SHHH…: I of the Storm LP/DL Thisco

SHHH…: I of the Storm      LP/DL  Thisco

The latest album by this Portuguese act takes a step forward in sound electronically speaking, with an array of fluttering broken beats, feedback, raging drones and obscure ambient electronics.  Rui Bentes has always tampered with obscurity in his tenure as this project, but for me, this latest output grasps an element of control in how each individual part equates to the greater sum.

Careful application and placing works well with the format of vinyl, providing a concise and enjoyable affair that feels immediate; and never outstays its welcome.  A heavy soundtrack vibe permeates this latest affair, which is somewhat assisted by the dense production; constantly providing a soft underbelly pads and reverberated beats scarred by sharp electronics.  There is however, the odd smattering of aggression on ‘I of the Storm’ to keep any listener on their toes, providing a necessary break when things slow down.

As such, there is enough peculiarity on this album to keep older listeners happy, whilst reaching out to fresher ears with an expanded palette of complex electronics and newfound maturity.

8.5/10

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ROUGGE: Cordes CD/DL Rougge Production

ROUGGE: Cordes          CD/DL    Rougge Production

I had to do a bit of a double take when I received this, as France’s Rougge previously sent me an EP of the same name to review.  ‘Cordes’ the album, effectively expands on the EP with an arrangement of a further 11 ‘Fragments’ that tread a familiar path, with piano being the staple grounding rod that holds everything together.

As before, there is a sombre and melancholy tone to Rougge’s work that is hard to escape from, but is by no means less entrancing.  There is an air of obscurity that floats around the ghostly orchestral movements that sit this artist down on the fence of non-conformity; further enhanced by vocals that are ever so reminiscent of Antony & the Johnsons.

The mechanics of this album portray a pure musician who has little time for outright concept, concentrating his efforts on just playing music in its most naked form.  The track titles mean little; and you feel he wrote an array of songs numbered ‘Fragment 1’, Fragment 2 etc., and picked them out at random, for the order in which they were to flow best across the aforementioned EP and this album. Simplistically effective and well meaning, ‘Cordes’ the album, provides a pleasant break from some of the music I listen to and an appreciation of one man and his instrumentation.

9/10

CONNY OLIVETTI: Discomfort with Benefits CD/DL Self Released

CONNY OLIVETTI: Discomfort with Benefits   CD/DL Self Released

A peculiar artist, with an eclectic approach to electronic music; Olivetti’s latest album work comprises of analogue synth and an array of vocal and instrument samples that do at least provide a touch of originality to the quirkiness of his work.

Ambient backdrops interweave with chirpy bleeps and arpeggiated dancing notes, which are as emotive as they are peculiar and child-like.  It is of course the latter description, which for me best portrays Conny’s output.  There is a sense of carefree abandonment with much of the album approaching the listener from a playful and somewhat sunny disposition.

You could be forgiven that there is little complexity to the arrangements on ‘Discomfort with Benefits’.  Whilst the application of sound provides an altogether easy listening experience, there is method behind the simplistic madness, which does somewhat ease the hooks under the skin with little resistance.

8/10

PREVIEW: INFEST 23rd TO 26th August 2018, University of Bradford UK.

PREVIEW: INFEST 23rd TO 26th August 2018, University of Bradford UK.

Who would have thought that 20 years ago after the exploits of a few Bradford University students, we would still be here celebrating another year and another Infest.  The tenacity of the crew that put this together year on year has to be applauded, as I am sure it is a slog to piece together something that will appeal to the many; continuing the longevity of the festival for years to come.  Here I will preview this year’s event, as in reality it will come round quick enough.  For the first time in its history, Infest will be spread over four nights instead of three, so I expect to be twice as knackered come Monday.  The great news here is, that it costs no more for the entire weekend ticket; bargain.

THE HEADLINERS (and a couple of follow up acts):

First up, I have seen a fair few people who have taken a look at the schedule and been confused as to the placements on the bill for Empirion (Thursday) and SARIN (Saturday).  Before I proceed, these guys are not actually headliners; both have been dragged in to provide late night Techno (ish) sets well after their respective main events have finished their shows.  The attempted vibe here I assume, will be to capture something you sometimes get at clubs such as Slimelight, where a band will often make an appearance in the early hours of the morning to spice things up a little.  I am sure both are up to the task, although I am not so keen on the former musically speaking.  There may be a danger that some might not be hanging around for the club afterwards, so I suspect there is an element here of providing a treat for those that don’t relish their beds (or standard dancing to a DJ) after a heavy evenings drinking.

So on with the actual headliners.

