The electronic merry men of British project DecommissionedForests (DF), have a new release, which is not a new release. How is this so, you might ask yourself?! I shall elucidate. DreamTechnicians2023Promo is a compilation album, drawing on singles, remixes, the most played on Spotify, and favourite tracks chosen by bandmates, MaxRael, HowardGardner and DanielVincent.
There are tracks from the debut album Forestry, released in 2019, such as the delightful and gauzy “DriftingIntoDarkness“, the gothic overtones of “AsleepUnderTheLeaves” that invoke the ghost of Coil, and and you get to enjoy the stunning “Impermanence“, with the entrancing synth playing that swells, begging for your attention..
The last album, Industry, was released in 2022, and there is “Base“, full of turgid, droning insecurities. DF have added a previously unreleased version of “Triggered“, now called “TheseTriggers“, which is equally electronic, but this new version almost jumps out at you with a faster rhythm pulsating and increasing the nervous tension. “A Comforting Uncertainty” was also the backdrop track for a short movie of the same name, and its tendrils slowly envelope your psyche, while the creeping doom of the monstrous entity within “DropBrick“.
You can lose yourself with the transcendental 2022, electronic remix of the instrumental “ImpermanentState“, that was the band’s original single, while “BadDust“, paints a languid soundscape, with Rael’s voice burbling occasionally in the background, running for a gargantuan 20 minutes and 48 seconds, off the EP Fortean Amps. Dream Technicians 2023 Promo has been put on Bandcamp for free and you really can’t do better than that. One cannot deny the influence of Coil on this project and all three members all admit to being huge fans, yet you can most certainly hear their sound is developing and further becoming very much Decommissioned Forests. Just brilliant.
4000Records is a label in Brisbane/Meanjin, championing local acts, and one of their latest releases is from fhae. EllenaRamsay is fhae, and the album sombrethorax, an ambient folk and experimental offering.
The first track “soul” is hazy and almost a religious experience that floats with the vocals not necessarily the focus but rather an added tone that stirs within your chest. There is the gentle guitar in “body” strumming in a soundscape of echoes or the mellow, yet ghost like “drain” that slowly trickles past your senses.
The track “loveyou” is simply electrifying with the stringed instruments in the background while Ramsey’s vocals gorgeously ring through, stunning you into submission through the exposed beauty. It leads into the equally sweet “earth” with its multi-layered vocal track, creating a perfect choir . You can feel the building urgency in the instrumental track “emergency” or be immersed in the languidly moving “disappoint“.
In all, there are twelve tracks, with a few instrumentals in the mix. I can see why there are comparisons to the legendary CocteauTwins due to Ramsey’s dreamy and honeyed singing, very much in the vein of ElizabethFrazer. The music of sombrethorax feels as delicate as spiderwebs and entwined with fhae’s vocals of such elegance…. enough to invoke goosebumps in an angelic folk driven extasy.
Norwegian, ErlendEilertsen of EssenceOfMind, is about to release the second album under the project name LightsA.M., on the AlfaMatrix label, called StoriesWithoutWordsVol. 2, on June the 23rd. However, we get our first listen through the single “NotReadyForThis“.
An element of foreboding and lament is in the electronics, as they waver and chime through the instrumental track. Ancients drum whilst the low murmur of the droning electronics is in stark comparison to the gentle synths, that hold the lilting melody of what has passed. Subtle, beautiful and memorable is “Not Ready For This“, which you are utterly ready for by Lights A.M.
Apparently, the project HabitableMoons is air and atmosphere out of Stockholm, but actually, it is a guy called PeterLindström out of Stockholm and back in January, they debuted the EP, oddly called….well… EP1. This kind of alludes to the fact that there might be other EPs in the future.
“October3” kicks off, with highly rhythm intensive textures layering over each other. The pulsating electronics are almost futuristic in nature. Perhaps this is a date in future that we are awaiting with trepidation. There is the feeling of movement and the build-up of something ancient in “WinterStorm, Baltic Sea“, though it does not seem like a violent storm, but rather swells and ebbs with driving rain. The third track is “CapeBreton, Nova Scotia” and the sounds of gulls and guitar give you a glimpse of sun drenched beach running into the ocean, and early morning when the day is but young. It seems at peace with the world as the land wakes up. The guitar looping could be mistaken for church bells, and we even get to hear the voice of the progenitor, Lindström.
Just a small observation of mine was that the Bandcamp player that you can preview tracks on, was not showing any minutes, nor seconds for any of the three tracks, which is something I am not used to and it kind of gave an air of uncertainty as to how long the tracks went for. Maybe I should pick the word “timeless” as that suits these electronic tracks that conjure up visions with their rhythms and experimentation. EP1 runs for approximately twenty-five minutes, but it definitely doesn’t feel that long, and maybe that is what happens on HabitableMoons.
