And One’s latest album, Aggressor, is a return to the minimalist pop sound of their previous records. The lyrics aren’t particularly deep or thought-provoking - subjects include dead tulips, airplanes, and the color black - but deep thought is not the purpose of this album. No, the purpose of this album is to pack crowds of black-clad club kids onto the dance floor, and in that regard it succeeds admirably.
Discounting the instrumental intro and outro pieces and the darkly comedic “Tote Tulpen,” there isn’t a track on this album that doesn’t fit perfectly into the flashing strobe lights and thumping electronic bass of today’s EBM/industrial club scene. In my experience, the stand-out tracks are “Schwarz” and “Fur Immer,” but looking at playlists from around the world it’s obvious that other DJs have had similar success with other tracks off the album - “Sternradio” seems to be particularly popular, though I would have put it a little below “Krieger” and “Fersehapparat,” personally.
If I have any criticism of Aggressor, it’s that it’s a little too “classic And One.” There’s not a lot to distinguish the tracks on this album from each other, or from previous hits such as Panzermensch and Deutschmaschine. The one exception, as I noted earlier, is the bouncy-but-sinister Tote Tulpen, an infectious pop dirge about a profoundly dysfunctional relationship. Good times.
So, would I recommend buying Aggressor? Well, for people who enjoyed And One’s last few albums, I’d say go for it - these are the same club friendly synthpop anthems And One has been cranking out for years, and they’re as good as they’ve always been. The band has also paid a lot of attention to the flow from one song to the next on this album, so it works just as well for grooving along in the car or living room as on the dance floor. For those few club djs who haven’t already gotten their hands on it, though, Aggressor is a no-brainer. This is one of very few albums almost guaranteed to pack the floor from the first time it’s played, and it’s sure to become a highly requested club staple.
1. Kein Anfang
7. Fur Immer
11. Tote Tulpen
12. Kein Ende
Current Band Members
Steve Naghavi: lyrics, vocals, programming, keyboards, machines
Chris Ruiz: Vocals, drums, keyboards, programming, dancing
Gio van Oli: keyboards, drums
(German) www.andone.uk.co (English)
The New Light (Erebus Odora/Cyclic Law)
~reviewed by Stuart Moses
Even when not reviewing music for Starvox I am the sort of person who reads CD inlays. With The New Light I am particularly rewarded by this habit as I have learnt something about myself, courtesy of the thoughts of Peter Bjärgö. He reveals the intentions behind the music he makes as Arcana; to create medieval-music, or perhaps music based on the romantic images we have of the middle ages.
In short Arcana takes the listener away from the humdrum of everyday life and transports them to another time or place. It doesn’t matter that this place and time never existed or is not historically accurate. It doesn’t make the journey false. As Neil Gaiman says, stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things.
What Peter has done is explain to me why I like the symphonic music that conjures up images of ancient times and far away places. I’m going to have to do some deep thinking about quite why these romantic images appeal to me so much. Why do I love fantasy writing, when most of it seems to be so badly written? Is it a way of tapping into a romantic ideal of times gone by? Why do I find this attractive? Is there something lacking in my current life?
I discovered Arcana when a friend made me a tape because she knew I was a big Dead Can Dance fan. If you like Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard’s gothic phase, circa Within The Realm of a Dying Sun and Spleen and Ideal you should be listening to Arcana. This album celebrates ten years of the band’s existence with a series of unreleased demos, alternative recordings and previously unreleased songs, which makes it as good a place to start as any.
"The Opening" was written in 2001 as the introductory music for Arcana live performances. It’s ominous and foreboding, sounding like the spooky soundtrack to a superior horror movie. It’s less a song more a fragment, but sets the tone for what is to come. A susurrating synthesiser moves across the base of the song, while what sounds like a dulcimer jangles. Meanwhile a man whispers gnomically over the top. Suddenly you know you are in a very different world from your own.
The sleeve notes tell the particular terrible tragedy that listening to "Reminiscence" conjures in the mind of Peter Bjärgö, which is certainly a chilling interpretation. I interpret it differently, as the sound of primordial oceans, where malodorous mists roll across the virgin shore. There is great sadness here, but beauty too. It’s instrumental bar the sound of the waves. If there were New Age shops in Mordor, this is the music they would play.
The next three songs "Source of Light", "Fade Away" and "Wound" were on the demo that got Arcana signed to Sweden’s ambient, industrial and dark medieval folk-label Cold Meat Industry. There’s something about this music that connects directly to my emotions, which makes it difficult to interpret with my intellect. Once again I feel a mixture of sadness and elation, but perhaps more pertinently I feel emotion that is deep. This means that there are certain circumstances which are more appropriate to hearing this music. It would seem wrong to listen to this on the bus, unless you want to make your journey to work feel much more epic than it already is. After a hard day this music can act as catharsis, leaving the listener drained, yet elated. Fans of the male voice will appreciate these versions as they are without female vocals.
Foolishly I once attempted to encourage the people I work with to listen to Arcana. They were polite but made comments along the lines of: “Only suitable if I was having a black mass” and “I imagine it being sung by monks.” So Arcana aren’t for everybody. They make music out of the ordinary, though as long as you don’t find Dead Can Dance too esoteric you should enjoy songs like Lament, which sounds exactly as the title suggests it should. It doesn’t matter what Peter Bjärgö was lamenting, his music transcends specifics and taps into the universal well of human emotions. If you’ve ever felt sorrow, remorse or regret then this song should mean something to you.
Bar the opening "The Opening" this album is in chronological order. As time goes on Peter Bjärgö seems to have succumbed to a habit shared with Dead Can Dance, that of giving songs long names that sound pretty, but that don’t actually mean as much as you first think they do. "Say hello to Prophecy of the Inevitable", "Eclipse of the Soul" and my favourite "Like Statues in the Garden of Dreaming". Their unwieldy monikers don’t stop them from being beatific songs. There’s a gentle progression through the years as Peter Bjärgö’s palate grows larger. These songs sound less unremittingly bleak than the earlier ones. They seem full of awe for something greater, more ancient, more magical than anything we can fully comprehend.
"Through the Grey Horizon" may be the last Arcana song we get that tells tales of traditional fantasy. After ten years Peter Bjärgö has decided it is time to move on. He sings softly, in what sounds like an elegy to the passing of a world. I can catch only fragments of words and the style is more Brendan Perry’s solo folk musings than full-on Dead Can Dance symphony.
"Wings of Gabriel" marks the end of this album, but gives us a clue about the journey on which we are about to embark. Work is already underway on the next release, called Le Serpent Rouge which explores what Peter Bjärgö describes as ‘the Arabic sound’. I look forward to joining him on his travels. Journeying through mythical past of countries I know has helped me understand myself more, so I wonder what lessons can I learn from undiscovered continents?
Source Of Light
Prophecy of the Inevitable
Eclipse of the Soul
Like Statues in the Garden of Dreaming
Through the Grey Horizon
Wings of Gabriel
People involved in Arcana
through the years:
Peter Bjärgö - vocals and instruments
Ann-Mari Thim - vocals and instruments
Stefan Eriksson - vocals and instruments
Ida Bengtsson - vocals and instruments
The website: http://www.erebusodora.net/arcana/
~reviewed by John Hyland (dj SpinMonkey)
(band photo by Jasper E. Coolidge)
I have to admit, when I first listened to Autodrone my immediate response was “Bleargh,” followed by the skitter-skitter of a CD case being coasted across my desk to the back of the “to review” pile. Between the monotonous vocals and obnoxious droning background noise, I just couldn’t find any reason to like it: they sounded like a garage band with diarrhea of the lead guitar. For the sake of thoroughness, I read their press sheet and consulted my research assistant, Mr. Google, who turned up the tale of a fledgling indy/dream-pop/experimental performance-art band from New York. Apparently, they give very entertaining concerts, but that didn’t particularly improve my opinion of the record.
After a week or so of listening to other albums, I eventually worked my way back to Autodrone and found, to my considerable surprise, that it wasn’t horrible. In fact, I sort of liked it. Somehow, I was suddenly impressed by the earnest shoegazer quality of the lyrics and the smoothly turned vocals that floated over a rough guitar soundscape. I think part of the trick is that I accidentally skipped the first track, “Forward Fever,” which remains unpleasantly discordant even after repeated listening. On the other hand, I can’t explain why I ever disliked Susana Mendelez’s smoky, intense singing voice - she’s most of the reason I’m still listening to this album, especially on the later, more sedate tracks like “Entertainment” and especially “Exit.” Speaking of which, the last track, “Exit,” is easily the high point of the LP. In it, the slightly jarring drone that seems ever-present throughout the rest of the album is trimmed back to give those sultry vocals room to play, and Angel Eagleston finally shines on the bass guitar. The smoother, more melodic approach to the bulk of this track keeps it from being “just another garage band song,” and it gives the harsher edge a lot more impact when they do bring it back in.
All in all, this is a hard album to summarize. It is not simple, universally accessible pop pablum, and it isn’t easily pegged in to any one genre. There’s a harsh edge that isn’t going to appeal to everybody, and it’s not as polished as it could be. On the other hand, who’s really looking for polish in indy rock? For people who like dream-pop or shoegazer and don’t mind an edgier sound, Autodrone is at least worth checking out. Go to the web site. Download some of the mp3s. Listen to them a few times, even if they don’t seem immediately fantastic. This isn’t my favorite album of the year, but there’s a lot to like for those who take the time to listen for it.
