Sitting down to write and absorb for the first time in a few weeks. I love the way my boundaries keep getting stretched further by the sounds I am hearing. I feel like the Goth/Industrial genres are a buffet of ever widening flavors to test that adventurous streak in my heart.
SYZYGYX and ELZ AND THE CULT – ANXXX – Two of the sexiest bands on Cold Transmission team up for this razor hot single. Trying to put this in a box of genre or previous sound is a herculean task beyond me. This is found metal sculpture sounds, wet leather, and heavy breath. Static glitch dance beats are a 3D computer image of horror pop fingers on the back of your spine. Elz’s voice is captivating and sensual. Luna steps outside her breathy whisper to scream out with terrifying demonic exultation. The result is a horror film spectacle that leaves you frozen to the floor. Elz spoken word poetry shows a William Burroughs raw creativity and free form emotional overcharge. Everything these bands do is glorious art. Working together it is a powerful and un nerving statement.
Actors – Strangers – Another single, another amazing slow tease from Actors. This song has a synth heavy influence with wonderful understated staircase guitar. The energy is star crossed and introspective. That kind of infatuation that rattles your DNA and leaves you be lost in the journey of knowing someone that first time. The change in bass players really adds a bright bursting color to the tone. Jason takes the reins on the vocals here and every phrase is a come hither lilting rise. The way he sits in the mix like it is the scenery of this story. This album can’t come soon enough.
Echo Haus – Deth Werk – New single from Echo Haus, one half of Chicago based Lorelei Dreaming. AJ does a focus on electronic imagery and scenery in their music. This one instills a picture of a hospital intensive care unit. The thrumming heart beat blips and tension. The journey seems to dive into the patient around 1:27 and becomes a part of the blood stream. Twisting and turning past organ and system. I love their ability to transport you with frequency and modular shift. Sometimes I want to focus on the words and energy of music. Sometimes I want to to hide behind my eyes and drift through the world. Echo Haus is the latter.
aliasynesthesiamusic – Stop Go – Beautiful twisting tension track. I feel that sense of Bjork surrealism pop with shadowy edges. As though she is a character in a Mario Brothers adventure. City hopping on angel wings from one cloud to another and never able to escape this digital prison. One of those solo ritual dance songs made for your alone time in your room. A true imagination fuel mind gripper. This really gets me excited for the future releases. Beautifully produced and expertly crafted.
Burnt Souls – Desolation – An Australian recommendation from Ant Banister (Sounds Like Winter) who is always a spot on source of great music. I love the complexity of emotion and overlapping sound. They have some flavor of The Church and even The Smiths but Colin Gallagher has a unique and delicate voice that really slips through the cracks of it’s own ground. It definitely rides that lo-fi throwback tone which sits perfectly within itself. The drum transitions flow like water through a rocky path. Every emotion seems to find it’s focus without screaming out. I love the steady control and thoughtful precision. This is one of those albums you can throw on and feel something different each time. Be drawn to a new aspect every time. This isn’t a record of bangers, it’s one that needs to be absorbed.
The Ghost Of Bela Lugosi – No Way Home – I can’t take a trip to Australia without visiting my good friend Vin Price. Every single he puts out is a master class in song writing and creativity. I know I say this every time I review him but he is staggeringly underrated. This track is a beautiful synthesis of the past and future with barbed hook guitar riffs, cascading tempo shifts, and ensemble cast vocals (even though it is all him). It’s a wobbling stumble through streets with broken lights. Following the voice of the one you love to certain danger. A power your can’t ignore. Every time I hear a new TGOBL track it instantly becomes my favorite.
Klack – Deklacked V1 – Matt and Eric are back at it once again. This time they have brought all their friends to share in the power of the Klack. To understand the power of Klack you need to grasp the friendship of the members. This in turn becomes a contagious connection which draws in the artists in this scene like moths to a flame. You can feel the affection of all these artists to these songs as they lovingly craft new lights and blips to make them their own. Assemblage 23 , Sweat Boys , Null Device, Caustic, and many more put the tender heart in a blender and spew forth visceral blood and guts to fling at the walls of your dance hall. If you love EDM/EBM no one is doing it at a level higher than Klack.
2019 has been quite a year for my dream. It has found it’s tar dark wings and started flapping them to places I never imagined it would go. I have new writers like Collin, Katy, and Adrian. I have 4 times as many followers. Made new friends which I have come to love and value. Traveled to distant lands. Started a podcast. In general it gets me excited for the future that so many people all over the world have shared with me this love of what is happening in modern music.
Unlike last year when I did a top albums review all alone I know had a wine drenched democracy of shouting voices sitting in a room and debating what had moved them in this years music. It was an amazing feeling I had forgotten. I wanted to make this list hold weight. So we made hard cuts and decisions to get our list down to 4 genres and 10 albums per genre. Everyone had input and voice and no one 100% agreed. I love that. This was never suppose to be about me but about the celebration of art. I hope you find something new here. I know I did and it fills me with hope for places a song or album can still move me. We split it into 4 parts 1) Post Punk/Goth 2) Industrial/EDM 3) Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave 4) Wildcards
First up is Post Punk/Goth. This one is my primary wheelhouse so I took point here. There has been a true resurgence in this genre and this was a hard list to choose. The albums listed here are all amazing but we fought long and hard to try and pick some form of order. Here is what we found.
