Thursday, November 6, 2008

new ground

The musical interests and spirit of IEI lives on, with a slight shift
in contributors, over at our new blog, Def In June.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Through the wire screen, the eyes of those standing outside looked in

I headed into the video store rather aimlessly – restless, humid summer night. On the new releases shelf, there’s “Control” and beside it the disarmingly simply titled “Joy Division” doc. Done. “Control” hadn’t screened anywhere near me and I didn’t know it was even out. Like listening to JD in general, going on a mission to hunt the thing down seemed wrong – it would crop up at the right time and this was definitely it.

“Control” tells a painful story we’ve all read, seen and rewritten dozens of times. We go in asking how particular moments will be handled, how’ll they do the Pistols show, will there be Manc cameos, and what’s this about these actors actually playing the tracks live? That latter point is handled quite, quite well. These guys never really sound like the dozens of live JD gigs we’ve accumulated, but they do sound as though they’re coming to their presentation of the material organically, never sounding as though they’ve aborted a more natural approach in order to present a more “authentic” version, and in a way that’s much more difficult (see “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”). Samantha Morton as Deborah and Toby Kebbell as Gretton nearly steal the show at every turn, but the film devotes itself entirely to live gigs and Ian’s life, so there are countless unexplored avenues (Hannett and the recording of the music in particular get short shrift) as we trundle towards “The Idiot” and “Stroszek”. By the end we’re a bit exhausted at the implacability of everything, which is likely as it should be.

Grant Gee’s doc ropes in just about everyone involved with the story and not only gives newcomers an excellent primer on the what, when and why, but uncovers a plethora of new info for obsessives like myself. Saville hadn’t heard “Unknown Pleasures” when he did the design for it. Morris used to huff solvents. There’s a complete botching of Derrida, even, crediting him with coining the term “ontology”. Brief snippets of Hannett are a treat. The Annik footage is quiet, respectful, and not nearly as relevatory as some ambulance chasers might hope. Audio footage of Barney hypnotizing Ian after his unsuccessful OD foots that bill, but ends up aimlessly eerie rather than informative. Gretton appears via shots of his manic scribble in recording and gigging-related notebooks. We get what’s likely the last footage of Wilson speaking on the subject. Hooky is Hooky and Morley is Morley. The bits that hit the gut the hardest surprisingly come from laddish pre-Gretton manager and roadie Terry Mason, who still gets tripped up by questions and guilt. Men don’t talk he says, but could I have done something?

Both films stress two points in Curtis’ life that have been underplayed in every other account of his life and band that I’ve read: the role that his epilepsy medication (the side effects of which were amplified by alcohol and relentless gigging) played in exacerbating his depression, and the role that his work finding job placements for the disabled played in his lyrics. We’ve all heard about the girl who inspired “She’s Lost Control”, but both Deborah and Barney argue that Ian’s work was marked by a broader compassion for the marginalized. This, as they say, is something to ponder.

There we are: two Joy Division films, one a keen paring down, the other an encyclopaedic explosion. You likely already know if these are for you, and hopefully you’ll know when to watch them.

Monday, May 26, 2008

F Kinetik - Day 1.

While Alex and Bruce were off in Montreal drinking boxed wine in open parking lots and stuffing themselves with real poutine, I held down the fort here in Vancouver. Keeping it real.

There was recently a bloggy rant posted about how people need to stop complaining about how modern industrial sucks. And then a bunch of other people were like "Yeah! You're all haters!"
In the interest of journalistic integrity, I say that you're all hypocrites! And not in the awesome Peter Tagtgren way.

First of all, before we call the kettle neon black, let me first say that the entire IEI enjoys talking trash. Even Bruce. That's right. The guy that pretends to walk some kind of path of righteousness, yet if you mention Unter Null he kicks his mother in the face. Then spills beer on her. Again. Alex and I are no better. There's no shortage of bands we've spoken poorly of.
The crux of the matter is that it's not because we think it's the elite thing to do. Afterall, at the last get together we had we started singing "Careless Whisper" and R Kelly's modern masterpiece "Real Talk." That's right. We weren't singing Front 242, we were talk-singing an argument with Kells' lady friend.

That said, we would never say that the entire genre sucks. Even if we don't have many industrial records primed for our top 10 this year.

I think most people are in the same boat. No matter how supportive they want to say they are, I've heard pretty much all of them talk trash about a plethora of bands. So hopefully being the biggest battery cage supporter doesn't become the new "thing" because that's just as fake as saying the only CDs you own are Whitehouse albums.

Can anyone honestly tell me that the entire Alfa Matrix roster is awesome?
And at the same time, can you honestly say that Interlace, Run Level Zero, Celldweller, Keef Baker, Combichrist, Snog and Spectra Paris ALL SUCK?