Thursdays slot was met with mixed emotions initially, but with overall positivity. To the great surprise of many, PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT have been announced to bring a set comprising of New Order and Joy Division classics to the Bradford stage.  For those that have not witnessed Hooky live (or indeed too young to catch Joy Division, which I suspect many are), I can’t state enough just how great this guy and his band are on stage; and I have come away from all their shows I have previously attended, thoroughly elated; I bet you will too.

Friday brings the brutal Industrial carnage of CUBANATE.  It was many years ago I witnessed these guys, with one show being firmly stamped in my head as they utterly destroyed The Sisters of Mercy, supporting them in Manchester. Overall, a thoroughly fitting act for the weekend’s festivities.

MESH return to the Infest stage on Saturday, after popular demand.  I have to admit a certain guilty pleasure to listening to a lot of the Bristol boys’ earlier work. I also feel that this is the right positioning on the roster too with a club set by the aforementioned SARIN coming after.  Many were left feeling a little mopey after their last headlining slot on a Sunday; understandably so, considering the gloomy subject matter that pervades many of their songs. Either way, a deserved space on the bill.

The Sunday headliner has always felt like the main billing for me, so I will be honest and say I am a little disappointed. After 20 years I expected something more of a big hitter and not AESTHETIC PERFECTION.  I am not a fan of their music at all and simply cannot place them above the bands that will take the top step on the preceding nights.  I am not of course, the many; and as I spend most of my days in a well of Dark Ambient and old Post-Punk, it’s likely my comments here won’t mean much to the general Infest attendee.  There are so many other acts that are more worthy of this opportunity though, regardless if you like their music or not.

THE MID-HITTERS:

Bands directly immediately underneath the headliner, really have to bring their ‘A’ game.  It’s that point in the night where people really want to see the top slot more often than not.  Luckily, Infest usually does well at providing something of worth to keep the impatient throng entertained.

Thursday brings the alternative Rock/Goth/Darkwave musings of ZEITGEIST ZERO.  In the grand scheme of things that seem to have gained a strong following, even if they just do so-so songs we have all heard before.  They’re not really my cup of tea and I will be mentally willing them off stage to get Hooky and co on as soon as is possible.

Friday ups the game tremendously with the Canadian lunatic (and all round good egg) Yann and his mighty project, ISZOLOSCOPE.  Just how this act has not graced the Bradford stage before is quite beyond me. Rhythmic frenetic beats and razor wire electronics over a foundation of dark ambient soundscapes always makes for an engaging show; and Yann is one of the best in the business.

LIEBKNECHT are top slot of the undercard come Saturday.  The minimal discography doesn’t on paper correlate with the positioning on the bill; that is of course until you realise this is Daniel Meyer of Haujobb/Architect fame. Expect cold electronics sitting upon a dark beat driven mass; and one man who has always had that knack of getting a dance floor stomping.

Sunday produces for me the band to upstage the main headliner.  THIS MORN’ OMINA are a band with a long tenure of the scene, providing a mash up of distorted beats and tribal infused Industrial, with more than enough of a smattering of melody.  I haven’t seen Mika Goedrijk’s pack perform a bad show yet; and I imagine the throng will lap this show up with gusto.

THE UNDER SUPPORT & OPENERS:

I have to say that when this years acts were announced, there wasn’t a great deal of bands I had actually heard of before.  This isn’t a bad thing though, as Infest has always prided itself on bringing newer acts to the ears of the many; which has to be applauded somewhat.

Grave Diggers Union (Thursday) don’t enthuse me unfortunately.  Dodgy Goth vocals and ‘B’ movie horror synths are going to provide a painful wait alongside Zeitgeist Zero on the long road to Hooky; but hey, maybe they’re amazing live?

On Friday we have Siva Six bringing their standard electro fare, after Welsh openers Def Neon, from the Analogue Trash stable; whose quirky electro-pop simplicity sits better on my shoulders than the band that follows them.

Saturday calls the crowds to be there early doors. Top of the support comes from Vancouver’s ACTORS, who with more than of a touch of Post-Punk have my attention at least, even if the recorded matter hasn’t fully engaged me yet; there’s still time.

YURA YURA bring their standard HANDS label affair and are fairly decent all in all, but the album ‘Rumu Namba’ was an appalling mess.  I just hope they stick to their ‘Be Sexual’ period.  The Sultry vocals of Adam is a Girl sound like this will be a promising show and should be quite a leap in genre from openers Flesh Eating Foundation, who should riotously kick Friday nights cobwebs and hangovers into touch with their own take on punk-ish electro Industrial.

Sunday has a web of acts I haven’t encountered before now.  Strvngers (Strangers? Strungers?-yeah that’s not even a word) seem to have a lot of people making noise about them, surprisingly so as they appear to be a blend of Darkwave-come-pop.  They do seem to have a touch of urgency about them so could be pretty special live; we will see.  I have never really been a fan of Elegant Machinery, but what they do is pretty stable and competent synth pop, which should blend well with the acts surrounding them either side of the billing.