10) October Burns Black (Reflections) – London superband and Traditional goth act from London put out this amazing record this year. James Tramel (The Wake) has composed this album with Rod Hanna (Vox), Lars Kappeler (Guitars) and Tommy Olsson (Guitars) Simon Rippin. It is so full of flowing sinister goth sounds. It really holds true to the sounds of yesterday while forging new ground. Every song is an emotive blast.
9.5) Ritual Howls (Rendered Armor) – I know, i cheated. I just can’t leave this record off. We debated and argued so hard to get this list to 10. This album is just such a world beater. It’s Nick Cave putting on the armor of Echo and the Bunnyman. They are even Detroit fam. They are keeping a flame burning for a sound that cannot be forgotten.
9) Frozen Charlottes (Wax Venues) – Santa Ana post punk doom weavers Frozen Charlotte released this beautiful album in November of this year. I have been in love with Chandler Grace, Janell, and Sky’s savagely dark spit and vinegar punk goth style since their previous incarnation. With Wax Venus they really found a way to refine that edge to a razor point of intensity, Waxing and waning like the moon in a flowing dance around the fire witchcraft ritual.
8) La Me’canique (Dernier Voyage) – This is such a lovely record from Cold Transmission that really embraces the post punk ideals. It’s wide, flowing, and full of landscapes. It feels large and comes through the lens of a distant camera. I think of 80’s Duran Duran and the way they transported you to another place while listening to the songs. A vacation in musical form.
7) Mark E Moon (Refer) – Another exceptional album with a lot of traditional goth elements. Another Cold Transmission band on this list who has a wonderful vibe of old Peter Murphy but with a modern edge full of poetic lyrics and Mark’s deep resonant vocals. Lots of balance and pop hook in this record. I want to peel the layers of this onion and find the core of it’s art.
6) Crying Vessel (Illusions) Slade Templeton is bringing the glam razzle dazzle back into dark music. His dark rich voice climbs and slide around an impressive range. I found it in my heart, and building a place in my head. I had the wonderful opportunity to see them live in Germany this year and it really gave this record another plateau of range. A perfect mixture of previous styles and modern technology this record is a must have.
5) Golden Apes (Kasbek) – Berlin based post punk Golden Apes have been making music for a long time. To find an album of this power and depth of idea deep in a storied career is a noteworthy achievement. Peer Lebrecht has a voice so full of soul and power that it wraps you in it’s world. The music is a masterclass in what post punk can achieve in movement and embrace. I will finally get to see this played live in Boston this year for their first US tour. If you don’t know about this record plunge head first into one of the genres most exciting artists.
4) Antipole (Radial Glare) – Karl Morton Dahl of Norway holds the distinction of being the most reviewed artist on Sounds and Shadows. I feel moved by every album he has made. This one found a way to hit a special new level for me. Antipole is everything you love about post punk music like Joy Division and New Order. Karl is a true historian of the genre, but finds exciting new ideas about how to use modern technology to make the concept sharper and more intense. This record was such a wonderful tribute to his homeland. A record that transports you to that reflected, glittering place of dark ice. Paris Alexander and Eirene of Young and Cold records have added perfect vocal compliments to create one of this years stand out records.
3) The Dream Collision (The Certainty of Forever) – This album from Pedro Code of IAMTHESHADOW was a piece of art that left me changed and moved. Pedro has possibly the most beautiful and sensual voice in modern dark music. This record was so stripped down and exposed I found myself unforgettably moved. It is powerful and tender like Nick Cave but with the beauty and elegance of Ian McCullah. A truly moving offering.
2) Twin Tribes (Ceremony) – With their recent transition to Negative Gain Joel and Luis of Twin Tribes hold a special place here at Sounds and Shadows. Their Debut album “Shadows” was the inspiration for this webpage. They are bringing the concepts of spiritual post punk into the modern era. This sophomore offering was not a lull but a leap forward in concept, depth, and power. Rich and full of energy each song is a ritual to summon forth an intimate experience in the listener. You probably need this one on vinyl. Also they do a must see live show, find them in your town and bare witness.
Part II is the best Industrial/EDM – I grew up on industrial. It was my punk rock. My scream at the world release. Somewhere along the way i just drifted to other avenues. This year was a huge one for me to rediscover Industrial. Adding in Adrian and Collin to the family who are both stronger on Industrial than me have really helped me find this world again. The albums that have come out this year and bringing it back front and center for a lot of people. These were our top picks.
10) Klack (Introducing the 1984 Renault Le Car) – Matt and Eric are workhorses. They had a Daddybear album, Null Device, and another Klack album all this year which could have easily made this list. This album rose to the top for me. It’s perfect blend of retro and fresh feel with dance beats and unique concepts has become a go to for my listening parties. New ideas for the new industrial.
9) Lingua Ignota (Caligula) – I just found this through Adrian. Wow. It was like nothing I have heard. This is a sound so frightening and intense it gives The Goblins nightmares. It is the sound of a priestess ripping out her own eyes and bleeding from the sockets. Do not listen right before bed unless you want to be haunted by disturbing dreams. I speak from experience.
8) Kid Saint Nothing (Above_Below) – What a treat that I get to add a dear friend from Kalamazoo MI to this list. They belong here. This album is a raw heartfelt therapy session scream set to catchy dance beats. It’s wide and intense and needs to be played constantly on your listening device.
