Monday, January 29, 2007

"jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris"

EBM fans talk a good game about how lyrics "just sound better" in German, but this might be a case in which the genre's Belgian roots pay off in spades: Modern Cubism is an electronic project whose selling point is nothing less than Jean-Luc De Meyer singing the poetry of French symbolist, critic, noted alcoholic and all-around decadent bad-ass, Charles Baudelaire. The music is pleasant, if not earth-shattering (nice analog feel, kinda reminiscent of the various mellow post-Battery projects as well as C-Tec), but as a massive fan of Baudelaire, hearing De Meyer wrap his trademark guttural voice around so many of his poems is a treat.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ostro or Visi?

Sound samples are up on Metropolis' website for Wumpscut's forthcoming "Goth Census" single. All of it sounds pretty standard for das :Wump:, but of particular note is the snippet of a Yendri club mix of the amusingly titled 'You are a Goth'. Being that Rudy hasn't had a ubiquitous club hit since 'Wreath of Barbs', it might well be that he's invoking Razed in Black's Law: "Any song using the word 'Goth' in it's name or lyrics shall receive mad spins in the club, regardless of quality or suitability for that purpose."* Which isn't to say that it won't be a good club jam, although personally I'd feel pretty ridiculous dancing to a song with lyrics like "This is your race/You are a Goth". Also, does anyone else find it odd that Pope Ratzinger tapped Yendri for not one but three remixes on the single? He's been using her pretty steadily for two albums now, but it’s not like her remixes on the limited editions of Evoke or Cannibal Anthem set the world on fire. Who does he think she is, haujobb or something?

*Seriously, before "Oh My Goth!" RiB were mostly known for providing filler on Cleopatra's increasingly ridiculous "A Gothic Tribute to Whomever" series. Which is kind of a shame, because they had some really good tracks, 'Damaged' specifically was a really good club record.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New Majesty

In The Nursery have have composed music for or licensed music to more films and television (including my beloved Rome) than you or I have ever seen. The self-described "Gods of the Bombastic" have been smashing you with martial drums and thunderous cellos while you imagine yourself decapitating umber hulks in the Underdark (or maybe that's just me), before lulling with delicate clarinets and vocals for over 25 years. "L'Esprit" is a stone classic guaranteed to enliven your D&D campaign, night-time Umberto Eco reading, or pasta cooking (if, y'know, you like to cook pasta with dramatic flair). Their new record drops this Tuesday and looks to continue their tradition of making any other "pop" music which describes itself as "cinematic" sound like your uncle's off-camera mutterings on old home movies by comparison.
In The Nursery, "To The Faithful"
In The Nursery, "Retaliation"
New all-female side project from Elena Fossi of Kirlian Camera fame and elegance, apparently permanently taking the place of the Siderartica project: Spectra Paris. Two tracks on MySpace, album in the works for spring. If you've liked the sweeping melodic electro tracks from the last couple of Kirlian releases ("K-Pax," "Coroner's Sun" etc., and really, who didn't?), this should be cause for much excitement.
Siderartica, "Lucky Village's Oversight"

Thursday, January 18, 2007


The recent announcement that dependent is calling it quits raises some interesting questions. Obviously some of the bands on their roster were'nt finished their contracs, and likely won't be by the time Dep shuts its doors in the spring/summer.
So the big question will be, what happens to the bands? We've seen many scenarios in the past where a label dies, and then bands can't release anything for years because they're locked up in legal hell. Will all of the bands on Dependent get some sort of release? If so, will they be shorted money for not getting to live out their contract? Will some of them owe money?

Another interesting question is, what will happen to their back catalogue? Will all of dependent's stuff go out of print? It may not be TOO big of a deal, since a lot of it has been licensed to Metropolis...but some albums, like SVD's "Hope," were not.
It's fair to assume that there may be a special clearance sale on Dependent titles in the near future, coming to a retailer near you.

This whole situation has stirred panic in some people. Battery Cage, for instance, who should probably just feel lucky that 3000 people even downloaded their album. In the end though, it's important to remember one of nature's eternal rules: The Strong Survive. Bands putting out product that's solid enough to make a connection with its audience will do fine. Good records inspire loyalty. Look at Combichrist. "Everybody hates you" was released right in the prime of the downloading era, yet it has gone on to become the biggest selling album ever released on the Out of Line label. It will be interesting to see what happens when "What the Fuck is Wrong with you People?" is released in March.

