In theory, Autumn is beckoning as we rush into September, but in reality down here on the coast it’s time for one last gasp of summer as we bask in the sunshine.
In the meantime, here’s eleven tracks of the month.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Track of the Month
/Black and White
It is now nearly twenty years since mind.in.a.box first intrigued me (I’d never heard anything like Lost Alone opening track Light & Dark before or since, frankly), and that they remain an extraordinary, deeply emotional and affecting electronic act is something to celebrate. Add to that the overarching story that has occupied no less than seven of their albums, not to mention their occasional forays into live performance that redefined what an ostensibly electronic band could do with their material.
Six years on from their last album, though, what could they possibly do to add to their already striking legacy? It turns out, why change what’s broken? There’s a lot to take in here – sixteen songs, beyond seventy-five minutes of music – and what appears initially to be at least a partial conclusion to the story that has wound through previous albums. Perhaps where things get most interesting, though, are the songs that most obviously have parallels with the real world, and Integrate is the punchy centrepiece here to do that.
A snarling, dancefloor friendly (or, at least as MIAB get close to!) track that sees Stefan Poiss giving voice to Black resisting against assimilation and disinformation, but also a timely warning against fake news, conspiracy theories and indoctrination into the right in our world. One again, MIAB manage to amaze and enthrall.
/Reverend Kirstin Michael Hayter
/ALL OF MY FRIENDS ARE GOING TO HELL
While LINGUA IGNOTA was an enthralling and draining exploration of past abuse and wrath, and full of extraordinary and bracing vocal work, it had become increasingly clear that Kirstin Hayter was ready to move on – after all, just how long can one exorcise their past in such extreme fashion for, and how long can we expect them to?
The end of that project came this year, and their new project, under their own name, sees a dramatic change in tack. Apparently taking influence from Pentecostal spirituals and the idea of deliverance to God (and thus healing past troubles), the more I listen, the more it feels like the logical next step for Hayter. This song feels like both a warning and a salve, with dramatic, degraded piano offering occasional accompaniment to Hayter’s ever-extraordinary voice.
/Victory Has 1000 Fathers, Defeat Is an Orphan
/How It Ends
Hints are being dropped by the band in the promotional pieces around the album announcement that this could be the last missive from one of Irelands greatest metal bands. In a time where we’ve had to deal with what felt like the potential end of much of what we knew – and a world that has changed in quite a few ways in the aftermath – an album questioning what happens when things end seems timely. A. A. Nemtheanga, as ever, strains every sinew with his vocals on this song, as he faces down death and decay with his voice alone, and the band whip up a storm here – indeed to my ears, the best they’ve sounded in some years.
/Blast Furnace b/w Standoff
The sad, untimely loss of Riley Gale put a premature end to Power Trip, probably the most promising of the bands in the recent Thrash Metal revival. It perhaps isn’t a surprise to see surviving members of that group begin to form new bands in the aftermath, and Blake Ibanez’s relatively recent new project Fugitive got my attention with this outstanding track. Like pretty much everything with Power Trip, this is very much paying respect to the past while putting their own spin on it, but more to the point, this absolutely slaps. Killer riffs, great vocals, the kind of breakdown that will cause pain in a moshpit, not to mention that awesome guitar solo. Oh, and someone grew up on Headbanger’s Ball videos, going on the style of the video…
/Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
As well as being surprising survivors, OMD are probably music’s greatest Modernists. Taking influence and in dialogue with both electronic artists of the past and present, but also artists of other means from the twentieth century, has meant their music has remained thoughtful and intriguing. Their post-reformation material in the twenty-first century has seen them dig ever deeper into their interests, but never forgetting the pop hooks that make them so listenable – and so it proves with the first taste of their upcoming album.
