a single hollowed out tune begins to rise up.  This is perhaps the most beautiful sounding part of the whole album.  As this melody plays, echoes and reverberations add coloration to the sound and eventually the drums kick back in.  The sound progresses forward, creating a mood of amazement and wonder.  Other tonal arrangements join the mix and working up to the 4:30 mark, these create a complex web of sound.  Beyond this point, everything drops out into a barren, drum-driven effect which rolls back and forth with various finely detailed packets of sound as they work their way back into the track.  Ending out the track, the original melody once again presents itself before the sound stops entirely.

Swirling noise, beeps, racketing sounds, laser effects, and backwards driven tones coalesce to form Mfaus.  Before long, once again this seemingly chaotic mess of sound takes shape and presents a coherent rhythm and beat to focus on.  Organic tones, bouncy synths, and hissy cymbals take turns playing out within the track.  Bell like tones in the background rise to the forefront and give the otherwise relaxed sound a bit of seriousness and urgency.  These are quickly replaced by a rumbling and scratchy sounding overdriven noise part which displaces all other tones and leaves only it and the drums.  This effect basically builds up anticipation and anxiety until it stops abruptly, and the album ends.

This EP is incredible.  I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it.  The production is excellent, the presentation and composition is detailed and highly fulfilling, and even though it's short, it offers an amazing journey through its 4 tracks.  The only problem now is that I can't wait to see what comes next from Plaid.  Definitely recommended.

Track List:
1) Coat
2) Diddymousedid
3) Stills
4) Mfaus

Plaid is:
Ed Handley
Andy Turner

Warp Records:

The Door Of Serenity
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

I first became acquainted with this band via a Projekt Records re-release of the band’s debut album Ishati.  The widespread success of Dead Can Dance has put this kind of dark ethnic world music on the map, but I was singularly impressed at the ritualistic and remarkably creepy approach toward Eastern music that characterized Rajna’s first CD.

I missed the second and third releases (Yahili and The Heady Wine Of Praise, respectively), and I am not entirely sure that they were even readily available in the U.S. until only recently.  But I received The Door Of Serenity, the band’s fourth effort released last month, and though only a minute change, there is a notable difference between the two albums familiar to me.

The most obvious difference is that The Door Of Serenity is not nearly as unsettling, or as dark as “Ishati.”  The music seems to have acquired a more sensual and Romantic exoticism, as well as a fuller more technically advanced production.  Where as there was something arcane and esoteric about “Ishati,” I find this album to be much more accessible, not nearly as foreboding and more akin to mainstays like Enigma and Vas in their lighter approach.  Regular readers of my reviews (if indeed there are any?) know what I will say next: I preferred the darker stuff.

With Dead Can Dance’s success, this music has been in constant reinterpretation for years, and certainly there is a surplus in this music.  While I do like this album, and recommend the  more emotionally powerful moments, as best heard in the hammer dulcimer lead tracks like “Belorbai,” “Whirling Souls,” and “Dervishing,” I was a bit disappointed in the more frequent inclusion of drum machines and synthetics.  I can’t help but feel it negates the purpose.   Perhaps Rajna were opting for a unique pairing of traditional Eastern arrangements and Western electro, but something about that just rubs me the wrong way.

The music this time around seems lighter, less profound and not nearly as passionate.  This is something you can leave on in the background and indulge in whatever quiet pleasures the moment call for.  But the band’s past work, I feel demanded much more of the listener’s attention, and the sheer density and depth of their early work was unsettling and at times pleasantly overwhelming in its intensity.

Perhaps if I never heard “Ishati” I would have been less biased toward this album.  The Door Of Serenity still offers impressive arrangements of both haunting female voice and male whispers.  The instrumentation outshines practically every current ‘dark’ music act that relies so heavily on synths and the latest beat box.   And without question, the atmosphere succeeds in summoning sun-scorched deserts, musky seraglios, and all the voluptuous delights of the Orient.  I believe this band is French, so indeed their imaginations are commendable and their research well rounded.

I can’t see why fans of dark ethereal or ethnic based music would not thoroughly enjoy this.  I personally would like to hear a return to the more sinister pastures or perhaps even more emotionally provocative realms of the band’s debut release.  But Rajna is still a noteworthy outfit contributing to this flourishing tradition, and not just another Dead Can Dance clone.  There are moments of sublime transcendence to be found in this disc, but they are not as consistent as the past and though a better produced CD and showcasing an obvious technical development, the material is not as strong and I don’t think Rajna was as attentive to the fine detail this time around.  Perhaps their moods will be a bit blacker, rhythmically aggressive, and more daring on the next release.   Despite my minor grievances, The Door Of Serenity is the perfect album to expand the CD collections of Rhea’s Obsession, Dead Can Dance, and Hagalaz Runedance fans.

Track List:
1.) Djalambo
2.) Belorbai
3.) Tore Sensuous
4.) The Door Of Serenity
5.) Elisia
6.) Whirling Souls
7.) Masati
8.) Dervishing
9.) Into The Dream
10.) Shalim Dhar
11.) Djalambo (Reprise)

Rajna is:
Gérard - Yang T'Chin
Fabrice  - Percussions, strings
Jeanne – vocals

Rajna:  http://www.rajna.net

Holy Records Contact: holyrecords@wanadoo.fr

Available through Projekt Records: http://www.projekt.com

Various Artists
Ramones Forever - An International Tribute (Radical Records)
~reviewed by Steph

They came from all over - Belgium, Greece, France, Hungary, Peru, The Netherlands, Germany and the USA - to pay tribute to the mighty Ramones.

Tribute albums are strange beasts, and they seem to be increasingly popular these days. A nice idea in theory, they're uneven at best in practice, often depending upon the band being paid tribute to. Some forms of music lend themselves better to creative reinterpretation than others.

Straight up rock n' roll can be swung any number of different ways, and if done correctly, so can punk. The liner notes reference a mish-mash of styles ranging from "Lo-Fi Electro-pop..to Lounge to all out wierdness". The most successful reinterpretations on this album are the ones that respect the basic three chord structure of the songs. Anything else is like trying to put a frilly pink dress on over a pair of faded jeans and a black T-shirt.

The Dirty Scums have the right idea, and they smash their way through a Ramones Medley with endearing exuberance. 5 Cent Deposit also get it right with "We want the airwaves", as do Golden Green with "I Wanna Live". Skunk's swinging ska version of "Pet Semetary" is eccentric enough to be entertaining, and De Bossen's gentle surf approach, with 50's style backing vocals, to "Little Ramona" is strangely touching.Bad Preachers take a slightly more hardcore approach to "California Sun", and Cortina gives "Danny Says" a low-key grunge spin. Incredibly, a Peruvian version of "Beat on the Brat" (Ik Stoeg Haar Half Dood) works perfectly with the original guitar chords, and is really bouncy and fun to boot.

A sweet-voiced female French version of "Ta Petite Amie (I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend)" is unrecognizable as a Ramones cover, and so completely misses the point. "Blitzkrieg Bahn", by Sherman featuring KPW, somehow mixes a Reznorized Blitzkrieg Bop in with Autobahn, and the result is downright irritating. No Bluff Energy's Devo-esque rendition of Psychotherapy strips away all the mad energy of the  original.

Of the 23 tracks on the CD, at least two-thirds are well crafted, entertaining listens. Just program out the others, and you'll have  a genuinely inspiring tribute album on your hands.

Track Listing
Ramones - 1-2-3-4
Golden Green - I Wanna Live
Neven - I Wanna Be Sedated
Sherman Featuring KPW - Blitzkrieg Bahn
Mika featuring Jah Paul II - I Man I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
The Dirty Scums - Ramones Medley
Davo Vermeersch - I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
La Fille d'Ernest - Ta Petite Amie (I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend)
5 Cent Deposit - We Want the Airwaves
Skunk - Pet Semetary
KPW - I Wanna Be Well
Bad Preachers - California Sun
De Bossen - Little Ramona
Da Lama's - Ik Stoeg Haar Half Dood (Beat on the Brat)
Marky Ramone Group - I Don't Wanna Grow Up
Fezz - I Believe in Miracles
Club Diana featuring Neef - Here Today Gone Tomorrow
JMXW - I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You
Cortina - Danny Says
Huntingtons - Life's a Gas
Daan - Somebody Put Something in my Drink
Ramon Da Silva - 53rd and 3rd

Contact Info

~reviewed by Jezebel

As a wiccan myself, I am always looking for good pagan inspired music for not only ritual but for just, well, just listening to.

Those that have done it well, like Inkubus Sukkubus, Rhea's Obsession, The Shroud have been able to incorporate pagan principles, mythologies and principles seamlessly into music perhaps because the ideas are so musically magickal in themselves, why shouldn't they?

But, a cynic I am when it comes to music and when this CD came in the mail from Blu, I raised an eyebrow. This was a different approach, more tribal, trance and techno; I couldn't see it working somehow. Bleep bleep and the Lord and the Lady? Um….no.

Although on a more dark (but not the dark side) side of paganism, this CD has all the makes of pagan dance music. Sexy lyrics ("I am sex personified, I am lusciousness defined" from Temptress) with strong, powerful bass beats (in I am Your Garden) are mixed in perfectly with middle eastern influences and medieval tones.

I can see myself dancing quite happily to "I am Your Garden", the second track of the CD. This is one that, without remixing, could easily be placed in a DJs hands and then into the ears of a grateful club throng. Undulating sounds, interspersed with softness and luxury, the song is a wave and a journey.

Quite a number of instrumental tracks here, and unlike some, where they are superfluous, these just keep the flow going, another reason to continue.

I love "Interrogated"….love it. Who figured out a unique way to pronounce scrutinize?? Its play of syllables gives one laugh as we get a Toni Holiday/Curve sound. Once again, completely intoxicating and danceable. "Le Secret Douloureux" is all in French and I must say, my French is limited to ballet terms. But this is another sexy offering from Regan, whispering, like a serpent going quietly and unsuspectingly up your leg, I found myself really experiencing the movement of song, the sexiness and sensuality. Don't ask me what the hell the song is about…..just listen to it.

I am not a fan of techno by any means. I would rather have my teeth plucked out one by one than listen to techno music. But this is techno done right. This is not just pre-programmed crap that is being re-looped continually while some rather uninspiring singer waxes on off key. There is thought to the music. "Angel Eyes" is amazing as it seems to have a jazz edge to it with backbeats behind. Sexy and done so well, that it seems that refreshing and welcome.

Regan has a gorgeous voice, rather siren-like which is also showcased in Angel Eyes. Actually, I would love to hear her attempt some 40's scorching ballads…she has the voice and talent for it.

Undine may not take me underwater but it does give a nice resting place to the CD, enough to catch your breath.

