Sordid reviews - 21 March 2001.
The Church of Gary Numan: A Dark Celebration (A tribute by Jim Collins)
Is it just me, or is there something very weird about this? I can accept that the "Church of Gary Numan" idea may be somewhat ironic and tongue in cheek (just about), but this CD is spooky. It's like, "I love Gary Numan so much, I'm going to record an album of inferior versions of his songs." Tribute bands I get to a certain degree, it's about seeing an approximation of your favourite band live and it's normally bands that aren't around any more. But this, this is like musical stalking! Why would anyone rather listen to this instead of the real thing? A jazz mix of 'Cars', anyone? This is tribute albums gone mad and I think we've entered the realm of outsider music here.
One of the trials of this job is having to listen to the musical equivalent of vanity press. Demos put together on the computer in someone's bedroom - CDRs full of music that people assumed the world needed to hear, wrongly, instead of their latest load of Napster downloads. However, every now and again something comes along that makes it worthwhile. D:V:ANT is one such thing. I should point out that I've known the techno-meister behind the band, Garvan Power, for more years than I care to admit, but that doesn't mean I'm biased, I swear. In fact, it makes the quality of this opus even more surprising, as, for a long time, Garvan's main skill seemed to be getting very drunk and breaking stuff in niteclubs. Anyway… D:V:ANT play instrumental techno-industrial - hard-edged beats with tons of blips, bleeps, whirrs and crashes. Influences range from the classic Skinny Puppy style of Indus, through the industrial soundscapes of Xorcist up to the techno-sodden sounds of Covenant and VNV Nation. D:V:ANT have the intensity to satisfy hardened rivetheads, but also a beat - heavy sound that works well on the dancefloor.
Fockewolf - Die Toten Weg (ASDR)
Fockewolf are purveyors of that style that caused so much excitement a few years ago - Gothic/Industrial. Fuck, back when Sordid started, Goff-Indus was the saviour, the new blood that was going to save the scene. As it turned out, it wasn't all that new and was just laying the groundwork for the injection of techno and dance music that has added some life into some very tired musical styles. Fockewolf stop just short of throwing their hands in the air and shouting, "We are raving". As a result, they fail to set the world alight the way the techno-subversives like Flesh Field and VNV Nation are beginning to do. It's not that they're bad, their mix of hard industrial beats, sharp electro noises and snarling vocals is well done, it's just not where it's at anymore. This will probably appeal to the conservatives that think techno is killing the music of the darkside, though.
Midnight Configuration - dark hours of the southern cross (Nightbreed)
It had to happen really, things were too good for too long and somebody had to decide that they could do it too. "What?" you may ask. Well, after the success of bands like Inertia, Intra-Venus and Man(i)kin, some crappy Goff band was going to decide that techno-Goth was easy and they could take a stab at it. And so we have this thing by Midnight Configuration. On one hand, there's techno straight out of the Utah Saints/Prodigy book of heavy dance music, on the other hand is growly, whining clichéd Goth muzak. Stick them together and you've got… a bloody awful mess. The only person who showed any sense was the producer (credited to the band, but I don't believe that) who regularly turns the beats up so much, you can barely hear the vocals. Alas, it's clear that this kind of dross will start to drown out the quality in the techno-Goth scene from now on.
Oxygen Law - Arbeit ep (Exitum)
First thing - dodgy Nazi reference in the first track, 'Arbeit Macht Frei (extended)'. It may have some particular meaning to the band, but that can't be conveyed in an instrumental track with some kind of explanation that's not given here. Beside that one quibble, this is a rather boring collection of pseudo-classical atmospherics. They're too slow, too long and far too uneventful to be enjoyable.
Saber Wraith - Egypt (Stormraven)
The nicest thing I can call this is Outsider Music. It's horribly amateurish, totally incomprehensible and more than a little scary. Avoid.
Temple of the Times - Requim for the lost children (Blacklight)
This is the debut EP by Anthony Robers, formerly of Luxt, and vocalist Bikos. The band produces a rather seamless blending of classic synth sounds with the driving power of industrial dance and even introduce a nice slice of techno on 'Babylon'. This mix of the dense, coarse vocals and the lighter, dancier backing make for and impressive debut and poise the band for better things. All four remixes of the title track add a greater urgency and dancefloor sensibility, while also each drawing out slightly different elements of the original.
Twelfth of Never - Blowing bubbles through broken windows
In the world of overblown pompous pseudo-classical Gothic music, it is possible to try too hard, yet also fail to achieve the required extravagance. That's what's happened here. It's got everything it needs, in spades - screeching guitars, floaty female vocals, loadsa keyboards. In fact, it seems like they've studied the style and emerge with a sound far too contrived and strictly arranged. On the other hand, their sound fails to live up to their pretensions. The production is lightweight, the synthesisers sound too synthesised and they include a recorder as an instrument, for fuck's sake. A recorder's not an instrument, it's a toy flute! It's hard to tell if both problems would exist without the other - the light production might suit a looser arrangement, or a beefed up sound might fit with the strict organisation. Together, though, it misses its target by quite a bit and there's no excuse for the recorder!