In a perfect world, people would go up to a DJ request sheet and write down what they ACTUALLY want to hear. Not what will feed their facade. Not something as awesome and helpful as "Play something good."
A Perfect world where if you do play some old goth music, someone would actually dance to it.
Or where Alex is eating a Whopper in the back of a limo while R Kelly sings his order into a Burger King drive-thru box with his shirt off.
A Perfect World. And That's Real Talk.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kinetik: Day Two

Catching only the last two tracks of their set, we don’t necessarily feel qualified to pass judgment on the Canadian duo. We will however note that what we did hear was more or less what we expected, if maybe a touch less techno oriented. Perfectly serviceable atmospherics and beat oriented with hissed vocals.

Thus far, the unquestioned show stealers. An enthused hometown crowd were validated by a performance that would’ve quickly won over even the most staid and unfamiliar audience. The high-tempo, breakneck tracks guaranteed instant dancefloor mayhem, but also delivered plenty of rhythmic complexity for those with a yen for chin-stroking restraint. Much of their material uses classic techno song structures, but with a punishing, all-enveloping wash of noise indicative of Yann Faussurier and Guillaume Nadon’s pedigree. Copies of their debut LP “How To Enlist In A Robot Uprising” (Replete with BPM listings on the back cover! Old school!) were flying off merch tables afterwards, and hearing multiple cuts from this beast at the club this year is an absolute certainty. Get your ass to Mars.

Rabia Sorda
Balancing electro and acoustic elements is always difficult in a live context, and in Rabia Sorda’s case the keyboards were unfortunately buried in the mix, making it difficult to follow each song’s progression. In spite of that, the band delivered an energetic set, largely fuelled by live drums which lent the proceedings a more traditionally “rock” sound.

Funker Vogt
A metric fuckton of Funker shirts could be spotted over the course of Kinetik, and the reception the long-standing German band received spoke to their evident popularity. We’ll assume from the cheers that those stoked on seeing Funker got exactly what they were hoping for, but in our humble estimation that’s little more than the uninspired rehash of a single, relatively vapid and fluffy formula over, over, and over again. “This is German electronic body music!” declared lead singer Jens Kästel as the band started in on their set. If that’s the case, we can lay EBM to rest alongside the Weimar Republic and other long since deceased teutonic cultural movements. An improvised game of being able to sing the lyrics to “Tragic Hero” overtop of each song that was tossed out soon ceased to be a joke. We’d conservatively guess that two-thirds of their set follows roughly same chord progressions and general song structure, not to mention never straying from a range of four or five BPM.

Outside of the overarching modern military conflict theme, Funker’s ethos is a slightly muddled one. On one hand there’s the traditionally distorted vocals, on the other there’s the cheesiness of the horn voices that carry their song’s melodies. This schizophrenia carried over to their stage show and costuming. One dude thinks he’s in Covenant, another thinks he’s the DJ for Scooter, and another’s under the delusion that he’s playing paintball. We just don't get what's hip with the kids these days.

Oh Jesus. Following a band as popular as Funker and going onstage at 1 am’s an unenviable task (we’d guess that a full half of the crowd left as soon as the final beat of “Tragic Hero” was played), and Kiew were also the first band who had to deal with substantive technical problems. Neither of these factors provide enough cover to excuse what was not only hands down the worst set of Kinetik, but the worst set by an electronic band of any repute either of us had seen in years.

Acceptable glitchy shit out of frontman Thedi's rig, but his repeated yelling of inane slogans drowned out anything interesting that might've been going on. Factor in a guitarist and bassist apparently jamming out in an entirely random fashion and you've four elements heading out in entirely different directions and getting absolutely nowhere. We've no idea if Kiew takes an improv approach to live performance, but we've seen enough excellent improvised electronic sets and more than enough mediocre ones to know the difference. Any audience member could've been on stage wanging on a theremin for the duration of the set and it would neither have added nor subtracted a thing from this shoddy and embarrassing wankfest. Kiew have a sizeable following (having been active since 1990), but given that this was our first exposure to them, we certainly can't count ourselves amongst it (sorry, Richard).

Acceptable noise-EBM hybrid that got feet moving (no small feat this late in the evening) but didn't leave much of an impression. Good workrate. In all honesty, we were too tired by this point (not to mention zombified by Kiew) to really digest anything remotely complex or challenging, so this was a bit of a relief.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Oh, it was gorgeosity and yummy yum yum."

I've been listening to loads of Rome over the past few days (which is fantastic and will likely be getting some coverage here soon), and I've been driven nearly bonkers trying to figure out whose voice Rome main man Jerome Reuter reminds me of. While making some late night tea, it finally struck me: Gavin Friday. The same earthen, leathery tone that some might mistake for world-weariness, but more likely simply comes from a lifetime of fine scotch appreciation. Fossil-goth Virgin Prunes fans should definitely seek out any of his three solo records if they haven't already done so.

