• Review: Infest 2013

    27 Ago 2013, 16:49

  • Tuesday Ten: 165: Tracks of the Month (October 2012)

    17 Nov 2012, 19:01

    Not quite as late this time - another roundup of ten songs you should hear this month. Quite a few are not yet available on Spotify yet, and a Youtube playlist will follow.

    Playlists: Spotify | YouTube

    Track Of The Month:
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor
    The post-rock (or whatever) titans return with a new album at long last, and it is worth it alone for this gloriously intense twenty minute blast that live (last night) was utterly jaw-dropping, and remarkably even longer. Like all GY!BE, it starts slowly, ominous drones underpin almost random strings and guitar sounds until they all slowly coalesce into a march to a distant summit, whereupon it explodes into life with a thunderous climax that feels like the long-promised relief from the previous Gathering Storm. After ten years away – or at least ten years without recorded output – this feels like one last attempt to prove that they are the masters of post-rock after all, and that particular argument can now be considered settled.

    The Other Nine:
    We All Rage in Gold
    Honor Found in Decay
    The second, frankly incomparable band on this month’s roundup, five years since the last album has not changed a great deal. But then, why should it? The crushing riffs, and the rolling, punishing rhythms are still present, as are the vocals that have seen the world and despair at what they see. So far beyond any supposed followers that they should be regarded as a musical treasure, this new album is unbelievably even better than the last one. Roll on the gig next month.

    The Prodigy
    Smack My Bitch Up (Noisia remix)
    The Added Fat EP
    Yeah, so it is yet another re-issue – the reasons for which are getting thinner and thinner – but when they add remixes like this I’m all ears. It appears initially that Noisia haven’t done a great deal with this evergreen dancefloor classic, but patience for the payoff is rewarded with an absolutely monstrous breakdown that I can’t wait to hear in a club, or at least loud enough to have my insides vibrating. Yeah, so it is Noisia doing what they do, but why break something that clearly works so astoundingly well, eh?

    Prometheus Burning
    Kill it with Fire
    Kill it with Fire
    One of the most intense, furious industrial acts return apparently with a searing rage, and a sound that perhaps points back in their history a little. And the raging, thumping industrial rhythms and Nikki’s harsher vocals suit them very well indeed, straddling the line between industrial noise and old-school industrial to spectacular effect, and hopefully their signing to WTII Records will finally allow them some stability (there have been all kinds of issues with labels in the past).

    Rabbit Junk
    Own Up
    JP Anderson’s habit of releasing a slew of killer singles continues with his most immediate track is aeons, one with more electro, less guitars and more hooks than an abbatoir. The fact that Rabbit Junk is still an underground artist, rather than being at least a star in alternative scenes, is one of the more puzzling questions of our “scene”.

    The Soft Moon
    This act’s debt to 80s goth and post-punk couldn’t be made any clearer here, the oh-so-slightly-tinny beats, and that low-slung bass… But alongside that, the squalling, screeching electronics, the barely audible/intelligible vocals, and you can just imagine the shrouds of dry ice enveloping everything. This music isn’t about visuals, it is about atmosphere – something The Soft Moon have now all-but-perfected over two albums and an EP.

    Mind Games (cEvin Key/Ken "HiWatt" Marshall Mix)
    Bent and Broken
    I have to confess that I’ve not found the past couple of Collide albums as engaging as I’d hoped to, neither of them having anything close to the staying power of their earlier material (which is still gets regular listens in my house). So it is interesting to hear the new (double CD) remix album, which like previous remix album Vortexabsolutely transforms some lacklustre material into some quite extraordinary songs. Once again, it is loaded with a couple of killer tracks upfront, none more so than this all-but-Skinny Puppy remix of one of the better recent songs, burying the vocals in tons of effects and bringing to the fore glitchy, near-tribal rhythms and a slinkiness that the original somewhat lacked.

    your hearts
    distrust authority
    I remember being fascinated by this artist at Infest a few years back, whereupon interviewing the artist it became clear that he was just as into old-school, anarchist punk as he was power noise. At that time, though, the music didn’t really seem to hit the balance so much – so consider this a correction. Here, there are punk rhythms, guitars – and vocals – all shredded and distorted through industrial beats and savage electronic effects. Think ATR, but rawer and with less sloganeering. But equally worthy of your time.

    Chelsea Wolfe
    Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs
    Chelsea Wolfe’s third album sees a departure in sound, but no real departure in style, which is definitely a Good Thing. Her doomy, pitch-dark folk songs bring together influences as disparate as Cohen, Patti Smith and Black Metal, but without fail always have a scratchy, unsettling atmosphere that is quite unlike any of her supposed peers. Of a number of outstanding songs on this short album, though, this one stands out – a rolling, dreamy ballad given added bite by the wailing, banshee-like violin accompaniment that dominates the melody, and Wolfe’s naked, unaltered vocals that sound exceptionally fragile.

