After a much-needed break at the beginning of the year from writing, it’s time for a bumper /Tracks of the Month that covers notable music from the past couple of months (and there’s a lot of it).
So: twenty songs, of varying genres, that have caught my ear over that time.
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
/The Demystification of the Human Heart
The first Neuroticfish in a while – and the third since their triumphant resurrection a decade or so – continues Sascha Mario Klein’s excellent work. As before, there is a mix of futurepop/electro bangers and lush ballads, stacks of earworms, but unusually Klein’s seething fury with others is the key to this album. Grade-A banger Echokammer is a great entry point, as Klein bristles at poor communication, confrontation rather than reason, and how none of this is helping. Even in angrier moments like this, it is still the Neuroticfish I’ve long loved.
/Walk With Us
There was quite a fuss about this band a while back, partly as the novelty as the first known metal band from Togo. A few years on, and they are back with the first track from their upcoming new album, which continues on a similar path. There is a mix of Western metal influences, but crucially it is infused with West African instrumentation (and language), and the result is a metal band that continue to sound both familiar and strikingly different to these Anglophone ears.
The latest album from French industrial band HORSKH sees them on a thoroughly modern path, and single DO IT sums it up nicely. Think industrial such as Cubanate coupled with ferocious industrial bass elements, and modern production, and the output the other side is powerful, almost groovy industrial rock that I really want to hear live. In the meantime, the album is an excellent example of modern industrial that isn’t just copying the past: it is trying to set a new path to follow.
The lead vocalist of Chicago band I:Scintilla – a band who’ve explored a number of styles over two decades (!!), but never perhaps got their due as they should – has stepped out to make her own mark in a solo project that I’m perhaps surprised hasn’t happened before. The album comes in March, but in the meantime the singles have been intriguing. Obelisk showcases Bindrim’s striking vocal range first and foremost, and is backed with a stuttering, industrial-meets-trip-hop backing that suits her voice very well, and while a definite step away from I:Scintilla, is still familiar enough not to jar. Colour me intrigued for the album.
I’ve featured the ripping metallic hardcore of Icelanders Une Misère before, and this is their first new EP in a while. Amazingly, this new material hits even harder and heavier than before, particularly lead track Sever. Full of riffs, double-bass-kicks, chugging beatdowns and even a pause for breath before it slams you into the wall once again. If you want the kind of hardcore that can destroy you in the moshpit, this is for you.
/Humble As The Sun
Bob Vylan are becoming a more and more prominent voice in music as social justice, as their punk/grime hybrid works brilliantly coupled with the sharp lyrics that have an awful lot to say. The latest single from their upcoming album addresses the cost of living crisis, and what people will do just to make sure there is food on the table – and, of course, how politicians only really give a fuck when their job is at stake (i.e. in an election year). Bob Vylan for PM, anyone?
/Refuse the Rules
Pink Suits are a self-described “Queer Feminist Punk Rock & Rage Duo”, and are hugely entertaining live, too, by the way. They have a new album coming, and the first track released at the end of last year is a searing Fuck You to those looking to denigrate and deny rights to those who choose to be Non-Binary or Trans. This site, by the way, fully supports those who identify as NB or Trans, and will not tolerate bigotry.
Full of Hell have never exactly been a band that you might associate with “subtlety”, but remarkably this collaboration at least hints at such. But you need to find it amid a gigantic wall of noise. Working with US shoegazers Nothing results in a release that is slower-paced, has sheets of guitars working in tandem, and is crushingly heavy – but like on the staggering opener Rose Tinted World, reveals moments of great, elegant beauty as those riffs get stripped away for a lengthy, almost dreamlike section complete with news and weather samples suggesting a perfect world that we know is false. As the chatter gets louder and more confusing, you just know that – like in Mogwai’s most notorious tracks – there’s aural violence on the horizon, but the surprise is how it is handled.
/Caustic Motion EP
Fresh from an exceptional EP last year, Dallas-based Semantix returns with another stomping, fierce exhibition of modern EBM. All four tracks here – and the remixes, too – are fantastic, instrumental works that I would happily hear burning out my eardrums in clubs, but there’s something about the directness and sheer force of Facelift that keeps me coming back to it. Five minutes of EBM stripped down to the essentials – a bubbling bassline and punishing drums makes for a exhilarating ride.
/Beneath the Skin
/Beneath the Skin
Also providing an excellent demonstration of modern EBM techniques is Australian artist Caustic Grip – whose name belies, perhaps, the influence of classic electro-industrial too. That is confirmed by the title track, a whirlwind of electric energy and driven by a modern tale of metamorphosis (of a kind). There are a lot of classic industrial tracks about man becoming machine – an awful lot of them – but there are few that I’m aware of about body dysmorphia and the desire to change gender, a very literal case of shedding the old flesh. As it might be, this comes across as a track of celebration, and it is quite brilliant.