Speaking of Gavin, I could've sworn I posted his recent oddball cover of "Singin' In The Rain" on IEI, but some quick scanning suggests otherwise. So: Gavin was contracted by Lemon, a fancy-pants design and culture mag, to record a cover of the standard in conjunction with a special issue dedicated to the work of Stanley Kubrick (on the million to one chance that there's anyone reading an industrial blog who hasn't seen "A Clockwork Orange", the song's used in a particularly harrowing scene in that film). Lemon released the song on, of all things, a flexidisc in the Kubrick issue. If I wasn't already plunking down $9 for the cover with Leelee Sobieski holding an axe, the sheer weirdness of a Gavin Friday flexi sold me on the mag. A copy once hosted on Lemon's site has since disappeared, but Your Humble Narrator retained and offers it now.

Gavin turns in a quirky version that places his voice front and center amidst softly cooed oohs and aahs, which somehow manages to quell menacing images of Alex DeLarge amidst the cooling spring drizzle. Pop a couple vellocets and enjoy.

Gavin Friday, "Singin' In The Rain"

Kinetik: Day One

Kinetik has come and gone. We've left Montreal with beer in our guts, CDs in our bags, and plenty of noise buzzing in our ears. We'll be offering a general write-up of the organization, mood and presentation of the festival as a whole, but first let's get run down the bands, day by day. First up, Phase One: Electro.

The Horrorist
Suprisingly more stark EBM than we would have expected. Aside from well worn hardcore classics like "One Night in NYC", most of the tracks featured a traditional, Belgian EBM sound, exemplified by his straight-forward cover of "Body to Body". Aside from adding occasional Atari Teenage Riot style vocals, The Horrorist’s assistant manned the backing tracks on an iBook (the official computer of, well, everyone at Kinetik), leaving Chessler free to roam the stage and crowd with a handheld halogen lamp and distract from the limitations of what was essentially a laptop set. Bonus points for playing "I Am A Sex Machine", as seen being demo'd by Chessler in the "where are they now" portion of Depeche Mode’s classic concert film "101". Even more bonus points for rocking a hairstyle so memorable, iconic and ridiculous in that film that someone in the crowd felt moved to sport it in tribute twenty years later.

Not a disappointment, but certainly not a pleasant surprise either. One man behind a laptop, one track flowing into the next with no change in BPM doesn’t make for as much of a live experience as it does a DJ set. Fine, workmanlike electro that lacked the synthpop flourishes of his recorded output. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, but we could’ve used more vocals to break up the repetition.

Nitzer Ebb
Kicking off with "Getting Closer", Nitzer Ebb justified their status not only as the biggest name at Kinetik by far, but also one of the two quintessential EBM bands of all time. McCarthy was in fine form (and remarkably well-preserved to boot), bouncing back forth for the duration of the set, barking, goose-stepping and tanzing der Mussolini. No effort was made to retrofit their songs as some of their late 80s/early 90s contemporaries have done in recent years. The vitality of the material transcended its age and still sounded as brash, bombastic and relentless as the day it was released. Were an uninitiated party to take in their set, there’d be no indication that the bulk of these tracks dated back to the Thatcher administration. And yes, we joined in the chant and shouted golden shouts.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ek = A Buttload Of Angry Germans With Laptops

Two thirds of the IEI team will be forming like Voltron (albeit a heavily amputated Voltron) this week in Montreal for the much touted three night Kinetik festival. The line-up's been the talk of "this thing of ours" for months: Fiendflug, This Morn Omina, Displacer, Kiew, Xotox, Mono No Aware, Headscan, Terrorfakt... But let's face it: like the majority of the folks there, despite whichever obscure Finnish powernoise act we make like we're really excited to see, for us it's all about Nitzer Ebb. And, by Fulber's beard, the merch tables! Between Ant Zen, Industrial Shirts and Storming the Base all bringing swag to the shows, I fully expect to be reduced to a Wonderbread n' Kool-Aid diet for the subsequent couple of months.

This trip's been in the works for months, and we're both crazy stoked to be checking out what's sure to be a landmark event for live dark electronic shows in North America. Montreal's a city that promotes revelry, and by the end of the second night Alex and I plan to be three sheets to the wind and heckling Funker Vogt (who are, let's face it, Very Silly) and demanding that they play "Shaven" (to the unfamiliar: Google the lyrics at yr own risk).