    The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
    Bag Of Bones
    Meat And Bone
    The mighty Jon Spencer returns for the first time in a while, and things still are where they were – ass-kicking rock, soul and funk. Especially on this song, where an awesome guitar lick heralds the howling Jon Spencer to take the mic and direct his band to have you shaking your ass and tapping your feet in seconds. Mission accomplished, then – and dude, welcome back. The only band to be even close to being as cool as his are The Hives, and they took a lot of notes from Spencer.
  • Tuesday Ten: 164: Tracks of the Month (September 2012)

    17 Nov 2012, 16:50

    Ok, so it is rather late posting here, but here is September’s ten tracks you should hear. October's will follow. As always you can read these when they are originally posted on my blog.

    Playlists:Spotify | YouTube

    Track of the Month:
    Koi No Yokan
    After the astonishing career reinvention of Diamond Eyes, the first two songs to surface (officially) from the forthcoming Deftones album suggest there has been no let-up in this purple patch, where frankly the band are releasing the best music of their career. New single Tempest (hear it on the front page of Deftones.com) is an epic, grinding track, but the first track heard, Leathers, starts quietly, roars into life out of nowhere, before hitting with one of those monstrous, soaring choruses that Chino Moreno seems to have a never-ending supply of.

    The Other Nine:
    Rebekah Delgado
    Ménage A Moi
    Don’t Sleep
    I’ve been quite taken with Rebekah’s music since I first saw her live back in the summer, and her gloriously rude new single Ménage a Moi manages to walk the tightrope between filth and fun in a clever way. Her music is quite lovely, showy pop music, full of big flourishes, multiple languages, and lots of intriguing imagery, and as an introduction to her, this song is just right. This has been released as a single , the album is also out now, buy them both here.

    The Seer
    A couple of years on from the striking first record from the reconstituted Swans, it transpires that that album was only a taster for the extremes that Michael Gira was going to take us to. This album is extraordinary – a ten-track, two hour odyssey that sounds utterly, and completely unique. It could only be the work of Swans, but here things sound slightly different. There is none of the belting noise that opened the last album, at least not to start with (that starts to come with the thirty two minute title track), instead a beautiful, near-choral opener that ebbs and flows, seemingly endlessly chanting the title as the music crashes like waves around it. An album that demands your attention for the whole thing (this is not background music), and rewards listening to the whole rather than snippets, it is quite possibly the best thing Swans have ever released.

    Of Monsters and Men
    Dirty Paws
    My Head Is an Animal
    After failing to pick this album up while I was in Iceland in May, I had to wait another three or four months before it was released in the UK. Oh yes, another of those boneheaded decisions by the record labels to stagger release dates, despite this being the most obvious way to encourage piracy (I should note, by the way, that I did not download it, and waited patiently until release!). Anyway, this has been a huge hit everywhere else, and judging on the speed their shows over here are now selling out, they are hitting it big here too.

    Anyway, while Little Talks has been the single getting the attention, the track I first heard was this, the album opener – a gloriously odd song riddled with metaphors of various animals, lives and challenges. Yeah, so it is whimsical, folky rock, but one with sweet melodies, a hook to die for, and a darker underbelly. A world away from dreary bullshit like Mumford & Sons (I’m so onside with this), the whole album is sweetly weird, the product of a world (Iceland) that has a culture very different from our own.

    Vision of Disorder
    The Cursed Remain Cursed
    I finally saw VoD live – a review will follow, I promise, it is half-written still on my “to do” pile – last month in a sweaty, chaotic gig at the Underworld that was one of the best hardcore shows I’ve ever seen. And remarkably, it wasn’t just an exercise in nostalgia. Yeah, so old stuff like Imprint was utterly thrilling (and oh-so-slightly dangerous being on the edge of a moshpit!), but the new stuff had a vitality that kept the whole venue rapt (and moshing away) for the whole show. The album opener – and aired early in the set – was this mid-paced, crunching beatdown, with the huge, melodic chorus just perfect for a whole crowd to bellow it back, and songs like this are the reason why I keep coming back to NYHC, even after all these years. The album is fantastic, needless to say.

    Glamourama 7″
    Two years since Confessions, and we finally have a new single – and I have to confess that like JLA, this wasn’t the song I was expecting as being the single. This is the song that has been their set opener every time I’ve seen them, a brooding, bass-led musing on concepts of beauty and image that is rather biting in it’s own way. Recorded in an unexpectedly raw way, on first listen it all seems a bit thin – but I suspect Youtube compression is not helping here, and the song proper should sound rather beefier – it certainly does live. Buy the single here.

    David Byrne & St Vincent
    Love This Giant
    When I heard that this album – by two artists I really quite love – was going to be dominated by a brass band, I was initially not especially keen. But then I gave it a listen, and was instantly captivated. This is the extraordinary opening track, where the duo somehow manage to turn both of their individual sounds and styles into an astonishing, saxophone-driven, futuristic RnB track.

    Je$us Loves Amerika
    Breathe EP
    Less guitars, more hate with JLA’s latest single, a rampaging, dancefloor-aimed monster that has already been aired at Rivet, and indeed will be again at the next one. Little subtlety, but why should there be? This industrial dancefloor music in the mould of bands like Cubanate and other nineties-industrial titans, and right now should be heralding a return to decent music to dance to in industrial clubs. Buy the new limited edition single here.

