COLD WAVES is a celebration of Chicago’s relationship with industrial music, the memory of a fallen brother, and a fundraiser for suicide prevention charities. In the summer of 2012, Chicago lost one of its most loved and respected sound engineers and musicians, Jamie Duffy. His work ethic and ingenuity in the local music scene was a gift to many musicians. His abrupt passing had a profound effect on the electronic and metal music communities he meant so much to.
Friday night preview ! This is a stacked bill and I will do a quick hit on some of the amazing talent you will see 🙂
Pixel Grip – Chicago natives that look and sound way too cool for their own good. An effortless euro dance vibe with shadow weaver vocals and staccato cadence. When you need to channel the confidence of your look and follow the beat to the dance floor this is your jam. The perfect build to set the tone.
Odonis Odonis – Toronto danger trance bring a circulatory pumping drive and britpop beauty sure to shred the floor. I love the way they push the wave right to the edge without cascading over. Real masters of the electronic hook in the vibe of Information Society . I hear so much familiar here and creeping dark dissonance that adds a forceful infusion of soul.
Gost – Now it says they are from Hell Michigan, but if that is true why don’t I know them? I didn’t know anything going in but I assure you I am diving deep now. This Satanic darksynth is absolute hellfire. It explodes with bright thick streams of magma and clever samples. I love finding a band and immediately falling in love. Songs to exorcise demons, and then befriend them. Bringing a iron bulldozer of metal into the synth genre.
Rhys Fulber – The legendary electronic artist best known for his work with Front Line Assembly and Delirium. I grew up enthralled by the scalding power Rhys brings to electronic atmospheres. The master of conjuring robotic overthrow apocalypse to life. Perhaps his greatest aspect is the craft of collaboration. In a long and storied career working with so many great artists to always find a way to shine forth the best in others. This is not the time for a bathroom break. Absorb the glorious energy of one of the best that ever was.
Dälek – New Jersey trip hop cityscape sonic painters create a landscape of subtilty with brush work percussion and smooth as butter rhymes. A synthesis of beauty and power. East coast intellectual truth spit to mental elevation. An outstanding addition that speaks to the eclectic nature and scope of this festival. Feel the room jump, feel the beats bump.
Consolidated – This is a band that was extremely important to me in my formative years. That they are playing this show in this moment when their progressive ideals and punk rock ethos are needed most. They have been fearlessly screaming for a change which was so far ahead of it’s time. Funky jazz chaos electronic with intelligent and powerful delivery. A thoughtful and focused fire that stirs the mind as much as the body. What a way to close out Friday night.
Another Friday night finds me tipsy and alone behind this keyboard. However I am never truly alone when I have great music and all of you to share it with. I have all my latest Bandcamp purchases, a few of which are absolutely smash hits. Please leave a comment below of who you would like to see me review in the future.
Twin Tribes – Altars – The beautiful lads of TX have released a remix album. Now I will always buy anything Twin Tribes put out sight unseen. I have to say this collection of remixes by some of the hottest names in darkwave was a special treat. The songs were big departures from the standard Twin Tribes style, but Luis voice still kept each song familiar. It included tracks from both previous albums placed lovingly up for sacrifice on the Altar to be transmuted and given back to the world.
Remixers Include:Skeleton Hands, Geometric Vision, Luz Futoro, Ash Code, NITE, Wingtips, Matte Blvck, Dave Parley, She Passed Away, Bootblacks, and Creux Lies. Yes you read that right. I think the power house of performers here really speaks to the immense effect Joel and Luis have had on this scene in such a short time.
Upir (remixed by NITE) – Damn this is gorgeous. This slow drifting synths remind me of a quiet corner in a buzzing high energy club. The beat then kicks in with a lovely synth line. Just such a bold shift from an already amazing song. This is the most I can ask for in a remix. I true homage while breaking a new vision.
Shadows –Matte Blvckremix – Shadows was the song that started my deep love of Twin Tribes. It holds a very personal place in my heart. To have it transformed in this way and still hold such an intense emotional impact is something glorious. This is that secret cult but no longer around a ancient tree but now in a lush modern club. Full of velvet and burning incense. A beautiful and dangerous collision of past and future.
Overall Impact: Generally speaking I am not a huge fan of “just remix” albums. I really love remixes included with an EP or something fresh. However as is often the case Twin Tribes have become the expectation that proves the rule. They took songs I love and collected most of the top names in modern darkwave. If you don’t know some of the bands here, you need to let this album lead you back to them. It’s very accessible and has a nice variance of sound. General fans will enjoy, fans of Post Punk/Darkwave will love.
the Dramedy – And The Light Goes White – New album from Dave Dramedy, who I recently saw playing bass for Caroline Blind in Detroit. This was a strange and experimental album that never left me bored. Dave surely has a power and range to his voice that rides the line of Mark Burgess and Iggy Pop punk edge. I really like the blend of rhythmic acoustic and harder driving bass guitar sounds. This is an album that grows on you. It seemed to get better with every listen. Like a favorite film where you notice a new detail every time you watch and always feels fresh.