1. Forward Fever
2. Blue Mind
3. For Now
Susanna Melendez: Vocals
Jeremy Alisauskas: Guitars
Greg Wilson: Guitars
Angel Eagleston: Bass, Piano
David Parmeter: Drums, Tambourine
The Self Immolation Rite
~reviewed by Goat
An ironic sidenote to start the review. When I put this in my CD player, the player identified it as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s “The Many Sounds of Christmas”. Truth is so much stranger than fiction could ever hope to be.
While I disagree personally with most of the tenets the philosophical aspects the album are based on or were gleaned from, I can see that if I were someone who adhered to or put myself in alignment with those tenets, this work would be valuable to me philosophically as well as sonically.
Even with the inherent disagreement, I can also see where this work could be used effectively as a meditation tool by people who aren’t particularly in agreement with Illuminist, Satanic, etc. ideals. The journey through these sounds could be cleansing for anyone, and, the artist who participated in the project makes this distinction very clear, which I appreciated.
I suppose the best way to describe the thing is to simply call it a descent into hell, or an ascent into an outer space so brutal it might as well be hell.
It’s not something one would generally “chill out” to, but more something someone would, as the title suggests, burn away one’s mental drosses to.
The layers and levels of sound here are exciting and interesting through-out. Experimental electronics sometimes tend towards a sort of “noodling” that can cause even the most attentive listener to drift. Not so this. While there is a dark ambience to it, it’s an active darkness that engages the mind to follow through to the end of the journey. This sense of journey or motion is what I like best about this work. I feel each time I listen to it, I learn something; about myself, if nothing else. I learn what frightens, what annoys, and in the end, having had my nerves and senses tested, awakened, I am left at the silence in the end with the wonderful sensation that I am alive!
Very much recommended to psychonauts, those who enjoy the cleansing aspects of dark electronica, fans of all the various journeys through darkness, and all the artwork and literature which surrounds them.
As far as I can tell, there is no track listing for this album. One does not miss it, as the artwork and liner notes in the booklet are invigorating. Who needs track listings?!?!
Happiness In Magazines (Transcopic)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
Ooh, look, it's a pop star.
Graham Coxon, of course, was previously the guitarist in Blur, before striking off on his own. Here’s his latest solo album, and bugger me if it ain’t a bit of a lulu. Coxon has conjured up a set of supercool, spunky, punky-rocky songs which match gutsy, glammy guitar to witty, whimsical lyrics which recall vintage-glam David Bowie, or Mott The Hoople at their most arch. It’s a very British rock sound, which tips its hat to classic influences while always remaining entirely contemporary. A neat trick if you can do it, of course, and what makes Coxon’s achievement even more noteworthy is that he’s done it all by himself. Literally. Aside from occasional contributions by other musicians on piano, horns, strings and percussion, everything we hear is performed by Graham Coxon alone.
‘Spectacular’ rushes at us like a boisterous dog, riding on a chugga-chugga guitar riff that recalls Brian Eno’s long-lost glam classic, ‘Seven Deadly Finns’. The song is a glorious head-back-and-holler glam-stomper of the old school, the guitar as gritty as a sack of gravel, Coxon singing in an exaggerated Laaaahndon accent that recalls Bowie when he allows his Brixton roots to show through. In Coxon’s case, of course, it’s all quite ersatz - he grew up in Colchester, for heaven’s sake - but he’s so gleefully shameless about it (even printing the lyrics phonetically in the inlay booklet) that I have to forgive him.
‘No Good Time’ is a jaundiced observation of a not-quite-as-cool-as-it-seems scene, possibly a sentiment derived from Coxon’s own excursions around the alternative milieu. Check the lyrics. ‘Wasted little DJ, fillin up the floor and/Your records are all borin cause you’re cool as hell’ sings Coxon with magnificent disdain, before delivering a warning: ‘You’ll go out together, holdin hands forever/In shiny boots of leather, lookin like Lou Reed’. But it’s all couched in tones of such detachment that we know he doesn’t really care. This is a splendid ‘Been there, done that, not impressed with it any more’ song, the best I’ve heard since Bowie did ‘Join The Gang’ - and what makes it work all the better is that the lyrical disdain is set to a jaunty, upbeat tune with some very fine six-string flourishes along the way that I guarantee will have you air guitaring around your living room before the song’s half over.
Then there’s ‘Girl Done Gone’, a deliberate, and rather funny, blues-pastiche, a pertinent barb at a time when copping a few blues licks seems to be everyone’s instant passport to alternative rock superstardom. Coxon delivers this one in an exaggerated down-home blues slur, but the guitar sound is appropriately as rough as a badger’s arse and it all reaches a whacked-out climax that Jimmy Page would be proud of. ‘Bittersweet Bundle Of Misery’ is an utter contrast in that it’s a neat little alternopop song, possibly the nearest thing to a Blur-style number here. The lyrics, tumbling from line to line with fine disregard for conventional songwriting meter, concern a relationship on the rocks. It’s a goodbye song, but with enough oblique hints in the words to suggest at something dark at its heart. ‘All Over Me’ brings in the strings for an odd little ballad with an otherworldly feel, and then we pitch right back in to the rifferama zone for ‘Freakin’ Out’. Guitars on overdrive, and a put-down in the lyric that you can interpret as generally or as specifically as you like.
‘People Of The Earth’ comes at us from the point of view of an unimpressed alien: ‘People of the Earth, you have failed/You worship the Sun and the Daily Mail’ - and it’s all wrapped up in frantic distortion and killer riffs. ‘Hopeless Friend’ sends us back to the whimsical pop zone, but the guitars come along for the ride, too. ‘Are You Ready?’ is an orchestrated, psychedelic ballad that naggingly reminds me of....something. I can’t place the influence, which infuriates me, because I’m never usually lost for a reference point. Let’s just place it somewhere between Scott McKenzie and early Pink Floyd. It has the feel of a sixties session by the BBC Northern Dance orchestra about it, one of those surreal occasions where Auntie tried to get hip. ‘Bottom Bunk’ sees Graham Coxon ruminating on a romance that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be - ‘You’re very pretty and you’re tanned/But I’d rather sleep with my right hand’ - while ‘Don’t Be A Stranger’ once again showcases his winning way with a pointed put-down; ‘Don’t be a stranger to your shrink’. Oh, the big glam guitar is back on this one, too. And then, finally, ‘Ribbons And Leaves’ winds us down with a wistful, bittersweeet little ballad.
Graham Coxon will, I suppose, always be regarded as the ex-guitarist from Blur if he lives to be a hundred. But his solo stuff reveals a depth of creativity, a spiky wit, and a healthy helping of good old rock ‘n’ roll exuberance that frankly threatens to eclipse the efforts of his former colleagues. If you’ve never heard any of his music before, dive in here.
No Good Time
Girl Done Gone
Bittersweey Bundle Of Misery
All Over Me
People Of The Earth
Are You Ready?
Don't Be A Stranger
Ribbons And Leaves
Graham Coxon: Everything, except:
Louis Vause: Piano, organ
Angie Pollock: Backing vocals, marimba
John Metcalfe: String arrangements
The official websites: http://www.grahamcoxon.co.uk http://www.grahamcoxonart.com
And two unofficial ones: http://www.grahamcoxon.com http://www.grahamcoxon.fr.st
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
Death In Vegas
Satan's Circus (Drone)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
An odd bunch, this. Death In Vegas aren’t really a band. They’re one of those nebulous, shifting outfits which tend to be described as a ‘project’. Based around DJ/producer Richard Fearless, his collaborator Tim Holmes, plus an ever-changing cast of musos and guest stars, they’ve gone from indie label early days (the ‘Dead Elvis’ album) to major label almost-stardom (with the more recent releases ‘The Contino Sessions’ and ‘Mercury Rising’). Now they’re back in the underground, with this new collection on their own label.
In their time Death In Vegas have created some quite gorgeously menacing, grimacing, dark and dangerous grooves, towering, shuddering slabs of late-night menace (check out ‘Death Threat’ for a genuinely goosebump-inducing audio experience), pummelling rock ‘n’ roll madness, bourbon-soaked neo-jazz, ice-cold electroclash, and misty drifts of etherealisms. Along the way they even managed to rescue dear old Iggy Pop’s career from psuedo-adolescent metal hell with the coruscating, downright scary, murder-disco tune ‘Aisha’, unquestionably the best thing Iggy’s done for years.
All this, incidentally, illustrates one of the key points about Death In Vegas. They don’t have a vocalist. Much of their stuff is instrumental, or features cut-up sampled voices where, under normal circumstances, the vocalist would be. Occasionally, they’ll trawl in a guest vocalist to do the honours. Sometimes, this produces great results, especially when the guests are people like Iggy Pop, or Jim Reid from the Jesus And Mary Chain, or even Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream. Other times, the results aren’t quite so splendid. During Death In Vegas’ major label period, when they presumably had access to enough music biz money to buy in big stars, I was frankly rather underwhelmed to find Paul Weller and Liam Gallagher lending their vocal talents to Death In Vegas music. I wouldn’t have minded so much, except for the fact that both singers turned in exactly the kind of blandly competent performances you’d expect, over forgettable music which sounded like Death In Vegas had rather misguidedly tried to pastiche both singers’ usual dull dadrock musical backing. For this reason, I came upon this new album with a certain amount of trepidation. I really wasn’t up for another demonstration of how smoothly Death In Vegas can schmooze with their showbiz mates. Fortunately, the fact that this is an independent release gives a certain reassurance. If Death In Vegas are now operating on an indie budget again, it’s a fair bet that this time round we won’t find ourselves confronted with Liam bloody Gallagher.
