Intra-Venus - Persecution (Nightbreed)
It's not often the words Gothic and uplifting can be used together, but it's not often something as great as this comes along. Persecution, the preview of the new album by Mark Tansley and Apollos, is a mouth-watering taster, from the perfect mix of electro-Goth and techno in the 'Radio Edit' to the pure trance of 'Persecution [Martyrs]', where Apollos' droning vocals provide a amazing counterfoil to the uplifting (see, there it is) sounds. Squid's 'Focus Hard' remix of 'Deathwish' in a horse of a different colour, with a barrage of guitars drowning out the techno of the original - interesting, but not necessarily better. The original mix of 'Persecution' is a rather more sedate affair. The techno edge is still there, just more relaxed, while Apollos' vocals are more pronounced. Bring on the new album!
Hungry Lucy - Apparitions
Their press release describes them as being Gothic/trip-hop, but that comes nowhere near to describing this wonderful release. One listen to the soft, emotive cover of Depeche Mode's 'Blue Dress' should convince anyone that this is special. The music is electonica with a hint of darkness softening its edges. This is gothic with a small 'g' - Gothic as a mood and texture rather than powerchords and leather trousers. There are shades of Curve in tracks like 'Bound in blood', but Hungry Lucy's sound is much delicate and fragile. Much of that is down to Christa Belle's dreamy vocals - often she sounds like she is doing little more than whispering. This CD is a unique flower, quite unlike those around it and will hopefully continue to grow into something that cannot be ignored.
fatal blast whip - constellation (Blacklight)
Industrial music has undeniably reached a point where, unless someone comes up with a revolutionary new concept, it is really just going to drive itself into the ground. So much music has come out since '92 when industrial came overground, there's very little left to do. fbw are fighting what is largely a losing battle in this regard. Their sound runs around the edges, picking out sounds and vibes rarely heard and tries to stick them together into something resembling industrial. Unfortunately, it is when they sound most indus that it's least interesting, while a track like 'Vobolax Communicator' (horrible title by the way), which is a lot more techno than indus, is the one that attracts my attention. 'Seduction', with its groovy beat, growling vocals and whip sound effect sounds more like a parody of industrial than industrial proper. The whole thing - the songtitles, the intense vocals, the driving beats, the strange samples - it all seems very silly at this stage.
more machine than man - robot
Everything about this sets off alarm bells - the band's name, the song-titles, the clichéd artwork. "Generic indus band" it screams and you know it's going to be a game of spot the influence. It seems just as if that's going to be the case with the very Nailbomb-esque 'Forsake All Else'. However, then we're treated to the Thrill Kill Kult disco-indus sound of 'Perv'. At this point, things get confusing - who in their right mind would put two such totally divergent sounds back to back? 'Perv' is quite cool, they do that kind of sound quite well, but come on… This sounds like a badly thought out compilation - all the way through it's one style followed immediately by a completely different one that in no way complements the previous one or the one after. And while a lot of the dancier stuff sounds quite cool - it's too much effort trying to go through them. The aim of the game is NOT to show off how many style you can do - it's to make a CD people can listen to - PICK A STYLE!
Attrition - the hand that feeds (Matrix Cube)
When you've been around as long as Attrition, you're going to make some cool friends. When the time comes to do a remix CD, you are very likely to have a very long list of people you can call on, people whose work you know well enough to know that they'll do a great job. It is very clear that this is not meant to be a big name remix album, it's on a small labels (Invisible in the US) and just one listen to the quality of the material shows that they are here because of what they can do, not who they are. Whether or not Martin had the option of getting the likes of Trent Reznor or Al Jourgenssen on board to remix a track, the less well-known names here - In the Nursery, Dance or Die, New Mind - produce mixes more complex and experimental than any million-selling stars.
That said, two of the most influential people in electronic music ever - Chris n' Cosey (if you don't know who they are -find out now!) do contribute a brilliant trance mix of 'I am (Eternity)'. It is hard to do justice to just how brilliantly these remixes sound. Suffice it to say that each and every one of them more than does justice to the complexity of the originals, while also adding new elements, whether dance, trance, drum n' bass or industrial. The European release comes complete with a bonus CD with 12 tracks from the archive. This is highly recommended.
the unquiet void - between the twilights (Middle Pillar)
This kicks off with a bundle of vague classical allusions in 'what dreams may come?', giving one the hope that this may go beyond the usual clanking noise-scapes of your average dark ambient band. Alas, the promise is false and the classical side of things is never fully explored. Instead, by the third track, 'the dreaming begins', the beats actually do "clank"! the unquiet void suffers from the same thing as most of the dark ambient bands out there - a lack of imagination. While this is perfectly pleasant to listen to, it has nothing to make it stand out from the crowd.