Akustikkoppler (Acousticcoupler) is Hamburg duo, MatthiasSchuster (Geisterfahrer, DasInstitut) and MalteSteiner (Notstandskomitee, DasKombinat). They create experimental electronic music and last year they dropped their fourth album. AllesMußRaus (EverythingMustGo), which was mastered in 2021 but the actual recordings were made between 2008 – 2012.
The whole ten tracks are instrumental and they most certainly run along the lines making noises that please them and incorporating those noises into music that they inspire. There is the space like “Heimweg“, with a 70s kitsch feel, and yet it could be a science fiction horror in the cold void. Or the throbbing and wandering nature of “Horses And Carriages Burn“, as spikes of electronics speak up or the oddity that is “Dinge, Die Unter Dem Tisch Lagen” or the things that were under the table, which could be a whole new world with out of place bleeps and reverberations.
It might be experimental but AllesMußRaus is very enjoyable. There are bright noodling bits and even tracks that have a dance beat, yet overall the album is nearly hypnotic as you become engrossed in listening to everything going on. Akustikkoppler seems to be hitting all the good notes.
Out on the rather impressively named Culture Vomit Production, is the new album from London’s Pillars Of Golden Misery, called Turbo Necropolis. Another experimental noise project of the very busy Howard Gardner, who is also Non-Bio and a member of Decommissioned Forests.
The lethargy of “The Demon Ray” turns your way, low wave pulsing which continues into the stalking “Ultimate Fighting Claw Death“. The ominous “Big-Time Blade Trader” lumbers with reverberation causing rising internal tensions and this is built on with “Temple Of Catastrophe” as Gardner adds his intonations to the track that is forever doomed to haunt that mystical abode, and this is just a few of the pieces.
For the most part, Turbo Necropolis is an instrumental affair, and as I always say, it is never good to pull apart instrumental albums as they are crafted often to create a mood. Gardner has put together eleven tracks, that paint a picture in sonics of an ancient city inhabited by the dead. The oppressive dark spaces, wind swept halls, temples where possible sacrifices were made and the people that never left.
The chanting in the title track makes me think of the Indiana Jones movie, Temple Of Doom, and the imagery fits so well. A place tainted by blood sprays and screams of the unfortunate, now rendered in shadowy electronic creepiness, as you make your way through the establishment. Pillars Of Golden Misery are inviting you to visit their Turbo Necropolis…..it’s a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.
We Are the Compass Rose is the first solo album from Paul Devine: undoubtedly best-known as the frontman and driving force behind 1980s Sheffield UK post-punk / early goth outfit Siiiii. The band formed when Devine was just 19, and were initially active from 1983-1986. Equally notable, then, is the fact that Devine’s solo debut comes forty years this year since he first formed Siiiii.
For English speakers, Siiiii would be more correctly pronounced “See” (not “Sigh”), taking their name from a passage in William S. Burroughs’ The Soft Machine, in which a Spanish-speaking man enjoys being rogered in a public toilet so much that he exclaims, “Siiiii!”. The band themselves, however, have always happily gone along with either pronunciation, thus becoming better known as “Sigh”.
In their heyday, Siiiii shared stages with The Psychedelic Furs, The Chameleons, and Artery; shared members with Pulp (guitarist and drummer Wayne Furniss); and appeared on compilations alongside The Birthday Party and Public Image Ltd. After first quitting the band in ’86, Devine also played with The Niceville Tampa (later simply Niceville), and in 1989 moved to South Wales, where he played for a few years with DVO.
Siiiii reformed again from 2005-2014, even playing as far afield as New York in 2006, having been “rediscovered” by global audiences, who first heard about them through the diligent efforts of goth / post-punk historian Mick Mercer. But during both incarnations of Siiiii, Devine struggled more than most with the pressures of public attention and performing live, later learning with professional help in 2019 that he was experiencing ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Tourette’s Syndrome. More recently, Devine has instead been making a name for himself as an author, publishing four (count them) – four fucking novels since 2020.
We Are the Compass Rose is in many ways a far cry from the jagged and spiky post-punk of Siiiii, albeit peppered throughout with elements that will make perfect sense to fans of that era. Eclectic in nature, We Are the Compass Rose focuses more on the weird and wonderful aspects of dark and gloomy music, from pastoral Avant-folk, to spoken word set against minimalist sound collages, and indeed elements of those earlier post-punk roots. A sensible writer might recommend the best parts of this album to fans of early Bowie (c.1968-71), Current 93, Syd Barret-era Floyd, Coil, classic Bad Seeds or solo Mick Harvey, or The Legendary Pink Dots.