One thing I don't like about this album is almost silly. The liner notes and the track listing do not match. I hate scuttering back and forth trying to figure out what is what and when and where. Only complaint.

This is a sexy pagan album that will definitely appeal to non-pagans. It has grind and grit to it with a melting that is palatable.

Go get it….run around naked.

Regan is:
Chris and Regan

Track Listing:
1) Hallowed Ground
2) Opium
3) Creepy
4) I  am Your Garden
5) Interrogated
6) Le secret douloureux
7) Angel Eyes
8) Undine
9) Temptress
10) Oblivion, 1st movement
11) Oblivion, 2nd movement (instrumental)
12) Airetaina


I Want To Believe EP (Silent Noise)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

I'm a sucker for a good slogan. Here's how Scissorkiss describe their music: 'Electronic Rock...Go Ahead...Do the Robot.' That's rather neat and witty, as slogans go, isn't it? It's the 'Do the Robot' bit that really makes it. But what does it tell us about Scissorkiss? Are they a bunch of Kraftwerkers? Well...no. They're far more organic than that.

Here comes the in-a-nutshell description: Scissorkiss mash up forceful yet economical new-wavey guitars (no gratuitous flourishes here, and definitely no solos) with bubbling electronics, and an implacable, unrepentant, drum machine sound. It's actually rather post-punk - think of early Human League: that sort of era and area. The giveaway track, as far as influences go, has to be 'Dream Of Razors', which has a beat suspiciously like the League's 'Being Boiled' (original 7" single version, naturally). The guitar sound chops and changes - the guitarist must be dancing on his effects pedals here - but eventually resolves itself to something akin the harsh slab-o-guitar of the Gang Of Four. A sudden squall of electronics blows up mid-way through, like AM radio atmospherics. Meanwhile, just to complete our 80s-alternative influences, the vocalist has that detatched, plaintive style which reminds me of Natalie Merchant. Listen to 'Hope' by Scissorkiss up against 'National Education Week' by 10,000 Maniacs, and...well, *I* can hear it. And, as it happens, I rather like it.
'Saliva' is the nearest thing on this EP to straightforward modern electro-dance stuff: maybe that's why it's the first track. Perhaps Scissorkiss are trying to draw in the listener with something relatively accessible before they delve into the box marked 'arcane influences' and really let themselves go. 'Believe' is all layered guitars and a wail of a vocal...and some Star Wars samples. The chorus, which is nailed to a frighteningly huge rock riff, builds and builds, before chopping off short. Scissorkiss are never less than totally in control. I get the impression that if a stray piece of feedback escaped from the guitar, they'd have an inquest to find out what went wrong.

'The Lasting Effect Of The Butterfly' wraps things up with a thoughtful instrumental, given substance by lo-end piano and a nagging, repetitive, three-note guitar figure. It's far more engaging than most bands' attempts to 'go ethereal'. Good stuff.

There's obviously a lot going on in ScissorkissWorld: a lot of ideas, a lot of influences, all of which are somehow resolved into music that'spunchy and effective. Sometimes they sound like it's 1980 all over again, but that's no bad thing. That era of post-punk innovation was an exciting time for anyone interested in music. Scissorkiss manage to capture a little of that essence, and bottle it under an Appellation Contrôlée that's distinctly their own.

The tunestack:
Dream Of Razors
The Lasting Effect Of The Butterfly

The players:
Liz Amadea Nickrenz: Vocals
Matthew Fuller: Guitars, programming
jhimm:  Guitars, programming, backing vocals

Scissorkiss website:  http://www.scissorkiss.net

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:  http://www.nemesis.to

I Want To Believe
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Electronic rock can often be either a cantankerous howling sea of enjoyable lunacy, or something which has a serious chance of commercial crossover, and when you are almost immediately greeted by the brilliant voice that appears in ‘Saliva’ you figure the latter, once you get past the fact it sounds like Orbit-era Madonna. Then you notice what a cool, clear song this is, with the music mirroring but not simply aping vocal inflections, and accept that means clever, classy, stompy stuff, which is energetic and attractive, but it’s not making the right moves, yet. They have bright ideas and good words so, sensing greatness, it jolts you upright, but we live in times which demand a full-scale vision and Scissorkiss don’t have that. They’re at an experimental stage. When ‘Believe’ turns out to be mean and moody, ultra-crunchy and sort of perky, you starts to wonder just who they are.

Well, it turns out vocalist Liz Amadea Nickrenz met guitarists/programmers Mathew Fuller and the strangely named jhimm through  the Goth scene, although they profess influences in  synth-pop and hip-hop, while Liz has a folk background. This even makes sense when you see how their songs develop.

‘Reckoning’ dips on the interest spectrum when you see the importance afforded the nicely rolling vocals, as we the listener are ushered into hushed surrounds and the music becomes calmer as she’s off on a delicate vocal path, with her pretty, prim voice, as some downwards 80’s Goth guitar can be heard. It’s either ‘Rhiannon’ turned into demon form, pulling their strings or, as the intro to ‘Dream Of Razors’ suggests, they’re turning into All About Eve! Then ‘D O R’ stops all the ooh ahh oaoaoaoa, and they don all-purpose boots for a splash through darkened sludge, with higher vocals and skinny riffs. So there’s a dilemma. It is great fun, and music to be drawn towards, but they need to develop, thicker skins, because they can clearly create great dark sculptures, and this is often a mish-mash.

(I did try to ascertain what the relevance of razors might be in dreams but the nearest I got what knives, which had a strong sexual element, or issues of inadequacy, even betrayal, but also hidden insight. Stranger though is scissors which apparently means cutting something out (ho ho) of your life, and transforming a current situation. I hope you feel all knowledgeable having learned that.)

‘Hope’ boasts a beautiful bass, and fluttering sounds, with succulent vocals, but where’s this rock element we were promised? The guitars remain polite so the vocals are fully accommodated, whereas they could at least try and make her work harder. She’s occasionally semi-strident but there’s a tendency to under-do the intensity which is infuriating. ‘The Lasting Effect Of The Butterfly’ has delightfully Goth keyboards but isn’t actually fluid enough for dance, as once more they strive to ensure the quality of voice survives to enrich the mix, by not having to compete in velocity.

Still, I’m convinced, and excited that an album is going to be with us shortly.

Liz Amadea Nickrenz – vocals
Mathew Fuller – guitars, programming
Jhimm – guitars, programming, vocals

1 Saliva
2 Believe
3 Reckoning
4/5 Dream Of Razors
6 Hope
7 The Lasting Effect Of The Butterfly


Satellite Dub
Sessions #1: Volume is Necessary
~review by Kevin Filan

Many of yesterday's Industrial DJs are now promoting their Psytrance or Intelligent Techno collections; what was once Goth has suffered a sea change and become Worldbeat or Electro.  The Synthpop invasion was just the beginning: today the Gothic/Industrial scene finds itself facing Dance music.  Despite all the sneering "PLUR, dude"-isms you may hear among the black-clad set, much of today's Goth music is firmly rooted in Raver culture ... trance music in a minor key for "Graver kiddies" waving glowsticks and wearing baggy black vinyl pants.

Craig Brown, the man behind Satellite Dub, is a child of this era.  His Sessions #1: Volume is Necessary is heavy on Triphop and Electronica and light on the Standard Gothic/Industrial cliches... yet wouldn't seem out of place on the dancefloor of any New York Goth club circa 2002.  Like it or hate it, it's a sure sign that things ain't what they used to be in the land of lace and eyeliner.

On his website, Brown lists Krautrock and avant-garde composers among his influences.  He should give a nod to Curtis Mayfield, James Brown and the luminaries of 70s funk/soul.  On "Chemical Intervention" and "Reflecting Skin" Brown plays guitar the way Maceo Parker plays horns; he doesn't create a rhythmic line so much as slink in between the notes, firing rimshots off rimshots.  His hard, angular solos underpin the synthesizers, while the sharp syncopation keeps things moving along.  Brown started his musical adventure as a guitar player, and, indeed, the best moments on this CD are typically the ones where he brings his guitar skills to the forefront.

Brown also has a feel for slow, lush music ala Air or some of the Paris loungecore DJs.  On "No Questions," Brown's heavily treated vocals flow heavy as chocolate syrup over ice-cream synthesizers, while the synthesizer-beatbox interaction of "Juxtapose" almost qualifies as foreplay.  It has the finger-snapping easy-listening joie de vivre of the best João Gilberto CDs: music for a 21st century Girl from Ipanema.

While this CD avoids the Standard Goth Cliches, on occasion it falls prey to the New and Unimproved Electronica Cliches.  The samples of fundamentalist ranting which underpin "Jesusfreak Part 1" have been done before, and better.  (i.e. Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s eerie and heartwrenching monologue-and-violin interplay in "Hung Over as the Oven in Maida Male").  Instead of rehashing Ministry-era cliches, Brown should let his fretboard do the talking: the funky guitar line is by far the most interesting part of this song.  I'd also like to see Brown do a little more vocal training: barring that, I'd like to see him gain the self-confidence to sing without so many effects.  Still, this is a well-done CD.  It may not be Your Father's Goth ... but it's got a good beat, you can dance to it, and it includes at least two good makeout tracks.  How can you go wrong?

Decks N Dialogue
Jesusfreak Part 1
Chemical Intervention
No Questions
Already Forgotten Your Face
Cubed Shark Buddha
Reflecting Skin

Website: www.satellitedub.com
Email: info@satellitedub.com

Satellite Dub is Craig Brown: synths, samplers, beats,vocals and guitar

Sound Disciples
Audio Manifesto
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Sound Disciples is a trio based out of England, that harvests elements of urban electronics to flesh out rather accessible dark alternative metal.  A rather odd choice to be released by Peaceville Records, long known for its contributions to the genres of Death Metal, Gothic Metal, and Doom. But there is certainly nothing wrong with expanding boundaries a bit.  One of the first things listeners will immediately notice about this band is the diversity in their overall sound.  Their style seems to be have pulled stylistic elements from Massive Attack (who lent their drummer Ian Matthews for session work on this album), newer Paradise Lost, Alice In Chains, Monster Magnet, and the more mature aspects of Korn.  I hate to rely too much on comparisons to other bands, but in all honesty, I haven’t heard such a seemingly unlikely blend of familiar musical elements brought together in a single band like this in a great while.

The Sound Disciples have enough of a metallic crunch and genuine heaviness that they still have a firm root in the underground.  But simultaneously, there are a lot of catchy pop hooks and rock radio friendly angst.  And though there is a marked techno/dance influence and use of electronics in the band’s music, the result is not a club ready dancebility, but rather just a kind of tweaking that gives the music a 21st Century feel.