I'm also curious as to why Tommy T keeps bitching about iTunes. I guess if you run a shop dealing strictly in pre-recorded music on a physical medium, yes, it would be a pain in the ass...but the train rolls on. Consumers have the right to choose how they want their music delivered, provided it's legitimate. iTunes pays the labels approximately 70 cents on each song sold (assuming the song is the usual base price of 99 cents.) Of that 70 cents, the actual artists typically sees maybe 10-15%. On 70 cents, that adds up to 7 to 10.5 cents per song. Most albums sell for 9.99, so for a full album sale they're looking at 70 cents to a buck-o-five. So really, itunes isn't serving the artists any better or worse, so it's pretty ridiculous to be calling apple the fall of western civilization.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cashing In, Cashing Out

Alex: So, the announcement of Dependant going under has started off some delightful flambé on Side Line's message board. The fact that Stefan seems to be laying the demise of the label firmly at the feet of downloaders has kicked off the old debate about the perceived value of mp3s both legal and illegal. Cue DSBP label head Tommy T with a well-reasoned and stated opinion on said topic:

"I always noticed the people who love downloads so much are usually never in a band or run a label...its always the people who think that music should be devalued are the ones who don't create music..sounds like extreme jealousy to me...since they can't make music no one else should be able to make cash off of their creations or music either...its like all these free "netlabels"hahahah thye are a joke...any fool can do this and pay nothing to do overhead is good for the cheapies in this scene...they are free cause their shit is so bad no one would want to buy they have to give it away for free, and then this continues that vicious circle of training fans to think it should all be free....the wussies that do this are just trying to get in with the trend and think that free music is the way it should be...cause no one would buy theirs anyways....its called giving in and selling out to the sheep."

Thought provoking! On the other hand, perhaps it's not just illegal downloading leading to generally lower sales for Industrial artists. Quote Dr. Chop:

"i think the real problem here is a combination of a) traditional "labels" having far too much overhead to be supported by bands who only sell 5000 copies of a record, and b) the vast amount of bands creates so much noise that the scene is unable to be dominated by 5-10 groups as in the past. thus, as the amount of bands increase, total sales get spread out over more bands, thus *everyone's* sales go down. add in some random additional factor to account for illegal downloading and there you have it."

Now we have no way of drawing a direct correlation between downloads and declining sales, however a member of Battery Cage chimes in with the following:

"the MP3 site that he references in the statement, to see what the stats on the latest Battery Cage album were. well, it was posted to their site almost two full weeks before street date, so we can thank some fuckheaded "member of the press" for providing them with that. and the downloads were well over 3000 copies, which sort of helps explain why Metropolis is telling me that we aren't selling jack shit. who knows if we will even be able to release another album at this point? i don't!! why should i even bother? it's not like it's free for me to make this music...why should i keep pouring money and blood into giving thieves my soul for free?"

This of course assumes that everyone who downloads a CD illegally would have bought a legit copy in the first place. And finally, we have Tommy T again:

"CD's, industrial music, DSBP and Metropolis, etc. were all here before itunes, and we made this scene happen...not of going off on me or anyone else actually doing something cool with music instead of just following trends to be accepted you may want to reassses the facts and figures and see that some of us are just trying to help the scene and CD format stay alive and thats it...."

I understand the part about iTunes, presumably we'd be happier putting our money into the hands of our local CD importer instead of Apple computers, but I find the particular dedication to the CD format over actual content kind of puzzling.

Bruce: Dr. Chop makes a good point regarding the wider distribution of a finite number of consumer dollars spread across an ever-increasing number of bands. The increased access to means of production and distribution that we've seen in the past eight or so years means more bands and also theoretically means broader reach to new audiences that might not have heard a particular genre or band had they been active in the late 80s, but there's no guarantee that legitimate, lasting interest in any genre or band will be correlative to that effect.