7) Dogtablet (Feathers and Skin) – Industrial music lords Jared Louche (Chemlab) and Martin King have worked with others to create this massively powerful record of animalistic spirit totem sounds. It feels like a creature speeding free under a moonlit sky. This album came late in the year but has been my constant companion ever sense.
6) FIRES (All My Dreams Are of This Place) – Aedra is a force of nature. Her intensity and vocals have really pushed the edges of the Industrial genre. This album has a tight mixture of early 2000 emo and electroclash force. Whenever I need to find my inner tiger to face the day this album is where I reach first.
5) Moris Blak (The Irregularity of Being ) – This album is a force of creative expression and cyber blending technology. Lots of amazing guest vocalists like Pete Crane, Amelia Arsenic, and Angel Metro. A true tapestry of electronic sound woven and blended with dance hall beats and shattering brash power. This needs to be in heavy rotation of every club you shake your ass at.
4) Curse Mackey (Instant Exorcism) – Curse has been a huge part of the industrial scene for a long time as Evil Mothers, Pig, Pigface, ect. This album represents his first solo offering and it is nothing short of breathtaking. This album has such a focus on lyrics with a true William Burroughs literary quality. Full of slashing beats and laser focused vocals. I own it on LP. You need it on LP.
3) Bones UK (Bones UK) – More of a big label offering but a straight burner. This album is on the top of Collin’s list this year. I love the ladies getting representation in this genre and this album cooks from front to back. Lovely pop hooks to really add some mainstream club vibe, and we unapologetically love that.
2) Stoneburner (Technology Implies Belligerence) – This record changed the game for me. It made me fall back in love with Industrial music. It has that same old school flavor, but takes such incredible chances. A thinking persons industrial with a concept and follow through. Steven Archer of Ego Likeness has unleashed something transcendent and powerful and managed to save enough in the tank to follow the record with another this year “Massdriver”. Both are incredible pieces of art you need to explore but you never forget your first love. This record was that for me.
Go Fight (Anthem) – Jim Marcus and Die Warsaw were a part of my first obsession with Industrial music. A titan in the genre and one of the great humans who holds this scene together. This record is all covers of the 80’s songs that helped build his musical life. It’s perfectly crafted. It’s full of soul. It finds a way to make something of the past connect with my present. I mean any time i can hear two of my favorite things in this life Go Fight and Shriekback happen simultaneously consider me hooked. Nothing on this record doesn’t immediately send my body into motion. This is the work of a master crafting a love letter to the things that built him.
Next up is Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave: Another brutal list to try and widdle down to 10 albums with everything wonderful released this year. As genres have expanded and new ground was broken the resulting art which is dreamy and beautiful has grown with it. This is a list of our favorites.
10) Lilith My Mother (Her Fall) – Beautiful dance magic with clear pop beauty infused with midnight dark lyrics and fallen angel vocals. Every song fills me up and has me asking questions. Do not sleep on this amazing artist.
9) Corlyx (In 2 the Skin) – Sexy LA sludge grunge is my weakness and this album is the cure. It’s sensual, powerful, and forces your body into motion. Caitlin has a voice that wraps around you and stirs that hairs on the back of your neck. Doesn’t your party deserve to be this hot?
8) Standalone (Standalone) – Steven Seibold of Hate Dept has unleashed this solo project so delicious and stripped down with beautiful synth sounds crafted with a wizards touch. It’s so personal and easy to relate to at once. The vocals are smooth and elegant and hold your heart with tender timing. So underrated.
7) Boy Harsher (Country Girl Uncut) – The feels of this record. It’s a smokey dimly let exclusive club that would turn me away at the door in music form. It’s efficient in the use of layers and sounds and has gorgeous imagery in the lyrics. I love everything about the crafting done on this record.
6) Agent Side Grinder (A/X) – Oh the delicious post punk infused stabbing drum beats. The dynamic vocals have a dark tone and emotional delivery. It’s full of songs that always feel like they are moving faster than they are. It’s that energy and crackling synth pad sound that makes ASG have such a unique sound. This album builds on everything that makes them one of the biggest names in the genre.
5) Sweat Boys (Nervous Prayers) – This record off of Give/Take strikes a special chord with me. Sitting in my room listening to Yaz “Upstairs at Erics” was such an impact on me. Waiting to hear a synth driven album that captured that same purity and exposed feeling has been something i have searched for a long time. With this record my search finally ended. It’s beautiful, electric, and makes me jump up and down like only a 260lbs man on a pogo stick can. If yuo care at all about synth pop you need this in your ears.
4) Drab Majesty (Modern Mirror) – Drab Majesty off Dais records isn’t just an album, it’s an experience. Knowing the exact amount of every sound to use to get a perfect blend is such a difficult art form. The harmonies, and flowing lush beauty. They are like aliens operating at another level from us common music plebs. This album is staggering and unique in it’s beauty and darkness.
3) Mr.Kitty (Ephemeral) – 31 tracks, all of them good. Take that in for a moment. This album was such a memorizing accomplishment. It’s an artist exposing themselves and making it sound lovely and pure. I played this record so many times this year I feel like I have a personal relationship with the artist and I have never spoken to them. If you don’t have this you need to make that a priority.
2) Hante (Fierce) – The soundtrack to a film of a better life lived than mine. Just listening to the gorgeous vocals and visual sounds on this record fill me with hope. The creative force unleashed here is an epic achievement. It makes you think, it makes you believe.
