assemblage 23 - [contempt] (Accession)
assemblage 23 is another one-man techno/EBM band by the name of Tom Shear - a big intense looking skinhead type person. This is a scene that's getting harder and harder to write about without constant repetition. While the bands don't sound the same, as such, they are all using the same elements, so assemblage 23, like the others, mixes sharp and hard beats with droning vocals, trance and techno sequences and electro synths. And he does it well, though not as well as Covenant. I think that's the problem - Covenant just do this stuff so well, everyone else in the scene suffers in comparison. However, assemblage 23 play tasty, funky and eminently danceable techno EBM crossover that is better than many others.
Bauhaus - Gotham (KK)
It's Bauhaus, do I really need to say any more? As those who caught the Resurrection Tour know, and those who missed it have heard over and over again, Bauhaus '98 were amazing. This was recorded in NYC and one look at the track listing should be reason enough to buy it. There's something from every period of the band here, from 'Bela Lugosi's dead' to 'All we ever wanted', via 'Hollow hills', 'She's in parties' and, of course, 'Ziggy Stardust'. If I must find a flaw, it's that their version of Dead Can Dance's 'Severance' isn't great, and it's here twice - live and studio recordings. However, there's two CDs worth of brilliant stuff here, here's hoping they decide to do it all again and we can all get to see them.
Claire Voyant - Time Again (Accession)
Not having heard the original versions of these tracks puts me at a disadvantage, as it is hard to tell how much of the sound is the band and how much is the remixer. However, a few listens to the album does give you a fairly good idea. This features some of the biggest names in the electro/EBM scene: Front 242, VNV Nation and Eskil Simonsson of Covenant on remix duties.
Francis A. Preve kicks things off with the "Trancelite" mix of 'Iolite', which is just as described, owing quite a bit to the recent mixes of Delerium's 'Silence'. Front 242's "Riptide" mix of 'Eventide' is a bit of a surprise, it's more lightweight elector than their normal fare and the band comes out sounding quite a bit like Curve. VNV Nation, on the other hand, brings a much lighter touch to 'Majesty', framing and complementing the powerful vocals of Victoria Lloyd perfectly. Claire Voyant label mates cut.rate.box do the exact opposite, challenging the vocals with a hard-hitting electro sound, all but drowning them out, but instead creating a tasty juxtaposition of sounds. Other label mates, Assemblage 23, have a go at 'Majesty' as well and the "Premonition" mix couldn't be more different from VNV's. Technofied EBM with a powerhouse drumbeat dominates the proceedings with the vocals floating 'majestically' on top.
Eskil Simonsson rather effortlessly shows why Covenant are top of the heap at the moment, lifting the ethereal vocals of 'Love the giver' and dropping them onto a perfectly conceived mix of banging techno and electro melody. The unfortunate task of following that falls to Octaine, but their mix of 'Iolite' doesn't disappoint - a strange quirky little thing with a groovy mix of beats, electro noises, sampled acoustic guitar and distorted vocals. The "Luxt Mix" of 'Time and the maiden' takes a completely new tack by lifting the vocals and dropping them into a slow morass of industrial dance. The clash works nicely and provides a good counterpoint to some of the lighter sounds preceding it. haujobb take a note out of VNV's book, pushing the vocals of 'Blinking tears' into the forefront with a lush and gentle backing.
Love Spirals Downwards' "LSD Mix" of 'Bittersweet' is different again, with a hard and frenetic drum n' bass beat matched with a sumptuous sax sound and some soft vocals. J Stephen Foster goes to work big time on 'Everafter' with the "Singing in the rain" mix, which makes the band sound very like Cochteau Twins. The cut and paste technique renders much of the vocals meaningless (a là Liz Frazer) is very cool indeed. Beborn Beton produces the third mix of 'Majesty' and it does suffer in comparison with the other two. The backing track is too busy and confused, distracting from the great vocals without doing much else. Last, but not least, Trance to the Sun go big with 'Serenade' - the beats are big, the bass is phat, the atmospheric synth sounds are massive and there's a tasty kind of breathless vocal to go with it. All in all, across the 13 tracks, this is one of the most consistent and high quality remix albums I've ever heard. It gets better with each listen, as the complexity and skill of the remixers, and the quality of the original music, come even more to the fore. This could not be more highly recommended.
The Electric Hellfire Club - Witness the Millennium (Cleopatra)
Arrgghhhh, the pain, the pain, make it stop! Abbadon from Venom producing, an Iron Maiden cover, a load of sub-LaVey Satanist crap, can it get much worse than this? Silly heavy metal bollix - The Electric Hellfire Club are now, officially, beyond saving.
Jennifer Hope - Winds of Tomorrow (Mystic Dreams)
Gothic music features different kinds of vocalists, there's the growlers, the screamers, the shouters and sometime, there's even singers. If there's on condition I'd have to place on the latter category, it's that they can actually hold a note. Jennifer Hope can't. Please excuse the not-very-Gothic reference, but the first track, 'What's inside' is highly reminiscent of Cameron Diaz's attempt at karaoke in "My Best Friend's Wedding". To be fair, it does improve somewhat from there on, but it never actually gets good.
Neuroticfish - noinstruments (Vision)
Neuroticfish is one man, Sascha Mario Klein, and a lot of equipment. Sascha plays EBM. There's bits of dance music in there too, as well as fancy techno trickery, like how he manages to sing backing vocals for himself, but, at heart it's EBM. So, there's loads of synths, sharp drumbeats and somewhat droning male vocals. That's really all there is to say. Neuroticfish isn't Covenant; he's not breaking any new ground, just adding enough modern elements to stop things getting stale. Not that that's major criticism, it's quite enjoyable, particularly 'black skin' with its sampled news reports of violent scenes and ironic "Electronic Body Music is dead" sample. Not everyone CAN be Covenant and it takes a lot more bands like Neuroticfish to make an interesting scene. They do their part admirably.
raison d'être - in sadness, silence and solitude (Cold Meat)
raison d'être play dark ambient, a style of music that, in my opinion, is not so much on its last legs, as wobbling on its last toe crushed under the weight of thousands of dark ambient releases that sound EXACTLY THE SAME! raison d'être are not to blame for this, 'though, they've been at this for over seven years, long before the recent explosion, and this is their fourth release. Their trick is to mix samples of Catholic ritual chants into their sounds. It does lift the music out of the mundane, but it isn't enough to make it exciting. The sampled cantos give it a slight similarity to early Enigma, but that's really very slight. This is one of the better dark ambient releases of recent times, but that isn't saying all that much.
The Young Gods - Lucidogen (Intoxygene)
After quite a few years out of sight, not counting the "Heaven Deconstruction" side project, the band that is, without doubt, the most exciting thing ever to have come from Switzerland releases a taster of their new album. 'Lucidogen' is vintage Young Gods - driving rhythms, a powerful and noisy wash of synths and samples and, of course, Franz's unmistakeable vocals, switching seamlessly from French to English and back again. Two other mixes back up the single, a rather ho-hum ambient mix featuring a lot of crackling electrical noises and a hard trance mix, which is much better and has a tasty dance feel to it. Basically, the Young Gods are back, 'nuff said.
All reviews by Girl the Goth, unless otherwise stated.