In this sense, Dr. Chop's comments obliquely brush upon the uspeakable elitist heresy: that the disappearance of a certain amount of less-than-stellar bands might actually be good for a scene. It's a delicate balance: when a genre is in its infancy, or is trying to find a foothold in a new town or country, talk of unity and scene support is used to rally the troops and generally build the scene. But there's a point, a "critical mass" (groan) if you will, at which point the comparative strengths and weaknesses of a scene's varying bands come into focus, and niches are found or they are not. To be clear: I'm not saying that label and distribution factors don't have an effect on a band's success or failure, they have a profound effect, likely more than any content-based factors when it comes to major label releases (I'm a good McLuhanite, I suppose). I'm just saying that not every band that puts a record out on an independent label has an automatic right to success. Unfortunately, we've all seen too many great bands go ignored due to label politicking while many bastards succeed (to quote Gira). For every jaw-droppingly awesome band whom you foist on your friends whose records get overlooked in the shuffle of ineptitude (I'll be bold and say The Tear Garden), there's another astonishingly craptacular band whose promo material you can't help but trip over (Aghast View? Um...I'm struggling for a contemporary example. Alex, who do we hate? Alex: Cesium 137. We hate Cesium 137).

...One other short point: DSBP seems to price their releases well below many other independents (looks like $12 US is the average). In that sense, Tommy T's putting his money squarely where his mouth is, and he definitely deserves to be yielded some moral high ground in this debate on that account.

Alex: I don't know that he is actually. As is apparent by the first quote posted by him, he feels net labels and anyone else who offers content for free must have product which is of inferior quality. So if we take that to it's logical extension, doesn't that mean that in Tommy T's world if you charge less than another label for a CD, it must be of a lesser quality? Not a belief I subscribe to, but not a huge leap in his logic either.

2006 in Review, Part 1

I'll be posting reviews of records released in the past year which made an impression, or failed to, in three parts, culminating with my favourites. Up first: the decent and the awful.

:wumpscut:, "Cannibal Anthem"
The second law of Ratzingarian physics is clear enough. Preserving the original Elizabethan spelling (while :w: did not come into being until the late 20th century, its theoretical groundwork was established centuries earlier by John Dee, in his little known gnostic text "The Lawes of Rivetting and There Applicashun," originally thought to be a cryptographical diatribe against metalworking guilds), it is as follows:

":w: recordes shalle vary in there quality in binary fashun: there can be no bunkerator withoute boese junges fleisch, no embriodede withoute evocation. Lette any man who sayeth otherwyse be subject to bone pealer on repeate."

(The first law, of course, reads that "You shalle notte compleate one songe without grieving the Englishe tongue by way of heinous mispronounciasion or awkwarde metaphore. Perfection is notte of this worlde and alle industrial recordes have sinned and falle shorte of the glory of "Fronte By Fronte.")

While many have tried to interpret the second law as meaning that the quality of :wumpscut: releases alternate in quality in a binary fashion, there's nothing inherent in the law that states that the records will oscillate between sucking and ruling, and such a myopic point of view ignores the double-whammy of awfulness that was "Evoke" following "Bone Peeler." Those who try to customize the :w: discography to fit their own historical agendas (cherrypicking European vs stateside release dates, incorporating remix albums and previously unreleased compilations at will) are revisionists of the worst kind.

Instead, the law merely indicates that a balance must be maintained between the good and the evil in the catalog. Previous to "Cannibal Anthem," there were four major releases in each camp, making this a record which could easily upset the balance. The verdict? "Cannibal Anthem" is good, but thankfully, not overbearingly so. Beginning with some classic cold crunch n' yowl of the "Slaughtering" era ("Wir Warten," the album begins work in many of the electro elements that dominated the last two (abominable) records, but with much more taste and subtlety, blending them with the more loop riff-based material found on the interminable "previously unreleased" compilations. I think "Jesus Antichristus" is trying to sound like "Assimilate," but ends up being much closer to "Doctorin' The Tardis." Not that there's anything wrong with that. The end result is an album you'll pull two or three tracks from for mixed playlists or DJing, but will also find its way onto your speakers once or twice a year, possibly while you're cooking pasta.