‘Come Unto Me’ is a sort of droning gothic plaintive chant set against sparse psychedelia; blurring the lines between sacred and secular ecstasies. ‘Hearse Song’ is an adaptation of a traditional song, also known as ‘The Worms Crawl In’, commencing with the cautionary line, “Don’t ever laugh as a hearse goes by”. Popular during the period of the First World War, fragments of the lyrics are found as far back as The Monk by Matthew Lewis from 1796, often hailed as the first gothic novel. Devine’s rendition is the rattling bones of an acoustic Bad Seeds outtake; a rickety horse-drawn undertaker’s carriage making a frenzied, spiralling descent into madness; the wooden wheels about to fly off at any moment, while layers of nefarious character voices assail the ears like a swarm of muttering, fluttering bats. ‘The Mill’ could be The Smiths at their most maudlin, and is among the most obvious and accessible conventional ‘song’ forms on display up to this point.
‘Seeing’, which contains the titular line “We are the Compass Rose”, is a striking highlight. Devine’s oratory style here is both masterful and hypnotic, a soothing rumble in one’s ear (albeit with suitably theatrical dynamic to remain engaging throughout), while the prose recited comes from the segue between books 1 and 2 of his most recent novel, Gerda’s Tower. The disquieting motifs of a muted, organ-like tone drift in and out of earshot, barely accompanied by a ride cymbal and incidental percussion. It may also serve, perhaps more by accident than by design, to remind some of us that we have been sleeping on Devine’s literary talent for a little too long.
‘One Skin for Another’ heads back into heavily Smiths-inspired territory, and feels perhaps a little superfluous in context, albeit fairly well done. ‘For the Love of ParkusMann’ is a tender ballad, with a sense of uplifting and transcendence from sadness, which suddenly turns all spacey, awash with flanger effects and sweeping filters, a-la Donovan. ‘Jherome’ is closer to the angular post-punk of Siiiii, whereas the recording and production sounds more like a band of performing flies in a shoebox, recorded by a solitary contact mic.
‘Your Spell’ is a short but satisfying love song: very pretty acoustic guitar arpeggios and tender vocals, accompanied by washes of synth-strings. It ends leaving you hanging on wistfully for more, but that’s also what makes it so perfectly complete. ‘Lassie’ uses the old standard ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’ as its intro, blending seamlessly into a swampy-blues-meets-post-punk singalong-dirge, led by intertwining Howard & Harvey Birthday Party-style guitars and Fall-ish vocals. It suffers a little from some of the same recording and production issues common to most “band” (guitar, bass, and drums)-based songs on the album, but is otherwise quite enjoyable.
‘The Mermaid Song’ is another standout: a song describing an unknowable song. It calls you in to the idea of a mesmerising siren song that will lead you down into the deep, without you ever having actually heard that song, which ultimately led the protagonist to his own doom. Devine is in fine voice here, smooth and lulling, with intriguing acoustic guitars and lovely string arrangements behind him.
‘Every Day is One Day Closer to the Grave’ is both an obvious truism (which the album is littered with), and a better example of a “band” sound than any other on the album. The sound is bigger and fuller, while vocally, Devine shares some similarities here with the late Terry Hall. There is backing from at least one of many credited female backing vocalists, and the whole thing collapses into some kind of astral dispersion of its core elements, ultimately becoming stardust.
‘I Am What I Am’ is the old Broadway musical number: starting with atmospheric piano and intimate voice, before moving into a more vaudeville-meets-English music hall rendition. It quickly moves from there to a stupidly overblown cabaret showband arrangement, complete with elaborately nonsensical brass and strings, and works perfectly as a conclusion to the album, insomuch as the Sid Vicious rendition of ‘My Way’ serves as an entirely appropriate conclusion to the Sex Pistols.
All this from a man who would happily show you his arse and bollocks of a late evening, if only Facebook would allow it, while a long-suffering person named Linzi shakes their head in dismay. We Are the Compass Rose from Paul Devine is a very good album, from a very important artist. The album would probably be even better with less than a handful of songs omitted. Devine showcases here how diverse and eclectic his vocal talents are, ranging from droning choral gloom, to weird and wonderful character voices, through to brilliantly smooth lead baritones in a goth, new-wave, or post-punk style, and engagingly theatrical spoken-word oration. Finding his own voice in amongst all of this is occasionally a challenge, with some songs jumping back and forth stylistically between The Smiths and the Bad Seeds/Birthday Party. But the vast majority of the album, and certainly its strongest moments, don’t rely upon those tropes at all. Musically, conceptually, and creatively diverse, there is real art in what Devine is doing all these years since he first began with Siiiii, and one can only look forward to a second album with an identity entirely its own.
Madil Hardis is a German musician living in London and she has released a new single “Holding On“. This is a cover of the 2017 track from the electronic wizards, Empathy Test, which Hardis has admitted is one of her favourite bands.