Sure enough, once we start the CD spinning, it’s very quickly apparent that things are indeed different now. No superstar singers at all - instead, Death In Vegas have gone Krautrock.
‘Ein Fur Die Damen’ (oh, you smooth talking minstrels, you!) kicks things off with a pleasant if not what you’d call hard hitting retro-electro groove, while ‘Zugaga’ is, essentially, a rewrite of Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans Europe Express’, the tune following Kraftwerk’s blueprint so faithfully I fully expected to see the original writers namechecked in the credits. This is Death In Vegas in homage-mode, and a neat encapsulation of where they’re coming from on this album. ‘Heil Xanax’, on the other hand, is like Jah Wobble in a flotation tank, layers of atmosphere giving way to the throb of a deep bass and drumbeats which have been thoroughly reverbed into submission. ‘Black Lead’ is a loping, faintly menacing prowl through a fog of dub effects, a suitable soundtrack to the nocturnal wanderings of a science fiction Jack the Ripper. It’s close, claustrophobic, a forbidding cityscape in the silence of the night conjured up in sound. In many ways it’s the most effective track here.
‘Sons Of Rother’ is a slice of vintage experimentation, if that’s not a contradiction. A synth-pulse, a drum kit, treated guitars, and some endearing little ‘whewp!’ noises - it’s all very mid-70s BBC Radiophonic Workshop, in a way. This could be Colin The Flying Robot’s Theme from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (if Radio 4 ever gets around to making that particular episode, consider this a recommendation!)
‘Candy McKenzie’ is a tripped-out psychedelic dub atmosphere piece, a pile-up of surface noise, glitches and reversed sounds which unexpectedly breaks into some warm, recirculating guitar as the track unfolds. ‘Reigen’ and ‘Kontroll’ are two further exercises in Krafterkian chrome-plated electronica, stern and expressionless as they pulse away, while Anita Berber’ is slow, dreamy, built around a constantly repeating guitar motif which sounds like it’s going to develop into one of Death In Vegas’ avant-rock grooves any minute...but doesn’t. ‘Head’ features the full band clattering away (the drums in particular, sound very ‘live’) - psychedelic treated guitars, the works. It’s very warm, very organic, a complete contrast to the electronic precision of the previous stuff, although the track lacks any real focal point. It sounds a bit too much like the forgettable music that gets played over the end credits of a movie, while everyone is getting up and leaving the cinema. Nobody’s paying much attention, but you’ve got to have *something* on the soundtrack. We end on ‘Come Over To Our Side, Softly, Softly’, which turns out to be a minimalist trip through synthesised blooping, the kind of thing that would have been hailed as groundbreaking experimentation in 1975, but which frankly seems a little self-indulgent thirty years on.
This is not, by any means, Death In Vegas’ most accessible album. It’s all based around moods and ideas, atmospheres and experimentation, a deliberate homage to mid-seventies European egghead-rock and pioneering electronica, with some Pil-esque dub excursions thrown in along the way. If you’ve got your CD shelf arranged by musical style, ‘Satan’s Circus’ might fit quite neatly between ‘The Man Machine’ and ‘Metal Box’. Alternatively, if you’re looking for compatible artists, then by all means slip Death In Vegas between King Tubby and Neu and they’d fit right in. But this isn’t an album for fans of Death In Vegas’ storming rock incarnation - unless you grab what I assume is a limited edition double album version of this release, which includes a live set recorded at Brixton Academy, and features all the mad-bastard rockers in full effect. If you’re entirely new to the band, then I’d suggest starting with ‘The Contino Sessions’ (that’s the one with Iggy Pop on it) and proceeding with equal parts enthusiasm and caution from that point on. ‘Satan’s Circus’ is a fine entertainment in itself, but it’s likely to be a bemusing experience for latecomers to the show.
Ein Fur Die Damen
Sons Of Rother
Come On Over To Our Side, Softly Softly
Richard Fearless, Tim Holmes: Concepts, programming, beats, keyboards,
Terry Miles: Keyboards
Will Blanchard, Simon Hanson: Drums
Susan Delane: Vocals
Mat Flint: Bass
Ian Button, Danny Hammond: Guitars
The website: http://deathinvegas.co.uk/div/
A recent interview with Richard Fearless: http://www.whisperinandhollerin.com/chat/chat.asp?id=1790
An older interview with Tim Holmes: http://www.freewilliamsburg.com/august_2003/vegas.html
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Death of the Author EP
~reviewed by Brian Parker
Although not around for long, Emulsion has already begun extensive touring, and has turned out an impressive five-track debut CD. Citing Coil, Boards of Canada, and GYBE! as influences, Emulsion promises an accomplished future with this short release. Production values are high: the recording is clear and well-mastered, and the humble slipcover features gorgeous original artwork by John Bergin (C17H19NO3, Lolo, Tertium Non Data), known for his work on the Crow comic book.
The EP opens with a cover of the Cure’s “Pornography.” Whether brave or foolhardy, the cover isn’t particularly faithful. However, the track is beautiful in its own eerie way, with samples and string textures reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti.
The listener is then dumped abruptly into “Is Lust” and its droning, mid-tempo beat; this is almost an anti-interlude before the tranquil but melancholy “Undone,” which offers synthesized strings and ambient electronic textures. As it wraps up, the listener is struck with an unsettled sense of moving between three jarringly different tracks quickly; none of which are overly long, all wrapping up in about three minutes each. There is no chance of getting bored as each sonic course is rapidly offered up one after the other.
The fourth track, “Sonido Negro,” is fairly minimal and almost disappointing in the agitated state brought on by the first three tracks. The final (and longest, at five and a half minutes) track is “Every Machine Makes a Mistake.” There is some slow percussion, but it’s also a minimalist ambient piece, and left me wanting more.
Keep your ears open for this artist; although this debut CD is modest, there is a great deal of promise for more impressive future releases.
Track Listing: Pornography;
Is Lust; Undone; Sonido Negro; Every
Machine Makes a Mistake
Contact Emulsion (band):
636 W. Diversey Pkwy. #185
Chicago IL 60614-1511
Toys In Coin Machines
~reviewed by Brian Parker
Sometimes you hear new bands and they suck. Being interested in independent music, that’s just a part of life you got used to. But every now and then, you hear an act that really strikes you; you like them, and you wish that everybody else in the world could hear them, and love them like you. They’re that good.
But every once in a blue moon you hear an act like Flutter, and you’re slackjawed wondering how they’re on a label you never heard of, instead of snorting lines off a groupie’s naked torso on the limo ride from their Rolling Stone photo shoot to their private jet. They’re pretty good, yeah, but more than that they’re just that accessible, and on top of it all they’re criminally photogenic.
So you’ve got this beautiful group making some poppy electronic music, and it’s bright and cheerful and has an awfully colorful cover, and they even sell these bright plastic raver bracelets (that read “Flutter”) on their website. How does a CD like this end up in the StarVox mailbag?, you wonder, and opening for acts like Concrete Blonde and Freezepop? Well, you’ve happily adopted comparable female-fronted electronic acts like Bjork and Garbage, so you figure it’s not so far-fetched to see how you (as a goth kid) could love them as well, especially as you start listening. The lyrics are often wistful, occasionally downright bleak, and once you get past the poppy “singles” like “Come (Play) With Me” (for which a video is included on the multimedia CD) and “4th Day” you really start to get it. It’s party music for dysthymics.
So you listen to the entire disc five times from beginning to end still enjoying it; what more can you ask? Well, you figure, the disc is not without its flaws: there are a few less inspired tracks, and there isn’t quite as much depth here as you’d like. Given the strong pop sensibility and fine mastering, you would have liked to hear them try something more challenging; mostly this is straightforward loops. But you notice it’s flipping around to the sixth playthrough by now, and though you’re going to turn it off, there’s no way you won’t toss it in the changer next time you’re having a party.
So if you’re anything like me, this is the kind of experience you’ll have, and you’ll be really happy that you got it at such a reasonable price (a bargain at $10 on their website, as of this writing).
Track listing: 50 Cent
Ring; Come With Me; Soft Lullaby;
Sleepwalking; Keep Me; Naked; 4th Day; Bad Idea; Citygirl; Itch; Be
Flutter is: Paul Determan, Christine Ingaldson, and Shaun Barrette
Contact Flutter (band):
PO Box 4544
Chicago, IL 60680
Contact AlphaBasic (label):
1356 N Cleveland -
Chicago, IL 60610
The Ghost of Lemora
Reach For The Ground (Resurrection Records)
~reviewed by Stuart Moses
(photo by Uncle Nemesis)
Anyone who has been to a goth gig in London over the past couple of years will have seen a performance by The Ghost of Lemora. They’re scene stalwarts to the extent I worry that people will take them for granted. They may have the scene contacts, but they also have enough stage presence and quality songwriting to deserve every gig they have been booked for.
Each member has their individual style, both off stage and on, but each is clearly part of the larger whole. There’s guitarist Swifty resplendent in feather boa, with always a topical – and usually tasteless - quip upon his lips. Stuart is the strong, silent and tall bassist. Pussy cat Sonya provides the ice queen glamour on keyboards – until another band member provokes a girlish giggle. And there’s singer Twinkle, with his little boy lost looks that mean you don’t know whether you want to take him home and toast him muffins or take him around the back alley for crumpet.