If we expect the second law to persevere (and who'd question John Dee?), then we can look forward to a record that's the complete inverse of "Cannibal Anthem" in 2007. Something brash and embarassing which may contain a sleeper dancefloor hit eight months after its release. What's on deck, Rudy? Ah: "Body Census," with lead single "Goth Census" presumably being a hybrid of the title track and other album cut (no, I'm not joshing you) "You Are A Goth." Gee, this just smacks of restraint and quality control. I'm interested in the methodology and nature of the "Goth Census." Is it determinative, ie: check "yes" or "no" on the goth census so I can say with conviction that "You are a goth"? Or is it proscriptive, ie: I know that "You are a goth" and are ergo mandated by the Goth Domestication and Naturalization Act of 1988 (passed in the wake of Spike wearing a Mission t-shirt in the Degrassi Junior High opening credits) to complete and submit the goth census? I can't wait to hear how Ratzinger addresses key domestic issues such as cassis shortages making snakebite in short supply and the current administration's inability to bring Valor Kand to justice for the commission of Atrocities against humanity.

Covenant, "Skyshaper"
It's a shame when what seems to be the first real experiment by a band whose success is almost wholly due to craft falls flat on its face. Such is the case with "Skyshaper." After album after album of increasingly refined dancefloor gold, the boys in the sharp suits got it into their heads to shoot the moon and gamble it all on quirky sounds, new structures and whatnot. Unfortunately, the end result is a gelatinous mess which shuffles about aimlessly, never yielding purpose or beauty, which is all the more tragic given the apparent zeal with which they laboured through this project. "Ritual Noise" is a par-for-the-course Covenant dancefloor track which has been remixed quite nicely on several occasions, but as a rule we've got tracks polished to abstraction with very little substance. And the lyrics. Oh my. "Sweet and salty / Tears of joy / Liquid lies / Cheeks on fire / Loud and noisy / Girls and boys / Ancient rites /Late at night" When Ratzinger engages in this sort of mutilation of the English language, at least there's the vocal distortion to muffle the effect. With Eskil's deadpan baritone front and centre, there's no way to avoid the lyrics' pained awkwardness, which is endemic to "Skyshaper" as a whole.

Panzer AG, "Your World Is Burning"
Or, as I like to say, your bagel's been in the toaster too long. I'm of the opinion that every single one of LaPlegua's records under the various monikers up until this one is solid and matches the respective aesthetics and purposes of each name he records under. Fine. So how does adding leek soup thin alterna-geetar and keening rock radio song structures follow suit from the war-themed stomp-fest that was "This Is My Battlefield?" Ah. It doesn't. We all have our off days.

Clan Of Xymox, "Breaking Point"
...And this might the titular moment at which I part ways with future Xymox releases. I don't even grudge Ronny Moorings for shifting gears from the heart-rending atmosphere of the 4AD material; he was able to release one truly exceptional "modern" goth record with an eye to the dancefloor ("Hidden Faces"), but it's been eight years since the reappending of the "Clan Of" prefix to the band's name and "Hidden Faces" is about all there is to show for it. This is calculated to the point of banality, and aimed at an audience that has no reason to care anymore. What have you done for me lately? A cruel question, but a fair one once you've put out four consecutive mediocre records.

Gary Numan, "Jagged"
Like Ronny Moorings, Numan's settled into a comfortable niche within a subgenre that formed in his absence from the spotlight. Numan seems to be able to churn out chugga-chug industrial rock accented by his whispering wail in his sleep (although this missive was delayed by almost three years). As far as I'm concerned, he's more than earned that right after having been a commercial and critical pariah for over a full decade. Having seen younger bands who dominated while he languished, it's only fair that he draw upon them upon his return as they did him. That being said, there's nothing particularly essential about this, his fourth record post-comeback in black. There's nothing wrong with it either, per se, but unless yr a devotee yr better off checking out "Exile" or "Pure," both of which cover most of the same territory with some better tunes.

Point of interest! The website of a Christian Numan fan whose broken ranks with the Numanoids due to the anti-religious sturm und drang of the last four releases. Warning: a "Cars" MIDI will start playing at you.