Watch this space for our personal Kinetik highlights, lowlights and preferred fashion "don'ts" from the Unix Sysadmin Rivet Runway, featuring the gorgeous (and pasty) models of the Side-Line forums.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"A Painful Beauty"

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, "Dazzle Ships"
When Alex told me that the reissue of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's fourth LP, "Dazzle Ships", was earning rave reviews from the likes of Popmatters and Pitchfork, I felt that odd mix of vindication and being usurped that comes when a cherished and coveted favourite record gets a public vetting. On one hand, the modern indie cognoscenti haven't had much time for OMD or much other classic synthpop, except to namecheck them while telling us why Ladytron are doing it so much better than any of the original innovators. On the other hand, "Dazzle Ships" was always OMD's forgotten masterpiece, derided mercilessly as indulgent experimentalism upon release, and it makes sense that it should be rediscovered by modern ears.

80s record authority Ned Ragget called "Dazzle Ships" "a 'Kid A' of it's time": a confounding and obtuse experiment released in the wake of a great band's defining album - the solemn and majestic "Architecture and Morality" in OMD's case. Listeners weren't sure what to do with a barrage of radio samples and discordant military sirens after the perkiness of "Enola Gay" or the lush, chart-friendly chiming of "Souvenir". While OMD had always been writing music about technology, "Dazzle Ships" pushed that agenda so far to the fore that it was impossible to listen to the record without dealing with that theme head-on. Furthermore, as the liner notes in this re-release argue, not dealing with political issues at the peak of the Cold War seemed impossible for a band obsessed with technology and culture. The end result? This is a record about globalization's affect on our psyches and technologies that came out a year before Fredric Jameson first published on "The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism", and a decade before Bill Clinton made globalization a household term on the campaign trail. Reaction to it was marked by same confusion and disorientation that its titular vessels sought to provoke.

"Dazzle Ships" remains as oblique, shimmering and inspired today as it did upon release. True, the bricolage of radio broadcasts and technoculture prophecy doesn't sound nearly as revolutionary as it did upon release - sampling and the acceptance of it by the general listening public have come a long way in twenty-five years. But what does still have an impact is the juxtaposition of the cacophony of the zeitgeist with the two modes of songwriting that OMD had perfected in their previous releases: chirpy, bubbling synthpop odes to technology, and epic, mournful ballads. By adding the Cold War/communications tech motif of "Dazzle Ships" to their palette, OMD managed to blend the personal and the political, the emotive and the austere until the subject of the song detaches from itself. Metaphor becomes a two-way street.

What's more, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys brought some of their best compositions to the "Dazzle Ship" sessions, regardless of presentation or context. All of the three up-tempo synthpop numbers are crackers, but only "Radio Waves" ever gives itself over fully to the ecstasy of melody and the power of technology. The others, "Genetic Engineering" and "Telegraph" temper their joyous everything-and-the-kitchen-sink instrumentation with McClusky's wary lyrics. "Genetic Engineering" is particularly unsettling - a facile melody is accompanied by a Speak n' Spell voice intoning an eerie litany: "Babies, mother, hospital, scissors, creature, judgment, butcher, engineer". The instumental tracks, composed almost entirely of samples, help to frame the more developed tracks within "Dazzle Ships"' ethos - while you might not ever go out of your way to listen to "ABC Auto-Industry" or "Time Zones" on their own, they're essential to the album's overall effect. As for the ballads, they pack a punch. The processional, almost nautical heartache of "Joan Of Arc" is revisited in "The Romance of the Telescope" and "International", the former of which has been pointed to by McClusky and Humphreys as a band favourite. The record closes with "Of All The Things We've Made", a plaintive, mechanical farewell that sounds as though it's a hair's-width away from collapsing at any moment, while McClusky croons about the failure of our creations (Technology? Love? As always, there is no distinction.) - "Everything we've made/All the things we've said/They've always worked before today".

As for the merits of this particular re-release, this listener could detect little to no distinction between the sound of the record with this "new" digital remaster and the original CD release, but given how many classic electronic 80s records have become victims of the loudness war, mayhaps I should be thankful. So, lets turn to the bonus tracks to see what this reissue offers to longtime OMD fans. The melodic elements of the 1981 version of "Telegraph" are more or less the same as the original, but a slightly slower and heavier beat and a more unhinged vocal performance by Andy McClusky makes the desperate tone of the song sound positively menacing. The "312mm" version of "Genetic Engineering" is simply an extended mix which, along with the "Telegraph" extended mix, doesn't bring anything new to the table. "4-Neu" and "66 And Fading" already had a recent outing on the B-sides compilation "Navigation" (which, in my humble opinion, is the most crucial OMD release to obtain after the first four LPs), but they're both gorgeous, cinematic bits of melancholy (think Vangelis' "Blade Runner" work) that show just how adept McCluskey and Humphreys were at crafting ambient soundscapes as well as pure pop. That leaves intended album closer "Swiss Radio International", which was initially meant as a counterpart to the "opening radio call sign" function that "Radio Prague" serves. According to OMD's website, Swiss Radio felt that allowing their call sign to appear on an album which heavily sampled communist radio broadcast would violate Switzerland's policy of cultural neutrality! Anyhow, it's a nice little lullaby, and I'm seriously considering appending it to the end of the original LP for future listens. The long and the short: if you've already got "Dazzle Ships" and "Navigation", there isn't a lot of revelatory new material here. But, if you're halfway as obsessed with OMD's music or Peter Saville's design as most of their fans are, the "gotta have it" factor will likely win out (as it did with me).