/A Single Trace
The return of the Cyberaktif project after well over thirty years first happened at Cold Waves a few years back, and now, as has been trailed for a while, the follow-up to Tenebrae Vision is finally coming at the end of the week. Nowadays, of course, it’s cEvin Key and Bill Leeb (Dwayne Goettel having died in the nineties), with Rhys Fulber joining them and Greg Reely producing. This change in personnel does change the focus of the sound somewhat. There was no doubt on the original release (go back and listen to Nothing Stays to compare) that the Skinny Puppy stylings loomed large, while here the focus is (as might be understood from the people involved this time) more on the FLA sound. The song has a rhythmic power that is all FLA, that’s for sure – made all the clearer by Leeb’s vocals – but listen that bit closer, and the depth of Key’s synth work starts to become clear. Revisiting old projects like this can end up pleasing no-one, but seeing as this one has apparently had Artoffact’s biggest pre-sale ever, clearly there is an interest there…
/Thief of Joy
Electronic artist Jeff Danos returned a couple of years ago after some years dormant, and this is the second full-length release since then. Self-Sabotage is an almost entirely instrumental release, and like most of Danos’ work, is experimental electronics that mostly, but not exclusively, is on the fringes of industrial music. Acid bleeps and alien melodies punctuate the tight rhythmic work on album highlight Thief of Joy: Danos’ impressively intricate electronic music is well worth exploring.
/For What It Is
As a friend noted last week, one thing I was not expecting in 2024 was to hear an artist such as Kontravoid leaning into Futurepop. No, really, those big synth chords in For What It Is suggest hands in the air abandon and melancholic, soaring choruses from the off: and to the credit of Kontravoid, it doesn’t quite fully commit down that path. Instead the harsher vocals are retained, and the result is an intriguing hybrid. The video is impressive, too.
/Cold In Berlin
/The Body Is The Wound EP
Cold In Berlin have been a restless band since they first appeared, having changed their sound drastically on more than one occasion now. The recent new EP has continued that trend, as they’ve perhaps dialled back the doomy elements for a dramatic Goth sound to take centre stage: although the magnificent Spotlight uses both. The flourish of eighties Goth – and most obviously, Siouxsie and the Banshees – looms large, but the listener is then wrongfooted by a chorus that is waves of fuzz-laden doom. Remarkable chameleons, this band, this is them sounding their best in many years.
/Our Brand Could Be Yr Life
Brooklyn’s most cynical indie-rock band return with…not quite a new album. Instead, it’s a rework, rebuild and rethink of the band’s early incarnation (2015) Bodega Bay album of the same name, and written through the lens of Corporate interests infiltrating and affecting underground scenes. Lead single Tarkovski heads down a bright, power-pop route, while questioning whether a companion really wants something to challenge them.
/Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
/Salamander in Two Worlds
/of the Last Human Being
After 14 years, they’ve returned! One of the weirdest bands in rock – performance art, dadaist and absurdist concepts, progressive metal and fuck knows what else is involved – have awoken from a lengthy slumber, and unsurprisingly, they are just as fucking weird as they ever were. This track starts out quasi-operatic, before morphing into punchy, staccato post-metal and telling tales of some fictional salamander. I have no idea what’s going on, but I’m here for it.
For their twenty-second (!) album, it’s fair to say that KMFDM are not planning on reinventing their sound on lead and title track LET GO. There is the Ultra Heavy Beat, solid riffs, Sacha being self-referential, and it sounds like KMFDM do. It’s a solid track, that doesn’t challenge the listener, and will probably sound great live.
/Strategies of Dissent
A new project featuring Don Gordon (Numb) and James Mendez (Jihad, Trial By Fire) has a powerful introduction, in the form of the rampaging, bass-heavy breakbeats of Nothing Changes. There is no doubt that Don Gordon is involved: as with most of his work, this has a vicious streak of aggression to the sound, and it is absolutely fucking relentless, too. But lingering elsewhere in the mix are depth-charges of bass, layered synths that suggest different realms, and a political nihilism to the lyrics that feels oh-so 2024.
/16 Devils EP
It is amazing to think that I first saw Rotersand live about twenty years ago, and their slick and melodic electro-industrial has remained of a high standard ever since – not to mention still being an outstanding live act. Latest single 16 Devils continues that trend, being a great, full-force track that should light up dancefloors wherever it is played.
/The River of Light and Radiation
The first new album from Ben Frost in some time sees him, as ever, exploring a particular sonic realm: and this album apparently has a metallic edge, digging into metal influences. Lead single The River of Light and Radiation definitely does that, but not how you might expect. A thick guitar riff has been sampled and shattered into fragments, that is then reassembled to provide a jagged rhythmic base with gentle synths washing around it. It’s metal Jim, but not as we know it…