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Sordid reviews - 12/02/02.

Sean Altrui - The Candle Horn Churchyard
How to make friends and influence people, lesson 1. When releasing a Goff record, do something new and completely unexpected. For example, try opening with the sweet, chilled sound of a saxophone! Oh, I know sax has been used before (Spear of Destiny, brrr!), but Mr Altrui grants Lee Gillies and his sax centre stage and they, together with quite a number of other musicians create a selection of music that somewhere between the Bad Seeds and the incidental music on a Miami Vice episode, but is actually quite good. And that's just the first track! "The Candle Horn Churchyard" is only five songs, but it is diverse and imaginative bringing to mind the Swans ('if the sea won't rise'), the Doors ('open the brick hand' and 'the crossing') and the Creatures ('sirens'), yet avoids sounding too contrived. Sean Altrui's music shrugs off categorisation, but it has a dark emotional power that's very appealing.

Amber Spyglass - Amber Spyglass (Kreep)
The Amber Spyglass sound is based around the classic Goff formula of guitar-based music, sharp percussion, a very tight arrangement and a strong vocal performance, in this case female. The Banshees are a very obvious influence, particularly on the very Siouxsie-esque (lyrically and vocally) 'Burning at Sunset'. However, Kelly Godshall does have a wider vocal range than Siouxsie Sioux, 'Going Down' is closer to Julianne Regan. This isn't likely to spawn a trad revival, but it is a high quality stuff and should act as a good antidote for those who thing there's far too much techno bangin' around.

Boshetunmay - Signal (Dercha)
The oddly monikered Boshetunmay is two Siberian brothers, currently residing in Germany. Like many of their compatriots, they have chosen art as a means to express themselves, having grown up through the rigours of late Soviet Communism. Unfortunately, they chose to do it through the medium of tacky, amateurish whiney Goff music. First, I must single out the truly awful keyboards that underpin it all for condemnation. They truly are awful and turn what would be fairly harmlessly unimaginative Christian Death, Rozz era, influenced Goff into something really awful. Avoid.

Braindance - Redemption (Progressive Darkwave)
Braindance are still persisting with the progressive darkwave tag, something that makes no sense in the current musical climate. This isn't darkwave, Attrition is darkwave, this is metal. Braindance have more in common with metal bands like Queensr˙che, Sacred Reich or Savatage, than any Goff or darkwave band. There are a certain amount of Gothic influences in this, but not even as many as Lacuna Coil, who straddle the metal and Goth genres more successfully. A bit of Virgin Prunes type vocals on 'Relentless' does not a darkwave band make. Now, this is not a negative criticism, Braindance are VERY good at what they do, and "Redemption" is so well made that even I, who'd rather listen to Basement Jaxx than the Fields of the Nephilim these days, can see the appeal. But, I really think Braindance would find a far larger and much more receptive audience among the metal fraternity (in fact, I've given the CD to my metalhead sister!)

Ganymede - Falling EP (Ninthwave)
This starts off badly, 'are you falling in love again?' is a tacky slice of 80s electro, mixing to minimal effect the poppiest sounds of the Pet Shop Boys and New Order. However, sticking with it, the club mix of 'legacy' has a fuller, more emotive sound and is a much more satisfying listen. But then 'somehow' points a finger at the listener and laughs. Geez, we're talking T'Pau level tacky horribleness here - blippy keyboards topped with a spoken word chorus, for fuck's sake. It doesn't get much better either, if you're foolhardy enough to stick with it. And the remixes fail to make purses out of these sow's ears.

Lacrimosa - Fassade (Nuclear Blast) Buy from MNS
Through the 90s, in particular, the latter stages, Lacrimosa was the Goth band that showed how creative, imaginative and downright brilliant Gothic music could be. Now, in 2002, the steam has largely gone out of the Gothic revival and, alas, the same seems true of its best band. "Fassade" does everything a Lacrimosa album should, but that's the problem, they've done it all before. Lacrimosa excelled at never doing what was expected of them and surprising the listener with fresh and exciting sounds that constantly stretched the boundaries of what Gothic music was. The brass section on 'warum so tief?' just doesn't have the same impact. And, there are nowhere near enough tracks combining the vocals of Tilo and Anne. The light/shade clash of the two voices was always their trump card and it's underused here. That is, of course, except on the challenging 'liebespiel', which is the best track on this (a judgement I make with no small reservation). The intro is pure metal, up to and including the growling vocals of Tilo at the start. But it goes all strange when the flute kicks in. At a few points, at least three distinct styles - metal, Goth and folk - coexist. This is what Lacrimosa should always be about - unpredictable, challenging and brilliant. It's a pity; the rest of the album doesn't do well in comparison.

Morgan's Canon - for Water (Samson)
Insert CD into player, press play, listen for 10 seconds, laugh, press stop, remove CD and throw it in the bin.