Speaking of Peter Saville, he intriguingly created three different designs for each of the formats "Dazzle Ships" was initially released on: vinyl, cassette and CD. Each of these designs seemed focused on presenting Saville's take on the dazzle ship camouflage (and vorticist Edward Wadsworth's painting, "Dazzle-ships In Drydock at Liverpool", shown here) within the frame that each format provided. So, instead of having to live with a rich composition that was meant to be shown at LP-size shrunk down to tape or CD size, we got individual cover art tailor-made for those smaller canvases (and more pieces for us Saville fan-boys to collect). The original LP sleeve used punched-out hole in the front (like Saville's magnum opus, "Blue Monday") in concert with the art on the slipcase in order to create a representation of travel and movement through time zones, one of the record's key images. Unfortunately, the reissue does just what Saville sought to avoid: shrinking the LP art to CD size, with none of the cool pull-out design. That being said, the (uncredited) essay in the liner notes is well-written and nicely situates the record in both the context of OMD's career and the pop climate of the time.

In the liner notes, McClusky recalls "Dazzle Ships" as "the lowest selling album that we ever released and yet I am inordinately proud of it. Maybe we did something that was commercial suicide, but we did that album for the right reasons. It has a painful beauty." McClusky didn't need the critical vindication the album's received in recent years in order to produce, release and stand by such a bizarre and unprecedented album (although whether it prompted OMD to retreat back into safe and pleasant territory with next year's "Junk Culture" is another story), but if recent hosannas prompt contemporary listeners to explore the depth and breadth of OMD's work which lies beyond well-worn radio fare like "If You Leave" and "So In Love", then this re-release will have served admirably.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Dessau - "Isolation"

Finding info on WaxTrax! affiliates Dessau proved difficult - maybe it's no coincidence that one of their few releases was titled "Details Sketchy". Their abandoned website's got a terminal case of webrot (Fortunecity's servers are still running?) and I can't find anything else resembling an official presence. In any event, the Nashville group intermittently released sludgy industrial rock between 1985 and 1995 that nicely anticipated coldwave. Throughout it all, their signature tune remained an inspired cover of Joy Division's "Isolation". Slowed down, the song's bassline remains as unnerving as ever, and Al Jourgensen's percussion and programming turns Ian Curtis' skittering panic attack into a pounding anthem of self-reckoning.

Dessau - "Isolation"

...And hey presto! There's a nicely dated late 80's video, replete with strobe light and VJ intro.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Another Exit

Absolute Body Control, "Wind(Re)Wind", "Never Seen"
Claus Larsen's announcement that he was reissuing Leather Strip's back catalog with bonus discs of re-recordings of the original albums may have started something of a trend. EBM legend Dirk Ivens of Dive, Sonar, and, oh yeah, just a little band known as Klinik, is turning his attention to one of his first projects, Absolute Body Control. ABC released just a handful of cassettes and singles in the early 80s before the project morphed into the nascent stages of Klinik. Ivens and fellow controller Eric Van Wonterghem recently reunited and have just issued two releases detailing their past and future.

I'll confess my ignorance of the original Absolute Body Control recordings (having missed out on the hella limited "Lost/Found" retrospective a few years back), so I can't say how the "best of re-recorded" tracks that appear on "Wind(Re)Wind" measure up to their earlier forms. That being said, these are stellar cuts that walk a very fine line between the epochs and genres of electronic music and sound great in doing so. Some ("Figures") play at pure synthpop sparkle, others ("Love At First Sight") evoke the tension and awkward weirdness of Fad Gadget (a pretty accurate point of reference for much of this release, actually), while later tracks ("Touch Your Skin") anticipate the menace and commanding tone of Klinik. Ivens and Von Wonterghem have wisely avoided the impulse to wildly contemporize the material via overproduction or excessively "now" instrumentation, and instead have opted for a sleek and polished yet minimal sound that keeps "Wind(Re)Wind" from ever sounding like it's indebted to a particular era.