Dependant Records to Close Up Shop

According to a post in Dependant record's official forums, the label will be ceasing to operate in the near future. Label honcho Stefan Herwig:

"It wont be at immediate effect, and we are not bancrupt (sic). But we do refuse to release records in a maret were coopyright is being systematically undermined. I refuse to work and constantly loose money by trying to build up artists careers. I refuse to release CDs where a majority of the users decides to leach the content instead of really buying it."

He goes on to say that the label will be active until at least Summer 2007. This means that a huge number of EBM and Neu-Industrial groups including Seabound, Flesh Field, Suicide Commando, Babyland, Dismantled, Interlace and Rotersand are gonna be looking for a new european label soon. (As an aside, I'm unsure as to how many of these bands were signed to Metropolis and licensed to Dependant and vice versa.) It's a shame, if a noted label like Dependant dealing exclusively in Industrial club music isn't able to turn enough of a profit to make it worthwhile to continue operating, it leads one to wonder who IS going to keep putting it out. I mean aside from Metropolis, although I daresay it seems like they're probably seeing more success from artists outside the genre like Electric Six or straddling the line like MSI. So long Dependant, when you get to the afterlife (presumably post summer) say hi to Fifth Colvmn, 21st Circuitry, Gashed!, Inception, Bloodline, Pendragon and the rest. We miss them.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Remix: Apoptygma Berzerk - Mourn (Mesh remix)

Here's a great Mesh remix of Apoptygma Berzerk's "Mourn" from the otherwise execrable recent album of covers and remixes Sonic Diary (Sonic Diahrrea?). Oddly enough this is a very successful attempt to do what Apop has been flailing at for a few records now, that is to find a crossover point between their EBM roots and stadium alternative rock. Kind of hard to figure out how much of that success is attributable to Mesh's efforts versus what they had to work with. The vocals sound rerecorded from the original version, I certainly wouldn't be surprised to find out that El Grotho and company were redoing all their older hits in their new style. At any rate, this is probably the best sounding thing they've had anything to do with since Welcome to Earth, hopefully it'll be making it's way to a playlist near you soon.

Apoptygma Berzerk - Mourn (Mesh remix)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

There's an excellent new Skinny Puppy song available on their myspace. I gotta admit, I was particularly wary of their comeback record The Great Wrong of the Right when it came out. Considering Cevin Key and Ogre's decent but not exceptional solo output after the dissolution of the group following the death of Dwayne Goettel, it didn't seem prudent to assume that the two of them getting back together would yield results comparable to their creative heyday. The album actually ended up being quite good, mostly because rather than aping their own glory days style or content-wise, they set out to do something altogether different. Even when it didn't succeed, it at least felt like weren't on artistic auto-pilot, the curse of many a comeback record. The new song "Pasturn" actually hearkens back a little bit more to classic Puppy then anything on TGWotR, with touches of Rabies-esque guitar and a really nice sweeping synth pad that reminds me of the chorus from "Love in Vein" from Last Rites. It's a nice appetizer for the highly anticipated new album Mythmaker, I daresay you'll be hearing more about that one in these parts when it's released.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Victory Not Ven-wah?

According to Metropolis records' website, VNV Nation will be playing the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this year. It's a surprising move, if Ronan and Mark were going to play a big crossover festival it seems like it would have happened a few years back when they were the hottest thing to hit the goth scene since synthetic hair extensions. Maybe it's just Vancouver, but it really doesn't seem like they have the same presence in the Goth/Industrial club scene that they did back in the heady days of the early 21st century when their ebm-inflected vocal trance (or "futurepop" as they would have it) was shaking black clad booties hither and yon. Having a healthy dash of goth street cred seems to have always been part of Coachella's purview having featured performances by the Bauhaus, Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Cure in previous years. They always have a few token electronic acts on stage as well. Maybe this is an attempt to combine the two for maximum appeal. If you take into account VNV's not-so-subtle use of Christian allegory in their lyrics it might even be an attempt to tap into the Jesus music market. Can't even imagine how their two-man drums n' karaoke show is gonna go over on a giant Festival stage.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World

I wanted to continue with the issue of fascist imagery and satire in pop as alluded to by Alex previously.