Thematically speaking, the band lists “Love” as a non-musical muse – the “Fear of. Loss of. Joy of. Lack of. Pain of.”  I can dig that.  And indeed, this may be a record label first – providing a press release that actually offers insight into the band.   Apparently, throughout the recording of this album, there were numerous deaths in the band’s immediate families, one of their fathers had two severe strokes, one member’s child was born immaturely, a gang killing occurred outside of the studio, romantic relationships fell apart, the Sept 11 attacks happened, and finally, the choir slated to record for the album pulled out at the last minute as a result of the band’s explicit lyrics.   Damn – you can’t help but feel bad for these guys and of course, the label’s secret plan all along, the listener has a preconceived sympathy for the band.

So with all the misfortune these guys faced, with all of the pain and negativity that surrounded them, I can’t help but feel that this album could have been a bit more emotionally poignant?   Something is really missing here for me.

While the opening track “Deluxe Poverty” starts things off on a high note, with its upbeat organic drumming, in your face detuned guitar crunch, and gritty lyrics – it quickly fizzles out and the listener might get a little impatient.  “Daze Of Grace” is one of the highlights on the album – a slower paced tune with great full orchestral synth arrangements ghostly drifting above subdued trip hoppish electronics, and smooth male vocals which are unfortunately joined by some mediocre female back up vocals for the chorus. Aside from the accompanying female voice, the song is a chill darkwave-ish number that could probably creep it’s way into a few Goth DJ’s playlists.  It is on this track that the Paradise Lost influence is at it’s most prominent.

“Reject” was a jarring and unimpressive follow up – very nu-metal in it’s inclusion of DJ scratches and rapped vocals for the verses all atop crunchy power chords and rhythmic grooves.  My impartiality to this track is not because I’m a Goth/Metal fan that dislikes Rap, but because there was a time about a decade ago where this kind of music was interesting and cool.  (Anthrax, Rage Against The Machine, and Biohazard all spring to mind)   But then the edge of this kind of music was watered down, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, and Mudvayne and all those bands came along and YOU CANNOT ESCAPE this music.  It is forced down your throat and the novelty is long worn off.  The vibe of this particular Sound Disciples song basically recalls the vibe of contemporary alternative rock radio and everything that is wrong with the rock mainstream.  So I can’t just give it my thumbs up.

“Trilogy” continues the on/off pattern that characterizes this release.  A darker track, with some eerie synth effects and a head bobbing dark metal groove, well-balanced in it’s appeal to both metal kids and the mainstream.  But unlike the prior track, there is a more apparent passion and just plain interesting arrangement going on here.  Not a bad effort at all.

“End Of An Error” and Nine Days” introduce some acoustic guitars and dare I say, more ‘funky’ rhythms.  The most commercial songs on the album, they are also the two most uninteresting and the easiest to forget.

“Angel Kiss” carries on the darkly symphonic tones first explored with “Daze Of Grace.”  Given my interests, it should come as no surprise that I was more partial to these songs.  In addition to the similarities to newer Paradise Lost, there is also a bit of Massive Attack and Portishead happening here.  I would say the band should continue on in this direction, but it’s not up to me to say that.  I personally find these moments to be the band’s most intriguing and with some additional depth to the electronics, harder hitting rhythms, and a continued devotion to this kind of smoky atmosphere, they could appeal to more Goth/Darkwave/Trip Hop fans. They hit pretty close to this with the track “Phantom,” which has a more prominent beat, creepy electronics, and vocals that I can’t help but compare to Marilyn Manson in his few moments of convincing power.

I sort of feel they are shooting blanks attempting to wiggle into the crowded cesspool in the mainstream and they are hopelessly lost if they are going to try to appeal to a dark metal crowd – their moments of aggression are too sloppy and too akin to the trendy masques of suburban angst dawn by ‘troubled’ nu-metallers.  So ultimately, I can’t really see where Sound Disciples appear on the musical map and more importantly, I can’t determine what kind of audience or music fans could constitute as a fan base.

My approach to this album may have been different had I been writing for a different magazine.  Sound Disciples have obviously been through a lot this past year, which may have had a considerable impact on their writing approach.  It may have drained them creatively, rather than fuel them.  They are unquestionably a talented lot, their music is solid and exceptionally well produced despite its seeming lack of enthusiasm.  However, I can’t really imagine too many StarVox readers finding much in this album, other than the few Trip Hop elements that spring up here and there.  But for only a mere two or three songs, I regrettably have to recommend that readers avoid this album.

Track List:
1.) Deluxe Poverty
2.) Daze Of Grace
3.) Reject
4.) Trilogy
5.) End Of An Error
6.) Nine Days
7.) Angels Kiss
8.) Phantom
9.) Crantock
10.) Deluxe Poverty (Bulletproof Monk Mix)
11.) Angels Kiss (Poisonflow Mix)

Sound Disciples is:
Shaun Atkins – vocals
Rob Vaughaun – bass/arrangements
Joseph White – guitar

Rick Dowding – producer
Jo Kate Benson – vocals
Ian Matthews – drums (session – from Massive Attack)

Sound Disciples – Official Site: http://www.soundisciples.com

Peaceville Records: http://www.peaceville.com

A Spell Inside
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

If you like Behind the Scenes, you will conceivably  adore A Spell Inside just as well, as this is a side project from that phenomenal band.  Unlike much of the cookie cutter dance fodder that seems to be flooding the scene as of late, A Spell Inside delivers a rich body of catchy hooks and passionate vocal harmonies. Additionally, the lyrics also depict a broad spectrum of poetic vision about the world around us as well as the impossible nature of the human fate.

Hearing either Behind The Scenes or A Spell Inside simply makes me wonder why vocals this great were never noticed at the Grammy awards, while Donald Duck sound-alike Macy Gray was their star child. Clearly, this band will confirm once and for all that those who are in the position of power in the music scene are clearly living in a bubble with their heads up their butt.

A Spell Inside scored a phenomenal reaction with their latest CD that is appropriately titled, Hit, however they are certainly not newcomers to the scene. As a matter of fact, the band also has a retrospective compilation available that delineates their work from 1995 to 2001 as well as a number of equally stimulating releases from years past.

The strength of A Spell Inside is clearly their ability to merge catchy hooks with great harmonizing choruses that simply find a way to stroke the psyche as an escape into sweet indulgence.  The resonance of the vocals seems to permeate from within the confines of ones chest region to further expand throughout the body, making their work a true testament to their brilliance.

Hit is decidedly more electronic than some of their previous works, however, they still maintain the essence of the gothic forlorn and introspective moroseness.  There is a crafting of brilliant work that is simply slated for club exposure but also positioned for a mainstream launch should anyone in the media buy a clue about this band.

From the opening strains of the track "Out Of Control" with it’s unrequited emotional pull that veers into mid-tempo rhythm and expert choral harmonies to the final track of "Rage" with it’s nod towards a futuristic nihilism coated in dark electronica, one simply cannot help but adore the quality of this project.

Arguably, many US dj’s simply are not aware of either this band or Behind The Scenes which is quite a tragedy considering the scope of these artists who simply excel with each release they make for either band. Thankfully, Dancing Ferret Discs touted their wonders some time ago while DJ Patrick from Albion-Batcave in NYC managed to put them in rotation every chance he could.

Goth purists may balk at this band because it is definitely dance club friendly. However, if we must endure electronic music infiltrating the ranks of the goth underground, it is clearly more viable to provide an impetus for quality bands who maintain the essence of the goth darkness in their work no matter how many beats per minute they add to their songs. A Spell Inside offers foot tapping music but they are so much more than just a dance band. The lyrics are not ambiguous tripe; they have something to say to those who are into considering the points of introspection in their life and the world around them.

Clearly this band merits a pick of the month for August 2002, however, there is a considerable bias as this reviewer has yet to take their other band, Behind The Scenes “Homeless” CD from the stereo player since it was received a couple of years back! More than anything, it is hoped that this bit of information indicates the longevity and brilliance of the work created by these artists in either band. For those seeking new music, do look into this band as you will most likely be very glad that you included their work in your collection for years to come.

1. Out of Control
2. Seconds
3. Horizon
4. The River
5. 2nd Invasion
6. Crags
7. Change Of Heart
8. Menschen
9. Revenge
10. Oneway
11. Deep Silver
12. Rage

Michael Roeder: Vocals and programming (also vocalist for Behind The Scenes)
Peter Kirchmeyer: synths, samples
Klaus Rodewig: guitar

Website: www.aspellinside.de  also an English version at www.aspellinside.com


Second Skin
Flesh Wound (EP)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
(band photo credit: 'Dark Vader')

Sometimes, when I encounter a band I've never heard before, I play a little game with myself. It's called 'Guess what the band sounds like from their artwork'. This EP is packaged in a vaguely Nephilim-esque fashion: all swirly lettering on an 'old parchment' background, with assorted cryptic clues (including the number 13: whoo, spooky) scattered around. I can't decide if it's all meant to be fantastically deep and meaningful, or if it's just an exercise in goth-imagery button-pushing. The central motif looks like a pastiche of the Sisters of Mercy logo - an up-tilted face in a star. Going by all this, I was geared up for some sort of Gothic Rock outfit, all grinding guitars and grunting vocals. First And Last And Dawnrazor. You know the sort of thing.

Confusingly, the promotional info-sheet (which, under the rules of the Game, I can only look at *after* I've made my guess as to the band's sound) touts Second Skin as 'One of the most original groups to come out of the electric dance music scene.'  Electric dance? That's an odd phrase. Electric dance as opposed to acoustic dance? What have we here, then - a techno outfit in goth-band clothing? But one of the *other* rules of the Game is never to believe any publicity blurb, because experience soon teaches you that it's generally 1% pertinent information to 99% utter bollocks. We shall listen to the music and make our own assessment.

'Still My Love' commences with some electro-burbling and a splat-and-clatter drum machine sound. Hum. Presumably these are the 'electric dance' elements we've heard so much about.  Then the vocal comes in, a lugubrious spooky croon, and a guitar line which follows the vocal like a faithful servant. It sounds, frankly, like any number of 'bedroom-goth' bands we used to have in the UK during the mid-1990s. Second Skin hail from Scottdale, Arizona: I imagine they can hardly be familiar with the UK goth scene of around eight years ago, so I assume it's pure chance they've hit on this general sound and style. Still, I wonder if, by some odd connection, they ever got hold of any tapes by such mid-90s UK-scene contenders as The Sorrows Of Isis, and thought, 'Hey - *we* can do this!' ?
The second song, 'Kara', is billed as the 'Sea of black mix' and kicks off like an early Midnight Configuration track: all pumping synths and rawk guitar. It's one of those goth-songs-about-the-goth-scene, which aren't easy to pull off. (Frankly, I think Killing Miranda did the definitive take on this with 'Discotheque Necronomicon'). The lyrics to 'Kara' go like this: 'The dance floor pounds to the black beat sound....' Hmmm. A lyric which speaks of how the dance floor 'pounds' really should have something a little more forceful than a thumpa-clatter-thumpa-clatter drum-machine pattern driving it along. Second Skin's claim to 'come out of the Electric dance music scene' suddenly looks very flimsy indeed. *Real* dance-heads would demand something a lot more forceful than this.