Parasite: It’s hard to put my finger on it. The inflection in the vocals. The ring of the drums. The chopping downward acoustic guitar. This song although having a very dark edge, carries a vibe of 60’s Height Ashbury psychedelia. Of the Mamas and the Papas. It covers a lot of ground stylistically. The vocals are full of piss and vinegar for how beautiful and resonant they are. This song is a jam that is hard to place in the box. Other than the box of I love this fuking song.
What’s left To Say – Just stabbing sun shard energy right out of the gate. Total bop feel with flaming guitar lines, biting vocals, and late 90s Brit Pop hooks. I just couldn’t stop my leg shaking on this one.
Overall Impact: This album is so full of twists and turns. A definite nostalgia feel, as well as a region one. I really felt the California connection in every song. I think this record is very accessible despite the complexity. It is a hard sound to describe but if The Church were being yelled at by Iggy pop to stop changing time signature and just play bops. That’s what I feel.
Christian Death – Spectre (Love Is Dead) Kill Shelter Remix – This song is a classic. Probably my favorite CD track. So how do you re-imagine something iconic? Give it to Pete Burns. Pete is such a master of the sonic scalpel cutting away tiny bits until you are left with such a precise and streamlined modern wave beam. If I had it in my heart to toss a grenade over my shoulder and purposefully stroll from a collapsing building, this is the track I want playing. It’s pure energy and dangerous intent. 10/10.
Overall Impact: Everyone will love this track. It’s very fresh, it’s very way back. It’s just a slamming banger from start to finish.
Deadlight Holiday – Blood // Body – Our dear friends from West Michigan uncorked this badass single with some slamming sounds of Nu Metal and sizzling tempo Stabbing Westward vibes. Great production in the breakdown swirl. Loving these scratchy tear your head off vocals blistering past the crunching guitar. Also a gasoline covered dead man’s dance remix by Angelspit. I sense big things on the horizon from these young folk and I look forward to sharing a stage with them again soon.
Raichyl Sinversa – You Tell Me (Re-Mastered) – Remastered single from Raichyl of Philly. This is a nice crooning darkpop head bopper with an empowerment edge of 90s grunge. The guitar work is napalm scorched earth to contrast the lovely lifting vocals. A little bit of southern sass in the tone puts a nice edge to this “I’m not falling for your shit again” boot stomping driver.
Aesthetic Perfection – Automaton (feat. Sebastian Svalland) – Ok I have a confession that will not win me any goth points. Aesthetic Perfection sort of happened right in the moment between when I gave up on discovering new music and the time I listened to nothing but. Daniel Graves has become a leader of the modern dark scene for a reason. So getting to hear this new single without much context is a really interesting way to stumble into the band. This track is a bop. With firecracker exploding chain guitar work by Sebastian Svalland. It is also produced by Front Line Assembly legend Rhys Fulber. So I went in blind expecting cold razor precision on the production. Which is exactly what I got. What I was pleasantly surprised by was the range and voice charisma of Graves. It oozes with thick viscus grime and light footed cadence that keeps the energy constant and focused. The song also gives a tight compressed poetry of lyrics that convey a relatable idea in the modern era without an abundance of words. There is a special anticipation when you discover a band with a rich history later in their career and get to work your way back. I may have to do some of my reaction videos to some Aesthetic Perfection classics. Put your favorites below in the comments. Also buy this track immediately because it is a slam.
I’ve been asking every artist this question, and my apologies if you’ve already had to answer it many times: How did the pandemic affect your workflow- both for this album and for your other projects?
A lot of the best known records I have made were all made under self imposed lockdown like conditions, but usually with a few other people in the room. This time I am alone and sending files back and forth, which Bill and I were doing already because we lived in different cities, so its not a major adjustment as far as working on music goes. In fact the pandemic brought me back to Canada and Bill and I actually completed the song “Unknown” in the same room so that’s an inverse effect.
I feel like Mechanical Soul has a much more old school “classic” FLA sound than say, the previous release Wake Up The Coma. I know it when I hear it but it’s sometimes hard to describe. At this point if somebody asked you to describe the “classic” FLA sound, what would you say? How much of it has stayed the same for all these years and what has changed?
I guess the “classic” FLA sound is a one-bar EBM bass line and then a big chorus part supported by pads and Bill’s voice. I think music goes in cycles and its come back around to where we started in a way. EBM was a techno buzzword a few years ago with new, younger artists exploring that style. I guess if you stick around long enough your original suit comes back in fashion. However Bill and I are always listening to new music and that will always influence you to some degree. I think the key here is adding upgrades here and there while keeping the body intact. Also doing live techno sets in that environment helped me incorporate some of those dynamics into the new FLA as well. There are arrangements we would not have done in the early 90s on this record.
I love that you brought on Jean-Luc DeMeyer for “Barbarians.” How did this collaboration come about? I see it’s a reworking of “Future Fail” from Artificial Soldier…
It was just a case of reusing a great vocal and giving it a backdrop where it can shine more clearly. Bill loved that vocal and felt it got a bit buried under a busy uptempo track and though slowing it down and going more epic would highlight it more. He sent me the half time drum loop and then I built the music around that and the vocal. Vocals are usually added last to our music so this time it was the other way around. Jean-Luc has such a unique voice and lyrical style it can easily function as a foundation.
Tell us about some other projects you worked on in 2020, i.e. Cyberpunk 2077 and your solo album Diaspora. I love the track with Sara Taylor [of Youth Code], not just as a Black Flag fan but because it has such a cool energy between the two of you.
Cyberpunk was a fruitful project. I did 6 pieces for it but only 2 made the game, but working in that style spun off into my solo album Ostalgia. The tracks “Fission” and “Apostel” were developed from the game demo tracks and the style of the others influenced a few others on the album. The FLA track Stifle was also originally for the game. I had the idea of doing an electronic version of “Slip It In” for a while because the riff to me sounded like a great EBM riff. I was worried about the perception of the lyrics, so I thought having a female voice would be a more interesting juxtaposition, and Sara immediately came to mind with the power of her delivery. She came by my studio in Los Angeles and we had it down in a couple hours.
You guys also worked with Dino Cazares from Fear Factory on this album…I’m assuming this connection dates back to your work with them in the 90s but it was surprising and refreshing to hear guitar on an FLA album, since it doesn’t happen often. Was this your idea or Bill’s?
This was Bill’s idea. Stifle was a Cyberpunk track originally and Bill liked it and put down his vocals. After that he thought adding some guitar stabs would elevate the track even more so I asked Dino and of course he did a great job with minimal instruction. I have been doing some keyboards on an upcoming Fear Factory album (!!! -Ed.) and talk to Dino fairly often so it was easy to make happen.
I’m asking about the track with Dino also because it seems like guitars are showing up in a lot of electronic music lately, which again reminds me a little of the late 90s, yet it seems like there is a lot more crossover nowadays between genres.
I hate to phrase it this way because I sound like such a stereotypical clueless music journalist, but where do you see electronic music going next?
Its hard to say because electronic music is a broader and broader term. Most hiphop and pop music is technically electronic music, so in a way it’s already everywhere. I think we are seeing more circling back as well. I am hearing productions that now sound like the early and mid 90s as opposed to the 80s influence thats already everywhere, so it will probably just be overlapping circles in either direction.
It seems that every Front Line Assembly album hits closer and closer to home with their themes of cold, eerie dystopia and isolation. This one in particular feels brutally apt, almost prophetic, given the pandemic and the turmoil it caused around the world in 2020. For example, in the opening track “Purge,” Bill Leeb’s trademark Vocoded growl warns us that “ the war has begun/we all need guns.” The desolate brassy synths in the chorus instantly takes us back to the band’s roots circa Gashed Senses & Crossfire or perhaps Tactical Neural Implant. The swirling, atmospheric intro to “Glass And Leather” turns abruptly to a gritty four-on-the-floor kick and a stuttering lead synth. The hi-hat rhythms and sampled vocals in the background add sort of retro, glitchy electro vibe which, combined with Leeb’s rasping vocals, makes for an interesting contrast. The dystopian theme continues on “Unknown,” which has all the makings of a classic FLA anthem, capturing a feeling of hopelessness that feels all too timely, such as the chorus: “Thinking about tomorrow/lost and forgotten sorrows/new horizons come and go” asking, “Do we live forever? In the future we call never?” The epic chorus builds up beautifully with swelling synth pads and stacked layers of vocals, raising goosebumps on one’s arms.
There are a couple of notable collaborations on Mechanical Soul as well. The guitar on “Stifle” courtesy of Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares, adds a driving, quintessential industrial rhythm to a lurching, grinding track which was originally composed for the Cyberpunk 2077 soundtrack. I don’t have the first clue as to why it was rejected, as it anchors the album and provides a sort of intermission, a sonic checkpoint between the songs which flow so easily from one to the next. Another major standout is “Barbarians,” which features Front 242/C-Tec vocalist Jean-Luc DeMeyer. While it’s actually a rework of “Future Fail” from the 2006 album Artificial Soldier, the slower pace and DeMeyer’s authoritative yet soulful vocals take it in a totally different direction.
We even get to hear Bill Leeb speaking German in “Komm, stirbt mit mir” (Translation: “Come, die with me”) which will most definitely put a smile on the faces of the most hardcore old-school rivetheads. (Or at least, since we rarely smile, maybe we’ll want to stomp around to this one in a dark club someday…) And last but certainly not least on the album is the Black Asteroid remix of “Hatevol”. The noise/dark techno project of Bryan Black, the mix is as brutal as it is precise; make sure your subwoofers are hooked up for this one.
Mechanical Soul marks a return to form for Front Line Assembly. As much as their sound is so instantly recognizable no matter how their style may shift slightly from one album to the next, this album feels strongly inspired by their own history and their “classics” in a way that achieves a compelling sense of timelessness.