Jamie Blacker is ESA, also known as Electronic Substance Abuse, and we are going to talk about the album, Designer Carnage that came out on February 14th of 2022, on Negative Gain Records. But I will digress with a little background information first. ESA is a UK project that was formed in 2002 after Blacker, who had been involved in the black/death metal scene, started to experiment in and became drawn to the sound of harsh, rhythmic industrial noise, which he has in all essence become a relative master of. The first album was released in 2006, Devotion, Discipline and Denial, then releasing albums very regularly ever since.
Straight off the bat, “Laudanum Dance” is like electrodes connected straight into the brain, sparking with glorious fuzz and beats. Like a fever dream, Blacker yells his discontent. Yet, hark it that a harpsichord? Classical piano which is a gorgeous oddity, played at a decent pace to be suddenly broken by the female vocal sample of Konstantina Buhalis and break beats, that descend into the stomach wrenching, bellowing tones. Those beautiful harpsichord keys again trill away, as they and the piano are played by Frederic Scarfone. Frustration and anger are swirling in the charged track “One Missed Called” which is about repression and fear stopping one from getting further in life. It is powerful with the female sample, of again, Konstantina Buhalis, screaming how much she fucking hates the person who puts her down. The rhythms circle and pounds down, enforcing the angst.
The use of noise and techno is near perfect in “I Detach“, when out of nowhere…ragtime music. Yes, weird and yes unexpected, but it works. The ticking of a clock, alien like electronic warbles, the ragtime and Blacker’s voice just culminate into this bizarre, dreamlike world of movement. The title track, “Designer Carnage” exudes electronic smut and grime. Fantastic! The music grinds while samples repeat the title. It speeds up towards the climax like there is no getting off this ride, only to drop you and drag you along again. Bara Hari is the guest vocalist for “Disruption Only” and it just pounds away. as a good, well lubricated industrial machine should. The rhythm is a drug that you can’t get enough of while in the static, you can hear angry voices. Bara Hari joins in and it becomes something otherworldly while those hammered beats carry on regardless, stuck in a groove.
“Come And Find Me” again utilises that ragtime sound throughout in a myriad of stomping beats and electronics. A hallucination induced nightmare which translates to smashing yourself on a dancefloor. Curiously addictive and no we cannot get enough as it builds apon itself in a downward spiral. Saxaphone is by Matt ‘Chops’ Thompson and female vocals by Hellsea. For the track “Hyena“, all the vocals are credited to Pee Wee Pimpin, as he goes from cajoling to viciously snarling, the synths cackling as they track you down in your last moments, but what a way to go/ “Whom Then Shall I Fear?” features Pee Wee Pimpin, as he raps which works ever so well with the heavy electronics in the background. In fact, it is almost like listening to Public Enemy’s, “Bring On The Noise” but they were all industrialised and updated. It is an amazingly strong track.
There is something wicked and it comes this way in the track, “Vast Accept“. Off kilter and deranged, on a psychopathic mission only it knows. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security as it awaits to pounce while you are off guard with those techno beats. The final track is “Saturnalia“, which is full of blast beats, raging guitar and the deep, growling Blacker vocals, that start to fritz in and out. There are also these wonderful science fiction sounding synths and classic flamenco guitar by Frederic Scarfone, that lend themselves to a western touch, while Matt ‘Chops’ Thompson gives us that sleazy saxaphone. With wailing female vocals, it all crescendos, only to die away.
I knew this new album had come out but a friend, whom is also an industrial DJ, thrust it under my nose and declared that if I was to review anything this year, it has to be this album, Designer Carnage. In all honesty, he was completely correct. If this is not in people’s top 10 industrial releases for the end of the year, then I am going have to say that your taste might be in your arse. Jamie Blacker is able to experiment with so many different styles and mould them into something cohesive, with lashings of wicked heavy rhythms, filthy grinding electronics, inject music of past eras, whilst screaming near bloody murder at you. Really can’t much better than that other than you can dance to all of it. I dare you not to find yourself bouncing to the beats. You definitely need some Designer Carnage in your life, so let ESA be your dealer.