Désar - Land of the Blind (Silent Spirit)
The low-tech electronics, the sharp tinny drumbeats, the overblown vocals - it's the Sisters of Mercy, circa '82! Actually, it's not (doh!), it's a far more melodic and airy affair we have here, despite being built on the same elements as the early Sisters at times. At other times, it comes complete with a large dose of lounge lizard - like on the down and dirty cabaret of 'She Closes'. And there's the nice little pseudo-classical piano pieces like 'Rage (in C minor)' to top off the ultra-pretentiousness of it all. This is so extravagant and wild that it more than once crosses over into pure silliness, but it's in a very appealing manner. When was the last time you heard a tango on a Goff album? If Désar chilled out a bit, and laid off the vocal stylings, he could probably make music that can be taken seriously, but for the moment, this is great fun.
Autumn Tears - Love Poems for Dying Children Act III - Winter and the Broken Angel (Dark Symphonies)
Autumn Tears are on somewhat the same wavelength as the Mediæval Bæbes, but are quite a bit easier to listen to. At the forefront of the band's sound are the magnificently versatile vocals of Erika and Jennifer LeeAnna. With singing styles largely based in classical and medieval forms, with added elements of English folk music, the vocals are what make Autumn Tears what they are and give them a sophistication that is rare in Gothic music. And Gothic is what these are - one look at the dark imagery of the sleeve, the names of the songs or the dark, twisted lyrics proves that. The music is all synthesised, something that does, at times, detract from the music. When it sticks to a simple piano sound, it's perfect - clean, simple and vaguely unsettling. However, when more complex washes of sound are attempted it tends to sound a little flat and, well, synthesised. However, that is just one niggle on a CD that has a powerful and classical sound. That is, except for the last track 'The Eyes of Deception' - an awful growling Doom Metal track that sounds completely out of place and is truly awful. It's a pity really, what possessed them?
Psychic TV - Were you ever bullied at school… do you want revenge? (Cold Spring)
It would seem like a good idea - releasing previously unreleased archive live material by a band as seminal as Psychic TV. Few people have had such an impact on modern electronic music as Genesis P Orridge, first with, of course, Throbbing Gristle, and then with Psychic TV. Arguably the band that started rave music, and without doubt, the forgotten heroes of dance music, Psychic TV are a band not to be ignored. However, for all the seminal importance, there was also quite a bit of incomprehensible experimentation. Granted, it may have made sense at the time - if you were in a run down theatre in Germany, or in a tent in a field somewhere in rural England, but trying to listen to it on your Discman travelling to work on the bus is a completely different story. This set is two different concerts in Germany in 1984, less than two months apart, and they more than prove the point. The complete difference between the two performances, even on the same song, shows that Psychic TV was an unpredictable and often unlistenable monster at times. Disc 1 is a montage of noise and distortion, along the lines of TG and it is basically like listening to a very seriously extended version of the Velvet Underground's 'European Son'. It does contain the classic 'Godstar', but it is a virtually unrecognisable version of it. Disc 2 is a far more tolerable affair, with a more melodic sound - lots of acoustic guitar and it contains a more interesting version of 'Godstar', which is actually recognisable this time. At the same time, while this disc is more interesting and enjoyable, it is fairly mediocre when compared to some of the band's amazing studio work. There is also the point that these concerts took place before PTV came out from under TG's shadow and entered their most creative stage. This just proves the old adage - just because it's old doesn't mean it's an antique. Roll on "The Origin of the Species Part Three".
Blackhouse - Dreams like these (Blacklight)
This CD is daring, experimental, challenging and also absolute rubbish. For fuck's sake, why do people bother? It's not as if nobody's ever tried to make music out of whirrs, bleeps and whistles. This is art-wank at its most truly self-indulgent and awful. Track 3, 'Attic Friends', which clocks in at over 8 minutes, sounds like it's somebody setting up a drum kit in a studio and then playing it. Wow. This is drivel.
All reviews by Girl the Goth, unless otherwise stated.