Muleskinner Jones - Terrible Stories
The violent and oft-crazed folk music of the Appalachian Mountains has oft attracted musicians of somewhat twisted mind. Muleskinner Jones, AKA James Closs, is no different. Four tales of murder and love gone bad related over the sound of an acoustic guitar and assorted percussion noises. The problem is that this immediately elicits comparisons with Nick Cave's 'Murder Ballads', Violent Femmes' more acoustic moments or, most importantly, Kristin Hersh's acoustic stuff. Kristin's Hersh's 'Murder, Misery and then Goodnight' even contains a versions of 'pretty polly' and 'rose connelly' (called "Down in the Willow Garden" on hers). "Terrible Stories" suffers badly in comparison, James Closs' versions have too much extra - vocal effects or different vocal styles, which detract from the innate darkness and strangeness of the originals. Redoing much-recorded folk songs is always dangerous and Muleskinner Jones' versions are just not good enough. Check out the Kristin Hersh album instead.

rachael's surrender - summer (Kitten Eye)
The sight of this CD brings me back, as the last CD by reuben and co was in the second ever batch of CDs reviewed in Sordid. I also remember not being all that impressed with the band's droning darkwave sound. "Summer" starts off giving the impression that this is going to be different as the lively instrumental piece, 'secret lives of angels (prologue)' starts it all off. 'soul's tide' keeps up the momentum, a warm and upbeat piece of faux classical with a nicely melodic vocal line. And then it all goes flat. It's the vocals that are the problem, reuben seems fixated on the tuneless style of late 80s shoegazine indie and it's really boring an, at times, really irritating, like on '6-4=3'. The low quality of the vocals unfortunately overshadows the high quality of the music, which features nice touches though-out like the piano on 'sleep'. What rachael's surrender need is a real vocalist, someone who can complement reuben's undeniable musical talent rather than mess it up like he does himself.

spies - notinism (Flatline)
spies are French multimedia artists who, musically, create beat-driven soundscapes. Ranging from techno, thru electro and industrial, the spies sound is diverse and varied and builds on the work of their predecessors, the likes of Scar Tissue and Xorcist. Unfortunately, "notinism" does not come close to reaching the heights their labelmates Implant inhabit. And, when you've heard the best, the rest isn't good enough.

System der Dinge - Fear Forms Function (DSBP)
At first it seemed S der D are an unreconstructed elektro band, unashamedly mixing up the dark electro/industrial sounds that reached the height of their popularity in the late 90s before being overtaken by "futurepop" (I still hate that term - so check out the competition!). As it happens, this is actually a CD that was recorded in 1999 and I hadn't realised! In other words, this was at the top of the game when it was released and should have been far more noteworthy. The electronics are sharp and well constructed and are drawn from the more upbeat edge of pre-techno EBM. Nicely mixed in are the crunchier industrial noises, from machinery samples to crashing distorted guitar sounds. On top are the droning harsh vocals of the post-Skinny Puppy era that have been overtaken by the more melodic tones of the futurepop leaders. However, 'Mindfire', with its techno-influenced structure, shows that they were on the ball as to where the scene was going. What will be most interesting is to see where they go now when they release something new. All in all, "Fear Forms Function" is a great example of the late '90s sound, though it does sound a little dated in what is an ever faster moving scene.

Various - A cage went in search of a bird (SOMN<I>MAGE)
This is a collection of 17 tracks inspired by the literary genius of Franz Kafka. Quite apart from the quality of the music, I've got to express my gratitude to SOMN<I>MAGE for the fact that this CD pushed me into taking the Kafka book I bought months ago down from the shelf and finally reading 'Metamorphosis' and a few other pieces. Judging something like this can be rather difficult. Initially, there's how the music sounds, whether or not it's any good, but that's unsatisfactory. There's also the general Kafkaesque-"ness", the question as to how much or how little this impacts on the music. Is Attrition's slightly off kilter violin piece, 'Metamorphosis', a worthy soundtrack to the literary classic? Do the blippy and bleeping synth noises of Loren Jan Wilson II & Ryoji Furui's 'Sample 9' have anything to do anything to do with a writer from the start of the last century?

Personally, I find 'Falling' by Neither/Neither World to be the most Kafkaesque - in one ear is the soft Cranes-influenced indie pop, thrown off centre by the unrelated and discordant speaking voice in the other ear. Benjamin Sauffer's uneasy and somewhat foreboding piano and organ soundtrack piece also evokes impressions of the literature. But, that's just me, maybe other listeners will be more drawn to the Gothic sounds of Angelhood, the dark ambient of Mara's Torment or Chagas or even the horrible black metal sounding 'Mortal Forecast' by Halo Skycrash. This is a musically varied (granted, all the styles are somewhere close to Goth, indus or electro) collection of imaginative pieces that makes a more than refreshing change from the bad cover versions that make up the standard tribute collections.

All reviews by Girl the Bourgeois Individualist, unless otherwise stated.

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