'Beautiful' starts off like a slice of eighties electro: the pulsing intro actually sounds rather good. Then the voice comes in with a yelp, the guitar-line starts running after it, and it all gets a bit....Nosferatu. That mid-90s UK-scene influence again. 'I The East' (the 'Candy' remix) rattles along quite effectively, although in this case the guitar reminds me of Vendemmian. Final track, 'Voodoo Doll', is not the Banshees song of (almost) the same name: if it's anything, it's Second Skin's attempt to write a hands-in-the-air Mission-style anthem. The vocal is certainly histrionic enough, but the guitar, wandering around in the background like a kid in the school playground who can't find any friends, sounds oddly detatched from the rest of the song. Oh, and there's that clattery drum machine again.

Well. I'm left feeling weirdly nostalgic for the Sunday night goth gigs the Marquee club used to run in London, circa 1992 - 1996. Those gigs became, by default, the main showcase for the UK scene's bands of the time: typically, two or three men in black playing music which sounded a bit like every other band on the scene, with a chattering drum machine in the background providing the rhythm. This, by accident or design, is the style Second Skin seem to have claimed for their own.

Trouble is, that was then and this is now. Are we ready for the mid-90s bedroom-goth revival?

The tunestack:
Still My Love (Scissor remix)
Kara (Sea of Black mix)
Beautiful (Starstruck remix)
I The East (Candy remix)
Voodooo Doll (Remastered)

Second Skin website:  http://www.secondskin.net

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:  http://www.nemesis.to

Ideal Husband
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Fairly mysterious, this Greek band of 2 Nicks and a Zoe do battle with synthpop and colour it Goth. I was particularly taken by the sleevenotes, where Starcry say they would “like to apologise to the following….including all the ex-Starcry members, and our neighbourhood.” Despite the corny ‘children of the night’ sample being trotted out yet again at the start of  ‘I LOVE U (sexy)’, which is not my idea of a good way to create interest, you don’t really notice, because it’s fast and lithe synth lines going for pop impact, with garbled vocals weighing it down somewhat. It gets you thinking even though it’s a typical result of a new-ish band, where you’re faced with plenty of good, and lots of middling, yet give them your time because you sense that when they build up they could really let go. They don’t, which is my way of spoiling the story early on, but they have a touch of class about them, which makes this debut enchanting.

‘Messiah’ reminds me of Fading Colors, with a hint of majesty, and, tellingly, the gruff scattered vocals get breathless trying to keep up with the musical pace. So the vocals aren’t natural, and quite unnecessary. ‘Messiah II’ –is another demonstration of great flair but the effects on the vocals drag the tune down horribly.  ‘I Will’ has menacing percussion and a surprise, because you expect explosions but it becomes elegant instead with mature, totally natural, Mediterranean female vocals, as ‘Litany’ is deliciously stompy, with cold atmospherics and monastic voices - like am a-z of Darkwave sleight of hand, even if it never fully breaks stride. The point is that when the voice sound human it starts to work well.

‘Ever’ crawls away, an attractive mess with cinematic aspirations that are admirable. ‘Haunter’ - opts for weird vocal spoken passages down which no-one shall walk, growing fuller and fouler the more it goes on, which shows a heightened awareness of peculiar moods. ‘Decline’ is another tricky one, beginning nicely poised, with guitars operating on the flanks of a nubile song that is improved by the vocals losing the effects and gaining affectations of a dramatic variety, then ending sombre, which shows how well they can defy expectations. ‘Moonset’ opens on bells chime, the synths stir, where attractive droning with terse beats feels good, and if it could only be done faster it would be exhilarating.

Not great, but definitely very good.

Nick Dachris
Nick Pavlis
Zoe Dachn

1. I Love You (sexy version)
2. Messiah
3. Decline
4. Ever
5. I Will
6. Litany
7. Moonset
8. Messiah II
9. Haunter
10. I Love You (sexier version)

No website, but you could fish for details at: http://www.gothic.gr
E-mail: starcry@otenet.gr

The Machine In The Garden
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

The name "The Machine in the Garden" refers to the progress of technology and its relationship with nature. Each release explores this relationship between the mechanical, natural, and spiritual worlds and further elucidates the philosophy behind the band.
Fair enough.  Yet another remarkable triumph from Middle Pillar Presents this month - the anxiously anticipated and fourth full-length release from these Texas Darkwave mavens.   The Machine In The Garden formed in 1994 and is a duo comprised of Summer Bowman and Roger Fracé.  A great deal of curiosity and buzz has surrounded the band for many years now, as a result of numerous compilation appearances and of course, the unanimously good press that has surrounded the band ever since their debut release Underworld.

My fiancée has been an enthusiastic fan of the band, long attempting to assemble their discography and it was through her that I had heard some outstanding remixes of their original material.  When I finally heard an entire proper release, I was pleased with what I heard.

The first three tracks on this album are absolutely fantastic and the strongest tracks on the entire album.  “Masks” is a sprawling and genuinely creepy Darkwave track, complete with eerie processed and ebowed guitars, murky electronics, and slinky drum programs.  Summer’s voice is thick and commanding, the perfect compliment to the stark electronic yet thoroughly atmospheric backdrop.   “Outside” continues along impressively, with extremely well done drum programs, hushed trance inducing synths, and chilling interplay between the consumptive guitar swells and powerful female vocals.   The Machine In The Garden has here perfected a noteworthy kind of Darkwave that is adequately balanced between the synthetic and the organic. While the guitar is the only ‘real’ instrument played, and even it is drenched in additional effects, the feel of much of this album is one of warm, inviting substance.

“Time” is my personal favourite song – a dark track with foreboding tribal drums at its bleak and sinister nucleus.  Distant ghostly vocals converge and entwine with soft melancholic verses, subtle chimes ring out above a dreary electronic bass line, and misty minimalist synths sigh throughout, like the frosty breath of a restless ghost gliding across a barren November wasteland.  How’s that for Goth?  This song, though short, is just begging to be heard.

“Wonderland” follows next, a catchy and potentially popular track, yet it is where I start to get temporarily restless.  The song is still somewhat moody, but Summer’s voice suddenly acquires a slightly nasal quality.  Something about the song seems incomplete to me – despite its unmistakable catchiness.   To me, the song recalls Switchblade Symphony, a band that in their nursery rhyme and adolescent simplicity I have abhorred since their inception – this, however is much better, and being that I am in a relative minority with my opinion of Tina Root and co, my guess is this song will be popular.  I just did not find it to be as powerful as the previous three tracks.

“Icarus” as well seems to be lacking – something?   This song lacks the intensity of earlier tracks.  “Ghost,” though not at all an upbeat or dense track, it is a definitive improvement. A plodding, slow song with spine-chilling vocal harmonies, created by layers of whispers, vocal improv, and dreary disharmonic moans – very cool.

The slight lull is definitely broken by the time “Open” appears.  Primarily because the haunting guitars make a welcomed and much needed return.  The guitars, I believe, are that aforementioned ‘something.’  Roger is an awesome guitarist, with a fantastic variety of voices in his pedal board and I vote he use it more.  Sure, the novelty might wear off if they are used in every song, but I believe “Asphodel” could have been intensified by a more frequent appearance.

Some cool live bass guitar sneaks its way into the mix for “Clarity,” and working in unison with the guitars and dynamic drum programming, a grand sound is achieved.  Pianos lead “Dawn” into a beautifully depressive interlude.  Wow.  When I first really paid attention to this song, my heart sunk.  I missed that feeling, as it happens less and less these days.  This serves as a surprisingly nice interlude, with a very cool shift in mood at the song’s climax.

Back into the scarcely lit foggy dance floor we go for “Echo” - slow, swirling, and dark in the way that Love Is Colder Than Death and The Azoic once were. Forlorn and striking vocals, distant guitars, and more ghostly synths shape the song. Decidely more prominent electronic beeps and blips pan to and fro along with varying degrees of punch in the drums.  Well done, but probably too introspective for most dance floors as of late.  The kids that come early will dig it though.

“Cry” is a more ethereal track, descent but never really goes anywhere, and doesn’t have as captivating a mood to it.  “Seek” however, was an interesting shift – a harder hitting drumbeat emerges, part trip hop, part Lycia – cool slap bass lines, and neat guitar climaxes at the chorus.   “One” makes a return to introspective ethereal, however, cool artificial harmonic pings and bluesy, fragmented guitar leads give it a unique and suffocating feel.  A song that also stands on its own for sure.  “Photographic” brings the album to a satisfying and fulfilling finale – a stronger and more organic drum sound, acoustic strums, and another flawless performance by Summer at the mic.

Despite’s its occasional lulls Asphodel is a standout album.  There are a lot of songs here, the variation between them being dangerously delicate and subtle.  You really have to listen to the album as a whole to truly appreciate it.  Though there are fourteen tracks, things move along quickly, as most songs rarely pass the comfortable ‘radio friendly’ (ha!) three-minute mark.   The Machine In The Garden utilize synthetics and electronics in a way that is more thought-provoking and emotionally striking - they are true Darkwave at it’s finest, and if you are a devotee of the danceable gloom spun from the black hearts of acts like Malign, Wench, Attrition, and SubVersion, this will definitely tickle your neglected fancy, as well as put a fresh spin on a familiar and time-tested formula.

Track List:
1.) Masks
2.) Outside
3.) Time
4.) Wonderland
5.) Icarus
6.) Ghost
7.) Open
8.) Clarity
9.) Dawn
10.) Echo
11.) Cry
12.) Seek
13.) One
14.) Photographic

The Machine In The Garden is:
Summer Bowman and  Roger Fracé

The Machine In The Garden – Official Site:

Middle Pillar Presents:

The Trinity Project
The Subtle Movements Of The Entropy Engine
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

The Trinity Project is comprised of a group of Baltimore musicians, who’s primarily outfit, Ego Likeness, might ring a bell with some East Coast dark music fans.   Where Ego Likeness provides an accessible blend of organic Gothic Rock and Industrial electronics, The Trinity Project is an experimental and ‘unconventional’ outlet, both in the studio and apparently on stage, where they incorporate improvisation and projection visuals. With a few limited self-produced releases under their belt, this latest CD I believe is the first collection of material that is going to be shopped around less exclusively and hopefully reach a wider audience.