Various - Dark Noise 2000 (Cleopatra)
Cleopatra, the compilation label, has kindly put together a collection of club tracks for the discerning Goff DJ with zero imagination. It's got the classic bands - The Mission (UK), Alien Sex Fiend, Christian Death, Frontline Assembly, the newer stuff - Switchblade Symphony, Culture Kultur, Laether Strip, a nod to the weird edges of the scene with KMFDM's vaguely technofied mix of Genitorturer's paean to perversion, 'Sin City' and even a cover, The Wake's merciless butchering of the Banshees' 'Christine'. This is what's killing the scene, the same fucking music every time, minimal change or experimentation or growth. Thank fuck for labels like Cryonica and even Nightbreed.
Various - new alternatives five (Nightbreed)
Any compilation featuring the talents of Man(i)kin, Flesh Field, Intra-Venus and Inertia is guaranteed to get a favourable listen, particularly when it kicks off with the very pleasing Catastrophe Ballet tune, 'In the moment when you leave'. It makes on more prone to look for the good in all that follows, however hard that may be. However, Void Contruct's bangin' 'Anodyne Impulse (edit 1.1)' needed no help at all and allows the whining nothingness of Leisure Hive to pass by almost unnoticed. The Godlike Words remix of Two Witches' 'Irresistible' tolerable, especially when it's followed by a cracking remix of One's 'Mercy Mile' by Intra-Venus (techno, techno, techno). Diorama moan a bit before Manikin lift it back to the heights with 'Pilgrim Walking (Short Run)'. Zonei try to spoil the party with a sub-Nefilim performance, while Sleepless take forever to get a rather run of the mill Goff track going. However, Mothburner soothe strained ears with the wonderfully uplifting 'Grief in me', with its shades of All About Eve and the Sundays. Things go downhill after than, Brother Orchid, Lady Besery's Garden, Resurrection Eve, Wreckage, Serotonin - a load of Gothic posturing and not an original idea between them. And Gothic Requim's take on 'Ave Maria' is just sinful.
CD2 kicks off with the industrial equivalent of a cowboy bully with a 6-shooter, 'Cyberchrist' - dance, motherfucker, dance! 'Still alive' by the Last Days of Jesus is a bit of a big, bad, Goffic clichè, but the mix is rather lively and upbeat and it passes the time favourably before Intra-Venus show how it should be done. The One remix of 'Celestial Sin' doesn't stray too far from the original, thankfully. Diary of Dreams keep the pace up with the dancey EBM of 'Chemicals', while Naevus' acoustic 'Parade' is refreshingly melodic, if a bit early 80s New Romantic. Saber Wraith's 'Every good man' is another slice of weirdness from the outsiders, 'though it's not quite as awful as 'Egypt'. The Realm's 'Avoid contact with skin' is a driving powerhouse of a track with a serious hodge-podge of styles - Goth, Indus, metal. Following that, unfortunately, is the band that lets the side down - the awful faux-techno-Goths, Midnight Configuration, who are supported in their crimes against music by the dreadfully metal sounds of Seraphim Shock. The production on Shadow House's 'Hole' is all wrong and what sounds like it should be an OK track is buried under too much bass and beats. The alternative mix of 'Salome' by Killing Miranda is unexpectedly pleasant, but it is wiped away by the kick-ass beats of Inertia's 'Void'. No surprises for guessing that Allzeit Dobermann play EBM and 'Killer' is a tastily dancey little number. Lupine's chugging Goth-indus 'Against God' is awful, as is Putra-Chic's Marilyn Manson-esque attempts at electro-Goth. Squid's slow, moody and slightly disturbing 'Gorgeous day for suicide' is quite a bit better, even if it too seems a bit too Manson influenced. All in all, over 32 tracks, this is a success. As usual with samplers of this sort, there's a lot of dross, but that's the case with the scene in general. This makes up for that by including some of the best of the new breed.
Xorcist - Bad Mojo
OK, let me get this straight - computer games are the new rock n' roll, right (they came just after comedy)? Then what does that make computer game soundtracks? This idea of artists scoring computer games is a relatively recent one, necessitated by the legal wrangles over the mutual plundering of sounds and visuals by game designers and techno artists. This double CD by Xorcist is a rather unique product of this new style. CD1 is the more traditionally "musical" of the two - ambient and industrial soundscapes with a dark brooding feel that's common to Bat's work as Xorcist. A couple of things do stand out - the strangeness of the samples, which have a strongly computer-generated feel and the song titles, including 'The urinal/Eddie pisses' and 'Bubbling chilli theme', as the tracks are remixes and compiled from game sequences. The voice samples in particular are very obviously lifted from the game's continuity. Rather than detracting from the music, though, the strangeness of these elements adds a new dimension and a whole new set of references.
CD2 is more straight-forward, made up of the original score of the game. However, removed from the flow of the game, these seem disjointed and incomplete. Last, but not least, are a couple of other tracks, not from the "Bad Mojo" game - playful little oddities like 'Space bunnies must die'. All in all, this is an interesting package, pointing one of the new directions in which electronic music is going. However, the fact that Bat is such an expert at this stuff undoubtedly makes it as good as it is - in the hands of a lesser artist, this would probably be no more than another boring dark ambient collection.
All reviews by Girl the Goth, unless otherwise stated.