Reach For The Ground is The Ghost of Lemora’s debut album. It’s been a few years coming; in the meantime fans have had an EP and demo collection to sate their hunger for songs of tawdry glamour and faded elegance. This time has also given the band a chance to create a substantial body of work which makes Reach For The Ground sound like a Greatest Hits collection, though it still forms a cohesive whole.
For all its ‘best of’ compilation feel it starts in a solid rather than startling manner. The Glamour is a clarion call to arms and many listeners will recognise themselves as ‘gorgeous little parasites’ or at least ‘rulers of the night life.’ If Marilyn Manson is making modern Technicolor blockbuster movies then this is a cheap 50s horror version; what it loses in scale it gains in charm. There’s a glam beat that gets everyone dancing at gigs, but fails to quite engage the imagination as later songs do.
It’s the title track where this album shifts gear into classic status. At this stage it’s worth taking a glance at the inlay. The cover features a bottle of wine from the ‘Lemora Vineyards’ next to a blurred image of the band sitting in a pub. I’m sure that the fact that the alcohol is in focus but that the band aren’t is significant, I’m just not sure in what way. Alcohol and pub culture in general are themes of both the band’s life and music. How well the band’s evocation of the UK’s pub culture translates overseas I’m not sure but it immediately strikes a chord with anyone from the UK of drinking age.
Inside the inlay is a picture of alcoholic journalist Jeffrey Bernard, who serves as inspiration for the title song. Silent movie star Tallulah Bankhead is also pictured. You don’t have to know about these people to enjoy The Ghost of Lemora’s music. The band never show off their knowledge. This is an puppy dog-like enthusiasm that makes me want to find out more about the tragic characters that have acted as inspiration for the band.
Back to the tunes: the epic "Le Fol Amour" - with its mournful organ and piano arpeggios - wouldn’t be out of place on The Cure’s Disintegration. The band’s lyrics, as always, intrigue: ‘My fantasies that first shocked and then delighted me.’ Words are very important the band. Though the melodies are strong enough on their own, the lyrics add to the emotional impact and resonance.
The band glower with righteous anger for "The Ground Beneath Our Feet". It opens with a church organ, but the evocation of religion is ironic. Twinkle sings: ‘I don’t care about my soul, it’s my body I want to save.’ This testament of existential angst asks: ‘Can a bird in a cage ever be beautiful?’ Diatribes against organised religions are rarely as succinct in righteous anger as this one. And you can dance to it too. If you’ve been drinking.
Dealing with religion is a traditional goth trope. The band take a step further into gothic cliché with the simultaneously terrifying and hilarious "Kissing The Plague". I don’t know where the bands’ collective tongues are placed on this one. It starts with a drum pattern that wouldn’t embarrass The Sisters of Mercy and comes to melodramatic climax when Twinkle sings: “What was it in the drawer … the clothes of a whore!” It’s "Carry On Screaming" summed up in three minutes.
After this the highlights come thick and fast. "Gallery Girls" features Chameleons-esque swirling guitar and features some of the bands’ most delicious words. All credit has to go to Twinkle for making the following couplet sound smooth: “ ‘The Knocking Chair’ by Knobloch. Take the part because of his name.” There’s also a Carry-On style double entendre if you are looking for that sort of thing. This is my favourite song ever about Tallulah Bankhead.
The two-minute punk-inflected "It’s Just A Ride" rather disrupts the elegiac spell cast by the previous song and it’s gone again before you can really get into it. It’s probably my least favourite song on the album, but it shows the band can rock out when they want to.
"The Return of Lila" feels like it should feature an orchestra. Its theatrical nature makes it suitable for Marc Almond or Dog Man Star-era Suede. It’s a late night elegy with Twinkle ruefully admitting: ‘I fell in love but I couldn’t fall in line.’ This song is a world away from the Manson-lite of The Glamour and is all the better for it.
The band are at their most electronic on "To The Gods (That Walk Among Us)". The influence of Rez Udhin, who co-produced the album with the band and is more well known for electronic music with Inertia, is finally felt. The subtle electronics add, rather than detract, from the band’s sound.
The climax comes with the epic "Labyrinth of Broken Dreams". I imagine this as the theme tune to the greatest mini series never made. In my mind it’s a saga about a family that owns a fleet of giant airships, but that is racked with jealousy, anger and regret.
Just when you think the show is over, the band give a thank you to those who didn’t rush out to the pub when the credits came up. The hidden track is a spooky faux horror soundtrack, which rounds things off nicely.
By the time the curtain finally falls on Reach For The Ground it feels as if you have read a hundred books, seen a thousand films, felt a million emotions. I just hope the well of inspiration is deep and the band haven’t exhausted themselves with this effort. The Ghost of Lemora have such potential it would be a shame if they weren’t to reach it. By all means let the band choose their own idols, but don’t let them follow their example.
Shadow Over Substance
Beauty Can’t Die
Reach For The Ground
La Fol Amour
The Ground Beneath Our Feet
Kissing The Plague
It’s Just A Ride
The Return of Lila
To The Gods (That Walk Among Us)
Labyrinth of Broken Dreams
The website: http://www.theghostoflemora.co.uk
The community: http://tgol.proboards20.com
~reviewed by Brian Parker
Informatik stunned fans with the release of Nymphomatik. One of the act’s two founding members, Matthew Crofoot, had been replaced by Battery Cage’s Tyler Newman; with him came big changes. Their third album on Metropolis Records, Nymphomatik radically departed from the Leaetherstrip-esque brand of harsh industrial dance Informatik had done so well. This album brought improved vocals, a synth- (or future-) pop influenced sound, and a whole lot of singing about sex. Tracks like “Perfect Stranger” made fantastic dancefloor fast-food, and DJs gobbled it up; but some fans (like, well, me) grumbled a bit and muttered about “selling out” under their breath. (As a caveat, I may have angrily shaken my fist at the change in direction, but I used the other hand to hit “Play” behind the decks more than once.)
Given that well over half of Re:Vision is made up of remixes, peppered with several new tracks in the same style, listening to Nymphomatik first is a prerequisite. (If the names of the remixers—Iris, Funker Vogt, Assemblage 23-- are what caught your eye, you’ll probably be glad to have a copy of Nymphomatik anyway.) Now, going from there, what can you expect?...
The BPM count is included for every track, and with most in the 125-140 range, DJs are an obvious target. And a peek at the credits notes “All songs published by Future Pop [BMI].” Given this, when the disc kicks off with “The World Belongs to Us,” it didn’t surprise me when it was a somewhat bland dance track. The chorus was a little catchy in a sing-along way that tried—but failed—to feel anthemic. “Revolutions” tries to be political but comes off as filler. Buried mid-disc, though, “Saints and Sinners” tries something a little different; although it won’t change the face of electronic music, the band twiddles the “song gets heavier” knob a little and lays some nice low-end mixed with catchy loops. “House of Cards” is almost as groovy, but samples and a nice synth hook are underused and buried in the mix; here’s a track I’d love to see re-mixed to bring out the dormant club hit.
Three of the tracks are remixes by other Metropolis artists. Iris remixes “Over,” not one of the best tracks on Nymphomatik, and try to re-fashion it as a dance number. The loops and percussion are catchier than the original, but it’s a little repetitive, and there still isn’t a good hook. Funker Vogt surprised me with the best remix on the disc, serving up a catchy version of “Flesh Menagerie.” Known for making a song their own with remixes, they are somewhat less heavy-handed here, perhaps because the source material isn’t vastly different from their own style. The remix is fairly faithful, but shortened, and many loops are used playfully without becoming repetitive; some effects are used on the vocals, but the change isn’t drastic, and the overall end result is a little poppier and groovy. Usually I’m not a huge fan of Funker Vogt’s remixes, but I dug this one. Assemblage 23 obviously put some effort into their remix of “A Matter of Time,” but rarely have I found Assemblage 23’s remixes to shine like their original material, and this one just didn’t do much for me.
Also included are three remixes (really, entirely new versions) by Informatik. In a nod to their roots, “Retrogradation” (from Syntax) is remade here, as are two tracks from Direct Memory Access: “Autonomous” and “At Your Command.” I may show my bias here, as a fan of the original albums, but I could not judge these kindly. All are radical departures: “Retrogradation” becomes a lackluster dance track, the fantastic (but dated) “Autonomous” is polished but stripped of soul, and only “At Your Command” fares well with the addition of sweet synths and percussion that could have come from Led Zepplin.
As a bonus, the multimedia CD includes “Watching You Watching Me” live at The Palace in Hollywood. It’s a nice freebie of a catchy song, but I can’t imagine watching it more than once: the track isn’t drastically “lived up,” and the editing doesn’t overcome the lonely feeling of the entirely-too-big-for-three-people stage they’re on.
Although I didn’t outright dislike the disc, and genuinely enjoyed several tracks, I have a hard time recommending it to non-DJs unless you can find it at a good price used. I can imagine ripping a few favorites for a mix CD or iPod, but with so many other choices available, there’s too much chaff with the wheat on Re:Vision.