I am admittedly not an enthusiastic fan of dark ambient or experimental music. As I have said in past reviews of music that could fall into this category, I often lose interest early on and get impatient waiting for ‘something to happen.’   Where there are lulls in the intensity of The Trinity Project’s music, there are also enough diverse approaches and stylistic devices utilized that it doesn’t become a monotonous drone of electronics and make them a refreshing exception to what I am used to hearing. The atmosphere is often quite dense, with some moments of striking emotion, as well as solid rhythmic grooves. Techno break beats, slinky trip hop rhythms, and spoken word appear throughout and add a pleasurable variation to the music.

The opening track clocks in at just over 20 minutes and is broken into three separate movements. The track picks up the pace once the song reaches it’s second movement, and really begins to demand the listener’s attention.  A slow sprawling build up peaks with a driving rhythm and heavy yet not overbearing electric guitars.  Definitely epic in scope, slowing for a brief ambient interlude before switching to faster techno break beats and volleying wire synths.

When the second song, “50º Longitude, 85º Latitude” appears, we are introduced to a female spoken word piece examining a rare skin disease that has afflicted her since her childhood, and after much musing, decided that it resembled a map (hence the title). At first the song is merely solo spoken word, but then gradually it acquires a subtle synth accompaniment.   “Soldiers And Tanks” picks the pace up with a steady and swayable drumbeat and dreary synth work, yielding the first truly great atmosphere where emotion finally begins to shine through.

In my opinion the most standout track is “If I’m Not Careful I’ll Start To Get Scared Of The Walls.”  The title alone is somewhat unsettling, but apparently the inspiration behind the song is based on an actual experience. Creepy and reminding me at least of the classic Lovecraft story “The Rats In The Walls,” the paranoid narrator of the song speaks in a calm monotone, while she describes a clicking and scraping sound, and other dreadful sounds that accompany the episode.   The narration is adapted from D. Lynch’s “Boiling Baths and Other Rituals.” No not David Lynch, but rather a Baltimore poet and writer who’s first name is for whatever mysterious reason not disclosed to the public eye ;) Whatever the case, her lyrics can be viewed at the band’s website, and are definitely worth checking out being that they are apparently based on factual occurrences.

“The Flock Of 1000 Sparrows” introduces more guitars and consistent rhythms into the mix, for an encompassing and beautiful soundscape.  An instrumental track, and maybe the only track on the album that shares any similarity with Ego Likeness.

After a rather drawn out beginning, “The World Below” gains momentum, with some eerie screeching ‘bird’ sounds, and dark layers of distant female vocals.  A very cool song, somewhat reminiscent of early Attrition (“In The Realm Of The Hungry Ghosts” in particular) and the like.

“Votive” is another swirling ambient track, unique for it’s sample from Kenneth Branagh’s version of “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” and a playful juxtaposition of samples that sort of debate science, the supernatural, God, etc.  Creative at least, but the song also is an example as to why I get very restless listening to this kind of music.  I am too jumpy and anxious and I just was wishing for something more to happen.  The music seems like it is about to climax and then it just trails off and into the next track.

“Tornado” is characterized by moody synths, a light distant beat, and spoken word.  A nice atmosphere, trance inducing and sporting a successfully arresting feel of sadness and loss.   But again, I can’t help but feel that much more could be done with some of these potentially strong ideas.  But I will also be the first to admit that I just might not ‘get’ the purpose of this style of music.

The album’s final cut, the aptly titled “End,” particularly struck me.  It is an acapella song with slightly treated female vocals (giving it a scratchy, warped vinyl sound) singing a melancholic Scottish lullaby.  Short, sweet, minimalist, but effectively moody – a nice way to bring the entire journey to a close.

“The Subtle Movements Of The Entropy Engine” is a worthwhile release, certainly something fans of minimalist electronica and sparse dark ambient music will enjoy.   Usually, I struggle to find something of interest in this kind of music.  But there are several memorable and intriguing moments throughout this release that definitely add a greater depth and dimension to the material. Because of these scattered moments and intriguing ideas, The Trinity Project stand ahead from other bands that I have been exposed to that specialize in this kind of music.   Therefore, I would assume that aficionados already familiar with the genre and have the patience for it would enjoy this work immensely.

Track List:
1.) The Subtle Movements Of The Entropy Engine
a. The Engine
b. Winter
c. Genesha’s Madness
2.) 50º Longitude, 85º Latitude
3.) Soldiers And Tanks
4.) Love Gesture
5.) …And Also Afrika
6.) If I’m Not Careful I’ll Start To Get Scared Of The Walls
7.) The Flock Of 1000 Sparrows
8.) Kam Tata’akhkhar
9.) The World Below
10.) Votive
11.) Tornado
12.) End

The Trinity Project is:
Steve Archer, Donna Lynch

With live musicians:
Justin “Dingo” Sabe, Alexx Lackey

The Trinity Project – Official Site: http://www.thetrinityproject.org

Angelfall Studios: http://www.angelfallstudios.com

Ego Likeness – Official Site: http://www.egolikeness.com

Email: art@angelfallstudios.com

Mr. Kickass
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

What is a TRS-80? A motorbike, a missile, a lawnmower? Nope, TRS-80 is a band. I've never heard of them before, but it seems they're Chicago-based and have been around since '97 or thereabouts. During this time they've released assorted albums, EPs, contributed songs to an independent film, and even provided music for shows on National Public Radio. In short, TRS-80 have a lot of previous, and I've obviously got some catching up to do.

Well, let's begin with this new album. It's out on Martin Atkins's Invisible label, which is a guarantee of quality...sometimes. The inlay is a quirky, minimalist design: the three members of the group are represented by photos of three flight cases. I don''t know if TRS-80 are making some sort of frightfully erudite point here - the human as servant to the hardware? - or whether they're just having a laugh, but as a concept it's witty and cool. I like it.

That reference to hardware should clue you in to what sort of noise TRS-80 make: they're an electronic outfit. Well, sort of. The e-word covers a multitude of sins these days, of course, and it has to be said that some of those sins are less easy to forgive than others. Fortunately, TRS-80 aren't just another bunch of doof-doof merchants. They have their own sound, their own style...and their own drum kit. What they do has more in common with avant-jazz than EBM. Imagine the Lounge Lizards jamming with Cabaret Voltaire, in a basement somewhere in NYC. Probably with David Cronenberg's 'Videodrome' flickering on an old TV in the background. Outside, it's snowing. The central heating groans and clanks. There's nothing to do but stay in and create your own movie...or at least, a soundtrack for it.

TRS-80's music is driven along by loose, syncopated rhythms, crisply whacked out on a full-scale drum kit. It's full-on and funky, without being pointlessly elaborate, or ever getting into the showing-off zone (there's hardly a drum roll on the entire album). Over, under, and around the rhythms, sampled sounds and voices mesh and entwine, electronic atmospheres ooze and bubble. There are no vocals: just chunks of dialogue grabbed from the TV or radio. That's not a new technique, of course, but where so many bands go for apocalyptic soundbites related to war, death, or political sensation, TRS-80 favour odd little surreal snippets which sound like they come from old radio soap operas, documentaries, scratchy old LP records, adverts of yesteryear. It's like a Smithsonian Institute in your ear.

And there's variety. 'Time Leverage' is almost drum 'n' bass: a rolling juggernaut of a track which sounds like it should be blasting out of a souped-up Ford Escort, cruising the local drag of a Saturday night. 'American Smooth Division' is a frantic tumble, 'Terrible Monster Attacking Crew' has what sound like kung-fu movie fight-samples leading into a cool, loping, stroll of a track - the hero casually saunters off, after he's dispatched the baddies. 'Fantasy Football Is Stupid' wins the prize for the best title on the album (and this is an album with plenty of witty, articulate titles) - it's a glorious great slab of a track, a mashed-up guitar riff looping away in the background while a bulk order of electronics looms menacingly in the front of the mix. Then the drums saunter in, and it all gets on down.

TRS-80 are obviously on their own planet, but not in a tiresome 'Look at us, ain't we weird!' kind of way. They're just following their instincts, and they've ended up somewhere unique and cool. No-wave electro-jazz, anyone?

The tunestack:
Que Pasa USA
Time Leverage
Glass Lining
American Smooth Division
Thongs And Bongs
Prime Numbers
Terrible Monster Attacking Crew
I'm So Happy
Winter and Construction
Ten Record Challenge
TRS-80 Fight Song
Fantasy Football Is Stupid
Me And My Skills
Supply And Demand
Arnold Palmer

The players:

TRS-80 website:  http://www.TRS80.com

Invisible Records:  http://www.invisiblerecords.com

The Lounge Lizards:  http://www.strangeandbeautiful.com

Cabaret Voltaire:  http://www.brainwashed.com/cv

A site devoted to Videodrome [Note to TRS-80: some useful sound clips here for your next album!]:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:  http://www.nemesis.to

~reviewed by Dibrom

deprogrammer seems to be the type of album that would grow on a person over time.  Upon the first listen, it's fairly subliminal in nature. The album just kind of floats along in the background, sometimes it reaches out and engaging the listener, but just as unnoticeably it slides back away into relative obscurity.  Over time though, as one grows more accustomed to the sounds, the tracks, and the overall musical idea, it seems to become at least somewhat more forceful in it's presence.

Most of the tracks on this album are comprised of either a strong backbeat with alternating plays on the main rhythm, or are more ambient and synth-pad laden which lean instead towards a soundscape-ish effect. Of course, this line is blurred some though, and the transition between the two is usually accomplished quite well.  Present in either of the two extremes are various clicks, beeps, grinding noises, tapping, drones, melodies of all sorts, and just other sound effects in general. On occasion there are even some briefly present vocals thrown into the mix.  These things are not really the essence of the sound itself though, more like just flavoring.

The production on this album seems to be fairly standard.  Most of the sounds can be heard clearly enough and the presentation of these, in various spots within the soundstage, works well.  The overall feel is not harsh or gritty in nature, nor is it super synthetic sounding or ultra-precise.  It just seems to be moderate pretty much in all aspects.

My feelings in regard to the overall effectiveness of this album are also moderate.  I do like some of it's qualities, but I believe it will take more time to fully appreciate the entirety of the album, if I get to that point at all.  It's not something that reaches out and grabs me right away as being "damn cool", but rather something that I find myself enjoying a little in the background at times.

I believe that perhaps part of the reason for this stance is that it's difficult to get a clear handle on the mood this album is trying to create.  I'm kind of left asking myself "What exactly is the idea being communicated here?"  In particular, the vocal content doesn't really help clarify this.  In fact, I'd say that a good portion of it is fairly standard and uninteresting. This is unfortunate because I believe even a small difference in the presentation of even this one attribute could have led to a much more powerful impact.

