After as usual a month or two off from this – new releases are thin on the ground at the end of the year anyway, and the end-of-year lists (start here if you missed them) take up a lot of time – it’s time to get back to telling you, the reader, about some of the good new music out there.
It is a bumper list this month as there has been tons of new music worth hearing, from all over the place, and if things continue at this rate in 2016 I’ll be posting about twenty tracks every month. In other respects – particularly with musical legends, if you will – 2016 has not started well, with a number of notable deaths. But we’re reaching the point where many of our idols and influences are coming to the end of their lives, and we’re just going to have to deal with it, sad as it is.
Track of the Month
Let There Be Lasers
It’s been a long, long time since the retro sci-fi industrial-dance thrills of Memmaker’s debut album How To Enlist In A Robot Uprising – six years, in fact. They’ve not been idle in the meantime – with hugely popular live shows all over the place – but clearly life for the members of the group has got in the way (not to mention their other projects), and only now has a follow-up album finally been announced, with the glorious title of Let There Be Lasers. This first taste of the new album doesn’t fix anything that wasn’t broken, thankfully – it’s another four minutes of groovy dance music, with a kick of a build and drop and the distinct feeling that we’re going to hear an awful lot of this in clubs over the next year or so. Add to that a high-quality video, apparently inspired by cult sci-fi film Robot Jox, and samples from obscure BBC comedy Hyperdrive…
Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie)
One of the finest metal bands of recent times return this month with their first new material since the spectacular Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού (top five on this site in 2013), and this first track appears to continue the thread – intricate, intriguing death metal that is anything but following the herd. There are female vocals in the verses, while Sakis Tolis provides his familiar roar for the chorus, and tribal chanting appears later on amid the relentless, punishing rhythms. There is no-one in metal even coming close to how brilliant Rotting Christ have been in the past few years, and this is yet more evidence for this.
“A band with nothing to prove release exceptional concept album”. Yep, that’s Suede in 2016. The new album is a concept of a man ending his life and considering what got him there (pretty much), which needless to say makes for some fairly grim subject matter at points. But the brilliant trick here is that Suede make certain points of the album so damned life-affirming – particularly this track, where the protagonist considers ways to fight through, to live in the moment rather than worrying about the difficulties to come. The video suggests it doesn’t work out so well. This is far from the only high point of the album, though, their second since their reformation, and frankly it is some way better than Bloodsports to my ears.
Pyramids on Mars
A band I’d totally missed until recently are this US-based band, apparently heavily influenced by cyberpunk and who have a sound best described as industrial-influenced rock, of sorts. Synths and odd electronic effects permeate the entire sound, vocals are delivered in a snarl, and lyrics refer to various concepts that are very much not rooted in real life. This track is the brooding, sweeping opener to the album, and plants a flag, for sure – musically they are in similiar realms to HEALTH, but rather more restrained and a whole lot darker.
I Am The Lord
From Manchester? Check.
Bleak song titles? Check.
Bleak songs? Check.
Joy Division comparisons in the press? Check.
This would be enough for some people I know to be checking them out already, but you know what? There is more to this, and it makes it all the more notable. A couple of elements to their sound are unexpected – heavy use of multi-tracking and backing vocals gives a near-choral, devotional aspect to the songs, while mournful strings and acoustic guitars, not to mention a distinctly slower pace, are the order of the day rather than the bass-heavy post-punk that is very much back in vogue at the moment. This track is the epic, six-minute opener, with a title that suggests past Mancunian swagger, but contains lyrics that suggest that things are very much Not Well, but all the same the song builds into a gentle-but-forceful crescendo – and while other tracks hint it more (Night Came in particular), there is a distinct feel of The Verve in their early days, too…
Take It There
Ritual Spirit EP
The first of two EPs and an album to come this year, this is a dark, drowsy return – so exactly as I’d want. Guests assist on all four tracks (with Roots Manuva providing his usual deep insights on the lead track), but the pick is the smoke-shrouded closing track, where 3D and Tricky (making his first appearance on a Massive Attack track in over two decades) trade verses over a distorted piano and wobbling beats, inviting us into a world that really doesn’t seem to want us there. Welcome back.
Angry Robot Noises Merry Glitchmas 2015 edition
It’s becoming an annual Christmas gift – Glitch Mode drop a compilation of label signings and related friends and there are always new discoveries within. Relic is one of a few this time around (others of note include the monstrous South African glitch-industrial of Axxon and the glorious, Evil Dead-sampling industrial-techno funtimes of AudioFlesh), but is for me the pick of the compilation. Relic is the product of Cyanotic synth player Jordan Davis, and going on this track alone, he’s going to be worth listening out for. Groovy, catchy industrial that takes more of a perhaps poppy edge than Cyanotic do (and rather less guitars, too), but this deserves an audience. So, check it out.
Like most Radiohead these days, this was dropped out of nowhere with no warning – this one on Christmas Day. I seem to recall it was known that the band had submitted a track to be considered as the latest Bond theme, but Sam Smith’s dreary effort won the day. When hearing this – a gorgeous, string-laden ballad, with a depth that few bands other than Radiohead at their peak can touch – you have to wonder how this didn’t make the cut. Still, it has also nicely helped to lay the ground for what appears to be a new Radiohead album coming this year.
Under the Roof
Things Will Never Sound The Same Again
The death of their colleague Passenger L (their sound engineer and friend) last year has resulted in a tribute album to him of sorts – a rather more sombre affair than their albums thus far judging on what I’ve heard. Sample-free, this track instead concentrates on a lovely, bouncing rhythm and sweeping synths that still sound unmistakeably Metroland.