The EP of new Absolute Body Control material, "Never Seen", has a more uniformly dark mood, but never forsakes the clean and clear sound of their earlier work. The band's impact on pure, dark electro is readily apparent here - opting for a remix by The Horrorist was likely no accident. The two remixes included don't do too much of note with the originals, but the emusic release of "Never Seen" appends the brand new and impossibly limited live from WGT EP, which contains versions of classic material done in "Wind(Re)Wind" style.

There's lots to like in these two releases - here's hoping they portend an LP of all new material which continues to straddle the boundaries of dark electronic.

Absolute Body Control @ Myspace

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Remix: Cleaner - The Voice (And One Re-Interpretation)

So, it looks like the logic board on my computer is blown, which means that it's generally about as reliable as the narrator in a Gene Wolf novel. I bring this up for two reasons, firstly to explain the lack of updates and second to bring up a semi-obscure science fiction reference as a segue into today's particular remix selection. Cleaner was originally called Cleen, and was comprised of two dudes, Thorsten Meier and Daniel Myer of haujobb fame. They produced a classic EP (Designed Memories) and a pretty good album (Second Path), both in a atmospheric EBM style. Around 2000 Meier left the group, leaving the other phonetically identical but differently spelled Myer as the sole concern in the group. It should probably be noted that Myer had about 50 projects on the go at the time, but rather than doing the sensible thing and just letting it go, Daniel changed the name of the project to Cleaner and recorded Solaris for Accession records, which was ostensibly a tribute to the classic EBM of the eighties and his favorite science fiction novels and films. It was, uh, largely not all that interesting. I daresay someone at Metropolis felt the same way, because when the album came out in North America it had two club remixes of The Voice (a song previously released as single) tagged on to the end. The first mix by Beborn Beton was alright, but it's the "Re-Interpretation" by And One that's most memorable. Much like they did with their classic take on Project Pitchfork's Timekiller, And One basically jettisoned most of the original track and re-recorded it, including having their vocalist sing the lyrics. It features a nice arpegiated bassline reminiscent of FLA's Caustic Grip era, appropriate considering Myer namedrops that album in particular in Solaris' liner notes. Oddly enough said bassline is the only moment when you listen to the CD that stands out as being particularly in the style of classic EBM/Electro-Industrial which as you'll recall was kind of supposed to be the musical theme of the record. At any rate, Myer would go on to rename the band yet again as Clear Vision, would release a pretty good album (Deception) and then quietly retire the project.

Cleaner - The Voice (And One Re-Interpretation)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Goin' to check out IDM patron saints Autechre tonight, which is exciting. Last time I saw them (in 2005 I think) they put on a mammoth show, distinct from everything I've ever seen in their deliberate lack of any kind of stage presence. Seriously, they don't even have lights on, they walk out on stage and start fucking around with their gear bathed in the soft glow of lcd screens. It's a tacit admission that more often than not electronic music is not performed in the same fashion as other musics, and throws into sharp contrast the band's lack of concession to the traditional expectations for a concert. Whereas contemporaries like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher will make a point of slyly winking at and deconstructing those traditions, Autechre have always seemed more intent on ignoring them altogether. It's something you can see reflected in their obtuse song titles, their abstract visual aesthetics and best of all in their live sonic representation. The band doesn't perform tracks from their albums, moreso they build whole sets of live music using the same sorts of algorhythms and happy accidents that define their studio works. I don't expect to hear any of the "songs" from their recent (and very enjoyable) Quaristice, I expect to hear some variations and inversions of it's sonic motifs. And while it may not give me much to look at, it sure as hell promises to give me something to sink my teeth into and ultimately digest. And in a world of self-conscious rock antics and earnest but incredibly boring soul bearing, it'll be nice to hear something meant to be taken on a purely cerebral level. Intelligent Dance Music indeed.

Autechre - Inhake 2 (Peel Session '95)

Autechre - Second Bad Vibel

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Record Swap and the Things I Got There

So, hungover and severely underslept I managed to drag my sorry carcass out of bed and down to Vancouver's Annual Record Swap. I think the term "swap" is largely traditional at this point, as in my experience the only thing being swapped for records is cash money. I'm normally not to good at these things, mostly because I'm not a collector. The moment a dude starts talking about japanese reissues and rare pressings my eyes glaze over and I start mentally recounting the plots of old Doom Patrol comics. That, and the fact that despite having a voracious appetite for music I don't really buy a lot of vinyl, and these sorts of things are geared towards people who fetishize the stuff. I mean to say, I was born in the seventies, I grew up with LPs but shit dude, if it comes down to it I don't really care about format all that much. I like to have a physical object rather than just a file (if only so I have a backup in case of hard drive failure) and CDs are more convenient for me in that regard. In any case, I halfheartedly leafed through a few crates of stuff labeled "eighties and nineties", was tempted to purchase a nice copy of Momus' Tender Pervert (which I really should write about at some point) but generally came up empty. Eventually whilst clawing through a crate marked "80s Indie" I found a copy of Coil's Anal Staircase 12" which has a version of the track on it I'm not sure has appeared on CD ever. It was a decent price so I went for it. Plus, the cover art (pictured above) was kind of cool. Much less cool was another seller who was trying to hawk a copy of the bands debut album Scatology for $80, which is overpriced even if it were in good shape, which it wasn't.