I probably wouldn't buy this album.  It's not really bad, but I don't feel that it'd worth getting over something else which you'd probably be surer to like.  If there was some place online where it would be possible to hear samples of this album, it would be worth checking out. Alas, I could not find such a thing.

Track List:
1) LOWLAND (analog dub)

TVKiLL is:

Latex Records:

Knowledge Scars
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman

Knowledge Scars is an impressive debut release from Erica Mulkey, an independent solo artist from California that under the appellation Unwoman has released a darkly erotic and thought-provoking collection of songs.  Erica expresses her instrumental prowess as an accomplished vocalist, cellist, and keyboardist.  Her style ranges from a kind of experimental trip hop to swirling darkwave atmosphere with just enough static and noise to give it that extra technical punch.  Not to mention the use of cello with sensual synthetic rhythms, placing her comfortably in league with such artists as Sunday Munich.

This is, to be noted, not a directly smooth ride of ‘pretty’ atmospherics however – there are moments of unorthodox experiment and strange electronic goofiness that will appeal to those who prefer a few manic jars along their musical journeys.  These moments are arranged well, and come naturally, never seeming contrived or placed for the sake of it.

Ms. Mulkey admits to a wide range of musical influences by including three cover tracks – Kate Bush, Crass, and The Cure.  As eclectic a mix as that may be, I do believe that her choices are a good indication to the sound of Unwoman, and the wide variety of emotion she successfully portrays.  Her work has been compared to Battery and Diamanda Galas as well, which are both just comparisons, as a result of the earnest and empowering feminist lyrical themes and theatricality.  To me, Knowledge Scars seems to be the result of a genuine lover of dark music faithfully trying her hand at creating music similar to the many artists that have influenced her so strongly.  It seems to be a labour of love, and a love that will grow stronger and acquire more dimensions with experience.

Her original material is solid, suffering only from a slightly amateur production quality.  At times, the mix is a bit thin, especially in her vocals.  If possible, her voice could be accented with more layers and harmonies.  I also don’t think she is exorcising the full power of her voice, nor do I think she seems 100% comfortable with it.  Again, another kink that time and experience will iron out.  Her creativity and talent is easily recognized, especially in the opening song “In Gilead,” a swayable and moody song, with a great rhythm and drum sound and beautifully played cello passages.  A well chosen and suitable way to begin the album, however, I felt that the samples of dialogue took away from the depth of the song.  Slightly distracting and basically unnecessary – as I feel most samples usually are.

Another noteworthy highlight came around the half way mark, with the catchy “Dispossessed,” sporting a steady dance beat, and analogue sounding chimes that recalled very early Attrition and Legendary Pink Dots keyboard work to these ears.  I quite liked the sweetly melodic vocal harmonies, and the pervading feel of melancholy that shaped the track. At the core, it is an effective and quality ‘dance’ tune.

In terms of the cover songs, Unwoman’s minimalist reinterpretation of the early Cure track “The Drowning Man” is a theatrical, reverb drenched affair enhanced by murky piano passages and reversed vocal tricks.   The militant snare drumming of the original has been sacrificed for a fluid, more ethereal feel, which strips away the rhythmic aspect of the original.  However, she took the opposite approach for “Sentiment,” which was fleshed out by frantic break beat climaxes, managing to retain the spoken word integrity of Joy De Vivre’s original performance with Crass.  But the dense backdrop of electronics, controlled noise, and swelling cello strains give it a decidedly updated technical appeal.

Overall, I am of the opinion that there is considerable talent as well as accessibility presented here.  Without at all attempting to be sexist, I can see Goths of the fairer sex really enjoying this – not only for the lyrical themes but also the mood of the music.  This is quality and diverse music, at times tender and seductive, at others lashing out at the injustices of society in a way that conveys intelligence and political awareness, as opposed to a blind angst-ridden tantrum.  I was particularly fond of the scathing wit of “Freedom From Religion,” sporting samples of ‘Dubya’ – quirky music accompanying a lyrical perspective I assume would convey the views of most subculture enthusiasts.  Truthfully, I use music and art to escape from the mind-boggling disorganization and chaos of the real world, so I tend not to enjoy political lyrical content of any kind.  I could be the poster boy political apathy.  But this in no way ‘irritated’ me or distracted me for very long, so it isn’t too strong or overbearing.

There is certainly some improving to be done, but I do not doubt that Unwoman will return with a second collection of stronger, more memorable, and professionally produced songs.  The potential is unmistakable, and even at this stage of the game, I feel that Unwoman is ahead of the game.  I am curious to hear where this songwriter’s artistic passions take her in the future.

Track List:
1.) In Gilead
2.) The Futurist’s Nightmare
3.) Deeper Understanding
4.) Who Programmed My Desire?
5.) Knowledge Scars
6.) Freedom From Religion
7.) Sentiment
8.) Dispossessed
9.) Lament For Peter Pan
10.) Subsistence
11.) You
12.) When I Touch Myself
13.) The Drowning Man
14.) Vacant Skies Revisited

Unwoman is:
Erica Mulkey

Unwoman – Official Site:http://www.unwoman.net

Unmediated Productions: http://www.unmediated.net

Email: unmediated@earthlink.net

The Blessing Of Curses
~reviwed by Mick Mercer

They’ll do something incredible one of these days, but not right now. There is a fine band here waiting, for something but I sense they don’t truly know just what it is yet that they’re really going to do, as this level has been achieved fairly swiftly. The good news is that they are already superb in so many ways.

If you admire a powerful production and great arrangements that sees you tied to a grating above starving crocodiles, then wriggle now to ‘For Thyne Enemy’ with its big, surging rhythms and quick, sharp vocals. Or shudder with distaste as the bleeping quicksand of ‘Trouble With The Fix’ outrages by breaking clumsily into a big, gooey chorus. Cackle like hens on steroids at ‘Doomsday’ where guitars like vengeful helicopter gunships shatter the dreamier teasing gaps. Then stop a while, and think.

It’s clear they have a high-octane delivery, but I fear the band are maybe being swamped by the production. None of this is terribly surprising when you think that both Marin Atkins (Pigface) and Julian Beeston (Nitzer Ebb) are involved. These men thrive on full throttle, imperious mania, and they manage to inject all the air pockets here with poisoned varnish. I’m sure they’ve pulled more out of the band than the band imagined they could achieve, but maybe they go too far? The vocals often drop down and smear themselves playfully over the songs, when really they require a little space. Just as too many of their songs end without emphasis, so they have songs that are so full they end up constipated.

The vocal-heavy ‘Fairwell By Twilight’ displays an ominous mood and flails on a while, with taut spoken declarations but ‘The Heretic’ is far silkier, with oozing strings putting you at ease as a bulbous bass battles, refusing to let you off any hooks. ‘Deep Light Blue’ takes ages to get anywhere, which isn’t a good sign, and ‘Silver & Gold’ is something of a non-event, which act as maddening wastes before the saucily commercial ‘Nobody’ shakes off its karmic hangover and ‘The Fallen’ exhibits almost infectious gaiety as they opt for dance mechanisms.

I seriously advise you ignore my minor doubts and get this for ‘Dogfight’ which is heaven, with its snotty “fukkit”. Embrace the crisp jagged clatter, and swagger to this mental rawkout that works compulsively. It is utterly brilliant, and quite easily the best thing I’ve heard in months! You can see why people take them seriously.

Although people have made comparisons to Siouxsie that’s way off the mark. You have here an entirely modern hybrid of commercial rock sensibilities mixed in with the more peculiar Industrial production ethos, where some things are elevated but others diluted. While a major label would boost the vocals, to emphasis the star appeal of the singer (whereby hangs their easiest marketing technique) with independent labels you naturally have the full power thrown behind the music itself. In essence what you have here is a band who can do more than others from the commercial or credible sector. Think therefore of Whale (in overdrive), Curve or Republica, and imagine how those approaches could have been massively improved, because that’s the potential of Voodou.

Most people will say Garbage, but this is less pop sensibility, more Kylie Harvey Oswald.

Michelle Walters – vocals, keyboards, synths
Chad Wilder – guitars
Billy Miller – bass
Ben Buchanan – drums and electronics
David Flick – programming, Synths, samples
Jeff Winfrey – additional guitars

1. For Thyne Enemy
2. Trouble With The Fix
3. Dogfight
4. Doomsday
5. Fairwell By Twilight
6. The heretic
7. Deep Light Blue
8. Silver & Gold
9. Nobody
10. The Fallen

Official: http://www.voodou.org
Good but slow-loading fansite: http://www.woohou.fanclub.ms/

Various Artists
Working With Children And Animals Volume 2 (Wasp Factory)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

Alternative music ain't what it used to be. These days, when a band like Oasis - who play nothing more than cack-handed pastiches of latter-day Beatles - can be hailed as cutting-edge stuff, it's clear that we need an alternative to the alternative. That's exactly where the Wasp Factory label comes in. Genuine mavericks in a conservative world, the Wasp Factory crew have assembled a diverse roster of bands and artists with a view to giving the alternative scene a much-needed boot up the arse.

This is the second in what I assume will be a continuing series of Wasp Factory label-sampler albums. The first, logically entitled Working With Children And Animals Volume 1, was released in December 2000 and became an instant underground classic, containing as it did everything from the frenzied metal-bashing of Leech Woman to the flinty-eyed electro-polemics of Hydra; the bizarre disco-riot poetry of Tarantella Serpentine, to the energy-rush industrial of The Chaos Engine. That album set the standard. It's going to be a hard act to follow.

Working With Children And Animals Volume 2, like its predecessor, does not restrict itself to artists on the Wasp Factory label alone. A bunch of friends and fellow-conspirators in the campaign for Real Alternative have also been invited to the party. Eight bands contribute two tracks each - the result is a 16-track album that looks like a bargain in anyone's book.

OK, then: how does it measure up? Well, it's a good album. In places, it's an outstandingly good album. But it has to be said that here and there things do get a bit...patchy. Some of the tracks are solid gold quality...but others don't *quite* reach the mark. Let's take it from the top.

Swarf open the album with a long-awaited recording of their live favourite, 'Drown', plus their excursion into ethereal-ish territory, 'Sorrow'. Now, Swarf are one of my favourites - something that StarVox readers will know only too well by now. Their effortlessly cool, uncluttered sound, their resolutely song-based approach, and Liz's marvellous voice, combine to make a band that stands head and shoulders above most other electro-contenders today. Certainly Swarf knock any workaday EBM-merchants into a cocked hat. They're *quality*.