A simple piano line is all that is required to kick this off, with Hardis’ solemn vocal performance an emotional affair, beseeching. Her angelic tones backing herself up in rounds that echo the fragility of life.
Such a sensuous sadness being explored in this version. Hardis’ vocals are both electrically mesmerising and gut wrenching all at the same time, still haunting you after the song has long finished. Love, loss and the mourning, fill the cup of this pared down version of the excellent “Holding On” by Madil Hardis.
Non-Bio is the most excellent industrial project of the rather busy Howard Gardner, whom is based in London and is also in the projects Pillars of Golden Misery and Decommissioned Forests. Halloween was the release date for his latest album, Monkey Feather.
The first track is also the first single/video, “Island In A Lake Of Spinal Fluid“, and the electronic reverberations are already tingling under your skin. Low and intense with Gardner’s voice adding to the noise, the screaming metal sounds, causing ripples to send those tingles down your back. Rhythmic noise is the order of the day, so with that in mind “Monkey Feather” will not disappoint. The crunchy beats fall over each other with sharp agitation, the vocals almost inconsequential in the scheme of things, as all that matters is the pile driver pushing into your head.
Primal is one way to describe “The Melting Man“, not only with the beats but with what sounds like horns bellowing, before the ancient warriors storm the palisades of their foe. “Pressure” is a slower beast, like an iron lung life support, giving the needed air to a patient who cannot fend for themselves. Inhale and exhale with the pressure of accumulated shadows, death is waiting as the life stutters under the heavy odds. It is almost like a chopped up classical piece, gurgling in the background at times.
The grinding electronics vibrate and buzz, consuming the human you are. This is “Amputate Product“, as each bit of the body is replaced by cybernetics… bringing you closer to being part of the machine. The screeching beats chomp away incessantly. Down in “The God Factory” they are busy, twiddling knobs and generating those miracles of life. Making things to keep you alive for longer, glitching and oscillating, usurping the laws of natural order.
Now one is more cyborg than man, here comes the “Imbalance“. The memories of a life lived different or seemingly flashbacks of another person’s previous existence, which is surely not yours. The synapse pulse within the electrical stream trying to reconcile the loss of what was so readily given up. A sharpness and a metal tinged pain. The last track is an absolute treat. When you get two very capable artists of rhythmic noise….well hold onto your pants. “Amputate Product” the STAHSCHLAG remix, has Sebastian Sünkler taking an already heavy track, winding it up and amping up the existential dread. A monster lurks below the surface wanting to escape.
Yep. I hate to tell you but I think this might be the best Non-Bio album to date. It fair pummels the senses, raw and brooding with Howard’s discombobulated vocals filtering through, a comment on the desire to enhance the body and live longer, though, then is it truly considered living? A Monkey Feather is an incongruous thing when talking of playing God but damn it, so good when Non-Bio pushes that electronic noise.
Looking for something cyber industrial with quirky edges? Neon Shudder might be the ticket. Based in Philadelphia, their full length album, Welcome To The NET, was released on October the 7th.
This is a project purely instrumental and from the first track, you can tell the mind behind it all, draws their inspiration from a lot of different electronic styles. “Welcome To The NET” has this speeding trap style with flowing synths. The “Tiger Drive 86” start has a very Nintendo game feel and then launches into full flight…..I swear I can hear the occasional plane engine. The music sparkles and yet there is a urgency. Something sinister this way comes, stalking and persistent in the single “Something Darker“, with the graduating keyboard work creating an air of foreboding.
Things have sped up again through the cyber highways and the sun is merrily shining on the “IO Pathways“. “DReaMCuBE//SYSTEM MENU MUSIC” is an ambient piece, star struck and meandering, possibly waiting for the gamer to press play, leading into the “inter(NET)mission“, which is literally a bridging track of very cute burbles. There is something a bit special about “Brain Drive” with its languid swells below the piano styled keys, holding a promise of something else. The else is a build up of wavering electronics entrancing the senses.
“Ｒａｎｓｏｍｗａｒｅ コンピュータウイルス“…….no one likes ransomeware, unless they created it. Police sirens before we launch into a drum & bass inspired cyber-menace with storyline attached. There is a nice flow into the heavier and noisier “TECH BRUT!“. Here we find some gorgeous synth lines in this track and experimentation with the time signatures. Finally, “A Port in a Storm” both beautifully swirling and dominating at the same time, waiting out the inclement weather.
This really does drag me back into the early period of the 80s, with gaming consoles, where we were excited if we had a few snakes to whack or aliens to blip off the face of the black screen and the fantasy/science fiction movies that embraced synth music, that caught our imaginations. Even though this holds that elemental sound, this is far too modern to be from that time, the advancement in technology creates some scintillating and smoother music that indulges those childhood memories. Welcome To The NET for this is Neon Shudder.