But also, this elegant new song is a stately riposte to the rising tide of far-right scumbags that seem to be gaining power and/or influence in too many places (including the UK, frankly), mirroring the Oskar Schlemmer painting that lamented the closure of the Bauhaus School under Nazi pressure in 1933. We are sleepwalking into even darker times, and a need to fight back in some way is becoming ever more important.
/The Sin of the Sanctified [v4b]
/The New Republic
The reappearance of dystopian industrial glam artist (no, really) Terminal reminds me that my relatively regular series of band interviews has had to take a back seat in recent times – although there is at least one in the works at the moment, although I cannot imagine that it will get posted this side of Cold Waves. In the meantime, if you’ve not heard of Terminal, go acquaint yourself with /Talk Show Host /072 from 2021. I’ll wait in the meantime.
Ready? The crunching opener to the new album sums up Terminal’s conceptual sound well: a big noise, with processed guitars, huge hooks and thundering drums (and quasi-gospel backing vocals, too). But also with a searing political edge, as Thomas Mark Anthony takes bible- and gun-toting fundamentalists to task (the opening line being “How many guns would Jesus buy?“). Not a new subject in industrial, sure, but here it is delivered with style.
/ONE by WAR
I can thank Mark of Choke Chain for the headsup on this (new to me, at least) artist. This is this Texas-based artist’s debut album, and apparently released over the past fifteen years or so – not that you’d know it, as there is a conceptual continuity that means it very much stands as one whole piece of work. As well, this is very much informed by 90s electro-industrial, as track ONE by WAR demonstrates. The drums kick hard, the synths whirl through the mix, while the vocals and samples are part of the texture. This is impressive stuff.
Rhys Hughes returned with new material just in time for his Infest performance over last weekend, and the new two-track release is very much a refinement of previous releases. Providence itself crackles with raging, classic WaxTrax!-era energy as it rolls through four minutes of stop-start rhythms, layer after layer of electronics and playing “spot the film sample”, and Rhys has found a better way to integrate his vocals, putting them through distortion that makes them fit the style so much better.
/Maintain The Golden Ratio
A remarkable return to recorded music – after playing their first shows ever prior to the pandemic, when they were initially formed as long ago as 1980 – are Techno pioneers Cybotron (in this incarnation, Juan Atkins and Laurens von Oswald). What’s fascinating about the new single Maintain is how current it feels, but also how it links back to their pioneering work. Not only can you hear the electro of 1983 (!) classic Clear, but also obvious is the debt industrial and futuristic techno owe Atkins and his cohorts. The kings, back to claim their crown from the pretenders.
In fact, one of those artists that would likely agree influence from Atkins would be KLACK. Equally influenced by earl(ier) dance music – the nascent rave/techno era – and New Beat/EBM, Matt Fanale and Eric Oehler’s side-project has swiftly become something so much more, a club-friendly, festival-friendly release of joy, that pays homage to the music that influenced them but also allows them to play with styles away from their other projects. Body2Body2Body is KLACK in a nutshell, as they use some familiar ideas to create a remarkably catchy track. Also, the video is a glorious riff on a couple of classic EBM visuals while they take a trip to IKEA…
/Evening Star Supercharger
The love for Mark Linkous and his work has only swelled over the years (see: here, here and here for starters), his sometimes scratchy, weird, lovely, happy and sad songs rewarding multiple listens and gleaning different reactions from people (both my wife and I have very different beloved releases from him, for example).
So I’m not gonna lie: I was a little cynical about the very idea of others digging into the vaults Linkous left behind, and even tinkering with it for release. But the clear love for him and the project by Matt Linkous and Matt’s wife Melissa comes shooting out of the interviews, and also from the others involved: and even better, just one listen to the songs released so far reveals this to be the Sparklehorse album it was promised to be. Evening Star Supercharger has a lovely, summery feel – even if the cryptic lyrics suggest anything but – that I’m going to have in my head for days, and a reminder that Mark Linkous’s music could have me bursting with joy at how great it is. It’s wonderful to have that feeling one more time.