So, what's gone wrong here? Because something *has* gone wrong. Swarf's clean, restrained, less-is-more sound has been replaced by a murky, cluttered production that seems intent on smothering the band's individuality under a bog-standard EBM treatment. 'Drown' commences with a grimly challenging 'Whump-whump-whump' beat and some harsh electronics, all pushed right up at the front of the mix. I'm sure I've heard this sound before somewhere - yes! I've got it. All of a sudden, Swarf sound like....Inertia! How could this be? A glance at the small print reveals all. The Swarf tracks were recorded in Inertia's studio, with Reza of Inertia in the producer's chair. Probably without realising, it seems he's 'done an Inertia' on Swarf. The trouble is, the uncompromising industrial-strength EBM sound which works very well for Inertia just isn't right for Swarf. Subtlety, a certain lightness of touch, is required here. What's more, the most distinctive elements of the Swarf sound have been pushed so far back in the mix they're barely audiable. That neat little pulsating synth riff in 'Drown' that does so much to lift the song and drive it forward is relegated to a faint background effect here. Liz's vocal, which should be the focal point of the sound, taking flight and soaring above the music, is soaked in reverb and mixed *way* down. 'Sorrow' fares somewhat better, since it doesn't have that whumping beat dominating everything, but even so the over-reverbed vocal, buried in the mix, just doesn't do Liz any kind of justice. I'm terribly disappointed. The only ray of hope is a note in the small print which tells us that these tracks are 'exclusive' versions - which I take to mean that Swarf themselves are not happy with the sound, and new, better, recordings of these tracks will surface in the future. Let's hope so, because this is not the Swarf we know and love. This is WRONG!

Hmm. Did I mention poor production? Guess what - I'm going to mention it again. The next two tracks are 'Mind' and 'Wraith' by the mighty D.U.S.T. - who, I'm afraid, come across as somewhat less than mighty here. The production is, frankly, feeble. Why? Because these are demo tracks. The small print tells me so - but I really don't require any confirmation. My ears are all I need. The rumbling electronics which are such a feature of D.U.S.T.'s sound are clear enough, but the guitar is tinny - it has no depth and substance. It just buzzes away like a wasp (ha!) in a jam jar. Mikey's vocal is a weedy little thing, without any of the power and resonance I know he's capable of delivering. In fact, on 'Wraith', he sounds like he's singing down a telephone. If this is an intentional effect, it doesn't work. If it's just down to the ropey demo-quality production - well. It's just not good enough! Both songs are fine stompy yet catchy numbers, but the fact that they're nothing more than demo versions is a real let-down.

After all this, it's rather a relief to find that Katscan's contributions, 'Stutter-Cut' and ''008 Biology' are produced with admirable clarity by head beat-surgeon Martin Diablo - who, at least for recording purposes, *is* Katscan. Katscan are basically a punk band who happen to use beaten-up technology instead of guitars. Their sound is an unholy stomp-and-swirl of abused synths and manic vocals, but underneath it all there's a weird pop sensibility at work. There are tunes here (somewhere...) to which you could, if you had a mind to do so, tap your feet. While wearing steel-toecapped safety boots, of course. Because these pop songs have teeth.

Psychophile are another of my favourite bands - their combination of chainsaw guitar, grooving electronics, and Lucy's swooping and soaring vocal is hard to beat. If Psychophile have a minus point, it's that their recordings to date have never quite captured the sheer force and power of the band. They've all had that over-compressed, 'cotton wool' sound which too often seems to be a feature of home-recorded material. I was hoping that the two tracks here - 'Vice Girl' and 'Illumination' - would have been re-recorded, or at least remastered, or otherwise given a bit of oomph. It's a disappointment to discover that, if my ears don't deceive me, both tracks are simply re-releases of Psychophile's home recordings, which the band previously put out as a CD-R. They're great songs, but....why are they so *muffled*? Lucy's voice has minimal presence or attack - it sounds like she's in the next room, singing through the wall. I hate to bang the same old drum here, but this kind of underwhelming production does nobody any favours.

But here come Freudstein, those crazed electro-wizards who are represented by 'Robots' and 'Looking For Answers'. Their production is smoothly professional (hooray!) and the beats and sequences all dovetail together with impressive finesse. The lyrics on 'Robots' are angsty and angry, almost the kind of stuff you'd expect The Levellers to do. The contrast between the hi-gloss sound and the anti-establishment theme of the lyrics is odd, but it works. The one focuses attention on the other. There are some neat tricks in the music, too. 'Looking For Answers' contains a neat little recirculating motif which sounds like it was sampled from a church organ. It's all very well assembled. Seamless and effortless.

Spray crash-land on the album with a brace of rollicking synthpop songs which power along at frightening speed.Who Spray actually are is a bit of a mystery: they have the classic line-up of a male synthesizer-mangler and a female singer, and have apparently done stuff with the Cuban Boys (if they worked on 'Drink' then they immediately gain credibility points in my book!) They sound like Curve on speed, a thoroughly buggered Buggles. It's obvious that Spray have a genuine touch when it comes to catchy-as-all-get-out pop songs; both their contributions here effortlessly pass the 'lodge in yer brain' test. But what I like most about Spray is that they have a glorious streak of bone-dry irony running through everything they do. Check the song titles here: 'I am Gothic' (a title no goth band would ever *dare* to use!) and 'Child of the 80s'. Check the lyrics - 'I am Gothic, I am pale/I am scary, I'm insane/I'm a loner, I am cold/I feel special when people don't phone'. Hmmm. I *know* people like that! Here's some more: 'I can walk, I can talk, and dispense ridicule/I understand irony better than you...Decadence to the sound of a Fairlight on heat/Getting loaded on spacedust and Rene Magritte...Suddenly, everyone rates me/Because I'm a child of the 80s'. Let's face it, if this band was any more arch they'd be the Arc de Triomphe. Wonderful stuff, which makes me grin all over my cynical old face. Oh, and the production? Crystal, mate. Crystal.

Interlock are a complete contrast. All of a sudden, we're in the rock zone. Or, at least, Interlock's own weird corner of it. 'Birdman' is all crashing and tumbling guitars - a big, rich, warm sound (D.U.S.T. please note!). Paradoxically enough, the song is driven along by a dance beat: a stylistic collision which would be incongruous and awkward in the hands of most bands, but Interlock's main man John Hull has a sure touch and he stitches it all together most impressively. The vocals are a call-and-response workout between a male voice and a female voice: it's all mixed low, and I don't know if that's intentional. The effect is rather like listening to your neighbours having a domestic through the wall. Interlock's second track, 'The Hold', begins as a sultry, menacing, piano piece, and then picks up with a loping, swinging beat and, again, that warm guitar sound. Once again we hear combined male/female voices, sometimes singing over each other, sometimes exchanging lines, back and forth. It's idiosyncratic stuff, but it works. Interlock simply couldn't be anyone but themselves, which is why you'll find no comparisons here. Their music taps into the power of rock and uses it to fuel a very individual sound.

Seventh Harmonic swing things around to yet another direction. This band is usually referred to by such terms as 'neo-classical' or 'ethereal', but these two tracks show how absurdly limited those catch-all descriptions are. 'Icarus' is a heady rush of percussion, rolling and tumbling. The dulcimer's somewhere in there too, almost a rhythm instrument itself, nailing it all down to a steady tempo. The vocal melody takes off and flies above all this: the contrast between the richness of the percussive sound and the purity of the vocal works very well. It's almost as if Phil Spector had decided to try his hand at producing a Cathedral of sound. It all ends with some psychedelic reverse-noise, for all the heads to groove on down to. It's as if there are about twelve different musical ideas fighting it out in this one song - and that's impressive when you think how many bands couldn't muster twelve musical ideas in an entire career. 'Chains' swaggers in with almost a Bollywood beat (I'm sure I hear tablas in there somewhere) and a striding piano figure which pushes everything forward. The vocal is more folky here - again, we hear Seventh Harmonic's ability to mix up different musical ideas and somehow get it to all hang together. Their album - due later this year - is going to be worth the wait.

So there y'are. Working With Children And Animals, Volume two. A curate's egg of an album, in some ways: parts of it are excellent. Other parts are....well. Shall we say, a little off target. Seventh Harmonic and Spray provide, for my money, the best stuff here, with Interlock, Katscan, and Freudstein close on their heels. Alas, the album is let down by the rough demo-quality production on the D.U.S.T. tracks, the muffled 'bedroom' feel of the Psychophile tracks - and, above all, the fact that Swarf seem to have been re-invented as an Inertia side project. I'm genuinely disappointed that these three bands have not been shown to better advantage here, because they're all particular favourites of mine, and I really wanted them to sparkle. It's particularly galling that it's not the music itself that's at fault; just the nuts-and-bolts stuff - the production. It's frustrating that an album which could've been unarguably *good* right the way through has been let down by something as mundane as a bit of knob-twiddling on a mixing desk. The final verdict, I fear, has to be 'could do better.'

The tunestack:
Swarf:  Drown, Sorrow
D.U.S.T.:  Mind, Wraith
Katscan:  Stutter-Cut, 008 Biology
Psychophile:  Vice Girl, Illumination
Freudstein:  Robots, Looking For Answers
Spray:  I Am Gothic, Child Of The 80s
Interlock:  Birdman, The Hold
Seventh Harmonic:  Icarus, Chains

Wasp Factory Recordings:  http://www.wasp-factory.com

Swarf:  http://www.swarf.org.uk

D.U.S.T.:  http://www.d-u-s-t.co.uk

Katscan:  http://www.katscan.co.uk

Psychophile:  http://homepage.ntlworld.com/pokegoth/psychophile

Freudstein:  http://www.freudstein.co.uk

Spray:  http://www.spraynet.co.uk

Interlock:  http://www.interlock-music.co.uk

Seventh Harmonic:  http://freespace.virgin.net/seventh.harmonic

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:  http://www.nemesis.to

~reviewed by Mick Mercer

Sometimes no matter what someone does they can’t produce something with what they’re using, and the peculiar Wyrmwood sound like they’re struggling. It also doesn’t help that maybe the nature of the way they present themselves sets them up for a certain amount of ridicule, which might be something they care to consider for the future?

Their version, which isn’t really backed up by anything on their minimalist website, which reveals little more than a favourable appetite for vampires, goes thus: Avia, the singer, is a poet, who, allegedly, ‘sings of battles fought in the mind for the soul, and of struggles of good vs. evil’ while Lysa deals with the rhythms and synth. Together, they ‘warn man of his fate and if he does not awaken from this dream, from his nightmare, from the shadow of darkness which haunts us all’ which is very kind of them. Responsible citizens, both.

Musically this short album is fairly standard Goth, of the old school, and you honestly wouldn’t know they had these noble plans. It simply isn’t clear enough for the vocals to make any impact beyond their belligerent presence.