Wingtips (Exposure Therapy) – Look I can tell you what I love about this music. To me the real power of this album is that so many great musicians I know all talk about how much this record meant to them. It has been mentioned and picked on our podcast by almost everyone we have interviewed. It’s perfect, nostalgic, fresh, and full of texture and intensity. Every track is a banger. Every line is a poem. This was our combined number one pick out of one of the hardest categories to judge.
Final Catagory Wildcards: This was all the things too far out of the box to fit anywhere else. In a way I feel like it made it really exciting and definitely some of my top overall picks.
10) Scary Black (Shadow Dwellers) – Kentucky sinister darkness Scary black released this shadow storm full of familiar elements and fantasy sparkles. It’s full of dangerous dreams and lovely rich vocal melodies. I really look forward to their future.
9.5) Vlimmer (XIIIII) – German sound wizard Alexander continues to spew forth the most gloriously textured collections of sounds with pull heart strings like a horses reins. It baffles me how good every single release is.
9) The Purge (Rain) – Strange winding electronic storms. This album feels like weather shifting and changing. It has a flavor of trauma and young love lost. Thomas does a beautiful job using his vocal range to tell stories and build tension. It’s my sad rainy day music.
8) Girl Band (The Talkies) – Strange twisting and powerful. I really liked the chant of this band and the abrupt changes. This one came courtesy of Katy. Really intense sound.
8.5) The Joy Thieves (This Will Kill That) – Again a little bit of cheating here but this EP needs to be on the list. Such a perfect blend of hard rock and industrial with some of the biggest vocal talent in modern industrial. It’s smash everything in this room music because you are happy. I first described it as Clutch beating the shit out of Stabbing Westward with a baseball bat and I stand by that.
7) SYZYGYX (Fading Bodies) – One of the fastest up and coming bands in the scene. On both Negative Gain and Cold Transmission Luna and Josh are a sonic experience full of sexy dark disco grooves you would find in David Lynch’s private club at 3am. It breaks every mold and is always in my rotation.
6) The Ghost of Bela Lugosi – Ok technically not an album, but my house my rules. Australian based Vin Price has released about 12 singles this year and everyone of them is straight fire. It’s so punk rock, so raw, but so melodic and beautiful. It touches every part of every genre and I am here for all of it. It won’t play by the rules and that is part of it’s power.
4) Hide (Hell is Here) – Sheer unbridled power with a meaningful message. This is like nothing you have heard. Raw, intense, full of power tools. The vocals have more spit and acid than most metal. This album changed my world view
3) ELZ and The Cult (Psychodrama) – Visually, sonically, sassily, there is nothing about this album that does not completely enthrall me. It’s filthy, beautiful, it’s a horrible dream of a broken world that i can’t escape or look away from. I find a new layer to it every time i listen. You must have this.
2) Palais Ideal (Pressure Points) – I have been waiting to make this one of my top albums of the year all year long. This record broke all the boundaries of post punk. It’s thoughtful, precise, unique, and tells a story of some of the best science fiction I read in any novel. A thought provoking example of the power of music. Have this on LP and feel it’s warmth and glory as it was meant to be spun
Mesa Luna (Feel Nothing) – This one came to our attention courtesy of Jason Corbett (Actors). We didn’t have enough shoegaze representation here and this album was a stunner. #1 pick from Katy. It’s haunting, diverse and full of life. Take a journey with this record.
I had about 40 more albums this year that could have made this list. Maybe I will do an honorable mentions. I’m shredded though. There is currently a glorious revolution happening in music. Be a part of it. This list is a great place to start. Happy Holidays from us at Sounds and Shadows.
Industrial super band Klack have done it again. This time shining a light on 80s BBS modem culture with their new release 2400bps 8-N-1. A further step forward from previously reviewed Introducing The 1984 Renault LeCar (2019). A bit cleaner, a bit meaner Klack is putting the ass shaking chanting cadence back into industrial music. This EP again brings that 80’s old school sample heavy drive. I think what struck me right away is how accessible it is. Sometimes Industrial can get lost in metal roots and grinding crunch. Klack has focused on energetic dance beats and crystal clear emphasis on the back and forth vocals of Matt’s guttural ferocity and Eric’s beautiful melody lines. It’s inspiring and affirming making you focus on the energy of light dancing around you while the world crashes down around you.
Currently shooting to the top of the band camp charts as a self release Klack is firing out hits to a world hungry for nostalgic industrial played through a modern thinking persons lens. The lyrics are clever and thought provoking. Sometimes art really reflects the personal relationship of it’s artists and Matt/Eric have a friendship that bleeds through into their music. The elements flow together seamlessly into a powerful construction which stands out in the landscape. Their live stage show is crowd charging. If you get the chance to witness it I highly recommend.
Top tracks include:
Discipline – The heavy sample ridden opener has a ferocious chant that brings Industrial intensity into a Jane Fonda 80s workout video. The synth pads strike with precision to ramp up the energy.
The Games We Play – I love the War Games reference. The vocals are softer and have a gentle whispered melodic aspect. The song has a political and philosophic edge. I think this one really captured me the most and left me playing it over and over. I true bomb track.