    Women Should Not Drink Alcohol
    Women Should Not Drink Alcohol
    See You Next Tuesday
    A curious side-project of two different industrial artists, the deeply tongue-in-cheek band name and song titles have certainly garnered them a fair amount of attention. Get past this, though, and the album is perhaps not quite what I expected. Holding back on the noise for the most part, this is a collection of languid electronics and some quite odd reference points, like this one that at least partly channels stuff like Felix Da Housecat alongside ominous samples in the background. Buy the album on bandcamp.

    At Your Command
    Last Shadow EP
    Armalyte Records are putting out some really interesting material at the moment – and this is the newest signing. A solo project that takes in industrial influences alongside various extreme metal influences, the result is a curious hybrid that, while not being perfect, is a really interesting and unusual take on some quite familiar genres. Pick of the songs (as opposed to remixes) on the EP, for me, though, is this track, which is what Hocico might sound like if they suddenly added death metal influences to their sound. No, really – and it is to Simon Fuller’s credit that this actually works, as he never lets one side of this sound overpower the other, and the chugging riffs suit the beats brilliantly.
  • Tuesday Ten: 163: Devil's Night

    23 Sep 2012, 17:11

    The concept of the devil in popular music has been around at least as far back as early blues legend Robert Johnson, who was of course reputed to have made a faustian pact with the devil to become famous. But I’m not going to go back that far here, instead looking at how the devil has insinuated him/herself within all kinds of popular music, from Black Metal to Country to Electronic to Industrial to Jazz. No, really. (Some additional songs that didn’t make the ten are on the Spotify playlist)

    Playlists: Spotify | YouTube

    Barry Adamson
    Jazz Devil
    As Above, So Below
    Speaking of Jazz, ex-Magazine bassist Barry Adamson has lent himself to various other bands, but his own work has a cinematic, jazzy feel that is a modern take on a genre that has been around for decades. This track takes it to the logical extreme, perhaps, with a sardonic sense of humour that sounds ultra-serious to begin with. The story goes something like this – Barry goes to Heaven, gets turned round at the gates, goes to Hell, and gets sent back to terra firma as…the Jazz Devil. And ends up having, or trying to have, a whale of a time. Musically it riffs on Film Noir, jazz, and sounds utterly glorious – proof, if any were needed – much like the rest of this list – that the Devil has the best tunes.

    The Night The Devil Came To Me
    El President EP
    One suggested by my girlfriend, this, an obscure B-side that is pretty much impossible to find on the internet. A slinky, sexy lament where singer Isabel Monteiro apparently falls in love with the devil – although I suspect it is more likely to be a metaphor for a lover who is bad, very bad. But it kinda helps to set the scene here this week – songs involving or invoking the devil and hell are hardly laments very often, instead celebrations of carnality, booze, drugs, misbehaviour, death, or all of the above.

    Anna Calvi
    The Devil
    Anna Calvi
    A rather different take on a similar subject comes from Anna Calvi’s flamboyant, unusual debut album (that I couldn’t stop listening to for months). In this song in particular, she comes across all Jeff Buckley, with a similar guitar sound and soaring vocals, wherein the words themselves are not that important (and indeed for the most part, aside from the titular refrain, are perhaps deliberately indistinct)…it is the feel of the song. This is a dark night song, one of burning desire and passion, waiting for the Devil to come.

    My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult
    Devil Bunnies
    Kooler Than Jesus EP
    Surely the band who would have the best chance of being Satan’s house band, if only they’d stop partying and baiting Christians long enough. Anyway, they are currently celebrating twenty-five years of being the sleaziest, shlockiest industrial band of them all, so let us celebrate with them in the form of the bonkers industrial-swing of one of their early masterpieces, where the core sample is from – of all things – Divorce Court (no, really, this actually exists, and has done for years). Also, the weird and wonderful world of said devil bunnies in image form, which surprisingly enough is worksafe.

    III Ep
    By the way, when your mom calls – be sure to tell her SATANSATANSATAN…” Yeah, ok, so not a great deal to tie this in with this week’s Tuesday Ten aside from the title and sample, but it is such an awesome use of sampling that I couldn’t not use it. Oh, that and the fact that it is that bit heavier, nastier and groovier than much of Orbital’s other work. Also to note: that glorious opening sample comes from the deeply fucked up Sweat Loaf by the Butthole Surfers… Now, hands up who ever thought any of their work would ever make it even close to the mainstream…?

    The Devil’s Sweepstakes
    One of the most truly fucking odd bands to come out of the nu-metal era, don’t let the various inputs of members of Korn and Limp Bizkit that litter the album put you off. On the tracks where they are not involved, Ty Elam and his band explore the odd corners of industrial, electronics and metal with strange time signatures, creepy, hissing vocals and wheezing electronic effects that result in a really quite unsettling atmosphere. Pick of the bunch, as it happens, is this drilling, rhythmic attack that brings to mind Skinny Puppy on some really, really bad acid, as the trip leads you down to hell.

