I’m starting this year’s musical roundup a little differently to normal. During 2011, there has been a glut of compilations in the “Industrial” sphere. Some of them have been great, some of them…haven’t. So let’s have a brief look at each of them, and it might give a few pointers to where trends were heading in “teh sc33n” in 2011.
At least, I guess, I know what to expect from the Awake The Machines series. Pretty much the same core roster as before, some exclusives pointing towards forthcoming albums, a few duds, a few bands who keep on going despite the evidence suggesting they should do the opposite, and a few new bands (to me, anyway). The God Module and Aesthetic Perfection tracks were both cracking club tracks, while the rebuild of a very old Suicide Commando track was pretty impressive, too. Low points? Another dreadful Ashbury Heights track, and there are too many bands here that offer absolutely nothing new. We deserve better, right?
Notable particularly for the one and only Cubanate track released in their brief return (which sadly was not taken further), this was a great compilation generally – much to my surprise, I must admit. Yeah, so some bands just offered a track from a recent album (Rotersand, [:SITD:], Komor Kommando, for a start), but other bands provided some real highlights. E-Craft returned with a cracker after some underwhelming recent material, and there was some cracking EBM (as the title suggested there should be). Quite how I’d missed Autodafeh, for a start, is a question I’m still asking myself.
Well, they weren’t kidding. Ok, so it was a collection broadly of material I already had, but as a DJ it did have a few rare-ish mixes that were worth having, and it is also dead useful in the DJ case, too. As well as that, though, it also found time to give a bit more of a push to some of the more critically lauded artists on Dependent who weren’t necessarily as well known and loved as they should be (Edge of Dawn, Mind.In.A.Box), both of whom finally seemed to break through to the clubbing masses in a big way during 2011. And about bloody time, too!
The seemingly now traditional curtain-raiser for the year, Dependent’s year compilations are usually a pretty good place to hear some of the best tracks coming from the label in the coming year. And this one was a pretty bulletproof collection. With the best Rotersand remix in ages (their astonishing remix of KMFDM, which blew away pretty much every track from the KMFDM album that followed), the snarling, pulsating return of Dismantled, the welcome to the label of Encephalon, even a new Stromkern track. Actually, I’m not sure there was a single bad track here. Another one this good in 2012 would be very good, folks!
I felt slightly conflicted on this one. VampireFreaks appears to becoming a relatively big player in the scene, at least in the US, with every band worth their salt seemingly having a profile, and using this just as much as a Facebook page (Myspace, of course, barely registers any more. Amazing how things change). And as a result, this lengthy – and free – download compilation covered a number of different regions of the industrial spectrum, and with an impressive number of exclusive tracks. The lack of time restriction also meant that various hefty remixes could be included, with the thirty-six tracks on offer covering three hours. Yeah, there is some dross, but the great stuff far outweighs that. I still don’t get the fuss over Surgyn, though.
Billed as the first Facebook-released compilation, I’ve not got the time or the energy to verify this. Nor did I have the energy to get through it all, either. Broadly a release of lesser-known bands for free, as is often the case with this kind of thing it was a very mixed bag indeed. And sadly, the bad outweighed the good for me. High points were definitely the new Necrotek track, the oddly-Rubyesque PaPerCuts (who, it turns out, don’t always sound like that), and then the industrial hip-hop of SMP. But if anyone can explain how the NIN-tribute act Halo In Reverse got signed, I’d love to know. When NIN have an extensive backcatalogue, why do we need a pale imitation trying to take things on? If we’ve got to tribute acts being the next big thing, we really are fucked.
…and various of the songs on that compilation then made it onto this. Yes, including the NIN wannabes. This compilation was also noteworthy for confirming that I think Alien Vampires are toss on record as well as live.
An intriguing album, this – a charity release that followed the Japanese earthquake/tsunami in the Spring, made up of broadly US-based artists, and it was a really wide mix of styles, too. Collide’s Crushed might be old now, but it is still utterly glorious, as are the rather underrated Mankind Is Obsolete. Again noteworthy for long-awaited new material, this release saw the recorded return of Kalte Farben after many, many years. But overall, as befitted the disaster it was created for, this was a sombre, downbeat compilation that in a number of cases showed a very different side to some of the bands than we might have expected. And it was all the better for it.
A double-CD for the festival, featuring pretty much all the artists playing? Yeah, don’t mind if I do! It certainly helped to reinforce how good some new finds at the festival were, and was a well-put together compilation generally, anyway. Looking forward to hearing Kinetik 5.0 when I head back over the Atlantic in 2012…
The best of the industrial compilations for 2011, though, was this rather wonderfully eclectic release from a new Stateside label. Nominally I would have thought it was going to be a downtempo electronic/industrial compilation, but this really did wrongfoot me. Yes, there was some of that, but there was also some brutal noise (Greyhound, W.A.S.T.E. and Vuxnut ensured that), various new artists to me, and in particular a quite wonderful track by a band I’d not heard of before – Oil10. A lovely mix of ambience and quasi-dancefloor bound electronics, with some clever cut-up sampling of vocals, I was rather surprised to find that this act had passed me by for over ten years. Oops. Anyway, if you want a great idea of where the broadly experimental and instrumental side of industrial is evolving towards, this whole compilation is a damned good place to start, either for the mellow side, the harsher side, or both.