Back to normal this week, with the best tracks of the past month.
2017 in Review:
284: Tracks (Feb)
280: Tracks (Jan)
As my readers may have noticed, I’ve had a bit of kick into life recently, with a burst of inspiration that has resulted in a more regular flow of posts than I’ve managed for a while. This should continue for a while yet, too, as I have a host of articles in the works that will be drip-fed onto the ‘site as they ready.
If you’re wondering why Blindness doesn’t feature this week, by the way, it’s because I did a full review of the Monsoon EP last week, while yesterday I added an interview with tribal industrial titans This Morn’ Omina.
Track of the Month 1
The unsettling, ominous bared teeth (presumably of a dog) on the cover of the album make it clear that the second album from Blanck Mass is not going to be a comfortable, happy affair, and this monstrous track makes this abundantly clear. It is nine minutes of overlaid, thunderous beats and chattering voices that is quite simply a glorious maelstrom of noise, and it rather makes the previous BM album sound rather puny in comparison – that said, it absolutely towers over the rest of this album too. Benjamin John Power has found an intriguing niche here away from his work in Fuck Buttons, and while they also are often very loud, they are never even close to how dark this can get. Needless to say, this is best heard extremely loud, on the best system you can find.
Track of the Month 2
I wasn’t entirely taken by the first single from this album – yes, it’s a return to Goldfrapp to their electro stylings after a few years of near-pastoral, somnambulant folk, but it was nothing really new (the rest of the album is much better, mind). This, however, is on another level. An astonishing, ethereal punch from the other side, everything about it has sharp teeth, from Alison Goldfrapp’s world-weary, snarling vocals (recorded in one take, in a state of utter fury and rage), to the pounding rhythm that takes over after a deceptively gentle introduction. Quite possibly Goldfrapp’s greatest ever song.
Hey Hey My My
Watch on YouTube
Last year’s album, the second collaboration between Teho Teardo and Blixa Bargeld, was in my opinion even better than the first, a more assured feel and a more consistent set of songs. Like the first album, too, a new EP is following it. The first had Spring, Nerissimo has Fall – and the first track from it is an absolutely astonishing cover of Hey Hey My My. A taut string arrangement adds backing to prominent use of bass clarinet (as well as what sounds like Neubauten-esque percussion blasts, although it could have been hammered out on the string section), and Blixa is restrained where Neil Young lets rip. The result is an unsettling, but quite brilliant cover.
This song was on an EP I was passed last year (released well before I heard it, mind) by Jacek at Artoffact, and I was rather fond of it. So I’m glad to see that this lead track from it features on their upcoming debut album. The sound is somewhere between goth-tinged synthpop and the livelier end of trip-hop, neither of which are a bad thing. Vocalist Karen has a lovely, lilting voice that twists gently around the sinuous rhythms, and the nagging melody has been back in my head for days.
After the exceptional, conceptual brilliance of the first couple of PSB albums, I was wondering where they were going to go next – but then with the support of the BFI, and the sheer wealth of the titular content to investigate, there were many ways to go, I guess.
But I wasn’t quite expecting them to make a political statement. J. Willgoose, Esq has made a lengthy post detailing his inspiration behind the new album, and it’s got a surprising bite – noting that PSB were always about progress, not nostalgia, how their songs reflect on how the past helped shape the future by way of human advancement.
So, an album about the rise and decline of mining in South Wales turns out, then, to be a perfect base to look at what is happening at the moment. A region devastated economically by the end of coal mining in the area, but crucially the problem is the lack of investment and preparation to deal with the next steps (ironically despite the region voting overwhelmingly to leave the EU, the EU is the one organisation that has funded regeneration in the area…).
The single itself is a driving, pulsing machine that has voices extolling the benefits of a future where “men supervise the machines”, with – unusually for the band – a newly recorded voice singing the titular refrain. The album is out in July.
The ever-wonderful electronic travellers Metroland return with a new single, the precursor to a monstrous, 4CD, four-hour-plus box set that will include an overview of they’ve released so far, along with a ton of other material, remixes and god-only-knows what else. This single, though, is quite a wonder. A chiming, lighter-than-air electronic joy, that has a surprising kick from the beats and builds to a multi-layered, breathless climax – and perhaps we can finally agree that Metroland have now very much forged their own style. Yes, indebted to certain electronic pioneers, sure, but after a few years of forward motion their own material is now unmistakably theirs.
Thanks to ID:YD for the headsup on this Australian duo, who’ve released their debut album through DKA Records (which of course makes them labelmates with High-Functioning Flesh). This is an exceptional take on retro-EBM, basically, and as another friend put it, very much influenced by mid-80s era Cabaret Voltaire (which is no bad thing at all).
It’s also exactly the kind of music I’d have expected to hear at the much-missed ENDURANCE night – a feel of sweaty nights and dark rooms as the beats pulse, the lights flash and short refrains get repeated until they are ingrained in your brain. And Skin is the best of the bunch – a thunderous, unstoppable groove that stretches out for five minutes, and even that isn’t enough. I couldn’t get tired of this track if it went on for an hour.
Built For Storms
This has actually been around a while, but with a new album Built for Storms on the way, it’s worth mentioning again. Ruby’s return to London last year – part of a small UK tour – was then followed up by a number of US dates, including a reunion with Pigface at the 25th anniversary show in Chicago last November (a show I wish I could have made). Her profile rather higher again – and many more now aware of her return, Lesley Rankine has another album on the way and this cover (which was actually played last year, too), is going to be part of the album and is available to download. Her voice suits this (oh-so-familiar) song well, and musically the subtle electronics and brushed guitar allow the voice the spotlight.
Rodovnik [A Genealogy]
Proti kapitulaciji [To Surrender]
Borghesia – especially after their lengthy time dormant – often seem rather forgotten compared to their much more successful compatriots Laibach, although comparing the two bands has often been a fool’s errand. Yes, both work within industrial forms of music, but there perhaps the comparison ends.
Well, until this intriguing return, anyway, as they’ve taken on a highbrow concept easily as clever as anything Laibach have done. After a comeback album And Man Created God a few years ago that was rather patchy (but had some pretty snappy tracks, and a surprisingly overt political tone), this track takes the band into new realms (and I had to do some research to get an idea of understanding what they are doing, too). It is the first track from an album whose lyrics come entirely from Slovene poet Srečko Kosovel, who saw the horrors of the first world war in his homeland firsthand, and died aged just twenty-two, already having written hundreds of poems in a number of complex styles – and it it was bleak stuff.
The poem used here appears to mock the relative weakness of Slovene rulers – and perhaps holding a mirror up to Slovenes themselves – seeing as the small country only saw full independence in 1991, after centuries of rule by just about everyone else around them, it’s not hard to see the passionate, nationalist fury in the words.
Anyway, the song itself has a punchy, anthemic feel, and Kosovel’s words dovetail brilliantly. The best song Borghesia have released since the eighties, then, and I’m curious now about the rest of the forthcoming album.
An intriguing new release from ex-Velvet Acid Christ touring member Krztov, whose four-track EP comes across as an introduction to what he can do more than anything. There is a nod to VAC here, for sure, but there is also a futurepop vibe that I really wasn’t expecting at all. It is clean, smart electro, with great melodies, and a hint of darkness lurking behind it, too. That said, I’m really not sure that yet another cover of A Forest is needed (even if this one isn’t too bad). I’ve rather lost count of how many covers I now have of that damned song, and Caustic’s next t-shirt should be “STOP COVERING “A FOREST”“.