‘Wyrmwood’ introduces you to this big voice, which always dominates, but behind it is a slight sounding drum machine as the keyboards provide a fragrant wash. As the vocals are more tuneful then a drone, but the words don’t leap out with clear projection, things are generally hazy and, for all their effort, somewhat lazy. They’re good at creating a traditional mood but throughout the CD the vocals and music are held back, as both work in unison. In ‘Once Upon’ the restrictions imposed upon them are obvious - not since early 13 Candles have I heard a drum machine offer such a shy, nervous pattern, and been left horribly exposed. Additional backing or double-tracked vocals lifts a rather listless track but they essentially allow every song to solidify then decorate with extra vocals

‘Let Me’ has the usual vampire cliché film sample to open with, as do most tracks, but then it’s friskier, crackling, hissing, fidgeting and seemingly preparing for take off, but then, despite a stranger feel, the vocals do their usual thing. I don’t ever see why singers don’t realise this. Pause, shake it up. We get interesting Middle Eastern yodelling at the start of ‘Eden’ which then gives way to their normal practices which just heightens the sense of disappointment for me, and then in closer ‘Snakes & Gardens’ I’m praying for them to go out with a bang. They do kick-start the drum machine into its dance mode, and the rhythm is up, with the music nibbling at it, but when it needs to thrust and cavort, the vocals just sidle in and at no point does it ignite or excite.

They probably have a place in the vamp scene which I’ve often thought is very easily pleased, but in Goth terms they’d work better as an ethereal project with attitude, or they need a band because the songs has power trapped within them, as does the singer, and in this tiny enclosure neither aspects get to shine.

They’re not lacking in ambition or ability per se, just ideas.

Aria – vocals
Lysa – synth

1. Wyrmwood
2. Once Upon
3. Let Me
4. Eden
5. Snakes & Gardens


Clan of Xymox
Remixes From The Underground
~reviewed by Mike Ventarola

The anticipation for Notes From The Underground was rather painstaking for all hardcore Clan of Xymox fans who were simply itching for new work from this band.  Upon its release, many let out a collective sigh of relief as our copies entered our homes and were promptly given non-stop rotation from our stereos.  Just as the smoke cleared and we started to become comfortable with this bevy of new music, word of an official “remix” of this CD was rumored and surfaced across the internet wires. Fans from across the globe scrambled to find truth in this possibility, rousing them from their COX fix with Notes From The Underground.  Those who have followed the career of this band, also know that Ronny Moorings is not too partial to remixes, and rightly so. After all, when one spends an inordinate amount of time of putting one’s emotions, heart and soul to the sound and structure of music, it can be rather daunting to hear it improperly handled, thereby negating the hard effort that went into its creation in the first place.

We have subsequently learned that the remix project was not a rumor, and the wait was well worth it. This particular 3 CD set is packaged as a gatefold digipack and numbered in a series of 2500. The first 2 discs contain remixes, while the last CD provides fans with a current interview of Ronny and Mojca from Dump TV. In between the interview are snippets from video’s and concerts, making this a great testament to the band’s global popularity. Rene van Nuland is responsible for the entirety of disc 3 and it was a stellar achievement to bring to life not only the interview, but also some of the Clan of Xymox memories. Be warned however, because this interview will make you thirst for a full DVD of COX videos and footage. Mojca designed the digipack sleeve to give it a technological, quasi-Aztec and cauldron flair.

To review this project is rather daunting because there is simply so much that needs to be covered and only a limited amount of space to do so.  In essence, for those who feel that COX may have become “too techno,” be assured that this is a REMIX project, and not a TECHNO project. This is mentioned simply because some goth purists felt that hearing this masterpiece would “break their heart.” Truthfully, this will expand on your love for the band and in no way detract from it. Besides, Clan of Xymox have NEVER put out a less than commendable release in their entire career.

Certainly there are some tracks that have been boosted in the BPM department, thereby assuring them club floor classic status. However, many of the tracks have gentle percussion and tweakings from the original that are just as at home in your living room or bedroom during your introspective hours. COX still marries the electronic age with Goth sensibility. Hell, they practically invented that style and one simply can’t take that away from them, nor should they be so stridently boxed into any one particular corner. Moorings’ muse doesn’t have a genre limitation, nor should we. Instead, we must continue to be grateful that Moorings et al can continue to create such passionate music that resonates with people from all ages and backgrounds through the decades of time.

"Anguish" kicks off the first disc with a mix by Iris that is simply flawless. Since there is so much “disco goth” floating about, this track was crafted to stay within the parameters of the tastes of club patrons.  The great thing about this track was the fact that the lyrics and vocals were kept up front, reverberated in just the right places for emphasis.

"Something’s Wrong" was tweaked by Angels & Agony that provides a bit of a nod toward the electronically darkwave/morose ambience coupled with vocoder effects. Mooring’s voice is brought to the front while the percussive house beats accentuate the riveting electronic background.

Cut Rate Box brings the song "Number 1" to a level of dark industrial electronics. The morose atmosphere is kept intact. The track is quite a hybrid between industrial and techno-goth.

Fear not all you purists out there. “Innocent” is delivered by Assemblage 23 with a funereal moroseness that also allows for layers of percussive beats. It is certainly goth-club friendly, but some of the gloom will most likely not make it to the mainstream clubs. There is plenty of “oontz” per second on this extremely fast tempo track, but it does not deviate from the initial perception of being a somber song.

"I Want You Now" is one of this reviewers favorite tracks on Notes From The Underground. It was particularly interesting to hear how a song that was as near perfect as humanly possible would be restructured for this project. Tri-State took away some of the frenetic energy of the original track, making it a bit more introspective than anxious. The vocals were layered on top of each other, giving Moorings a more decidedly dark essence.

"The Same Dream" seemed to have been crafted from the files of A Murder of Angels. Many odd sounds were incorporated, giving a metallic liquid feel. DJ RAM applied futuristic tweakings along with a mid-tempo percussive beat. This track brings Moorings to an almost demonic essence as the vocals are deepened and woven through a chorus of misbegotten souls.

"At Your Mercy" opens within the confines of a forlorn chasm. Naturally the beats pick up along with the pre-requisite beeps and blips. Despite the percussive element, the song maintains a mid-tempo feel. In Strict Confidence made sure to maintain the unrequited lovelorn sentiments as Moorings initially crafted this tune.

"Liberty" once again demonstrates a marriage of funereal and industrial tones. Damon Fries revamped this track with an up to date percolation, but maintained the level and essence of dark decadence that makes COX such a lovable band.

"Into Her Web" was given even further reinterpretation by Sophya/Idan K that also includes additional vocals by Sonja, in this rather somber, slow and pensive track. This track takes us to Goth circa the Lycia era and is simply full of melancholic beauty.

"Internal Darkness" was given the work over by The Second Sight. Ironically, the song wasn’t tweaked to be a “club” song, as one would have anticipated from this group. Instead, they maintained the flow and essence of the gloomy atmosphere, focusing more on atmosphere and the maintenance of the lyrical content.

Disc 2 starts with another reworking of "Anguish", only this time by Front 242. It is quite different from the first disc in that it starts off with a more percussive and pared down electronic noise effect. Some levels of jungle and drum & bass were thrown in for good measure, keeping this track up to date with many of the crossover style clubs that are a bit more adventurous with their playlist.  The percussive element sounds more like a speeding heartbeat, while Moorings vocals seem to be elicited as sub-conscious self talk.

"The Same Dream" as remixed by Perfidious Words takes a more trip-hop flavor that is cloaked in the darkest of dark with. Moorings is given quite a showcase for his track that brings us face to face with a relationship on the brink of dissolution. It is quite a universal sentiment when he sings, “I’ve run out of life to give.” Just when you think the track will maintain its essence of murkiness, the BPM’s kick up.  It is quite likely that the club play for this track may start in the middle to inspire the dancers while the DJ pushes the first portion of the track into the middle as a break for introspection.

Aboforcen took no prisoners with the remix of "Liberty". They found a musical percolation that hasn’t been overused by every band out there and utilized it for the intro of this track. In an odd switch, they slow down the track to give Moorings enough time to deliver the lyric, tweak the sentiment, and then launch into an electronic missile cruiser. The electronic element was simply constructed in a wave like fashion.

At the same time, Beborn Beton utilized an updated electro-trip hop along with vocoder effects that simply cloak Moorings’ vocals into a futuristic chasm. This effect assures that COX will certainly be utilize in a film soundtrack at some very near date in time.

Michael Balch re-created "Bitter Sweet" to take Moorings to an even darker, almost sinister level with the deep reverberation of his vocals.  Odd minor chords and gentle cacophony somehow come together to make this also a club friendly track, but also one worth dissecting in order to figure out the many layers of sounds constructed around it.

In the final analysis, the most apparent thing with this remix project is the dedication for keeping Ronny Moorings vocals as up front and clearly understood as possible. The styles may vary from industrial club killer tracks to the more pensive and morose, but the dark element is never far behind.  The amount of self-reflection that went into crafting these lyrics are certainly not lost on the listener nor on those who remixed these various tracks. These remixes certainly do not come across as a cheesy means to have the hardcore fans part with more money. There is a definite quality here, no less brilliant than those of COX themselves. Notes From The Underground certainly is a remarkable work from the band, but this remix project is just as extraordinary, fresh and vibrant, setting it apart from the former CD as an entirely new project.  The listener is not accosted with ONLY dance style tracks. We are provided with reinterpretations that are also on the reflective side, which are no less stellar as those tracks meant for club rotation.  Do seek out this CD, but hurry, as the pressing is limited to 2500! It will be money very well spent. The only thing we can hope for now is a full release of COX videos, as disc 3 will make you thirst for them.

Disc 1:
1. Anguish: Deep Inside Iris Mix by Iris
2. Something’s Wrong: Avatar Mix by Angels & Agony
3. Number 1: Cut Rate Box Remix
4. Innocent: Defiled Remix by Assemblage 23
5. I Want You Now: Tri-State Remix
6. The Same Dream: DJ RAM Nightmare Mix
7. At Your Mercy: In Strict Confidence Remix
8. Liberty: Damon Fries/Boudoir Mix
9. Into Her Web: Remix by Sophya, Idan K., additional vocals by Sonja
10. Internal Darkness: The Second Sight Remix bye Dierk Budde

Disc 2:
1. Anguish: Remix by Front 242
2. The Same Dream: Perfidious Words remix
3. Liberty: Remix by Aboforcen
4. Something’s Wrong: Beborn Beton Remix
5. The Bitter Sweet: Blackland Remix by Michael Balch (ex-Front Line Assembly)

Disc 3:
Video Interview with Ronny Moorings and Mojca for Dump TV, Amsterdam February 2001 (Interviewed, edited, subtitled and mastered by Rene van Nuland)

Clan of Xymox webpage:

Metropolis Records: