What do you do when you are handed a release from a project called =^._.^= ? You damn well listen to that sucker!! This is the EP, D3M0N5, from Seattle’s =^._.^= (pronounced catface), which was dropped on May the 5th. Don’t know anything about this project other than they wrote and recorded this between 2018 – 2022 and, I quote… ‘Under the influence of Alec Empire, Richard D. James and Trent Reznor‘.
The first thing you get is “SP!T“, which is the screaming of electronic alarms in a trap stew. The glitching of the languid “Bl4cK P4nth3R“, as it stalks you to your untimely squeaking end with all those lovely fuzzy notes. “y o w l” is a sassy little track with a nice little heavy bass beat and it out on the prowl.
Through all the feedback you can hear the synths lurking and biding their time in “H3llc4T“. The fuzzing tones leasing into a faster rhythm, leaving you wondering if the hellcat might suddenly spring. Swirling electronic glitches bring a little drum’n’bass to the party in the deceptively heavy “TH3 R!S3N“. The zombies are coming to get you and may the heavens help you if they are zombie cats. The asthmatic wheeze of “p u r r” pervades your senses with tortured digital sounds that wind down to dead silence.
=^._.^= are doing some pretty funky, experimental trap and industrial noise. It is fairly easy to listen to and actually rather fun because you are trying to discern if there are cat noises or slinky, shifty hisses. More to the point…..IT’S A KITTY and that was enough to hook me in. The Onyx cats completely agree with me that you need to go check out the Bandcamp page, which is name your price! Meow.
Disfigured Mistress is probably a project I should have talked about sooner but better later than never. Since 2010, Brisbane’s Disfigured Mistress has been releasing his experimental, industrial noise and as of the 8th of April, released the single, “The Depths Of Black Hatred“.
As the title may indicate, this is not a happy go lucky piece. It is an instrumental number full of harsh crackling electronic fury, that lashes your ears, in mounting waves. Primal with a dark brooding undercurrent of unrest which floods through senses without remorse. All until the last tick. You should definitely check this track out on Soundcloud or on Bandcamp where it is name your price and then check out more of the Disfigured Mistress back catalogue, as it is well worth your while.
Schatten Muse is the bastard child of German and Greek origin and they bring to you their album Vergänglichkeit (translation Transience), which was released 28th of March, 2022. Simon Shelmerdine is a founding member of the Greek project Dark Awake and is Schatten while Sylvia Fürst is the Muse.
Just about the whole album is in German (funny that) and with that in mind, with me not having much of a grasp of the language means not delving too deeply. This is more an overview of what is on offer but being death art, the word tod or death comes up…..a lot. That has to very much on target.
The bells toll in “Zurück“, with emotions growing with the rising synths and rhythm changes. “Enditchkeit” has the dramatic organ. The cover of Goethes Erben’s “Das Schwarze Wesen” is quite delightful in it’s simplicity and I had not realised that it was the 30th anniversary for this track. “Leere” is ominously dark and forbiddingly cold in its classical repose, while “Scherbenwelt” is a whirl of electronics with the vocals echoing through it. Do yourself a favour and check out the track, “Shadowsphere“. It is in English and is a Sopor Aeternus cover in the medieval style that they are so very famous for and it is brilliantly executed..
Done in the style of Neue Deutsche Todeskunst or New German Death Art which became popular starting in the later half 1980s, it spawned such bands as Goethes Erben, Sangius et Cinis and Illuminate but also the mistress of darkness, Anna Varney and her most beloved, Sopor Aeternus. The use of classical/medieval musical styles, with prose from doomed romantic poets and citing the works of critcal thinkers of the human condition, such as Freud, Nietzsche and Lung, all poured into this musical form. Schatten Muse have taken this all on board and created their own Death Art, both beautiful and terrifying, a true gothic experience where all are ruled by death and we can become unhinged by that that very premise alone. All is found and lost, in an album that will show you the love of the divine dance of wonderful madness.
Howard Gardner, Max Rael and Daniel Vincent are some very British men who are also in Decommissioned Forests and their mission is to create interesting and inventive industrial music. To this end, April the 1st is the release date for the new album, Industry, a curiously befitting title, as the previous debut was called Forestry.
From the first time you listen to any Decommissioned Forest track, you get the sense that this is definitely part of something bigger than just the music. It is electronica painting pictures, with Rael’s vocals and lyrics breathing life into them, in spoken word. The single “Ants Part 1 – Our Last Summer” is, and to quote myself, like dissonant journey that seems pleasant, yet the lyrics are the disembodied oddities of strange and disturbing sequences. Though this is not as dark as “Triggers” that drones and eats at your frailty. without a by your leave, while “Ants Part 2 – Every Trauma Ever After” is a slower refrain in a twilight, that is dimming quickly as life seemingly slips away from us. The organ style music as if is a church of pointless sadness.
Quite frankly, I love the name and concept of “Spectral Kleptomania” as it amazing to think that a spirit can be blamed for nicking everything you can’t find or seems to be missing. Another single, “Drop Brick” could be a mantra to an old Frankenstein movie, with the disturbing and repeating synths while the monster seethes from being unable to be accepted into the world. There is the space and time warping, “Dust Ashes And OtherUnimportant Ephemera” as it slowly engulfs your being. When these guys created a short movie, “AComforting Uncertainty” was the track used. A slow realisation that nothing ever turns out exactly as thought out and you feel disappointment trying to stalk the inevitable misfortune. The final track is “Ants Part 3 – TheUniverse Is Unaware” and the ants are feigning indifference.
We will keep coming back to the whole Coil thing as it is uncanny how much Max Rael sounds like JohnBalance.Howard and Vincent have created musical scores that pay homage to an older style of British industrial music, while experimenting to see how they can keep pushing this avant garde genre. Industry is like looking at a polished stone but inside you can see all the jagged, geometric structures within, that contain their own beauty. forged by immense primal forces.
It is an interesting thing to watch musicians take on traits or characteristics of other acts that they admire, however not imitating but rather building on those aspects they love, growing their own sound and introducing others to what inspires them. Decommissioned Forests is very much one of these groups, bring to life an earlier era of British industrial music, whilst creating their own niche of sombre electronica. So we bailed up lead vocalist, Max Rael, to get the cold hard facts and in his genteel London way, he said, yes. Time for tea on the grass and ants in boob tubes……
Welcome Max Rael of Decommissioned Forests, to the pointy end of Onyx, where we like to use black crayons to create our own black-holes.
Thank you for having me. It’s nice to be here. I have already broken my crayon, and managed to somehow get it all over my face and clothes without trying. Good job I’m wearing black.
Can you tell us how you joined forces to become Decommissioned Forests?
Daniel (Vincent of ‘The Resonance Association’) and Howard (Gardner of ‘Non-Bio’ and ‘Pillars of Golden Misery’) were making some fine menacing instrumental music together, and then asked me if I’d like to contribute vocals to a couple of tracks on their first album, ‘Forestry’.
I’d recently written some lyrics called ‘Three Black Holes’ to help me process something that happened to me years ago that I’d kind of buried and never really consciously thought about, and it felt important to get the words out into the universe somehow. I’ve never really done vocals in any of the other bands I’m in or have been in, so although it felt like a strange and scary request, it was also one I couldn’t resist. In addition to ‘Three Black Holes’ (which became just, ‘Black Holes’ on the album), the guys gave me two titles, ‘Asleep Under the Leaves’ and ‘Dead Air’ and I found just listening to the music they’d provided, words came easily spilling out on to the page.
We were happy with the results, got some good feedback from people and enjoyed the process, which led to me joining the band and thus we became an official threesome for this new album, ‘Industry’. I like working in a three, I like the creative energy of triangles.
You all come from a background of experimental noise and/or post punk music. What were you looking to create with this alliance?