I eventually found my way over to a table where a dude was selling mass quantities of CDs for $5 a pop. A lot of garbage, but a few treasures. Firstly a copy of Celebration's debut LP which Bruce has always had nice things to say about. Secondly, one of Off Beat's ol' Tyranny Off the Beat comps, which are great fun if you're a fan of forgotten mid-nineties EBM and Electro. This particular volume has a neat version of Velvet Acid Christ's Star Trek sampling Futile, a track which he would later update for his Fun With Knives album. But the real find was an original Wax Trax pressing of KMFDM's Naïve. For those that don't know, the album was deleted in the early nineties due to an uncleared sample of Orf's Carmina Burana (you know, that one bit that is the basis for Apotheosis' O Fortuna, a song I could happily never hear again) on the track Liebeslied. The album was reissued eventually with the offending samples removed, but the original pressing has gone on to become something of a collector's item, fetching high prices on ebay. So yeah, a productive and worthwhile trip to the record swap, although I didn't get to have my picture taken with Chad Allan of the Guess Who. More's the pity.

KMFDM - Liebesleid

Velvet Acid Christ - Futile (LSD mix)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

And The Radio Is In The Hands Of Such A Lot Of Fools Tryin' To Anesthetize The Way That You Feel

My brother works and writes for Canada's leading classical music publication, La Scena Musicale. A recent editorial of his (found on page 11 of this pdf) brought to my attention a proposed set of changes currently being enacted on the programming of CBC Radio Two, which would effectively strip the station of its longstanding classical music mandate and replace it with "more light contemporary like Diana Krall and Joni Mitchell" in the words of the CBC's blog. Also shuffled away from daytime programming is DJ and bon vivant Jurgen Gothe, whose pithy banter has delighted audiences for decades. Globe & Mail columnist Russell Smith (hands-down the best writer at the Globe, just barely eking out Carl Wilson, their savvy pop writer) has been covering this story well and his latest editorial includes lots of contact and petition info for those upset by the changes.

Why am I writing about classical music on IEI? Well, let's ignore the well-documented links between contemporary classical music (or "art music" as its often called nowadays) and our end of the pool for the moment and look at this more structurally. Unfortunately, fans of industrial and experimental music have just been down this road with the CBC. When Brave New Waves was cancelled just over a year ago, the main impetus for myself and many other listeners to tune in to the CBC was lost. Brave New Waves helped to introduce thousands of listeners to a dizzying array of artists and genres that we'd have otherwise never encountered. DJ Patti Schmidt featured and interviewed countless groundbreaking acts past and present: Coil, Michael Gira, Diamanda Galas, Wolf Eyes, El-P. CanCon wasn't just a formality on Brave New Waves, and the show raised the profile of Canadian acts from Skinny Puppy to Venetian Snares. When Brave New Waves was axed, CBC forsook a devoted, built-in listenership to compete for commercial radio's listeners. By stripping Radio Two of its classical music identity, they're doing the same thing.

I tend to loathe nationalism in all of its forms, but the two major institutions that make me proud to be Canadian, the CBC and Medicare, are contingent upon their being held to a higher standard than privatized industries, and the notion that they are able to provide services that their private counterparts simply do not deem profitable (non-mainstream programming and health care for those unable to afford it). Their power and effectiveness, therefore, lies in their unique nature. Once a public institution begins to measure itself by and adopt the policies of their private counterpart, its raison d'etre ceases to exist.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

"Forget Me Not, Or I'll Forget Myself"

April Fool's joking aside, it's ten years to the day that Rozz Williams checked out.

I interviewed Faith And The Muse a few years back and asked them if they felt that the romantic image of Rozz was in danger of eclipsing the man and the work lying beneath it. William was confident that the body of work Rozz left behind would continue to match up to whatever myths evolved over time. I think he's right. Here's a fragment of that corpus.