Check the Spreadsheet – Beep Boop Bop dance until you drop. A mid tempo dance hall driver. I love the distorted slash synths with the early Microsoft sampled commercials. It’s clever, it’s dancy, it puts you on the floor from cell A1 – ZZ and makes you want to create a pivot table.
There is a reason this album got off to such a strong start. It’s fun, it’s intelligent, and it’s relevant in it’s focus on the past in the modern era. Klack yourself today !
Industrial music is having a resurgence for me. Sometimes I have to put something on the shelf for a while and let a form of art grow on it’s own until I am ready to jump back in. This year in particular I have fallen so deep in the hole of new releases I couldn’t keep up. So I am going to fire through several reviews at once to try and touch on the wondrous new movement happening in this genre. This piece is a bit of the throwing several things in the blender and doesn’t have my usual formatting. It’s also two authors because Adrian Kjøsnes did the review for Moris Black.
Industrial music has generally been something nostalgic for me. The music of my jaded youth. My aggression, my frustration, a remembrance of a young man lashing out with fire at the world. Then like many things from my youth I put aside that fire and found myself drawn in new directions. Maybe I felt I had outgrown Industrial. this year that changed for me with Stoneburner’s “Technology Implies Belligerence”. This was an album that kindled that fire and chaos once again. This time with an intelligence and focus that made Industrial feel mature. When Steven told me he had a new EP already I will admit I was skeptical. How do you follow an album I thought of as groundbreaking so soon? “Massdriver” to my amazement and excitement has done just that.
Currently out on a US tour Stoneburner is bringing to life this throwback to old school rhythms and noise with modern production and lyrics that matter. With “Technology Implies Belligerence” we were assaulted with abstract concepts of progressive thinking persons blends of sound and image. Drawing on world beat drums and samples. “Massdriver” takes this idea, but clarifies it. Pushes the poetry and emotion of the vocals to the front where Industrial has been afraid to go. To create a psychic assault so powerful that a piece of the artist is left resonating in your mind after the show.
I had a chance to discuss this tour and record with Steven a bit and here are some insights.
(Ken) Why is this album and tour special for You?
(Steven) The album and tour are special because they are the culmination of 35+ years of listening to electronic music. When I sat down to write this record, well these records, wanted to address the lack or originality and grit that seeing to have pervaded their genre.
(Ken) How has your stage setup changed for this tour?
(Steven) The stage setup has grown. My drummer Hemlock is playing my old hand drum rig and I’ve built a new one out of sheet metal and triggers. Which frees up, or at least changes the performance dynamic.
(Ken) What material (books) (music) were you drawing from when you composed this album?
(Steven) The recent full length from this summer, “technology implies belligerence,” is based in large part on the book “Blindsight” by Peter Watts. Essentially I wanted to write a record with footnotes.
I was lucky enough to see the kick off show of this tour. The emotional and visual offering put on display in an intimate setting. Here is something I haven’t witnessed in a long time. Every aspect of what you see and hear is painstakingly constructed by hand and with extreme meaning. Also the live show features percussionist Hemlock MacNamara, who throws so much intensity into smashing mic’d up pieces of sheet metal I am tired just thinking about it. She is a force of nature. Steven is truly bringing fresh artisanal farm to table locally sourced sonic explosion right to your doorstep. Don’t miss this tour.
Nov 10 KC MO @ The Riot Room Mon
Nov 11 St. Louis MO @ The Crack Fox Wed
Nov 13 Houston TX@ Super happy Funland Thurs
Nov 14 Austin TX @ Texas Mist Fri
Nov 15 San Antonio TX @ The Amp Room Sun
Nov 17 New Orleans LA @ The Goat Mon
Nov 18 Tallahassee FL @ 926 Bar & Grill Wed
Nov 20 Knoxville TN @ The Concourse Fri
Nov 22 Nashville TN @ The East Room Sat
Nov 23 Chattanooga TN @ ziggys music box Thurs
Nov 28 West Palm Beach FL @ Respectable street Fri
Nov 29 Jacksonville FL Bay Street bash Mon
Dec 2 Raleigh NC @ Legends Fri
Dec 6 Richmond VA @ Fallout Sat
Dec 7 Charlottesville VA @ Holly’s Diner Sun
8 DC @ The Pie Shop
All The Wells Are Poison Now – Fierce and dangerous in it’s pacing with a lovely echo chant. “You will always curse the ones you love”. It is an infectious hook with building intensity. Goddamn this made me dance hard live.
First World Murderer – Breakneck attack right out the gate. This track really shows Stevens love of east coast intellectual rap like Public Enemy. They lyrics strike forth in a rhythmic cadence assault. It really reminds me of the common ground between well done rap and well done industrial.
The name Jim Marcus is such an integral part of Industrial music. For me personally seeing Die Warsaw in my formative years opened my mind to how wide the range of Industrial music could be. Go Fight also put out an amazing album last year Tokyo Sexwale. The follow up Anthem was fairly uncharted ground for Jim in that it is an album of covers. One of the powers of great industrial music has always been to take something old and wonderful. Run it through machines, effects, and sludge and make it new and glorious again. This is what Jim achieved by taking his most influential songs of the 80’s. Showing you the music that fueled him in his art and feeding that energy through a giant battlemech. You recognize these “Anthems” but they are dancing towards you with cybernetic tank tread power.
I was lucky enough to be at the CD release party and hearing this album blasting over club speakers was experience that fueled me with hope. There is still more ground to explore in Industrial, and GoFight is paving the way.