Track Listing: The
World Belongs to Us; Over (Iris rmx);
Retrogradation (On the Verge Re:Vision); Revolutions; Flesh Menagerie
(Funker Vogt rmx); Saints and Sinners; A Matter of Time (Assemblage 23
rmx); Autonomous (Constant Surveillance Re:Vision); House of Cards; At
Your Command (Abdication Re:Vision)
Informatik is: Da5id
Din; Tyler Newman
Informatik website: http://www.nymphomatik.com/
Metropolis Records (label):
3 Ton Edition (Actual Size)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
A mini-album from those consummate art-punks, Leisur::Hive, and a spiky little beast it is too. Here they come, shoving out a sound as dense as early Wire, clattering the drums like the dustbins down Top Cat’s alley, slashing at guitars as abrasive as Brillo pads. Leisur::Hive are tense and stroppy, cerebral and snotty in equal measures - just the way a band should be.
‘Try To Be Still’ opens things up, a nervy shimmer of violin over a bedrock of don’t-mess-with-me drums. Then ‘On Sectional Pad’ barges in, flailing about wildly, fuzzed out and freaked out. ‘Get Clean’ is a sinister lope, built around a two-note bassline that seems to frown out from a tangle of noise, while a curiously otherworldly voice lets out a petulant wail.
‘Aeroplane’ is a piano-led mood piece, muttered voices and glitches colliding in the background. Whether it actually has anything to do with aeroplanes is a conundrum you’ll have to work out for yourself. Leisur::Hive aren’t about to make things too easy for the listener. But, having said that, ‘The Opaque’, paradoxically, is an immediate connection. It’s perhaps the nearest thing to a straightforward indie-ish song we have here, and proof, if we needed it, that Leisur::Hive can do catchy and accessible with the best of ‘em. Mind you, the way the song goes into a big, dense, scary build-up towards the end is likely to have the indie kids running to their Libertines records for sanctuary.
‘Neck Decision’ is the big anthem, a huge and fearsome racket, with a manic, sardonic vocal set back behind the heavy artillery of bass and drums, and all bulked out by a massive wall of guitar. And finally, ‘Waiting Rooms’, which rumbles like vintage PiL, the rhythm punctuated by an assertive, ever-repeating, metallic ‘Bam! Bam!’ while the bass dashes about like a mugger looking for victims.
If it’s a big, bad abrasive noise you’re looking for, always built upon solid-as-concrete bass and drums rhythms, then Leisur::Hive certainly deliver. But they’re not just noise merchants. Somewhere in the cacophony is a skewed songwriting ethic, a pop sensibility that always ensures the songs have structure, hooks, and even, on special occasions, catchy choruses. That’s the trademark Leisur::Hive balancing act. They walk a tightrope between between pop and noise, strop and poise, and they certainly don’t put a foot wrong here.
Try To Be Still
On Sectional Pad
Daniel Knowler: Voice, guitar, sampler, percussion, piano
Maria Vellanz: Guitar, violin, dictataphone, bass, autoharp, percussion, voice
Mark Bishop: Bass, microphones, noises
Bob Leith: Drums, percussion
The website: http://www.leisur-hive.co.uk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Lights of Euphoria
Krieg Gegen Die Mashinen
~review by Brian Parker
Following a short intro, the disc starts off strong with the single “True Life,” which has an anthemic trancey feeling compressed into a nice pop structure. The vocals are clear and strong, the hook is great, and it’s an extremely accessible kick-off to the disc. Front-loading the disc with the most likely hits, the collaboration with VNV Nation’s Ronan Harris follows, “Consequence (Face Yourself).” The brooding, critical lyrics are atypical for Harris but they fit the lyrical theme of the album nicely; his strong vocals are slightly distorted and laid over club-friendly beats. The inclusion of a few self-serious samples makes it all a little formulaic, but this track is obviously all about the dancefloor, not risk-taking.
Things slow down a little with “Nothing at All,” which still has great vocals and an accessible sing-along chorus that contrasts starkly with the bleak lyrics. It’s haunting, but unrepentantly EBM-flavored, and fans of Ravenous will likely pick this as a favorite. By now a lyrical theme has emerged, one which will carry through the disc: disappointed introspection, examining one’s self and finding one’s self lacking.
After a strong start, things stall a bit, with “Interface I” (there are a total of three “Interface” tracks on the disc). German spoken word (the sample is unfamiliar to me) is layered over a few minutes of soundscapes, and it breaks up the album nicely, but with the variety already present the “Interface” tracks just seem to kill the pace a little. It’s also a little striking that, after choosing to do all of the lyrics in English, they chose to liberally use German samples.
There are a few less-memorable tracks, and a couple of unusual “covers.” Run Level Zero’s “Shadows Merging” is the first, and it seems to be more of a very faithful remix than a cover. Although it fits the flow and theme of the album, it’s an odd inclusion, but a fortunate one for the many listeners who may not be familiar with the original. God Module’s “Dyskonnect” is also featured, and the busy programming is intriguing but still catchy.
Although the flow breaks down a little near the end, it’s still a great album to listen through from start-to-finish, held together by a bleak lyrical consistency (even when the lyrics are someone else’s!), strong (if occasionally unadventurous) programming, and great production values. Getting both a good album and strong singles doesn’t happen too often, and it’s nice. Lights of Euphoria don’t try to break out of the EBM genre, but fans of Funker Vogt or other catchy-but-heavy acts are sure to enjoy their efforts on Kreig Gegen Die Maschinen.
The Lust I Seek
~review by Matthew Heilman
Hailing from Finland, The Lust I Seek is a five-piece Gothic Metal ensemble, and the Serpent Scripts is the band’s second demo release. The extended world of dark metal is an extremely crowded place, and the amount of bands that should be overlooked far outnumbers the bands that should be recognized. But there is a considerable amount of promise demonstrated on this release, with a wonderful array of dark emotions presented, ranging from despondent melancholy to riff-laden heaviness.
“Beyond The Grace Divine,” the demo’s opening cut, immerses the listener in slow paced, dreary guitar harmonies. The production is raw and therefore eliminates the risk of this band having any of the atmospheric weaknesses that riddle most slick, polished, and over-produced ‘Goth metal’ heavyweights. We begin in a state of swirling, melodic gloom and descend deeper into darker, more mischievous and rhythmic heaviness, as the thickly accented vocals first appear. The initial observation that most listeners will make is that J. Wuroinen sounds remarkably similar to Fernando Ribeiro of Moonspell. It’s all in the delivery, the exotic and seductive theatricality of the clean vocals and the raspy monstrosity of the growls. Some vocalists of this breed fail and sound strained or overbearing. Silly is also a word that springs to mind. But whatever mysterious elements are at work, The Lust I Seek pass the tests and have convinced me at least, that their music is a genuine expression of decay and terror.
The band’s strengths are foremost their strong sense of melody, which rings throughout the majority of the record’s sublime guitar riffing. Of course the harmonies are backed by equally arresting rhythms, which boast thick and muscular power chord crunching over crisp and powerful drumming. The halfway point of “Crowned In Damnation” showcases a wonderfully heavy barrage of rhythmic battery. There are even a few highly charged forays into blackened Death Metal gallops and faster parts, all still firmly rooted in the purpose of creating atmosphere, as opposed to showing off. The melodic gloom merely intensifies, flirts with fear and pushes the adrenaline, before cascading back to less confrontational but equally enthralling pastures. There are a lot of changes, but the band wisely lingers and develops some great structural ideas before charging ahead prematurely. They allow the listener time to digest the various movements within the songs, and succeed in stirring the emotions. And finally, they have penned some imaginative and poetic lyrics – dwelling on the familiar themes of isolation, yearning, loss, and the ever present sense of supernatural foreboding, all produced with a keen sense of English despite the fact that it is not the band’s mother tongue.
What I liked most about this band, when compared to other contemporary dark metal bands, is that (and you guessed it) The Lust I Seek does actually come across as a relatively dark band and haven’t gotten caught up in the current over-progressive fads permeating the European metal scene at the moment. After reviewing this kind of music for nearly eight years now, I have a much more difficult time swallowing a lot of the supposed ‘melancholy’ which is truthfully nothing more than over-sensitive wispiness that is culling from the sugary well of hair metal more so than the rot of the grave. It has therefore gotten easier to distinguish between a band that is genuinely animated by a truly Gothic aesthetic or if they are merely posing because Death Metal just doesn’t cut it anymore.
The band’s sole weakness is basically the frequent use of ‘vampyric’ vocals, which run the risk of turning some folks off. I strongly maintain however that they are not nearly as distracting as some dark metal vocalists’ imitations of Andrew Eldritch that I have been exposed to. The music more than makes up for things as each of these songs have at the very least one or two passages that have the potential to impress even their most ardent critics. There is a lot of musical and technical skill that should be apparent to listeners, but the key to it all is that this band weaves a spellbinding atmosphere throughout the duration of this disc. The three epic length tracks all have their shining moments, which beckon for repeated listens just to hear your favourite part. They’re indeed one of THOSE kinds of bands! The album clocks in at just under half an hour, though it was ample time for these lads to have asserted themselves. If they stay focused, and tone the vocals down a bit, we very well will be hearing more from them in the future. Stay tuned!
