THE NECKS: Vertigo CD/LP ReR MEGACORP
18 albums in and Australia’s trio, ‘The Necks’, show no sign of letting up for the foreseeable future. ‘Vertigo’ is (no surprise) one long track that touches on 44 minutes in length and is the epitome of what these guys do best; which is capitalising on the formula that has given them such longevity.
Darker in tone than previous album, ‘Open’, this is no less intricate and improvised; but has a sense of immediacy which their last output lacked. Tension is the dish of the day, as ominous bass overdrives collide with percussive clatters and crashes, alongside melancholic piano.
What makes this latest opus work is a parallel of sounds that travel side by side, as if in lanes of a motorway yet heading to separate locations. Each lane leads to its own individual outcome, yet both travellers will forever be intrinsically linked.
The Necks will not be for everyone; but they don’t have to be. Sitting down to one of their albums is always going to be an enduring journey, but this time out its one I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish, such is the atmosphere they have created. Fans of Drone, Dark Ambient, Krautrock and experimental Jazz will gain a lot from this release; but there is even something for those that like their music that touch more stable, as this latest album feels grounded and cohesive.
MIRT: Vanishing Land CD BDTA
‘Vanishing Land’ was originally intended to be a series of three EP’s, as Poland’s Tomek Mirt had three collections of tracks that told a different story. However, for whatever reason, he has released these as one full album, which works, as artists often see more to the story than is immediately evident to the listener.
Arrays of experimental electronics cascade throughout this release; and are carried along on a bed of gloopy ambient and field recordings (which all too often have their own intermittent moment in the limelight). When Mirt steers away from utilising this genre and concentrates on pads and instrumentation, it does become a touch more emotive and rewarding.
Flirting between chaos and order is the skill at which Mirt works best; and ‘Vanishing Land’ is a fine example of this. One moment there is calm, then madness ensues as the storm takes hold; and it’s the frenetic construction that ensues boredom never sets in.
As a whole, the works of Mirt will not be for everyone, but for the avid experimentalist out there, much can be derived from this album as a starting point and introduction to his work.
BRUCKNER: Happy End 12” EP Moozak
The joint efforts of Didi Bruckmeyer and Bernard Loibner come together on this rather limited vinyl EP. Improvised acoustics sitting amongst a bed of warm electronics appears to be the order of the day; and whilst being systematically bonkers, it is intriguing and listenable.
The vocals on this release are cut into a peculiar array of odd chants and warbles; and opening track ‘Further’ for all its nonsense, to my surprise didn’t culminate in me switching this off. For the most part, there is an almost low-fi feel to the proceedings; such is the pleasantry. Chirpy harmonics flutter away, as the tracks come and go with relative speed.
‘Happy End’, lets be fair, is no world-beater; and for the most part this feels amateurish and underdeveloped. However, it’s one of those releases that for some unknown reason, sinks under your skin; and I listened to this end-to-end, without any inclination to back away. This is most likely where the magic lies, with Bruckner toying with the synapses on an infantile, yet pleasing level. Either way, as hard as this is to review, being devoid of genre; I can’t hate it.
STEFAN WESOLOWSKI: Kompleta LP/CD Ici d’Ailleurs
Polish composer Wesolowski and six of his compatriots, have here, formulated a beautifully produced album, where electronics meet an array violin and cello. Musically speaking they’re on point, with an emotive orchestration that tugs at the heartstrings. That is of course until everything goes cataclysmically wrong.
Wesolowski himself brutalises the ears with pitiful display of tone-deaf vocals. Luckily he has his colleague Maja to provide her dulcet tones; but she can do little to blot out Stefan’s wailing and moaning; and in essence she should have sat him down and advised him to keep his trap firmly shut.
I am not knocking the compositional skills of Wesolowski, not one jot. But to be fair, it is his friends who are doing the work, yet he is the one taking all the credit; and when you have one job (to sing), you better make sure you’re capable of doing so.
‘Kompleta’ is a frustrating album because of its key pitfall. Moving forward, Stefan should stop taking all the acclaim, tape his mouth up, and orchestrate his band, whilst giving them some acclaim and give the project a collective name, rather than his own.