    Suicide Commando
    Conspiracy With the Devil
    Bind, Torture, Kill
    Talking of industrial, my one foray into thundering industrial (dancefloor) beats in the list this week is this – one of Johan Van Roy’s best tracks of his second decade by a country mile or two. Yeah, it doesn’t deviate much from the template much (bruising rhythms, lyrics about killing), but it is done with such style and directness that it could teach some of the pretenders to his throne a thing or two. The devil here, by the way, appears to be a serial killer (as the album was broadly themed around them), and this track was one of the few tracks to really sparkle in a lacklustre set at Infest last month.

    Gothic Electronic Anthems
    As the Thrill Kill Kult have already proven, this subject does not have to be all that serious. And despite their doomy, gothy sound and image, there is a hell of a lot more in the way of humour here than it first appears. This glorious, industrial-rock anthem (from an album that actually lives up to it’s rather presumptious title!) blitzes past in the style of Marilyn Manson but a million times better, all the while gleefully revelling in the idea of introducing the devil…

    The Levellers
    The Devil Went Down To Georgia
    Levelling The Land (Re-issue)
    Yes, I know that it is originally by Charlie Daniels Band, but as far as I’m concerned this track is one of those where the cover transcends the original, particularly in the live environment where this track is utterly extraordinary (and in the fiddle player, it isn’t hard to imagine sparks from his bow as he plays the really quite difficult-sounding solo). Probably one song that is closer than just about any other in subject to the original deal with the devil, but it does it with a devilish (pun intended) grin.

    An intriguing twist on the above song was performed at a gig I saw recently (byA.P. Clarke, it is the first track called Camden Town), which saw Johnny transplanted to Camden, via Colchester, and rather than playing the guitar better than the devil…he drinks more than him instead!

    De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
    De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
    I did try and avoid going into the realms of Black Metal – but to be fair ignoring the one genre most closely associated with Satan/ism wasn’t really possible with this list. And more than anything, this band, and particularly this album, are indelibly associated with the dark arts. The tale behind this album, that took seven years to eventually release, involved suicide, murder, alleged cannibalism, alleged terrorism and church burning. The latin title broadly translates to “the mysteries of Lord Satan”, and that pretty much sums up the cold, searing black metal that makes up this album, one where it truly is difficult to seperate out the music and the story behind it.
  • Tuesday Ten: 162: Tracks of the Month (August 2012)

    22 Sep 2012, 21:21

    (Note: Another late-posted Tuesday Ten. All are posted first on my blog)

    Another month gone already? Time for another ten tracks you should hear, then.
    Playlists: Spotify | YouTube

    Track of the Month:
    Author & Punisher
    Ursus Americanus
    In another of those genre fusions that seems so obvious when someone finally tries it, Tristan Shone can’t possibly be the first person to consider the merging of bass-heavy industrial noise and doom metal – played even slower than you might think, at points – to be a good idea. However he is clearly someone who makes this essential listening, well, at least for people who can deal with levels of bass and distortion that might make them feel seasick. This is distorted, ugly, unbelievably fucking heavy music, with levels of bass that isn’t normally touched on digital releases by most artist. I also suspect that this would absolutely slay live – and finally, make sure you listen to this on decent headphones, as this absolutely demands to be played as loud as you can push it. (Hat-tip to Rhys for this).

    The Other Nine:
    My Dear
    My Dear EP
    Oh my word. Athan Maroulis is back, and the smooth, deep voice of (the much-missed) Spahn Ranch is present and correct, but the music has perhaps jettisoned just a little of the dance experimentation of SR and headed into more straight-laced synthpop territory. It still sounds utterly terrific, mind, and the mooted album cannot come soon enough. (Hat-tip to I Die: You Die for bringing this to my attention)

    Randolph & Mortimer
    The Markets
    A new band from Sheffield, apparently, who I found out about…thanks to Swedish site Release Magazine and Belgian site Side-Line. Apparently no-one bothers to check their local scene, then? Maybe, maybe not – or maybe it is just that there is no place for music like this in the Sheffield “scene” any more. Either way, this is awesome stuff, putting lie to the suggestion that there isn’t life in actual industrial music now. This is pounding, heavy stuff, with a nod to Ministry in the sampled riff from Burning Inside, and a nod to them and other bands with a contemporary political edge to the theme and samples in the track, too, and played nice and loud this could tear up unsuspecting dancefloors. More of this, please.

    Forced Attrition
    After the Third Pin
    I’d obviously missed previous pointers toward this, but for me at least the new Sunna album – yes, only two years or so between them this time – took me totally by surprise when it was mentioned on FB recently, and it is actually from last year (with a fourth album in the works, apparently). And third time lucky, too – after two albums that were, overall, so-so with a couple of brilliant songs – this one is a cracking album right through. It is noticeably heavier, too – less mopey ballads, more crunching electronic-infused rock. Pick of the bunch is this muscular, brooding track that screeches and squalls for three minutes under thunderous beats.

    Another I’ve apparently missed until recently – Ant-Zen have been synonymous, for years, with thoughtful, intelligent industrial electronics, with frequent trips into brutal industrial noise, so to hear this on their label is something of a shock. Because, to point no finer point on it, this is some distance from what might be expected – this is essentially post-rock, but through the industrial grinder. It shimmers, it glitters, it hits hard when it needs to, but more than anything this ebbs and flows with a quite glorious flourish reminiscent of 65daysofstatic when they were still more rock than dance.