There's an art to deploying totalitarian imagery in pop media, and Laibach are the undisputed masters thereof as far as I'm concerned. I have no qualms with such subjects and imagery being explored, but if you've got the cajones to do so, you'd best also have the cajones to withstand accusations and misunderstandings. Getting your panties in a twist as though you didn't expect any backlash or offering mealy-mouthed defenses about how people need to lighten up and not take things so seriously doesn't cut it - I'm looking at you, Hanzel Und Gretyl.

Questions to consider before applying fascist tropes to your band's image or music: What do you hope to accomplish by doing so? Are you attempting to draw parallels between fascism and other current political regimes/discourses? Or between fascism and other structures (love, sex, pop music itself)? I'm not saying that explanations and justifications must be clearly stated and passed through a Nazi-detection machine before being released, just that you'd best be giving your audience something to think about rather than trying to score cheap hype via poorly planned shock. Doing the latter earns you the loss of every opportunity extending from your decision.

Some related mp3s:
-Ramones, "Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World" A somewhat obvious choice, and not the most well-developed, but the title perfectly demonstrates Hegel's idea of man's need to make history, first within the domestic sphere in youth, then in state-regulated (and generally imperialist) expansion.
-Foetus, "I'll Meet You In Poland, Baby" Again we've got parallels between between sexual and world conquest, executed with all of the panache and lyrical double-entendres that are JG Thirlwell's trademark.

Some further discussion on the subject:
-A scathing indictment of Death In June written by avant art historian and literary enfant terrible Stuart Home.
-Mick Mercer goes off on Nazi fetishism with righteous indignation, although old Uncle Mick might be throwing the kinder out with the baderwasser as far as condemning the entirety of neo-folk. From a semiotic standpoint, though, Mick's 100% right: it's never "just clothes."

Thoughts meander

As a bit of a unicorn chaser to the sturm und drang of the previous post, I thought I'd offer up Laibach's cover of "Across The Universe" from their "Let It Be" record in which they reinvent every track of the Beatles original (save the title track). The simple beauty of this version offers some short respite from the terror of "I've Got A Feeling" reimagined at Nuremburg et al, and may be, dare I say it, the only move ever made by Laibach not laden with satire and political subtext.

Slovenia is a Land of Contrast

I remember Bruce and I once had a conversation about how little satire was left in Industrial music. Aside from Snog, and the occasional Foetus release from Thirlwell, it seems like the genre is pretty devoid of any clever social commentary. That is to say that if random EBM group A writes a song about a social issue or what have you, I'm not expecting them to have much to say about it other than "Sweat Shops are bad!" or whatever. Anyways, during the convo, Bruce pointed out quite rightly that the all time kings of Industrial satire Laibach are still going strong after a quarter of a century at work. You'd think that a band who made their name doing militaristic covers of pop songs might have run out of creative steam some time back, but those wacky slovenians are still hard at work using our silly songs to make points about european politics and the contradictions inherent in western democracy (for real!). Seeing as their use of imagery is so central to what they do, I figured a quick video rundown would be fun.

Life is Life (from the album Opus Dei)

This is what I'm talking about. Cover of a lame reggae song, made over into an ultra-fascist anthem. So ultra-fascist in fact that one questions how anyone could have ever doubted it was parody. I could say something about how this makes a salient point about lyrical context, but you already knew that right?

Sympathy for the Devil (from Sympathy for the Devil)

I don't really have much to say about this, except that I saw this on TV when I was a kid and it scared the hell out of me. This was back when Much Music showed videos, and not reality TV shows. Although I must admit combining the two for a Laibach reality TV show would be pretty slick. Anyways, I gotta admire a band that makes a video where they march right into hell like it ain't even a thing.

Anglia (from Volk)

From last year's Volk, an album where each song had a theme for a particular nation, including elements from those nation's national anthems. This is a little more direct then you might otherwise expect from them, but it's still pretty neat. See if you can figure out which country this is about!

Your blog is dead/And no one cares

Welcome to Inner Ear Infection. I ain't gonna get all fancy on you, give you a statement of purpose or nothin'. This is a blog for us and (hopefully) a rotating cast of music obsessed cronies to wax philosophical about the tunes we like. Could be old or new, stuff for the club or just whatever we're feeling at a given moment. I'm big on the show-don't-tell school of bloggery, so I'm a just get on this right away. Blog On!