1.) Beyond The Grace Divine
2.) Crowned In Damnation
3.) Anno Pandomonia
The Lust I Seek:
J. Wuorinen: vocals
K. Suhonen: guitars
J. Pekkala: guitars
A. Ojala: bass
T. Valkealahti: drums
The Lust I Seek:
Living With Eating Disorders
White Like Snow EP (Something To Listen To)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
Here we have the first proper release from Living With Eating Disorders - there were a couple of promo CD-Rs going around before this - and the first recordings of any sort to feature the full band. I confess I’m somewhat taken aback by the, er, minimalist art concept (frankly, I don’t think there was any need to interpret the title of the EP *quite* so literally), but once you’ve got behind the anonymous visual non-identity, you’ll discover music here that digs its claws into your psyche in a way that could only be Living With Eating Disorders.
‘Lullaby’, the lead track here, slinks out of the speakers with a tentative grace. Andrea’s voice is mixed close, pulling the listener in, while the music maintains a subtle, brooding, presence in the background. The power of this song is all in the lyric: there’s no need for avant-rock histrionics here, although Living With Eating Disorders are no slouches in that department when they have a mind to be, as we shall see a little later on. ‘Arm’ maintains the mood, gliding in with a deceptively fluid feel, and then building up with careful precision throughout, with the drums, set way back in the mix, hinting at hidden reserves of power.
And then, at last, it’s time to take the brakes off and slam the hammer down. ‘Horsemilk’ squeals and squalls and rips and stamps its way into the party, the guitar screeching like fingernails down a window pane. The song kicks itself into overdrive, the drums an implacable crunch and thud, the bassline shouldering its way through the tune like a skinhead in a crowded pub. Andrea’s vocal rises from a narrow-eyed accusation - ‘There’s something darkness can’t compete with in your soul’ - to a broken-glass caterwaul - ‘You give me pain I cannot dull!’ The song winds itself up to a tightly knotted climax and then eases to a halt, all passion spent.
Some remixes follow on. ‘Horsemilk’ turns up again, deconstructed and fed through a mangle along with what sounds like a bucket full of malfunctioning transistor radios, a collection of bashed-up beats gangs up on ‘Arm’, and then, the cherry on the cake, a gorgeously warm, smooth, smoochy reggae take on ‘Lullaby’, complete with a delicate muted trumpet stepping neatly through the rhythm. This is a wonderfully sympathetic treatment of the song, the rhythm wrapping itself around Andrea’s haunted vocal like a reassuring relative.
Living With Eating Disorders aren’t in the business of making accessible alternorock. They probably couldn’t care less about getting airplay on Zane Lowe’s evening slot on Radio One, or the XFM drivetime show (much as I suspect their record label would rather like those events to come about). They’re exploring their own caliginous, nebulous, mysterious and often just plain odd world. This EP gives a little glimpse inside, and I’ll bet it’ll be enough to tempt you - cautiously - further in.
Horsemilk (Sluggo's medication lapse)
Arm (Broken and constructed by Modern Boy, Paris, and Louisfi, Milan)
Lullaby (Sativa Sound remix)
Andrea Kerr: Vocals
Jared Hawkes: Keyboards, programming
Mark Bishop: Guitar
Jamie Morrison: Drums
Mike Figgis: Trumpet on Lullaby (Sativa Sound remix)
LWED official website: http://www.livingwitheatingdisorders.com
LWED's label: http://www.somethingtolistento.com
A LWED fan site: http://www.the-cradle.co.uk
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
No Love Lost (Jungle Records)
~reviewed by Stuart Moses
There's something about late 80s gothic rock that I love. Unlikely as it may sound, listening to The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and Fields of the Nephilim helps me transcend my everyday surroundings and connects me to something greater than myself. It might be a world of Jungian archetypes or some other well of human consciousness. When I'm lonely I feel less alone, when I'm lost I'm reminded I can be found. When I think it is the end, I discover it is only the beginning. Plus all three bands did great tunes to dance to when you've drunk too much snakebite and black.
Out of all three, Fields of the Nephilim always had the greatest effect on me. I'm grateful for the albums the band made before their demise in 1991. Following Fields of the Nephilim spin-off bands has sometimes been a thankless task. Without Carl McCoy leading the way the other members of Stevenage's finest floundered as Rubicon. Even Carl McCoy has disappointed with his heavy-metal take on Fields of the Nephilim by the name of The Nefilim and a collection of off-cuts (albeit released without his consent) in 2002. Only Last Rites, featuring ex-drummer Nod Wright and ex-guitarist Paul Wright, have shown consistent promise, though their 2001 album Guided By Light was stronger on atmosphere than transcendence.
It's probably not important to know how different members of NFD are related to Fields of the Nephilim, but here's a guide for the interested. Bassist Tony Pettit was a bona fide member of the band. As was guitarist Peter Yates who contributes slide guitar to three songs, "Awaken (ii) (Within Reach)", "Lost Souls (Still I Remain)" and "Enraptured". Then the links get more tenuous. Drummer Simon Rippin was a member of Carl McCoy's The Nefilim. He also performed alongside Tony with Fields Of The Nephilim in 2000. Singer Peter ' Bob' White has fewer been-in-Fields of the Nephilim credentials but has played with Simon in London-based band Sensorium.
Things begin with the intro track "Omen" reminiscent of "Dead But Dreaming", which was the introduction to Fields of the Nephilim's Elizium album. There are eldritch gibberings from unspeakable horrors, while the synthesisers surge. It clears the way for what is to come.
"Blackened (This Love of Ages)" is just one of five songs which features brackets in its title. Listening to this song is like being flown by plane. At first you are travelling through heavy weather. The guitars chug convincingly and the drums keep everything suitably oppressive. It's exciting, but not exactly pleasant. Then the clouds clear and you fly through clear blue sky while Bob sings: 'A darkened angel walking in the night, I could save her but she can't find the light.' Then the listener is plunged back into turbulent darkness. The heavy guitars might recall The Nefilim rather than Fields of the Nephilim (are you keeping up at the back?) but the two sides of the song merge effortlessly, leaving you with a sense of exhilaration. NFD neatly use a Fields of the Nephilim-esque sense of dynamics.
Third song "Stronger" starts with a plucked guitar laced with chorus and delay. Stylistically it takes its cues from Fields of the Nephilim's Watchmen, though it feels like a progression rather than a cover version under another name. The song builds and if Bob singing: 'My love is getting stronger' is hardly profound, we must remember that much of what Carl McCoy exhaled was more profane than sacred. It's all in the delivery and Bob delivers with conviction. Tony Pettit's bass can be clearly heard, adding a level of pleasure to this song.
Initially "Awaken (i) (A Life Forsaken)" fails to impress. The guitars throb heavily and Bob emotes about: ''All that we have been through. It's all become undone...' which is fair enough, but not greatly redolent of anything magical. However the mundanity is a trap for the unwary as two minutes in all the instruments are stripped back and it feels as if you have jumped off the side of a chasm. You float in slow motion midair for a minute before you hit the other side and all the colours and sounds return in a rush.
"Hold On To The Life" starts quietly. Bob wrestles with McCoy tropes such as entropy and decay: 'Don't hold on to the past. These things weren't meant to last.' This song doesn't distinguish itself especially, but works as part of the whole album.
In a more just world "Turbine (Nothing Lasts Forever)" would be a single. The imagery is evocative: 'Feel the turbine turning, see the pyres burning.' which take us to a 'city of dust' where: 'The sky is black and the rain it burns your skin. It's where the holy war begins.' There's plenty of room for interpretation, which I like. It could be a barbed political message shrouded in allegory. It might not. It allows the listener to bring his or her own interpretation. Goth has always been an apolitical place. The drumming is excellent - and the song wouldn't sound out of place on The Cult 's Beyond Good and Evil album. "Darkness Falls" continues The Cult vibe. It's the heaviest song on the album. And my least favourite. There's a pause in the fury about three minutes in - the band know how to build a song - but unlike elsewhere little is made of it.
Things are saved by "Lost Souls (Still I Remain)" which is beautiful. The lyric seems to concern having: 'nothing to lose, except your soul.' If only Carl McCoy were still around making music as good as this. It's not exactly "Last Exit For The Lost", but it feels like it should close the album in a suitably epic manner. It doesn't. We get the intriguing "Enraptured" as a curious coda. Just as "Omen" ushered us into the world of NFD, so this song lets us slowly awake from the dream and return to our own consciousness.
Inevitably this album raises more questions than it answers. How cynical is the band in their decision to have this sound? Where do NFD go from here? Is there a danger that they don't sound enough like Fields of the Nephilim for fans of the originals, yet are too close to those that weren't enthralled first time around? Basically, are NFD for real?
Perhaps the answers can be found in goth history. When Fields of the Nephilim first burst onto the scene they were seen by some as Sisters of Mercy-substitutes, yet they went on to develop their own superior sound. It' s my hope that while NFD might initially be dismissed as Fields of the Nephilim-derivatives they'll go on to develop their own sound too. Just as we once had a Sisters-of-Mercy-shaped hole in our lives that Fields of the Nephilim filled, so now we have a Fields-of-the-Nephilim-shaped gap that NFD can fill. Thinking about it we now have a Sisters-of-Mercy-shaped gap in our lives again, but we can't expect one album to do everything can we?
Listening to NFD gives me some of the same feeling of exhilaration as listening to Fields of the Nephilim. It's not Carl McCoy. You can tell that. It may drift a little in focus towards the end but it's as close as we are going to get to the magic of Fields of the Nephilim. And it's close enough.