    Velvet Acid Christ
    After a bizarre, totally unexpected – and actually very good – diversion into Cure-esque goth moping, Bryan Erickson has returned to the style that made his name, and going on this single, it could be quite a return to form. This is seething, hissing industrial electro, drenched in string-like synths, bitter vocals and epic, lengthy builds. Yeah! Old school VAC is back, and he could still teach a few of his so-called peers (and copyists) a thing or two about making music sound malevolent and evil, too.

    A T4LE On 5TONE
    Għøsŧs of Λnŧįquįŧұ
    Actually a split EP with M‡яc▲ll▲ (don’t you love these crazy Witch House band names), this EP is a quite wonderful, blissed-out trip through a meeting of minds that works very well. This track is probably my favourite of the eight here, mind – a rolling beat and dense swirls of electronics all-but blow away the vocals into the mist, which only makes them sound even more strange and otherworldly. (Note: I’ve added the rather different R34CH The 5KY on the Youtube playlist).

    Dirty K
    Torrent Of Fury
    A bit of an error on my part recently has not been to pick up Dirty K’s new album – on Hands Productions, no less – before their appearance at Infest. Now corrected, this is one heck of a powerful album. It doesn’t break too much ground – this is distortion heavy, uneasy listening industrial noise, that you’ll either love or hate – but when they bring scorching tracks like this, filled with brutal beats, searing white noise and static and little subtlety, it is more than enough for me.

    Thee Faction
    Singing Down The Government (Or The War of Position and How We’re Winning It)
    In political times like these – where those of us of a leftist persuasion look on in despair as most of the things we hold dear in a government, and society, are pulled apart – I am still kinda appalled at how little we are hearing from the musical sphere, as if most bands have decided that they really shouldn’t mix music and politics. In that case, thank fuck for Thee Faction, a band of quite unexpected origins, who bring unbelievably awesome rock’n'R’n'B with a distinctly marxist bent. Think The Commitments with a political fire burning bright, and you are just about there. Ok, so the recorded versions aren’t quite as jaw-dropping as the live show, but this is music well worth hearing and believing in.

    Zen Manipulation
    X Amount of Stab Wounds in the Back
    Jim Semonik is back with his band, after battling cancer, surviving, and curating two epic industrial compilations in the form of the Electronic Saviors series. And you know what? It’s really quite great. This is cold, harsh industrial music, with a dancefloor sensibility (to a point!) and also lyrics that actually purport to mean and stand for something. This track is one of the picks for me – a comparatively sparse arrangement dominated by an awesome synth line that really does hark back to old-school coldwave (in a good way).
  • Tuesday Ten: 161: The End of the World Show

    22 Sep 2012, 17:57

    (Note: Another late-posted Tuesday Ten. All are posted first on my blog)

    After taking a bit of a break from these series of Tuesday Tens based upon (quite random) subjects – I think I needed to to allow me to come up with some new ideas – I seem to have hit upon some inspiration for future lists again, so expect these to be a little more regular once again (time allowing, of course).

    So let us talk about the end of the world. 2012 has been a year indelibly associated with this, of course, thanks to much- reported, discussed (and debunked, perhaps) Mayan prophecies, amongst others. And by the looks of things – unless something seriously catastrophic and unexpected happens in the remaining four-and-a-bit months of 2012 – the end of the world will not be televised, yet. Needless to say, though, it has been a popular subject in music for a long, long time, so here are ten songs dealing with it in different ways.

    Playlists: Spotify | YouTube

    Buy Me… I’ll Change Your Life
    Ah, David Thrussell, a man whose disdain – and at points outright despair – at humanity and the way it is taking the planet has been documented in his music for nearly twenty years now. And so where better than to start with his ultimate song about how shit humans are, this smart, groovy-electro track where he celebrates the coming of the end of the world. I don’t think he cares how, particularly, just it needs to go now. Fifteen years on he is still waiting.

    Inspired, at least partly, by the late Bill Hicks’ wish to see California simply vanish into the sea, Tool’s searing hatred of the plastic lifestyles of many of the inhabitants of their home state (and particularly the city of Los Angeles) are laid bare here in one of their greatest songs. Maynard James Keenan delivers his vocals alternately through gritted teeth and an anguished howl of fury, while the band lock into a similarly caustic, harsh rhythm. This is perhaps unique – in this list, at least – for being about wanting a particular part of the world to end, rather than than whole world…

    It’s the End of the World as we know it (I feel fine)
    The stream-of-conciousness vocals are the hook here, of course. A glorious, furious howl at the state of the world at the time, as the Reagan era neared the end, delivered in a breathless form that suggested Michael Stipe wanted to get all of his thoughts out before they either stopped him or the world did end. Egged on by the frantic musical backing, and the fabulous, melodic chorus, who knew a song this angry could sound so joyous?