-Christian Death, "Down In The Park" live, from "The Iron Mask"
-Christian Death, "When I Was Bed" from "Ashes"
-Faith & The Muse, "Romeo's Distress" live, from "Vera Causa"

-Christian Death interview circa "Catastrophe Ballet"
-Christian Death, "Romeo's Distress" live (1990?)
-Rozz Williams & Gitane Demone, "Flowers"

Rozz Williams: 1963-1998

Joy Division - From The Vaults

While hunting around in his personal archives for material for the recent Joy Division reissues, Bernard Sumner came across something rather astonishing: a Super-8 reel of the lads, three sheets to the wind, running through a very sloppy version of ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" during the recording sessions for "Closer" at Brittania Row studio in March of 1980. Even more astonishing? Handling vocals on this boozy cover version is none other than visionary producer (and notorious cough syrup abuser) Martin Hannett.

On the video's Youtube description, Barney had this to say: "Marty had us running through 'Atrocity Exhibition' for eight hours straight. The whole time he kept humming that stupid song, and by 3 am taking a stab at it made sense. It worked out well for Ian, Marty wasn't able to give him shit about his vocals for the rest of the recording."

It's easy to get wrapped up in the gloomy, romantic myth of Joy Division, but any serious fan knows that the band had their laddish, goofy side. Here's more proof that, even while recording one of the darkest albums ever put to tape, these Manc boys maintained a sense of humour.

Joy Division, "Don't Bring Me Down"

Monday, March 31, 2008

Another Shiver Down My Spine

I figured what with a new Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds record on the horizon, It'd be appropriate to break out a classic by an early incarnation of Cave's pre-Bad Seeds group The Birthday Party. Before moving to London in the early eighties, the group played and recorded in their native Australia as The Boys Next Door in fact many of the early Birthday Party records like Hee Haw were originally released under the name. Oddly enough Shivers is much more in line with the Bad Seeds's late eighties dirges than anything the Birthday Party would ever record. Great track, the first time I heard it was as a recurring motif in Aussie flick Dogs in Space, a great movie mostly known for starring Michael Hutchence.

And hey, a cursory search of youtube yields a video even!

How To Weep The Weepy-Weep Way

Like all well-cultured folk, I'm eagerly anticipating the imminent third season of The Venture Bros. So, learning about a new musical project by Veebs co-creator (and owner of the sultry voice of Dr. Girlfriend) Doc Hammer isn't just topical, it's an impressive testament to the man's ability to simultaneously keep his fingers in multiple pies.

Via the recommended post-punk blog Systems of Romance (and by way of the always informative gothmusicshare LJ community) I obtained an EP of demo material from Doc's in-the-works outfit, Weep. Weep retains all of the melodic lushness of his most recognized band, Mors Syphilitica, but bootstraps it with tightly wound, instantly memorable post-punk hooks. Doc also opts to handle the vocals himself this time around, and his trademark rasp gives a nice, earthy counterpoint to the sheer reaching gorgeousness of some songs ("The Weep" and "The Hole", in particular). If these are demos, I can't wait to hear an album proper.

Doc's given permission for the Weep demo to be passed about, so have at it!

-Weep - "Never Ever" demo

Edit: Doc's given this crop of tunes, along with a couple of others, an official release. It's a great disc, and crazy cheap. Go buy it!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Remix: The Presets - This Boy's In Love (Lifelike Remix)

Y'know, normally I wouldn't bother posting a track that is burning up the Hype Machine (which you all check for music daily, don't deny it), but fuck it. The death rattle of my credibility as a music blogger will be drowned out by this amazing Presets remix by Lifelike. A track from the band's eagerly anticipated sophmore album Apocalypso, This Boy's in Love is a sweet track in a kinda synthpop electro style. But something about the way Lifelike leaves the vocals kind of naked and at the forefront on this version just gets me, the track ends up sounding like the lovechild of DMX Krew's 17 Ways to Break my Heart and Camouflage's The Great Commandment, which is to say fucking great. Enjoy. Apocalypso is out April12 in their native Australia, May 13th in North America, I am anticipating it gleefully.

"Damn it, it wasn’t quite fresh enough!"

What's that, you say? You loved the Eurovision-nominated cheese masterpiece that was DJ Bobo's "Vampires Are Alive", but you're much more into HP Lovecraft than Anne Rice? Dr. Re-Animator has the prescription for your eldritch blues: neon green re-agent.

Apparently this was a promotional bit for the third Re-Animator flick from 2003 and is on the "Beyond Re-Animator" DVD. As a nerd for any and all Lovecraft kitsch, I'm disappointed that I didn't come across this sooner. On a related note, I highly recommend checking out the recently extended, restored and re-released version of Stuart Gordon's "From Beyond", also very loosely based on a Lovecraft story. The body horror element of the film is finally brought to the fore with Gordon's trademark humour and sense for gore. While HPL certainly wouldn't approve of the S&M theme (and I shudder to think of how he'd react to that one scene in the first "Re-Animator" - you know the one), the fact his work still inspires explorations into the corruptible and abject aspects of the human body shows how adept he was at locating the source of so much deep-seated fear and anxiety.