Blackened (this love of ages)
Awaken (i) (a life forsaken)
Awaken (ii) (within reach)
Hold on to the life
Turbine (nothing lasts forever)
Peter 'Bob' White: guitars
Simon Rippin: drums
Tony Pettitt: bass
The website: http://www.nfd.web.com
Nick Cave And The Bad
Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus (Mute)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
This is not, we are assured, a double album. Instead, it’s two separate albums which Nick Cave and/or Mute have taken it into their heads to release as, effectively, a boxed set. I’m sure there’s a fiendishly clever marketing strategy behind this idea, but the end result is simply this: seventeen new Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds songs. And that can’t be bad, no matter what tricksy package they might be delivered in.
So, seventeen songs. And if there’s an overall feel to ‘em it’s this: maturity. Nick’s lyrics tend towards the reflective and the worldly-wise, the thoughts and notions of a man who’s been around and done it all, and has finally reached some conclusions, settled his unquiet spirit (well, at least for some of the time) and can now afford a quizzical glance around at a world that seems to bemuse and amuse in equal measures. But it’s also in the flavour of the music. The caution-to-the-winds thunder of the Bad Seeds that we’ve come to know and love on previous albums, the way the band would churn out the music as if in the midst of a bar-room brawl, is here often mellowed and eased to a kind of late-night bluesey cruise, the musicians pacing themselves all the way. Even on the raucous numbers, like ‘Get Ready For Love’, a rollicking, hollerin’ gospel throwdown, the Bad Seeds never quite let go. They still know how to brew up a righteous racket, but they keep that racket neatly contained.
As an example of this sense of control and restraint, we can do no better than to consider ‘Nature Boy’, which hardly sounds like Nick Cave at all. On first hearing it could almost be one of those mystical love songs Van Morrison sometimes comes up with, smoothly crooned to an easy rock ‘n’ roll backing. (Either that, or it’s a variation on Steve Harley’s ‘Come Up And See Me, Make Me Smile’, which the tune naggingly resembles at times). It does require a slight crunch of mental gears to appreciate that what we’re hearing is, in fact, Nick Cave, old mister Jangling Jack himself, and those maestros of rampaging barrelhouse stomp, the Bad Seeds. All parties are certainly all on their best behaviour here. Fortunately, the song itself, when you penetrate the disconcertingly smooth production and Nick’s own uncharacteristically restrained delivery, is good. The way the verses give way to the rise and tumble and release of the chorus is a neat touch, and the lyrics reveal a wit that is distinctly Cave-esque. What other songwriter, I ask you, could rhyme ‘hysteria’ with ‘wisteria’ and get away with it?
Nick’s lyrical pen is as sharp as ever throughout all the songs, and comes up with many couplets and sets out many scenarios which make me crack an involuntary grin. ‘There She Goes, My Beautiful World’ is a slice of roaring glory - a pell-mell, accusatory anthem to Nick’s muse, who apparently is being a bit tardy in coming through with the goods. ‘St John of the Cross did his best stuff imprisoned in a box/And Johnny Thunders was half alive when he wrote Chinese Rocks,’ points out Nick with petulant irritation, before ruefully considering his own situation: ‘Me, I’m lying here, for what seems like years/I’m just lying on my bed with nothing in my head’. I think Nick’s just gone and written the best song ever about writer’s block.
‘Hiding All Away’ is a crawl through a musical swamp, punctuated by galumphing drums and Nick’s splendidly melodramatic, wrenched-out vocal, interspersed with brief, rackety squalls of ill-used guitar, one of the few occasions where the Bad Seeds get really down and dirty. The final chorus, a give-it-everything cry of ‘There is a war coming!’ with the band getting crazy in the background, is vintage stuff. On ‘Abattoir Blues’ Nick finds himself caught up in a disintegrating world, gazing around with his trademark grim humour: ‘I went to bed last night and my moral code got jammed/I woke up this morning with a Frappucino in my hand’ he sings, a line which neatly skewers the dilemma of anyone who’s found themselves swept up by the relentless corporatisation of everything, try as they might to avoid it.
‘Let The Bells Ring’ is an excursion into the art myth-making, and a slightly surprising one at that. Because, if I haven’t interpreted Nick’s words all wrong, this song is Nick’s own tribute to...Bill Clinton. The references are all pretty oblique, although it’s clear that the song is a hagiographic exercise in we-are-not-worthy-ness directed at someone. But there’s one couplet that drops the essential clue: ‘ All the way from Arkansas/To your sweet and last amen’. I would never have figured Nick, consummate cynic that he is, for a fan of big Bill’s easy charm, but perhaps the point that’s being made here is not quite so obvious. It’s not necessarily that the Clinton presidency was as good as all that - it’s more that by hailing the Clinton years as a golden age, Nick can make a telling point about the grim times that have followed. As the song says: ‘...behold your mighty work/That towers over the uncaring ground/Of a lesser, darker, world’.
It would be over-simplistic to characterise ‘Abattoir Blues’ as the noisy album, while ‘The Lyre Of Orpheus’ is the collection of ballads and smoochers, but it’s nevertheless a fact that the Bad Seeds do pull their horns in somewhat on the second album of the set. Of the songs on the second disc, only ‘Supernaturally’ has a crackling fire in its belly. Elsewhere, the mood is cooled-out, downbeat, and distinctly after-hours. ‘Breathless’ is an alarmingly hippyish love song, complete with hello-trees, hello-sky nature references, while ‘Babe, You Turn Me On’ is a pean to holy lust in a world gone bad - an effective concept, but I must confess when Nick sings the line ‘I make like I’m a little deer/Grazing on the flowers’ I find it difficult to conjure up the requisite mental image. I can imagine Nick Cave as many things, but not, frankly, as a ‘little deer’.
This is an album brimming with confidence, an album by an artist who has worked hard to establish himself and is now enjoying his status. It’s an album of wit and charm, humour and bite, and if the lyrical barbs are often concealed by disarmingly polished music, well, that’s just Nick’s way these days. Nick Cave’s art mellows and matures like a fine wine, and although I find myself occasionally hankering after the rough old plonk of yesteryear, I’m happy to quaff the present vintage down.
Get Ready For Love
Hiding All Away
There She Goes, My Beautiful World
Let The Bells Ring
Fable Of The Brown Ape
The Lyre Of Orpheus
The Lyre Of Orpheus
Babe, You Turn Me On
Nick Cave: Vocals, piano
Martyn P. Casey: Bass
Warren Ellis: Violin, mandolin, bouzouki, flute
Mick Harvey: Guitars
James Johnston: Organ
Conway Savage: Piano
Jim Sclavunos: Drums, percussion
Thomas Wydler: Drums, percussion
Official site for Nick Cave
And The Bad Seeds:
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
on the Mute website:
And a couple of unofficial
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis:
Live 2003 (DVD)
~reviewed by Brian Parker
I’ll confess: to me, the idea of selling a concert recording never seemed like such a hot one; the intangible energy you get at live shows doesn’t translate well to film. Also, although this DVD includes a Dolby 5.1 sound transfer, I don’t have the audio setup to review its quality. Given these caveats, I approached the prospect of reviewing this two-DVD set with some trepidation. (The first DVD is a live concert, the second a collection of videos.)
DVD 1 / LIVE:
In an age of concert footage releases consisting of several shows spliced together, it’s worth noting that, for better or for worse, the DVD presents a single show in Dresden. The concert kicks off with the hit “Timekiller” and a raucous “God Wrote.” Immediately evident are the mixed blessings of going from studio to live: vocalist Peter Spilles’ voice is a little weak in places without studio help, but the use of live drums gives things a kick.
As the show goes on, we see fairly faithful interpretations of most highlights of the band’s catalog. As you might expect, the guitar-heavy material —especially upbeat tracks— particularly shine, although the more electronic material is not poorly represented, either.
The more subdued material occasionally drags, for several reasons. One is the track order; though alternating between faster and slower tracks may have seemed like a good idea, I was often frustrated with some sequences: a groovy track like “En Garde” moves into a thrashing guitar-heavy “Conjure” to be followed by a measured “I Live Your Dream.” Had they followed popular favorites (like “Carnival”) with aggressive tracks (like the smashing version of “I Am (A Thought In Slowmotion),”) they might have built better energy before giving the crowd a breather. As is, the crowd seems to alternate between going nuts for big hits and looking impatient as they wait for the next favorite.
This pacing mars an otherwise excellent and energetic performance. Spilles hams it up appropriately, without going overboard, and Dirk Scheuber dances happily at his keyboard. Everyone is in good spirits and seems to have their hearts in the performance without showboating. Given Project Pitchfork’s diverse oeuvre and large catalogue, they do an admirable job of covering different “periods” of their career and hitting the popular tracks. (To me personally, though, their exclusion of “Steelrose” was a shock.)
Beyond the music, of course, is the visual presentation. Several cameras are employed, and the editing is well-paced; it may be less frenetic than the MTV generation is used to, but enough cuts and fades are used to make it a slick presentation. Supplementing the band are video clips projected onto a huge screen behind them. These are never as obtrusive as you might expect, with the camera always returning to the band—sometimes you might even wish you caught more of the projection, although often there are nothing but “non sequitur” images you’ll recognize from the sessions for some of the music videos. Only once does the show’s effects outshine than the band, during “Awakening,” with projected explosions synchronized to flashing orange lights (all edited to much more dramatic effect than I can fairly describe here). In fact, the band (particularly Spilles) is so heavily the focus of the editing that when the cameras keeping panning over the crowd during “Carnival” it will stand out. Throughout the show, nice graphics present the name of the next song after the previous one ends, never becoming obtrusive.