    Siouxsie and the Banshees
    Cities in Dust
    For some, of course, the end of the world has already come. Back in ancient times, the city of Pompeii was famously destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that towered over the town, and the only song I can think of that references that time is this classic, goth-club staple. The video makes the oh-so-slightly-vague lyrics more overt, and the twinkle of the synths and guitars sound like fire cascading through the sky.

    As Rome Burns
    To the Nameless Dead
    The blistering centrepiece to their London show in the Spring, this epic, rousing monster of a song uses a different Roman metaphor to look at the world economy that has, over the past five or six years, seemingly teetered on the edge of the abyss for too long. All the while corporations work with Governments to pick out the bits they want most, leaving the rest with little. For an Irish band, this almost seems like fortune-telling in light of what has happened since this song was written.

    Dimmu Borgir
    Progenies of the Great Apocalypse
    Death Cult Armageddon
    Taking things a bit heavier, and that bit more over-the-top, Dimmu Borgir’s first single from their last great album (let us be honest here, the last two albums have frankly been rather crap. But then, when you shed the important members of a band…) makes like a battle hymn for the end of the time. Aided by an entire symphonic orchestra (Prague’s, as I recall) the band went for bigger in every way, and in some respects I’m kinda surprised this song hasn’t been used to soundtrack a film about armageddon yet.

    The Orb
    Supernova At The End Of The Universe
    The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld
    Not many groups preoccupy themselves with what the end of the world might sound like, but then, not every band is like The Orb. This sprawling, literally-spaced-out track from their epic debut album actually takes us into space, with roars of engines and samples of speech from Apollo missions, languid beats and strange, alien effects. Before then disappearing into nothingness, imagining the Supernova – or, if you want to a smart-arse, the end of a world – to be a strangely quiet end. Probably the best “view” you’ll get this side of Milliways.

    Powerman 5000
    Tonight the Stars Revolt!
    Tonight the Stars Revolt!
    Time for something a little sillier, perhaps. Rob Zombie’s kid brother follows him into industrial(ish) metal, but takes a turn into sci-fi oddness, but otherwise sounds pretty similar. The title track from their best album is a thrashy, stop-start riff on the idea of the stars exploding and taking us with them. No, me neither.

    Apoptygma Berzerk
    Until the End of the World
    Harmonizer, for me, contained the last truly great Apop songs (aside from a handful of covers released late). Yeah, so it didn’t have the darkwave style of 7, or the stargazing wonder of Welcome To Earth, and it was padded out by far too much filler, but in tracks like the bouncing, melodic Spindizzy, and more particularly this glorious, skyscraping EBM-goes-pop love song, where the titular subject is invoked as a metaphor for eternal love, and the chorus takes us into the eternity of space, a favourite subject of Stephan Groth’s over the years.

    This track, the titular song from his mainstream breakthrough album of 1982, was perhaps unsurprisingly the obvious choice for many see close off the millenium. And why not? Rather than wallowing in the potential doom of the world ending, Prince instead decided that the best way to deal with the end of the world was instead to have a fucking enormous party, having tons of fun and not giving a toss about what happens next. That the song sounded so joyous – in fact pretty exactly like the partying described in the lyrics – certainly helped in the appeal, but the wider message was also more upbeat – “Life is just a party and parties aren’t meant to last”. Sounds like a good way to live life to me.
  • Tuesday Ten: 160: Tracks of the Month (July 2012)

    19 Sep 2012, 20:45

    (Note: Another late-posted Tuesday Ten. All are posted first on my blog)

    Another month, ten more songs to hear. You know the drill by now, right?

    Playlists: Spotify | YouTube

    Track of the Month:
    The xx
    I was, I have to admit, late to the party with The xx, but once I finally heard their striking debut album, I was hooked. Sparse, sensual music for dark nights, many of their songs shimmered with a quite uncanny beauty and, frankly, an otherworldly nature that really didn’t sound like anything else around at the time, and the first glimpse of the new album suggests not a great deal has changed in the following three years. Still, it wasn’t broken, and in fact this first new track suggests a honing of their style even more. Described by a friend as “exquisite”, I can’t disagree – a short song of such yearning and utter beauty that it is frankly hard to describe, or to do it justice, other than to suggest you should go and listen to it now.

    The Other Nine:
    Robots EP
    It is perhaps a remarkable six years or so – maybe even a bit more than that – since I first heard Skullfuck begin it’s journey to slaying industrial club dancefloors all over the place, and remaining as a cast-iron floorfiller ever since. But with, at last, the release of the first new material since debut album Detonation, there is ample evidence here that there are songs to replace it in the heart of the dancefloor. In fact, both of the lead tracks were unleashed at gigs last year (their debut at Kinetik last year, in particular, sticks in the memory), and despite being unknown saw the crowds go utterly batshit for them. It isn’t hard to see why – and while lead single Robots, with cheeky Daft Punk stylings that are not even attempted to be disguised, is a stomping monster of a track, for me it is Boombox that really takes the honours. A rampaging, surging track, *this* this how you merge industrial and hands-in-the-air dance music, by providing a “chorus” that is simply one massive build each time, urged on by the “are you ready” sample that proves once again Geoff Lee is a master of controlling the dancefloor.

