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.
TALVEKOIDIK: Spitzbergen CD HANDS
I was never really a fan of Christian Hahnewald’s S.K.E.T project; but Talvekoidik is an entirely different, more enigmatic and all round better beast. Some who are not in the know, have classified the band as Dark Ambient. But this is simply not so, not one jot.
Soundtrack led IDM would be a better terminology for this project and it is one that Christian excels at in every level. Opener, ‘Inner Place’ utilises harmony, rise and fall and pace enigmatically. Gloriously produced this sets the stage for what is to come, with a beauty and charm that hides an inner urgency.
‘Rising the Tension’ picks up the mantle and flows with off key pads to unsettle the listener and push them amongst a wave of tribal rhythms that set the stage for electronica rich ‘That’s my Desire’. Both tracks are expertly offset against each other; the latter scattered by a sea of breakbeats.
From the futuristic IDM of ‘Falcon Eyes’ to the anthemic ‘Nordlicht’, to the chants of the title track, everything is clean and polished throughout; maybe a little too spruced up for my liking, but that’s my preference (as it sounds a tad too manufactured). ‘Drift Ice Whisper’ brings some welcome power electronics, that bring a welcome change in time for closer ‘Expedition Arctic’; with a bouncy array of pads and beats.
Overall, this is another splendid album that touches on elements of Beefcake, genre wise. With a variety of outside influences, ‘Spitzbergen’ is a brilliant follow up to 2012’s ‘Negotiate the Distance’; and whilst I personally appreciated the former more, this is still as masterly produced and enjoyable in its own right.
V/A: Forms of Hands 15 CD HANDS
The long standing Forms of Hands festival has just completed its 15th cycle and once again we have an accompanying compilation of all the artists that blasted out rhythms aplenty at the event. It’s a testament to the label and fans alike, that still attend and purchase music from the long standing record label, that everything still seems rosy in noise land; and they all deserve a pat on the back for this.
Opening up this release we have the dark techno pulses of Supersimmetria; an artist who impressed me with the ultra cool album ‘Kosmogonie’ recently. The thumping bass and beats immediately tempered with the obscurities of Norm and the pounding Wieloryb, who always sounds better with singular tracks than a whole album to trawl through.
With a sub-standard appearance from Totakeke and Maschinenkrieger KR52, it’s up to Ancient Methods bizarre electronics and the unstoppable Winterkälte to bring the quality; the latter displaying a cleaner new output that bodes well for a possible future release, with a more punk structure to punch the distorted beat of ‘Climate Change Denial’ through the speakers effectively.
Other tracks of note come from Sylvgheist Maëlström and Ah-Cama-Sotz, who bring something other to the table than the 4-4 noise that omits from other acts on the release; and display the welcome variation that the label on the surface, doesn’t bring to the casual observer. Overall this is a steady compilation that once again competently does its job well and whilst some tracks are no shows, there are some actual gems on here.
SYNTH-ETIK: Function CD HANDS
Frank Mokros has always been a prolific artist with his constant output of Totakeke and Synth-Etik; two opposing forces that displayed the harsh tempered with the intricate evolution of harmony. Over the years however and in particular with Totakeke, the lines have become ever so slightly blurred; and it’s good to just sit through a Synth-Etik album doing exactly what I expect of it.
‘Monsters Among Us’ comes to life in fluid fashion, with glitching noises and distorted ambience leading the beats into punching dance-floor territory; making way for the sparse and minimal title track to mechanically plod through.
The fast paced glitch of ‘Anonymous’ opens up the gliding modern electronica of ‘Rapid Succession’ and the cold hybrid of slicing beeps and crunchy snares of ‘Impact Parameter’; the latter displaying a clinical precision that is a welcome and engaging exercise in how to hypnotise a listener with purposeful beat singularity.
The rest of ‘Function’ follows suit with similarities in style and production that permeate through earlier parts of the release. This gives a constant to the album, as opposed to lack of variation, which would normally arise in these circumstances on other releases out there; and Mokros has produced a CD that sits well with the rest of this projects discography as a concise and rigid addition.
AH-CAMA-SOTZ: State of Mind CD HANDS
ACS is practically a legend given the longevity of the project and the numerous releases under this banner over the years. Given the time span it must be difficult to keep on providing something fresh; and whilst he has been guilty of following a similar formula on many releases (as have many), this time he has produced some subtle differences that give Sotz a fresh face.
Opener ‘And it Makes me Susceptible to Pain’ takes the projects trademark tribalism and folds it into a trip-hop aesthetic that glides and weaves, oozes and writhes with a new found confidence. The 2015 version of ‘Isfahan’ follows suit and is a blunt lesson in Herman Klapholz’s evolution and willingness to move forward into a brave new world.
The dance synth of ‘Solitaire’ may not be original by any means, but displays vigour and blends well with the familiar ambience of ‘Surrender to Infinity’, which harks back to previous affairs. Here, Klapholz turns retro and delves back into his ethnic tribal patterns that we are more accustomed to, with ‘Desert Heat’, before jumping forward to his new found sound on ‘Hotel Odessa’.
The rest of the album plays out in the same fashion; shifting from this modern approach to older key structures at will, heightening the evolution of the project as a whole. In short, Herman has produced one of his better and more engaging albums in many a year.