My Spine is the Bass Line (Shreikback) – Ok, Shreikback is one of my favorite things in this life. To hear GoFight add its filthy, sexy, dance groove to it left me speechless. Honestly I am not sure how to even process how excited this makes me.
Right Wing Pigeons (Dead Milkmen) – The Dead Milkmen are one of the most underrated bands of all time. They are a huge influence of mine and their versatility to flow between political punk and humor was so unique in a time desperate for satire. This cover is an almost unrecognizable re-imagining which GoFight truly made its own. It’s still so poignant, maybe even more so all these years later.
Here I get a two for one. I Ya Toyah remixed by Joy Thieves. These are two of the hottest new bands coming out of the Chicago Industrial scene. I had the amazing pleasure of sharing a stage with Ania last Saturday. I can’t remember the last time I faced that much terror having to follow someone on a stage. The amount of sound, emotion, and precision she achieves all by herself is nothing short of staggering. Having Dan of Joy Thieves who are amazing in their own right do this remix creates an absolute burner single. She is about to go on tour with Pigface and if you miss her live performance you have done a disservice to yourself.
I Ya Toyah leads well into the amazing new release from superband Joy Thieves from Chicago which features here. I just did a review of this release but it is putting the hard rock edge back into Industrial and music be checked out.
Moris Blak is an industrial artist based in Boston,MA who after the release of their “Dead Summer” EP began gaining a cult following within the scene of dark electronic based music.
November 8th saw the release of the debut album “The Irregularity Of Being” and that is what we will be dissecting here…
So, let the ceremony begin.
We begin with the intro track, just a few seconds over a minute long “Every Limb Into The Bottomless Pit” . I myself honestly tend to skip intro tracks as they`re often just not all that interesting but this one escapes the trap most intro/outros fall into. Big, chiming bell like sounds combined with the spoken word and sizzling electronics draws you in and anyone who chooses to not discover what follows would be just plain wrong to put it very lightly.
The intro leads us directly into “Druglicker” where we begin with a catchy sequence, a Silent Hill-esque siren sounds comes crawling in before the first punch of the beloved industrial beat. I do have to say that I myself do not always the most positive view or words regarding the current state of the industrial scene but Moris Blak quickly dispels any expectations I may have had by breaking the traditional and quite simplistic 4/4 kick drum over a series of arpeggios and/or sequences by giving us something more akin to glitched out industrial madness.
So far so good. After a glitchfest of an ever evolving buffet of sounds, bleeps, bloops and squeals regularly breaking into a sequenced bass synth the track slows down and enters noise tinged ambient realms for a moment before we enter back into industrial territory.
track number three is entitled “Pain” and features Angel Metro.
Here we begin by entering the church of synth, in fact, we`re crashing in right in the middle of choir practice. Ominous, choirs layered over samples, with a sequenced bass creeping in all slowly evolving into a slower paced beat.
And then come the sirens…
Female, and quite interestingly produced vocals is a pleasure to hear rather than your usual balding dude in camo pants screaming into a mic processed by the Boss SE 50 as with so many other bands within the genre….Moris Blak offers a great variety of vocals styles ranging from whispers to broken up, glitched out and pitch shifted . There`s even a small piano sample at one point for extra creep factor 😉 This track looks like it`ll be on my top three list when we reach the end but with how well this is going who knows? Maybe I`ll find something even better..
Next we got “Erase Displace” featuring Pete Crane of Australian electro act Shiv-R. There`s an element of horror score to the intro, which of course, is no complaint. Clean vocals draw you further in before the drums, which stay consistently big , punchy and bass heavy appears. Atmospheric melodies comes and goes before the drums speed up and drops us down into ambiance. A soft yet dark and beautiful pad accompanied by the vocals slithers around us…And then comes the drum attack, broken by what sounds like reversed and crushed samples before the vocals reappear and brings us to the end of the track.
It`s hard not to want to put this on the that top three list as well but I must resist in order to keep the space open for anything that may come next…
When I looked at the title of the next track I couldn`t help but smirk a little as I saw it features Amelia Arsenic of Angelspit. A band I was introduced to in my early teenage years by one of what must have been the only four (including myself) alternative people in the middle of nowhere town I grew up in… I`m a bit surprised to find out this track seems to, at least to start of, be more of a ballad.
I also want to point out the production quality overall, the sound design of this release is interesting and fun in all the right ways, Moris Blak definitely has his “sound” I think it`ll be interesting to see what the future brings.
The ballad esque aspect leaves and introduce vocals reminiscent of Skinny Puppy nicely sprinkled around Amelia`s voice while the drums seemingly builds up towards something big only to drop us back down with high pitched piano sounds tricking us into that this is all nice and soft then hitting us with driving, pulsing synths beneath floating almost dreamy vocals. This track in particular seamlessly incorporates elements from a wide array of genre. Something not everyone can pull off and even less can make you want to listen to.Beat changes, style switches, every color of the proverbial crayon kit is used.
“Strange Eternal” features the trademarks of the 90s and early 2000s industrial scene, four to the floor and cut up vocal sample galore. Not my preferred form of the genre but MB hasn`t let me down thus far and so my hopes remain..
What I will point out however is that while Moris Blak does have his own style and ways of things it`s never predictable, each track serves you something new which keeps things interesting yet recognizable which can`t be said for that many.