GEISTFORM: Tension EP 12” HANDS
Rafael Espinosa has made a name for himself over the years with a number of albums; and now we have this latest EP on vinyl as a follow on from 2012’s ‘Data Transmission’ and prequel to his forthcoming album
As is befitting for vinyl, Geistform has turned his attention to making the music more danceable and therefore more mixable (for those that know how to DJ properly). The title track has a clinically cold techno vibe throughout; and is immediately listenable, without falling into a commercial trap, that wouldn’t suit the label Espinosa, has made his home.
Hands as a label, has always allowed experimentation from the artists on its roster, as long as they keep some sort of familiar form. Therefore, it’s a pleasure to witness the change and evolution that Geistform has been allowed to present here; even if some diehard followers of the label, will most likely abhor the club sensibilities of the music on offer (and when I say ‘club’, I don’t mean your local Industrial music venue).
‘Tension’ is a fantastic and engaging listen from start to finish across all of its four tracks. Musically, it’s one of those neat extended player’s that is a pleasure to turn on the table; as there is so much you could do with this in the mixing stakes. A careful balance of beat and harmonics is pleasurable to the ears; and it’s almost impossible to sit still to, from the moment the stylus hits the welcoming groove.
ANCIENT METHODS: Turning Ice Realities Into Fire Dreams EP 12” HANDS
Immediately not following the form as far as EP titles go, this latest release from Ancient Methods is the latest in a discography that is devoid of albums, surprisingly. In a way it is quirky when an act has been around as long as this duo and just releases EP’s; and I applaud the amount of vinyl in their back catalogue and their ability to steer away from releasing full-length albums.
Ancient Methods provide an odd mix of colliding genre’s that really shouldn’t work on paper, yet surprisingly does. There’s an overt Post-Punk aesthetic to their work that doesn’t translate into the music; but instead provides a landscape for simplistic electronica and cod techno to flutter amongst a sea of basic industrial rhythms and bleak arrangements.
There is much to this that tips its hat to early pioneers such as Throbbing Gristle and the like, without falling into the trap of being dreadful (lets be fair; as enjoyable as TG are, they were rubbish in reality). Off kilter experimentation provides a level of intrigue to ‘Turning Ice realities…’ and that is vital and indeed pivotal to the relevancy of this EP.
Is this the most enjoyable listen I have had this year? Absolutely not. Will I play this often? Maybe. Ancient Methods are a decent enough act and I will be fair with the scoring. This release is a grower, no doubt; but I can see the potential. It’s likely this will get a few spins on those afternoons off, when I sit in a sea of vinyl with beer in hand
V/A: 25 Years of Hands 4 x CD HANDS
What better way to celebrate 25 years of giving your all to the scene, than this? Well, quite simply put; there isn’t. This first edition comes in a 10” by 10” cloth-bound spine, hard book format; and is a thing of beauty and is highly collectable to boot.
48 exclusive tracks over four CD’s, providing a marathon of listening pleasure and hours of terror for your neighbours; Hands Productions has pulled out all the stops here, with an overview of just what their label has been all about for a quarter of a century.
Any self-respecting Hands fan will be familiar with most of the artists (if not all of them) on this mammoth compilation. From the bleak dance of Geistform, the tribal ethnic sensibilities of Ah-Cama-Sotz to the tech wizardry of 5F-X, there has been some evolution of the label stylistically; which is blatantly obvious when you hear the beats of Mono No Aware and the ever crushingly brutal, Winterkälte.
Those who originally followed Hands and still do, have overseen the transformation of Germany’s best export of Industrial music, into a label where key variants have halted the potential rot. Artists such as Talvekoidik and Phasenmensch being the finest example of acts, who experiment with mood and atmosphere; giving the roster an essential musicality.
Tatlum supply the hardcore digital beats, Cervello Elettronico provide dance-floor Industrial, whilst many acts go for all out percussive war; you catch my drift. There are little surprises to be had on this four-disc assault, but then that’s what you want with a compilation such as this; with each band expressing themselves in the only way they know how.
I will be honest here and state that I haven’t enjoyed all of Hands’ 300 plus release output. Sometimes there are acts that have fallen by the generic wayside for me; both in the music and production stakes. I won’t name them though, as I am sure I have mentioned them in the past (and they fail as much on this compilation). However, the ends justify the means; and this monolithic (see what I did there) release deserves your attention, as well as the label deserving a huge round of applause for its dedication to the cause over the years. Long may they continue and prosper; and this album is a fantastic example of why they are where they are and why they deserve rich acclaim.