ANTIGEN SHIFT: Brotherhood CD Signifier

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ANTIGEN SHIFT: Brotherhood CD Signifier

It’s been eight long years since the last Antigen Shift release ‘The Way of the North’ appeared on the Ad Noiseam label; a distinctly ambient led album that was a giant leap in what had come before. Now joined by Jairus Khan (he of the less than busy Adversary), it’s plainly evident as to why we haven’t seen any other releases from his once sole project; as it’s obvious he has been busy assisting Nick Thériault in providing the next step in the ‘Shift’.

I was a massive fan when I first heard Nick’s early works and I expected big things. Whether lethargy set in or some other interference is unknown to me, either way it’s glad to see the project gain some momentum once more.

‘Brotherhood’ takes earlier elements and dances everything up a notch, with clean-cut electronics and the occasional foray into Breakbeat and IDM territory, whilst bouncing around a mainstream bubble as to keep everything a touch more listenable, for those that enjoy the odd club or two.  With the odd smattering of samples and piano work emphasising a cleaner and less dense production than before, there are touches on here that may alienate previous lovers of Antigen Shift as a whole, but given some time and patience it all becomes evident the changes were necessary in placing the project well and truly back on the scene; with guitar infused, up-paced tracks such as ‘Godkrusher’ and the modernistic light bass drops of ‘Get off my Lawn’ proving as relevant as anything out there.

Whilst everything is professionally done, there is little to remember anything that truly stands out, bar one or two tracks (as mentioned above) and everything merges together as one solid block of electronics. It is clear, that the focus has been placed on presenting one solid mass of tracks to be played from start to finish and in that respect does work well.

As a whole though, this latest and long overdue quality output breathes life once again into an act that I thought had long since gone and I am glad to see its return; even if lacking anything that sets the hairs on the back of my neck, standing on end.

8.5/10

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AGYA: ANEMOΣ CD Signifier

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AGYA: ANEMOΣ CD Signifier

Here we have the coming together of Supersimmetria’s Armando Alibrandi and Yura Yura’s Dijon Grégory, combining their creative skills as one. Fair to say I expected distorted beat and Industrial edged powernoise battering from end-to-end, but luckily this album provides a lot more scope than that.

Ranging dark ambience makes for a more interesting journey than the flabby beats do alone, carrying an atmosphere that descends and ascends to great effect throughout this 14 tracker; masking the rhythm sections occasional production failings as it goes along. Careful attention has been paid to the grinding sub-bass elements, leaving a cosy warmth to the proceedings and making for a comfortable listen that allows the pads to provide a crisp, fresh breeze that filters throughout the mix.

Whilst not altogether ground breaking, ‘ANEMOΣ’ does hold its own. I could imagine this coming off well live, in a clubs early hours when folk need something a little more restrained on pace, but with enough firepower to crunch out of the speakers effectively.

Where Agya stumble, is on the diversity scale. We have heard this many a time before in the 90’s from the HANDS label and such like; and whilst overall this is a decent and solid album, it does lack the edge to set it apart from its peers. Originality put to one side however, as far as Industrial circles go, this does exactly what it sets out to do; and there is some comfort in experiencing this duo stubbornly stick to the path they set for themselves not straying into a more easily marketable territory, as many have done before.

7.8/10

LUCIDSTATIC: Fatalist CD Signifier

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LUCIDSTATIC: Fatalist  CD Signifier

Alaskan native James Church has jumped ship after numerous successful releases on his own CRL Studios and the excellent Tympanik Audio label, to the up and coming Signifier.  Starting off in fine fashion, ‘Chaos’ sets the tone of what’s to come with cinematic Industrial choral pads that are infused with broken rhythms that hold an undercurrent of steadiness amongst the frenetic beats.

‘Omnicide’ starts where track one leaves off concentrating yet more on the soundtrack influences that seeped through earlier on the opening number, devoid of the breakcore-isms that I am used to with Church’s output; and once more on track three ‘Initiation’.

ESA Jamie Blacker’s unmistakeable vocals filter through on ‘You are My Work in Progress’.   Altogether this would have been a great track and possible contender for best on the album, but sadly the production lets everything down somewhat. There is a distinct volume drop as the voice takes precedence, rather than sitting comfortably in the mix and unfortunately the music becomes a muggy wash of electronics.

From here on in, for the most part everything follows the patter that I have come to expect of Lucidstatic and in some ways there was a comfort in this and I could relax and enjoy the ride.  There are other decent guest appearances on the release and further introductions of almost sci-fi influences; ‘Fatalist’ is a stable Church interpretation of Industrial music as he sees it and is a solid album from start to finish with a few niggling volume slides on the production front that would have notched the score up somewhat if they had been ironed out before mastering.

7.8/10

V/A: A Mere Invention of the Idle Mind II 2xCD Signifier / Mechanismz

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V/A: A Mere Invention of the Idle Mind II  2xCD Signifier / Mechanismz

This whopping double disc affair has my seal of approval on it’s choice of opener.  I have never heard of Tea & Grief before and I prefer compilation albums that throw up an introduction to something new as opposed to the usual artists you expect; either way, the simple dulcet piano and ambient was a welcoming start.

There is little to be said about Access to Arasaka that I have not said before.  His consummate professionalism when it comes to sculpting broken rhythms and wired electronics always enthrals and amazes me; and this once again, is no exception, wiping the floor with the following LayerZ.  In any other world, ‘Not Right’ would be deemed more than competent, but next to A2A it sounds merely amateurish by comparison.