“Strange Eternal” trudges along as what seems to be the more club oriented track this far, I may not be a clubgoer myself but I can easily envision the hordes of darkly inclined youth (and elders) enjoyment of this track on the dance floor of any given industrial night.
“The Violence” follows and features Slighter.
An instant improvement from the previous.
Clean, soft vocals always interest me in a genre riddled with screaming.
Musically it quickly changes from slow paced and atmosphere filled to drum driven and interestingly broken by glitchy sound design. The drum work in itself is interesting, yet another element that so often lacks in this genre. To hear something where you can`t always so easily predict the next hit of the drum, or the sound even, is definitely refreshing.
About three minutes and twelve seconds in is where for me at least this really shines. I`m loving the layering of the near seductive vocals as well. The track ends in a glory of ambiance and piano and leads us to the second to last track “Velvet Coil” which features Noire Antidote and Johnny E. Veil, the latter being a member of fellow industrial band MAN1K1N who I absolutely would recommend.
What sounds like lost souls screaming in despair greet us at the gate here with a melodic bass line almost hollow but the good kind. Trust and believe , I`m not happy about making this comparison but my immediate thought regarding certain aspects of the first seconds of vocals brings Marilyn Manson to my head.
I`ll see myself to the door…
Anyway, this track is a serpent slithering through each and every crack leaving a trail of reverberated melody before entering into a more danceable territory featuring cut up samples of the aforementioned choir of lost souls in despair.
We`re lead towards the end by drums and melody galore and enter the last track, being the albums title track clocking in at ten minutes and 49 minutes.
A drone greets us.
It presents us with malicious piano melodies, air raid siren esque synth sounds and heavy, slow ,draggin drums that quickly picks up it`s pace.
Full stop and only remains of ambiance and a fractured piano remains until we go back where we came from but this time there`s the sound of reversed samples to accompany us along the way.
Glitchy sound design, a steady beat that stops up here and there but not for more than a second at a time to keep dragging us into itself as a softer style synth sound floats over, witnessing our arrival at the end of days, or at least this album.
An array of sound comes in after a nicely timed build up, not too long, not too short, just right there at the sweet spot. At least for those of us with SASD (Short Attention Span Disorder)
Five minutes in and halfway to the end it`s clear that this track could only be described with one word: Grandiose. In fact, we could sum up the album as a whole using that very word.
Six minutes and six seconds in comes one of my favourite moments of this album.
The beat slow its pace, a haunting melody crawls ever near…Can you tell I`m a sucker for ballads yet?
It doesn`t last as long as I`d want it to but what follows isn`t bad so I won`t bitch too much about that..
Back to what I can`t help but describe as a more club oriented pace I`m a little surprised to see we`ve only got a couple minutes left `till it`s over. Longer tracks tend to bore me quite rapidly (see the aforementioned SASD) I`ll take this as a positive sign of that Moris Blak has managed to keep me interested, my attention has been firmly pointed towards the music rather than drifting off into thoughts of well, anything else really.
The album closes with large, atmospheric pads floating through a piano as the album title suggest this album is indeed an “Irregularity Of Being” in that it doesn`t lean and rely on old, trite genre tropes , it keeps itself exciting with its ever changing soundscape yet retains it`s identity for the full 45 minutes of running time.
Overall I would say this is definitely one of the better releases to come out of the current industrial scene yet it operates within the confines of the genre, the modern take on it that is…
We are just scratching the surface here of the exciting things happening in Industrial. If you are ready to take a dive back in with us these bands will give you the right starting point. What bands did I miss you are excited about? Leave a comment below. KM
This is an exciting review to do. It was actually released in Jan 2019 and somehow it slipped through the cracks of my reviews so I will rectify that today. Matt Fanale is fairly well known in the scene through his Industrial project Caustic. Eric Oehler of Null Device. I’m always really impressed when artists have the ability to work at a high level in multiple genres. This dancier , sample infused, Front 242 style aspect really captures something I love about all of Matt’s productions. 1) It is extremely well done 2) It doesn’t take itself overly seriously 3) It makes me want to shake my large hairy form all over a dance floor.
EDM isn’t always my cup of cocoa, so what does Klack do so well? Blending, keeping a driving vamp dance beat and flowing the proper elements in and out to hold your attention. Doing that is a tightrope walk on a razor wire. This record consistently finds that sweet spot. they use samples taken from Star wars to an advertisement from a 1984 Renault automobile. Then they are seamlessly integrated with thought provoking growled out vocals and intricate beat changes. I think a lot of dance music is about causing the listener to become lost in the texture of the beat. Klack achieves this but takes it one step further to keep your mind revolving while you shake that ass. I also really enjoy the variety of tone and speed they use on this EP. Each song has the feel of being made by a different artist so it never feels like repetition.
This album is also an homage. It isn’t just the cover art or concept. The feel of these songs have a wonderful Kraftwork ,retro computer, grainy screens flickering in a ground control station feel. I think that creates this wonderful underground revolutionary feel which i found entrancing.
Lets talk favorite tracks. The EP has 6 and they are all good. However here were my stand outs.
Flowers for Ravers – Incredible opening intro of a young lady talking about the culture of drugs and dance culture. A dark and slithering keyboard line. The layers build and the vocals have this dusky chant building to the chorus “Flowers for Ravers put them in their hair” I grew up in the 90’s rave scene in Detroit and this track is such a nostalgic memory trigger.