    Dead Letter
    Science and Sound
    I’ve always considered C_137′s output to be somewhat lightweight, trance-pop-influenced “industrial” – and with little variance in their style – but the new album finally sees some effort to branch out somewhat. This track is by far the best example of this – a beefed up, hard-hitting rhythm underpins it with a much harsher-toned vocal style than usual, too. Here is hoping that there is more of this to come.

    The Pain Machinery
    There Will Be Blood
    I’ve mentioned one of the leading exponents of the recent burst of top-quality Swedish EBM before, I’m sure, but here they are again with another stonking release. This new mini-album takes the blueprint from previous releases and sharpens the edges that little bit more, continuing their apparent quest of perfection in merging tough, 80s EBM with more cutting-edge techno. Pick of an extremely strong EP, though, is this – a meeting of minds with similarly forward looking //TENSE// that glowers through the storm of beats.

    In Strict Confidence
    After my album of the year 2006, and track of the year 2010, Germany’s – and the world’s – finest darkwave band return again with another glorious single, but one that harks back to their past, perhaps. No sign of Antje Schultz’s wonderfully sweet vocals here, instead a chorus in Russian (yet another language they’ve used!) by Nina de Lianin (herself Serbian) that is an upbeat counterpart to the pitch-dark verses by Denis Ostermann, and the contrast is really quite striking. The full version of this track on the EP, by the way, is an epic eleven minutes – used here is the single version, only a third of the length…

    Icon of Coil
    The title might be crap, but the song itself is a welcome return from a much-missed band – evidence of just how missed was shown by the ecstatic reaction to their Resistanz show in April. They didn’t play any new stuff at that show, and there was still a question mark at the time as to whether anything more was going to be forthcoming after all. Here is the evidence that there is – and it is the sound of the band returning, pretty much, to where they left off, with sleek, melodic industrial dancefloor music, full of hooks as well as ample evidence of Andy La Plegua’s way with a chorus. Pretty much instantly better than anything by Combichrist in the past five or six years, too…

    Years on from his time in Emperor (aside from the brief reunion that didn’t see any further releases, anyway), even so it is kind of remarkable that Ihsahn is now on his fourth solo album – and that creative spark is nowhere close to having left him yet. While it in parts harks back to the extremities of his past, in others it is a world apart (saxophones feature prominently at parts!), as in here – a proggy, near power metal sound instead, and his vocals have adjusted to match. But somehow, this works brilliantly.

    Urban Techno Commando
    For a “band” taking the piss in a big way – albeit also having been one of the most fun Infest acts ever – some might say that Keef and Nik have absolutely no right making an album this fun…and good. Every single pisstake, of which there are many, hit the mark, skewering industrial fashions and musical styles brilliantly, and turning their ire on a few other areas too. But back to the industrial pisstaking, and this track in particular does little other than drench the vocals in all the industrial effects possible, and makes it sound exactly like the bands they are aiming it at. Job done.

    Prayer Tower
    Something of a 90s throwback, to something I don’t even remember from the time – and thanks to Dead When I Found Her, I now have discovered this. Greg Reely produced – and so clearly so, with that clean, sparse and rhythmic industrial production that characterised all of his work (most of all for Front Line Assembly, of course) – and this track is about as good as industrial of the early nineties got. Temptation was the single, apparently, but I prefer this.

    Paul Simon
    Graceland: 25th Anniversary Edition
    Of the mass of retro, anniversary releases, it could be argued that only a handful of albums truly deserve expanded and remastered releases, those that really did make a difference, be that musical or social. This album, perhaps, managed both, with the still-not-finished arguments over the political background to it, but the musical impact is the one that really can’t be understated. Probably the album that unleashed so-called world music to a mass audience, that Simon managed to weave the South African music into his shimmering pop songs so seamlessly is frankly a work of genius. It also helped that the songs themselves were possibly the best he ever wrote as a solo artist, and the title track is at the peak of this. But not any particular part of it, the whole damned thing.
  • Tuesday Ten: 159: Fire

    19 Sep 2012, 20:17

    (Note: this is the first of a few Tuesday Tens I've not got 'round to putting up here)

    After finally seeing the Olympic Torch Relay last week – amongst the enormous crowds in the City of London on Thursday morning – as well as the spectacular finale to the opening ceremony with a seriously clever way to light the Olympic Flame in the stadium, not to mention the sad news of a colleague suffering a fire at his flat (happily he and his partner are ok) and the arrival of summer heat at last in the past week, I guess the choice of Fire as a Tuesday Ten subject is apt. Although I’m kinda wondering how it has taken 158 Tuesday Tens to think about doing it.
    This is a The Doors and The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown-free zone, by the way.

    Playlists: Spotify | YouTube

    Feuer frei!
    So, where else could I start than with the band that are one of the greatest live bands on earth, but more importantly for this list, use so much in the way of pyrotechnics that lead singer Till Lindemann at least is licensed to a high level with pyrotechnics. And seeing them live, it isn’t hard to see why. Over the six times I’ve seen them live, this track (which translates as “Fire at will!“, or “Open Fire“) has traditionally been the point where all hell breaks loose on stage, with gigantic jets of flame, and face-mounted flamethrowers on the band. Or in other words, the point where you start to get rather warm in the crowd, and start grinning at the fabulous absurdity of it all.