Channel The Past (Single Mix)
Channel The Past EP
genCAB – one of the more interesting industrial bands of the past decade, but silent for some years – return at last. Their one album II transMuter was wonderful, a downbeat collection of great industrial songs, but being one of the last releases on Hive Records, rather lost out on anything resembling promotion. This new single is produced by Daniel Graves (Aesthetic Perfection), and it shows – while some elements of the old sound are still there, there is a distinct poppy feel that jars a teeny bit with the vocals – while another track featured (A Reevaluation of Self) sounds much more like the genCAB I adored back in the day). Hopefully an album will follow this year.
Talking of returned, judging on this compilation’s release, it would appear that Karloz M. (Manufactura) has resurrected Crunch Pod as a label, and he’s not the only one, as notably this compilation marks, among other things, the return of Terrorfakt after a long absence. Terrorfakt were never the subtlest of the noise acts, and this broadly follows – heavily distorted electronics and unsettling effects, but restraint is shown with the beats never quite reaching the level of “jackhammer” that we might expect. But the big question – is this a one-off, or a sign of things to come?
Gravity Hunts Us All EP
A release that dropped right before Christmas was this – Alter der Ruine’s first new material since their brilliant I Will Remember This All Differently from 2014. It’s a great EP, too – six more songs that delve further into their newly-found comfort zone, that of emotionally deep, crisply produced synthpop. Picking one song for this week’s roundup was tough, but I’ve settled on the bright, uptempo opener Waves, which comes complete with echoing synths, spiralling melodies and Mike Treveloni’s now signature, pleading vocal that suits ADR so well.
A band that I thought I’d lost track of a bit in recent times (I saw them very early on in a tiny venue in Sheffield, and have not heard them in a while, since they then supported Deftones at Brixton!), but having checked it turns out that they just haven’t released much in recent times. This first airing of a track from their forthcoming album shows them continuing to explore their drum-heavy post-rock style, that has pretty melodies that snake round those rhythms and sound almost playful.
Can’t Handle Me
First heard on the belting Testify by The Operating Tracks, Rein now has a release of her own in the way of her first EP – and it’s certainly a striking start. Five short, sharp EBM attacks that at points, yes, remind a bit of Youth Code, but there is much more of a “pure” EBM sound here (rather than the punk influences of Youth Code). The absolute standout, though, is Can’t Handle Me, that not surprisingly was the track that got a video to promote the EP. A classic EBM synth hook/beat repeats through the track, like a bodyguard menacingly swinging a baseball bat while Rein herself delivers a snarling, defiant vocal on top. We’ll be hearing much more from Rein, I suspect.
From a split with a band called Fizzy Blood, this new track from Leeds band Officers is really quite something (and is the forerunner to an album called Jackal due later in the year). Reminiscent of Sulpher in their prime, this – taking the quiet-LOUD dynamics to impressive extremes with brooding, pulsing verses torn open by a brutal, synth-and-drum overload of a chorus (and with an appropriately mind-bendingly over-the-top video, too) – and despite the heaviness of the track appears to barely have any live guitars in it. They didn’t really grab me when I saw them live a few years back – this, however, has.
The Hope Six Demolition Project
The new PJ Harvey album has had an unusually long time in the public eye before release – with the near-public recording sessions last year allowing the world a glimpse of her working on it. The first song from that album is now here. Once again, Harvey appears to be concentrating on songs about war and displacement, but this time a very much more up-to-date take, with this song seemingly about disappeared children in their thousands in some unnamed country (apparently revealed to be Kosovo in the video released last night), a saxophone and a choir offering emphasis to certain lyrics in the song as a taut, ringing guitar and Harvey’s distinctive vocals lead the way. Interestingly Harvey seems to be one of the few mainstream artists even daring to comment on geo-political issues at the moment. Where is everyone else?
Lights Out (Cyanotic Remix)
Lights Out EP
An intriguing collaboration from two US industrial acts has resulted in an impressive single that is more cerebral than dancefloor bound – so if you want dancefloor thrills, you need to turn to Sean Payne of Cyanotic’s remix – which supercharges the original and the result is a cyber-industrial monster that keeps on bulldozing forward – leaving well alone the vocals that are perfectly fine as they are. Very much more techno-EBM than I might have expected, but man this is good.
The more I think about it, the more this release makes sense. Greg Puciato has long been toying with electro-pop (ish) textures with his main band Dillinger Escape Plan (to varying degrees of success), and I’m only surprised that it has taken this long for a side-project exploring this concept fully. This has been created in conjunction with Josh Eustis (NIN/Puscifer) and Steven Alexander (a former tech for NIN/Dillinger), and there are elements of all of the bands here. From what I’ve heard so far, this track is the standout, but most follow a similar pattern – downbeat, cold-wave electronics, with Puciato’s vocals near-unrecognisable as he croons songs of the heart. It’s a shock, but it is a good one. They play live in London this Friday, too, which should be interesting.
Edge of the World
I don’t know a great deal about this band, I have to confess, other than that they are from Nashville – but I was sent their latest video over the Christmas period (via the amodelofcontrol.com Facebook page, you can always contact me/send promos/whatever through there) and there is a lot to like about this. There isn’t too much reinventing of the wheel, admittedly, but this is top-drawer industrial-synthpop that is well-produced, has a killer hook and had me hunting out the album after one listen.
Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a UFO
The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser
Hell fucking yeah. Rob Zombie returns – after the last album that at least showed the odd sign of the return to his 90s peak – with a gloriously demented industrial-metal-I-saw-aliens track, and it’s the best thing he’s done in an age. As was discussed online last week, there is a feel of Primus in the trippy verses, elsewhere this is foot-to-the-floor industrial rock with a heck of a groove. I have no idea what he was smoking to write this, but I think he should smoke some more of it.