VALHALL are apparently a mix of Witch House, Neo-Folk and Dark Electronic music. I haven’t heard anything yet that suggests anything but the latter on the list, but it all seems well put together enough.  I don’t think Neo-Folk would put a smile on many a face at Infest anyway (apart from me I guess).

Massenhysterie are one of those acts I will watch to review whilst struggling not to cover up my ears.  I know they have their supporters, but their blend of by the numbers electro pop and done to death cod fetish imagery does nothing for me, not one jot; unless I am missing something here?

Openers Promenade Cinema sound like they might just be the right ticket for a Sunday opening slot, when everyone no doubt, will be utterly knackered after the previously three nights; which is more days than they will have been used to by this point.  Their approach to the Foxx school of synth might just be the ticket we all need whilst rubbing the sleep out of our eyes.

Overall there is much on here genre speaking, for the variety of fans we encounter under the same umbrella. I for one am looking forward to celebrating 20 years of Infest, where people come together like one big family year on year.  Admittedly this year, there are only a few snippets here and there that I personally would enjoy normally; but that’s what Infest is all about and you can’t please everyone all of the time.  The social aspect of this event is every much bit as important as the music itself; and I am looking forward to a longer weekend away than previous years.

Book your tickets here now.

MICHAEL IDEHALL: Prophecies of the Storm CD/DL Ant-Zen

MICHAEL IDEHALL: Prophecies of the Storm           CD/DL Ant-Zen

Electronics approaching from a sinister corner permeate the entirety of Idehall’s latest full-lengther. F rom the sparse throbs and slow paced beats overridden with rasping vocals of ‘Built Apart’, to the ambient soundtrack elements of ‘Bear Nemesis’; and the Industrial overtones of ‘In the Dark Vapour’, there is much to be gaged from sitting through this album in one sitting.

For me, ‘Prophecies of the Storm’ is one of those releases that play’s out as though it was staged in a different genre.  The structure itself feels as though it has been constructed in the same pattern as Power Electronics, but with an entirely different medium; like producing fine art, without the conventional pencil or paint palette and brush.

The overall effect works well and serves as a bridge between different aspects of musical corners that are normally far enough apart, so one does not usually engage with the other.  The end result is an engaging album that provides a gripping and sometimes horrific tale from start to finish.

8.5/10

PHILLIP MÜNCH: Greyscale CD/DL Ant-Zen

PHILLIP MÜNCH: Greyscale         CD/DL Ant-Zen

Phillip’s solo work has always culminated in a barrage of oddity and peculiarity, whilst still retaining a high essence of remaining listenable; which I assure you, is quite a task. ‘Greyscale’ though, provides a new chapter, moving on from the concepts provided with ‘Into the Absurd’ and ‘Post Elysium’; and suitably, the aesthetic follows suit.

From the somewhat ambient intro of ‘Alive!’ things really kick off with a somewhat old school electronic industrial track, in the form of ‘Mantra’; providing an engaging and full-throttle no-nonsense step back in time, genre speaking.

With the lyrics now predominantly sung in German, everything pulls on the nature of previous glories that permeated the scene way back when everything was so fresh and new; and alongside the sound sources provided, Münch hosts a truly enthralling nostalgia trip for the listener, without ever falling into the trap of sounding dated.

‘Greyscale’, for all its trading on the past, sounds as fresh and relevant as ever; and as expected, still carries enough of the madness we have come to expect from this artist as to keep it enjoyable and entertaining throughout.

9/10

EFF DST: Out of Body CD/DL Hymen Records

EFF DST: Out of Body       CD/DL Hymen Records

Musicality has always been at the forefront of Ant-Zen’s sister labels roster; and EFF DST fit comfortably into the mould, with Dmitry Stepnov’s electronic baby providing a web of pulsating bass, beats and harmony.

Individual soundtrack elements flow throughout this latest piece of work, first making their ultimate appearance on the title track, that throws glorious pads over arpeggiated flutters and chimes; only to better themselves on ‘Smash them all’ and the beautiful ‘Silent Reflections’.

For those that appreciate something noisier, Stepnov gladly submits with the odd break in pace and allows the odd smattering of industrialism into his work; never of course forgetting that the key to this project is the clarity of note and its effect on the ear.

Sometimes delicate, sometimes abrasive, there is much on ‘Out of Body’ to shout about; that treads a path between cold frigid technoid and heart-warming melody.  The production and programming skill on offer is of the highest standard and should also appeal to those that appreciate a technicality to their listening experience.

9/10