    Burning Inside
    In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up
    Talking of spectacular live visuals, watching In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up on VHS the first time felt like an epiphany, realising at last just why Ministry had the reputation that they did. I knew that the music was awesome, but not that they could put on shows like this. Of course, they could never keep up this intensity and by the time I finally saw them on the C U L8TOUR a few years back, they were shit. But this video in particular…a song probably about a drug-fueled nightmare, in this live vision it had added fire-breathers, the fence (to protect the crowd from the band, frankly), and a dude on fire climbing said fence. While Al and the band blitz through the two-drummer attack. Oh yes.

    Big Black
    Keeping up the positive mood…here’s Steve Albini, with the ultimate ode to small town boredom, casual sex and firestarting. Six minutes of rumbling hate. Need I say more?

    Nine Inch Nails
    natural born killers OST
    Umm, this gets happier at some point, honest. Anyway, this was the new track Trent Reznor added to his exceptional compilation that became the Natural Born Killers soundtrack – and nevermind being a The Downward Spiral offcut, it contained similar levels of utter fury to that which characterised Broken. Worth it alone for the moment when the track finally explodes (as Trent roars “I’m going to burn this. Whole. Place. Down“), for me when I finally did see it live, it never quite had the brutal kick that the legendary Woodstock version had.

    Electric Six
    Danger! High Voltage
    Their short period of mainstream success long gone, this band have continued plugging away in the US, and to be honest have released a number of whip-smart, quite great singles since this. But this was the track that got them attention in the first place, which was actually a duet between the marvellously-named Dick Valentine (!) and Jack White, makes loads of references to fires and flames, and has a really quite bloody odd video. Fire In The Disco! (And yes, the album was called Fire too)

    Dig for Fire
    Apparently a tribute to Talking Heads, like most Pixies songs I’ve never quite worked out what the fuck Black Francis was on about. But perhaps, here it is a metaphor for living life and enjoying it, rather than grinding out a life. Still, amidst an album full of aliens, UFOs and other crazy shit, perhaps this was the one moment approaching sanity.

    Talking Heads
    Burning Down the House
    Speaking in Tongues
    And of course, onto the song that influenced the last. Talking Heads were never exactly a band to be categorised easily, and here they went down a glorious funk route with spectacular results. And despite the song being inspired by amazing live shows by Parliament/Funkadelic, apparently this was on the list of songs not to be played post-9/11. But then, I never expected censors to look beyond song titles to the utter joy within, eh?

    Girls Against Boys
    House of GVSB
    Yeah, so any excuse to include one of my favourite bands ever, this bruising single (and searingly bright video!) was the first track from probably the greatest album the band put out. The Super-Fire of the title is suggested by the cryptic-as-usual lyrics to possibly be about burning, searing desire, the type that takes over every sense and stops you from concentrating on anything. Even if not, the song itself fucking rules.

    A Norwegian Black Metal band so kvlt that they named themselves after the year the Black Death swept Norway, the album that caught me was this, the blistering Hellfire. Eight tracks of old-school Black Metal, but with a production that gave it an awesome, rampaging sound, it closed with the thirteen minute and forty-nine second (yep, I see what they did there) epic title track, which rises from the flames and eventually descends back into them. Most black metal bands only try and look like they come from hell, few actually make it sound like they really do.

    A House
    Lost Souls
    The sound of flames continues into this song, the intensely personal track that closed the bleak, but brilliant, debut by Doves. Doves were formed after the band’s previous incarnation, Sub Sub, was ended by a fire that destroyed their studio, and this short, acoustic lament details the sad tale in heartbreaking detail – before offering a sliver of positivity at the end, before that too descends into the flames.
  • Review: Infest 2012, Bradford

    28 Ago 2012, 10:08

  • Review: various live reviews from the past few months

    29 Jul 2012, 21:52

    A bit of a catch-up from recent months, with a roundup of the live reviews I've not mentioned on here yet (headliners in bold):

    04-May: Sulpher, AlterRed - review
    05-May: Primordial, Hell - review
    02-June: Pretentious, Moi?, The Ghost of Lemora, Terminal Gods - review
    03-June: Mazzy Star, Unison, Rick Tomlinson - review
    12-June: She Wants Revenge, Heretics, Cold In Berlin - review
    20-June: Amanda Palmer, Andrew O'Neill, Jherek Bischoff - review
    01-July: Garbage, The Jezabels - review
    08-July: Faith No More - review
    10-July: Bitter Ruin, Jack Wiseman - review
    13-July: (The Death Of) Six By Seven, Four Dead In Ohio - review
    14-July: Assemblage 23, Cybercide - review
    22-July: Seabound, Global Citizen, Method Cell, Blume - review

    As I take a break for a couple of weeks from gigs - 69 bands seen so far this year at 28 nights worth of shows - I'll be able to resume Tuesday Tens a little more often, I hope, starting this Tuesday...