Other stand out tracks on disc one, come from the ever impressive electronic craft of Marching Dynamics, the glorious pad work of Libido Formandi and the now indie rock influenced 100Blumen (merely for adding some variation to the compilation).

Onto disc two and the re-emergence of Mothboy, with his off kilter harmonies toying with warm bass driven beats and warping electronics.  Once again, when you have someone who is recognised for his genius, it raises the bar so much more for anyone else to shine and ‘Switchtape’ just sounds so much more on top of many a track on this album.

I really enjoy ESA, but was let down by an altogether terrible remix of ‘How Pure Would Your Utopia Be?’ by Urusai; and at a guess, something tells me this was submitted just because there was no other outlet for Jamie to release it on.

Hexer shines with an engaging jaunt into drum n’bass territory and along with the closer, ‘In Your Mind’ by Sleep Clinic provides the highlights to disc two, along with Mothboy at number one.

I have never marked many compilations that highly and this will be no exception.  As with all releases of this nature there are going to be tracks that appeal where others do not and AMIOTIM follows suit.  Effectively there should be something for everyone and in that respect, is the gage that ‘Mere Invention II…’ should be judged on.

7.5/10

FRONTIER GUARDS: Interface CD Aliens Production / Signifier

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FRONTIER GUARDS: Interface  CD Aliens Production / Signifier

Martin Pavlik and Thomas Galle from the Czech Republic produce music that is on a par with many a release from the now defunct Bloodline label.  Bombastic synth bursts alongside dark electronics and soundtrack rich compositions steer away from the dance-floor, as much as the individual elements that formulate the initial songs push you in that direction.

Come track three ‘Dark Age’, the previous elements I enjoyed are placed on the backburner for the more bog standard, stuck in a rut ‘Hellektro’ fad that a lot of the scene seems to still feel is relevant in some parts of Europe.  Unfortunately the majority of the rest of the album follows suit, feeling a tad out-dated and tired.

Frontier Guards in a lot of ways have all the appropriate tools to utilise from a shelf in the shed other than the one marked ‘generic’, with the capability of still producing something enjoyable to listen to (as the first two tracks are testament to).  Unfortunately, once things started going downhill, the momentum leaning me towards pressing eject was inevitable and there simply wasn’t anything to assist me in dragging this album up from the mire it had found itself stuck in.

5.5/10

USHERSAN & HIV+: Wide Lights From Hatred Springs CD Signifier

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USHERSAN & HIV+: Wide Lights From Hatred Springs  CD Signifier

Collaborative efforts here from HIV+’s Pedro Peñas Robles and Anthon Shield of Norma Loy, providing an enjoyable exploration into influential old school electronics, post-punk and new wave past glories.

It’s remarkable, that sometimes to provide anything fresh and new, it is often the music that derives its sources from the late 70’s and early 80’s that stands out with any sort of originality (even though it isn’t original at all); and so everything revolves full circle as the wheel of evolution is turned on its head.

Familiarisation ensues as twangs of Cabaret Voltaire and SPK flutter alongside the better elements of Throbbing Gristle (who lets be fair, where pretty shit in reality), providing an overall refreshing musical escapade into the beauty of simplicity and analogue construction.

Peculiar but ultimately listenable, the obscurity of this release is one that serves it credit.  Yes the main music to ‘Maelström’ is a blatant rip off of ‘Marian’ by The Sisters Of Mercy (whether unintentional or not), but it is one of the highlights on this release, with the multi vocals layered well as the tune is hammered into your skull (of which you will find yourself humming later on).  A decent cover of TG’s ‘United’ is given a dust and polish and whilst reminiscent of the original, still provides a fresh enough take on it for the uninitiated.

I am not altogether a fan of throwing heaps of remixes in at the end of an album (not in such a large proportion anyway), but it seems all too fitting for Dirk Ivens’ Absolute Body Control to make an entrance, providing one of the better deconstructions on display, along with Millimetric; and the other four on here at least do not detract the release from its chosen path (if not lowering the overall score).  Overall Ushershan and HIV+ have provided an album in tribute to an era of sound, without which, we would all be that little bit worse off.

8.5/10

CRUISE [CTRL]: …Are Not What they Seem CD Signifier

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CRUISE [CTRL]: …Are Not What they Seem  CD Signifier

The minimalist Belgian duo is back, with this their third album. Centralising once again their explorations in sound around the cult classic ‘Twin Peaks’ (although not audibly evident, apart from on ‘Billy’s Problem’), focus is directed squarely on the monotony of simplistic analogue sounding synths and repetitive beats.

It’s a formula that many have embraced in the past and it happens to be one I relish.  There is a lot about this duo that smacks of those they hold in direct influence; namely Absolute Body Control.  Indeed fellow Belgian Dirk Ivens, makes an appearance on ANWTS with vocal and lyrical assistance on the stirring, ‘In Hell (Everything is Fine)’ and in truth this could have been a track penned solely by the man himself; which is by no means a bad thing at all.

There is a lot to applaud about with this latest instalment, with little to steer the path of course from previous efforts; it’s good to see that if the old adage of “if it’s not broken then why fix it?” means you produce something as decent as before then I am all for it.    There are more than enough minor distractions on Cruise [CTRL]’s latest release to keeps things fresh and interesting from the norm, whilst not detracting from what has made them enjoyable previously.

8/10