Le Car – First track is a burner out the gate. I love the use of the sample and concept of the relationship between humanity and machines. Rapier flick synth swipes and this wonderful trance style beat. Klack the Planet.
Lost Without You – This song really grabbed me for it’s contrast. It’s beautiful with an almost Information Society quality. Really highlighted the singers and shows the talent risen from the mud of electronics and striding to the front naked and unafraid. The melody is a hook that sinks in you deep. This was stuck in my head for days.
Overall this is a wonderfully done EP with a diverse feel, powerful concepts, and seamless transitions. I felt like it really hits on all the things I love most about dance music and inspired memories in my mind like a smell. Treat yourself to this record.
As an added bonus I got to do an interview with Matt about Klack and Eric and his process.
Ken: So you do several projects I love Caustic/Klack/daddybear. I’ve always thought it was cool that you have so many voices you want to express in different musical styles. So tell me how you started the project of Klack in particular and why it was a voice and style you needed to express?
Matt: Klack was really more of a fluke than anything. My better half in Klack is Eric Oehler of (Null Device). We’d collaborated on things before, but he did a ND remix for the Gothsicles in an old school 242 style and asked me if I wanted to try out a track in that style. I was totally down and he tossed me 3 or 4 short track ideas, I chose one, came up with some samples and some other sounds to add to it, and Synthesizer came out. Eric mainly handles the music and production side and I handle samples, lyrics, and “other sounds” for it. It’s the quickest workflow for us, as we get to be “lazy” and only do stuff that’s easier (for lack of a better word) for us.
We honestly did it for our own amusement and knew some of our friends would get a kick out of it, but people really took to it so we started building on some of the other demos and the Do You Klack? EP was the result of that.
Our influences and “voice” were apparent from the get go, as we had the same references– Microchip League, early 242 and Depeche Mode, A Split Second, etc. Eric is ridiculously good at identifying sounds and how to build them, so we went from there and it’s been surprisingly successful.
Ken: : I find when a scene (especially in a smaller city) starts to really take on life it often has someone in a band who is working to drive that. I really see Madison as a place where you are helping something special happen. Tell me about why that city is special for this scene and what advice would you give to people who want to grow the scene in their cities?
Matt: Thanks. I appreciate that. We had a lot more vibrant scene in the early to mid 2000s when I was booking shows and bands like Stromkern were big, but we’ve definitely been building up again. The club we used to hang out at closed a few years back but a new one, Crucible, opened on New Years Eve, and that’s been a really exciting place for us to all come together again. I like thinking I’m a helpful part of it, but I’m just one person trying to convince people to come out and support this stuff. If it wasn’t for Stromkern and some of the other bands I wouldn’t have even thought my music could get heard elsewhere, so I hope I can inspire new artists the way Stromkern influenced me to make music
Ken: What is the next step for Klack? What are you working on and will any French automobiles be advertised by you in the future?
Matt: We’re working on new music presently and will be debuting a new track at Cold Waves in September. Then we’re opening for Boy Harsher in Madison on October 10th and playing Los Angeles at the Substance Festival (coincidentally with them as a co-headliner) in early November.
As for new stuff we hold our cards close on that, so you’ll know it when we announce it. No more french car promotion though. We’re loyal to the Renault LeCar through and through. Screw Peugeot.
Ken: Q: The alarm rings, missiles are locked on your studio. You have 5 minutes to escape, enough time to get out with one armload of gear. What are you saving?
Matt: I’ll just grab my laptop and Novation Kontrol and Launchpad. I keep it simple, as I’ve always been more DAW-centric and not a hardware guy. I don’t have that kind of money to blow.
Ken: You have such quirky and outside the stream song concepts. Tell me about your song writing process, where do you find the ideas you write about and how do you turn that into music?
Matt: I work a few ways when it comes to Klack, since Eric is responsible for the music. Sometimes lyrics just jump into my head, a la DMF off our first EP. I had the title (which was the name of a goth/industrial night on campus when Eric and I were at UW Madison) but the lyrics popped when I actually locked down on the demo. Other times, like for With Precision off Le Car, I had a bunch of lyrics but was waiting for the right music. It all depends. I’m working off a few other demo ideas right now and lyrics for both came to me when listening to the tracks.
My pools of inspiration for lyrics are different for Klack than Caustic or any of my other projects. I have very specific lyrical references for Klack, but for Caustic it’s what can fit for the song– I don’t have restraints for Caustic. I can’t think of a track where I debated “is this a Caustic lyric or a Klack lyric?” They’re very purposefully different, as the projects have different voices. I like writing for as many voices as possible, whether that be for Erica in Beauty Queen Autopsy or Eric for Klack. It’s fun pushing my creativity that way.
Ken: If you could do a music video for any of your Klack songs. You had an unlimited budget. What song would you pick and what would that video look like?
Matt: Oh hell, I’d just hire Anton Corbijn to do a video for Discipline, one of our new tracks. He’s done videos for 242 and Depeche Mode, so he’s hitting our major touchstones. We might as well stop pretending to be those bands and just use their guy straight off.
Ken: Give me one piece of Klack “Industrial Gossip” which my reader don’t know about?
Matt: Eric has a pouch like a kangaroo and he hides beef jerky in it.