One problem stands out, though:
the sound and video are not always well synchronized. This did not
significantly detract from my enjoyment, but it is a little annoying when
you see lips out-of-synch with vocals.
DVD 2 / CLIPS:
The music videos, presented in roughly reverse chronological order, are listed under two separate menus as “This Century” and “Last Century”; but they are more logically divided into three categories.
The first three tracks are each from one of the recent “trilogy” set of releases: “View From A Throne” from the EP of the same name, “(The) Deepest Place” from the Inferno full-length, and “Behind The Fog” from the Trialog EP. None of these videos show the band, and each uses a good deal of the same footage in a loop, making me wonder whether this was meant to be high-concept art or whether it was slapped together for cheap promotion. Either way, I felt fairly indifferent to this set.
The next five (“Existence,” “Timekiller,” “Carnival,” “I Live Your Dream,” “Steelrose”) are from a middle period with the albums Daimonion and Eon:Eon. This period was the height of their popularity, at least in the U.S.; as such, I expect most buyers of the Metropolis DVD will jump quickly to these. “Existence” has the highest production values of the lot, and almost comes off as a surreal art film set in the desert. “Timekiller,” likely their biggest U.S. club hit, disappoints: seemingly inspired by the movie versions of Naked Lunch or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, what seems to be meant as a visual absinthe trip comes off as the silliest video I’ve seen since the 80’s (and that includes Duran Duran’s body of work). Thankful to put that behind me, I found “Carnival” very sexy and engaging (even with Spilles’ and Scheuber’s silly mugging at the camera), and “I Live Your Dream” quite well done. Even the low-budget “Steelrose” was engaging with its simple sex appeal; I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the stripper had something to do with that!, but those of a different persuasion will lick their lips at the sight of Spilles and Scheuber in mesh shirts.
The DVD wraps up with a low-tech set of videos for harsh older material: “Conjure” evokes a sense of Skinny Puppy or FLA with its collage of wartime imagery; “Crash!” a small live show; “Souls” and “Renascence” are, well, the kind of thing an ambitious band on a small budget in the early nineties does. Although these don’t age well, they’re gems for the nostalgic.
Were the first DVD sold alone, I’d be inclined to recommend buying Project Pitchfork’s albums instead of the DVD—of course if you’re already fan enough to have gotten most of the albums, the DVD is a no-brainer. But with the videos to sweeten the deal, you’re getting an interesting sample of Project Pitchfork’s material all in one place. This is not a terrible place for the curious with limited knowledge of the band to check them out, but for a sampling of studio versions you might also consider the collections The Early Years ‘89-‘93 (domestic) and Fireworks and Colorchange (Germany). On the other hand, there (surprisingly) is not an exhaustive straightforward “best of” for Project Pitchfork, and this is the only way to get those videos domestically. For fans, recommended, especially for the videos; for the curious, this should serve to whet your appetite and direct you to the “period” of their career that most suits your tastes.
DVD 1 (Live) tracks:
Timekiller; God Wrote; Trialog; Drone State;
Inferno; Awakening; I Am (A Thought In Slowmotion); Terra Incognita;
Mine (Beast of Prey); Carnival; We Are One; Alpha Omega; Tal Der
Dornen; The Spoken Mirror; Daimonion; En Garde; Conjure; I Live Your
Dream; Die Schlange vs (Damon der Antwort); Existence; Your Cut
Feather; Metamorphosis; Rescue; Carrion; K.N.K.A.
DVD 2 (Clips) tracks:
View From A Throne; Deepest Place; Behind The
Fog; Existence; Timekiller; Carnival; I Live Your Dream; Steelrose;
Conjure; Crash!; Souls; Renascence
Project Pitchfork is:
Achim Farber, Jurgen Jansen, Carsten Klatte,
Dirk Scheuber, and Peter Spilles
Project Pitchfork website: http://www.pitchfork.de
Once Upon A Time At Pagan Love Songs EP (Self release)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
As you might gather from the title, this is a limited edition EP produced to coincide with Quidam’s appearance at the Pagan Love Songs club in Germany a while back. The copy I have in my hands (and in my CD player) is numbered 86 out of 90, which, assuming the CDs are going out in numerical order, means you’ll have to hurry if you want one - they’re still available from the band’s website. Apparently there’s an album in the works, so even if the EP is sold out the band may be able to give you some info about future releases.
Either way, I think the world needs to hear Quidam. I’ll grant you the world may not *want* to hear Quidam, but I think it would do the world good to be strapped down long enough to listen. Because Quidam are quirky and discordant and different. They stick out in today’s goth-crop like cats in a dogs’ home. That should be enough to make us all sit up and take notice.
‘Horrores’ sounds alarmingly like it’s going to be a po-faced piece of doom-synthpop at first, but a boldy-struck bass shoulders its way in, closely followed by a fractious, angular guitar riff and a yelped-out vocal, which jumps about over the top like an excitable Lene Lovich . Backing voices bicker and squabble, but they’re down in the mix, like a hubbub of conversation heard through a wall, while the rhythm stops and starts and stops and starts and then...stops. ‘Brich Aus’ is an argument between the synth and the guitar, each instrument kicking its own riff around, while two voices fight it out over which one is lead and which one is backing. ‘Long Ages Ago’ is moody and sepulchral, at least until the guitar comes in, wailing in an off-kilter counterpoint to the keyboards. Two voices battle for room here as well, sometimes colliding, sometimes taking the same lyrical line for a spin. The song rattles along on a driving, jumpy drum pattern - and, yes, it really is possible to be driving and jumpy at the same time. Quidam thrive on such contradictions. ‘Seres Nada’ eases itself in quite respectably, but quickly revs up until it sounds like The Slits on a very boisterous Spanish holiday, the keyboards resolutely plugging away while the guitar rocks out in a frankly rather Frank Zappa-ish way. There, comparisons with The Slits and Frank Zappa in a handful of words - strange bedfellows, maybe, but reconciling such apparent incongruities is Quidam all over.
Quidam are definitely weird,
and actually rather wonderful. And the great thing about them is that I
suspect they don’t quite realise just how strange they are. They’re utterly
unselfconscious in their weirdness, and that’s rather endearing. A refreshingly,
delightfully odd release by a band who clearly don’t see why anyone should
bother with the rule book.
Long Ages Ago
Paco Boli: Guitar, vocals, programming
The Raven: Bass
The website: http://www.quidamcave.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Get Infected!!! (Vodka Distillery Records)
~review by Uncle Nemesis
What have we here? Lurid and raucous, unashamedly lo-fi, junk-shop punk rock, that’s what - and it’s great. This album sounds like it was recorded in a garage, without taking the lawn mower and the garden furniture out first. In fact, some of it sounds like it was recorded *on* the lawn mower and the garden furniture. But that’s just the way it should be. There would be something very wrong if The Rabies sounded like their music had been wrapped in studio cotton wool, because this band is all about being as loud and as brash as possible. They seem to be equally influenced by the first Damned album and ancient Bela Lugosi movies, the Stooges’ ‘Raw Power’ and low budget slasher flicks. Everything here is shot through with a bug-eyed anarcho-whacko attitude; every song amounts to a gleeful vees-up to the world at large.
The lyrics are delivered in something between a scold and a sneer by the splendidly feisty Lexi Lawsuit. Sometimes she’s a hyperactive brat, yelping and screeching her way through ‘Psycho Teenage Mutant Massacre’ as if somebody’s put hallucinogenics in her bedtime milk, other times she’s cynical and sardonic, dissing politicians with such magnificent disdain on ‘Pied Piper’ that you can almost see the disgust running in rivulets down the side of her mouth. There’s a fuzzed-out mass of guitar-noise grinding away in all the songs, while basslines prowl like a stalker. The drums sound like a succession of sacks of rubble being tipped into a skip, and, through everything, some cheesy-groovy keyboard lines, which sound like they’ve been inspired by those aforementioned Bela Lugosi movie soundtracks, keen and moan like wind in the eaves of the haunted mansion.
‘Freddy I Love You’ has some unexpected early-Banshees guitar and a hilarious kiddie-chorus - ‘I love you!’ - as if the band had roped in some innocent trick-or-treaters to handle the backing vocal chores. ‘Whiplash Love’ comes over all adult, in that it’s a fetish anthem of sorts, Lexi Lawsuit giving it the full Joan Jett rock chick rasp on the vocal. But the band can also display an unexpectedly sure pop touch, as they demonstrate on ‘Television’ - a noo-wave trashorama romp with some nifty sixties-garage keyboards, and ‘Epidemic’, another sparky garage-punk groove with a nice little lift in the chorus. ‘It’s gonna take you to an early grave!’ sings Lexi Lawsuit, sounding perfectly happy about the prospect.
This album is unashamedly DIY, all its rough edges and no-fi production values shamelessly displayed, but it really couldn’t be any other way. It all works, it all fits with the band’s grit-and-guts approach. The Rabies are sassy and impertinent, rackety and loud, with attitude a mile wide. If they played at your prom night, the school would fall down. You know what? Something rather good just crawled out of the garage.
Psycho Teenage Mutant Massacre
Freddy (I Love You)
A Final Word
Lexi Lawsuit: Vocals
Blair Bitch: Bass
Dr. Sik: Guitar
Jimmy Fiction: Drums
The band website: