Sounds and Shadows Top Industrial/EBM/EDM of 2020

So many great Industrial/EDM/EBM albums this year. This is a genre that has been expanding and drawing fresh listeners all year. Again I can’t possibly include everything I loved, however these albums were the ones that fired a jolt of electricity into my spine and made my gears churn. These are all artists who had a full release in 2020.

20) Rabbit Junk – Xenospheres – Seattle based EBM/Metal dance explosion has been churning out explosive action movie soundtracks with razor sharp production. This album is swinging a sledge hammer around their heads on a leather cord. The cover of Iggy Pop’s “Kick It” with Peaches singing is worth the price of admission on it’s own.

https://rabbitjunk.com/album/xenospheres

19) eHpH – InfraredColorado band eHpH did this timely politically charged record that really captured the fear and division in the current climate. I think what I loved best were how wide the influences present were. Some melodic and post punk, some bright buzzing EBM. The whole record was full of intelligence and challenges the listener to face their own ideas about where the world is headed.

https://ehph.bandcamp.com/album/infrared

18) Seven FederationsHoly Orders – A wonderous sonic explosion from South Dakota. The vocals just crackle with electric ferocity from exploding transformers. Filthy basslines and wolf growl guitars. this album is the naughty demon on your shoulder whispering to you of sinful roads not taken. They might be the most underrated album on this list. People need to know about this record.

https://sevenfederations.bandcamp.com/album/holy-orders

17) Carrion – Testament Ov The Exiled – This is always such a hard review to write. Carrion is so powerful, so fresh, but just doesn’t fit into any box that makes sense within the mind. This textural terror noise has a level of intensity that demands recognition. How to quantify it I have no idea. Other than to say it is music that leaves you changed, afraid, praying for the dawn. Hide [Adrian] is creating on a level that artists and critics in the next decade may have artful words for. This whole record just leaves me moved and unsure how to describe. Best to bare witness for yourself.

PS: Carrion is already reissuing the album via Brutal Resonance Records, the `Revised Edition ` includes 5 bonus tracks!

https://brutalresonance.bandcamp.com/album/testament-ov-the-exiled-revised-edition

https://officialcarrion.bandcamp.com/album/testament-ov-the-exiled

16) Corlyx – Together Apart World traveling EDM darkpop couple Caitlin and Brandon with their sophomore offering have captured the glory of pageantry in dark music. Caitlin has a beautiful voice that captivates and builds dreams in your mind. I love the dark LA gutter glamor this band always commands. They have added a level of clarity and refinement for this album and continue to evolve. Get in on the ground floor of these future stars.

https://corlyxngp.bandcamp.com/

15) Rottersand – How Do You Feel Today – The way this German band turns and twists on different axis within the same tracks is reality defying. The echoing chorus’s that have an intelligence and feel of Roger Waters bursting with electronic futurecore explosion. This album is a special journey with peaks and valleys that run the breadth of human experience. It is a modern album that has something for every kind of listener to enjoy.

https://rotersand.bandcamp.com/album/how-do-you-feel-today

14) Trevor Something Deep Wave Data Dark Web Deamons – Florida dance demon Trevor Something might be the sexiest thing I heard all year. The way they capture raw, grinding, sexual energy in sonic form is something of glory. It shakes your bone marrow awake and says you are an animal that hungers for flesh. Buy this record, shake a martini, and have a private dance party with your favorite partner.

https://trevorsomething.bandcamp.com/album/deep-wave-data-dark-web-daemons

13) 11 Grams – Humancide – The super combo of Rob and Simeon put out this long awaited album of everything you ever loved about old school industrial/electronica. It always has a toe over the line while sounding so familiar. Perfect execution and narrative intensity. This record is a rocket jocks sci-fi soundtrack to explore the speed of the stars.

https://11grams.bandcamp.com/album/humanicide

12) SpankTheNun – The Bunker Tapes Volume I – Hard and metal to the floor industrial from Texas. How do you find that line between crystal clear beats and filthy growling vocals? It’s right here. We aren’t reinventing the wheel here, we are greasing the axle to make it spin harder and faster. A bunch of amazing remixes from Blue Ant, Assemblage 23 , Melodywhore, Sapphirra Vee, show the faith and influence that this band commands in the scene.

https://spankthenun.bandcamp.com/album/the-bunker-tapes-vol-i

11) Caustic – A Succession Of Repetitive Beats – Our only double album winner in this genre is Matt Fanale. The return of Caustic and their DIY punk rock mentality with witty and humorous electronic slither is a breath of fresh air in the modern genre. The song Stale Semen, Shame, and Video Games is a poignant slam of the Incel culture. Make me dance and make me think. This is what Joe Strummer trained us for.

https://caustic.bandcamp.com/album/a-succession-of-repetitive-beats

10) Sapphira Vee – The Mask – The smoky and subtitle voice of Sapphira Vee from Rochester NY has been tearing up the airwaves the last two months. A slow drink of whiskey in sonic form. It’s slow and grinding full of personal reflection and self realization. I had a small part guest vocal on this album and it’s a point of personal pride that I was involved with such a powerful release this year. I’ve bought multiple copies of this record to send to friends. This is a great example of why trip hop is the highest evolution of music.

https://sapphiravee.bandcamp.com/

9) Kanga – Eternal DaughterLA based artist wields this sonic saber like a charging cavalry officer charging by on a horse slashing on both sides. It’s that effortlessly cool beauty blended with icy dance beats. I’m not sure what category to put this in beyond excellent.

https://kanga.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-daughter

8) Grabyourface – Sea – Every once in a while some album comes along that is so fresh and honest you sit up in your chair and just feel something new. One of those artist that grabs hold of their own ribcage and rips themselves open to let you in on the guts and grime of everything inside them. This album forces you to feel things, to confront and absorb the empathetic tone within yourself.

https://grabyourfacengp.bandcamp.com/

7) Klack – Probably – The Wisconsin EDM sensation that brings together Matt Fanale (Caustic) and Eric Oehler (Null Device). I’ve watched this project grow and blossom and this album really hit the perfect stride and balance of their styles. It’s clever, it’s electric, and the single Faith In Me is a glorious jam that could have been on a Depeche Mode album in the late 80s. I love when you hear a collaboration and can hear how much the artists respect and care about each other. It can’t be faked and this album brims over with it.

https://klack.bandcamp.com/album/probably

6) The Joy Thieves – A Blue Girl – Chicago superband led by drummer extraordinaire Dan Milligan has been garnering much deserved respect in Industrial circles. The way he blends old school Industrial with organic hard rock is an energy which is contagious. The contributor list is impressive and so long I won’t add everyone but names like Chris Connelly, Jullian Beeston, and Ania Tarnoska are just a few highlights. The title track is a slamming cut for the ages. If you don’t know about the next Pigface you need to get on board this train.

https://thejoythieves.bandcamp.com/album/the-joy-thieves-a-blue-girl

5) Klute – Queer For SatanClaus Larson of Leatherstrip unleashed this gorgeous record of furious destruction and sensual magnetism. This year must have been one of the toughest things a person can go through for him and that unbridled emotion pours forth in a firehose of pain and fear. If you love Leatherstrip (and how could you not) this album is top of the game.

https://leaetherstrip.bandcamp.com/album/queer-for-satan

4) Stoneburner – Beauty Is Terror – Steven Archer has had multiple releases this year, all great. His ability as an artist and multimedia creator really is the top of the game for DIY synthesis of audio and visual. To me this record was the highest evolution of his style thus far. It’s hard, world view, narrative, intelligent music that conjures images like you are reading a novel. The single “Are you here the way I’m here” is a steampunk electrocore time travel head flip. This album truly pushes the boundary of what is possible in thought and feeling. You need it.

https://stoneburnerofficial.bandcamp.com/album/beauty-is-terror

3) ESA: Electronic Substance Abuse – “Burial 10 – EBM music is not my cup of tea. However, anything done at the top of the game is easy to know when you hear it. This album is hard, filthy, and so full of nuclear radiation it is impossible to not stomp your feet and dance to. The concept, power, and delivery are peerless in their execution. Add to that guest performances by Jo Hysteria, Cainlin Corlyx, and Lecture and you have one of the breakout album experiences of the year. This is one of those records I could listen to 100 times and hone in on a different detail each one.

https://esangp.bandcamp.com/album/burial-10

2) The Jean Marc Lederman Experience – Letters to Gods and Fallen Angels – For all those wondering where are the albums touching on a higher artistic ideal in the modern age. This is it. The Belgian artists who’s resume has touched some of the most prolific music to occur in the electronic era has compiled a group of guest singers both legendary and future stars and ask them to write a letter to God or a fallen angel. The responses follow the course of human mysticism and discovery. This album is a true journey of thought and expression that touches on a myriad of styles and ideas. It’s been a long time since a record made me think and feel so much. Do yourself a favor and take this adventure.

https://wool-e-discs.be/album/wed077-letters-to-gods-and-fallen-angels

  1. Pig – Pain Is God – Some people had a punk rock phase in their angry youth. I had an industrial one. A big part of that was Raymond Watts. KMFDM and <PIG> was a remind that Industrial music could mean something else. That it was a music of synthesis between electronic dance beats and any other style you could imagine. Here he is reborn the swine lord persona with a heady blend of of gospel, hard rock, and neon gutter grime. This record was the open gate between my 2020 self and my 1993 self. A DeLorean that connected me to my ego and my wisdom. A glorious return for the master of swine.
See our interview with Raymond Watts here

https://pigindustries.bandcamp.com/

I didn’t include singles in this list. However important mentions: Silverwalks, Melodywhore, and Der Prosector.

https://silverwalk.bandcamp.com/

https://melodywhore.bandcamp.com/

https://derprosector.bandcamp.com/

The Jean-Marc Lederman Experience: Letters to Gods and Fallen Angels

Jean-Marc Lederman is an artist who’s pedigree in music is undisputable. Aside from his composition work he has played with bands like The The, Fad Gadget, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Weathermen, and Front 242. Take a moment to absorb that resume to understand the scope of his career. As an artist where do you go to break new ground that can still inspire and challenge? With this album he has found a multimedia experience that raises the bar of expression in sound. It comes in the form of a package including a 36 page image book by Erica Hinyot. and texts by Philippe Genion , Ceratomia and the comic writer and singer Christina Z. 24 original tracks with a diverse cast of musicians spanning wide the breadth of genre . The tracks are varied but tied together by an insistence of craft and quality. Ambitious while relatable to a central concept. In this time of quick hit pop singles, this 2 cd package is relying on a hunger for intellectual art.

The premise is concise, yet deep as the earliest longings of humanity for answers to questions beyond proof. To write a letter to faceless entities of the gnostic realm. Each “letter” is penned by a different artist with a human voice beseeching the beyond of angels and demons. Some with pleading, others with snark, but each is a revealing correspondence with a human voice. I also love the idea of letters. We live in a digital age of texts and snippets. Putting pen to paper holds a power. The energy of will and intent made into matter. I will give thoughts of some of the songs that struck me hardest. This is a concept album, I strongly suggest listening front to back in the order Jean-Marc intended. Everything you are hearing has purpose and is best absorbed through that lens.

https://wool-e-discs.be/releases

Our interview with Jean Marc

Letter From JP Aston ft. Julianne Regan – This gentle ballad from the Gene Loves Jezebel members is full of defiance. Beautiful harmonies and lush layering. Aston’s voice has always had a calming and sparking effect. These gentle string plucks vibrate the wave of angelic harps. I don’t believe in angels, don’t need angels. A masterful portrayal of indecision in the face of unanswerable questions.

Into My Arms ft. Jenna Fearon – Jenna does vocals and music for several wonderful projects including HAD TO KILL, THE SIREN AND THE VOID, SOPHIE STRYCHNINE. This cover of Nick Cave is a warm and tender hymn stripped down and soulful. Beautiful pads that seem to have a beating heart behind the honey rich voice.

Letter From Tom Shear – The vocalist Of Assemblage23 offers this pleading call to the void in a moment without control. A rolling tide of humming synth work with a David Gahan flavor. I love the steady build and poetic intention. The sensual beauty of feeling lost and wanting more.

Letter From Mark Hockings – Artists of Warner Chappell Music this letter again focusing on the marching feet of a human who asks for no help or quarter. I love the vocal changes in effect to add weight to this prayer which says I help myself. The music crackles and glitches to add a dynamic backdrop to this pronouncement.

Letter From Rodney OrpheusThe Cassandra Complex star strays far from his goth roots to give a tongue and cheek lounge song in purgatory with all the sass of Jarvis Cocker. Dark gallows humor as stinging as it is playful. Organic open room piano with marimba , and tamborims that makes heaven feel like a smokey lounge in Las Vegas. I kept coming back to this track again and again.

Letter From Haydn Park-Patterson – I couldn’t find a lot of information about their other musical projects. I really love this track though. The vocals have a very Magnetic Fields feel and a brit pop ring. A hope and fear at the same time “I’m scared of waking up with open eyes” Lovely and brimming with emotion.

Letter From Emileigh Rohn – This beautiful track comes from a fellow Michigan resident of the band Chiasm. Breathy and hopeful with an enticing whisper. Hard dynamic shifts in the changes here. I love the computerized vocal effects which add a different layer to the concept. I love how abrupt the ending comes upon you when you don’t expect it.

Letter From Claus Larsen – The amazing person behind Leatherstrip stepping so far outside the box of what I am used to in his art. This track is driving and uplifting. Leaving behind the chains of life and reaching skyward. Claus shows the amazing range of his voice and it is clear and ringing. What a glorious and bold exploration of two great artists reaching into uncharted ground for both and create something wonderous.

Overall this double album is such a journey. It brings each artist out of their comfort zone and stretches in so many bold directions. It really runs the breadth of human emotion while struggling with the biggest questions of life, death, and divinity. I review a lot of music and always tend to find things I love in most albums. I steer my reviews to focus on those aspects because making art is hard. I find it difficult to judge beyond what something makes me feel. Every so often though someone of immense talent comes up with a concept which challenges the mind. Has a carefully constructed well done musical vehicle. Is full of soul and emotion and pulls on the heart strings of the listener. Doing all three is a rare gem in this day and age. So please feel the weight of me saying this is what Jean Marc Lederman has accomplished. It’s a feat worth celebrating and definitely worth owning in it’s full form.

https://wool-e-discs.be/releases

CD1:
01. Intro Log By 8 Of Nine
Letter From Agi Taralas
Letter From Emma Barson
04. Letter From Ghost & Writer ft. Jo Quail
Letter From Mari Kattman
06. Letter From JP Aston ft. Julianne Regan
Letter From Coline Wauters
Letter From Christina Z
09. Letter From The Vintage
Letter From Lucia Fairfull
Letter From Stefan Netschio
Letter From Hunter S. Thompson

CD2:
Letter From Elena Alice Fossi
Letter From Tom Shear
Letter From Mark Hockings
04. Into My Arms ft. Jenna Fearon
Letter From Emileigh Rohn
06. Letter From Miriam Christina
07. Letter From Haydn Park-Patterson
Letter From Rodney Orpheus
Letter From Louise Fraser
Letter From Lis Van Den Akker
Letter From Claus Larsen
Outro From Friedrich Nietzsche