I’d be interested to hear Daniel and Howard’s answer to this, but for me, in History Of Guns and all the projects I’ve been involved with, I try and open myself to authentic expression in the moment and to avoid ‘lust of result’ as Crowley put it. It’s enough to set up some things, or people, and just see what happens naturally, how the energy flows and how things pull together or apart. Which is just a fancy way of saying whenever I try and plan anything it never works out how I planned, (which is the basis of the lyrics for the track, ‘A Comforting Uncertainty’). That said, I’m a firm believer that it’s often the bits that go wrong that is where the magic is. It’s also a great way for avoiding those creative poisons doubt and insecurity, as there’s no right or wrong about anything, everything is just as it is.
From your vocals to the avant-guard tone of the music, Coil seems to big influence on the band. What does Coil mean to you and what impact have the had on your music?
I was due to see Coil for the first time at an abandoned tube station in London in November 2004, but the gig was cancelled on the day due to health and safety concerns and I was gutted. Then the day afterwards Jhonn Balance died. It was hard to process. I went a bit wrong and became semi-convinced that that Jhonn was sending some kind of astral message directly to me. Then ‘…And the Ambulance Died in His Arms’ came out and I was full-on obsessed. I bought copies and gave them to all my friends. It was an interesting split, people either absolutely hated it or absolutely loved it. Daniel was one of the people I gave it to, and fortunately he loved it and went on his own path with it, but I’d say it’s directly led us to where we are now and the music we’re creating. Howard also happens to be a massive Coil fan. Otherwise, we’re all into a wide range of very different things, but our shared love of Coil is the magnetic charge that attracts the three of us together creatively.
As Decommissioned Forests, you released your first full length album Forestry in 2019 and now in 2022, your second album, Industry Is there a link between these two albums?
They definitely feel like companion pieces. For, ‘Forestry’ there’s a sense of decay, rotting vegetation, rusting sheets of corrugating iron, overseen by an all-powerful and yet indifferent goddess. The ‘Ants’ suite on the new album can be seen as journey from that place, to where we’ve arrived on ‘Industry’, which feels more like scratchy polyester, poorly designed technology, broken society, broken relationships…
How do you go about writing music between the three of you for Industry and has covid changed how you did the writing process from 2019?
The usual process is that Daniel and Howard exchange audio files of noises and textures, which Daniel shapes into pieces and sends on to me, then I record a vocal and send it back. Daniel then puts in hundreds of hours of mixing it all into a finished thing. Sometimes I just record vocals without any music backing and send them over. Fortunately for us Covid didn’t have any impact on the process as we were already all working remotely. We had talked about getting together and jamming in the same room which obviously couldn’t happen, so that could’ve maybe taken things in a different direction.
Is it me or does there feel lika lot of pent up trauma in Industry?
Yes I think so… I think I consciously try to avoid too much of that in the lyrics, but then I’m a trauma person and mostly write from the subconscious so it can’t help come through either overtly or covertly. A friend of mine suggested ‘traumacore’ as a genre which I quite like. It’s difficult because there’s a danger of romanticising trauma, or feeding, rather than healing wounds. I’m always on the side of trying to move towards healing, even if the final goal is impossible, though I think focused anger and rage is often more appropriate than mute acceptance and forgiveness.
Is there a particular track off the album that is a favourite or you feel epitomises what DF is all about?
Tough question! At this point in an album’s lifecycle, we’ve heard it through so many times it’s impossible to have any objectivity. It’ll be interesting in a few years’ time to come back and listen again and see what stands out. The ‘Ants’ suite is pretty key… It changes all the time, but right now, today, I’d choose ‘Triggers’, and ‘Dust, Ashes and Other Pointless Ephemera’ as my favourites.
What does DF mean for you personally?
It’s a world out of sync or out of step with reality, a parallel universe which has tendrils into this universe where most of us find ourselves day to day for most of our lives. From this position of remove the Decommissioned Forests universe is free and able to respond and reflect un-defensively on what’s happening here but through a tangential almost dream-like connection. Hopefully as we go further in, we might be able to explore that universe in its own right, rather than just using it as a place to view here from.
I would like to ask about the short film, A Comforting Uncertainty, of which the title is a 9 minute track on the album and the score to the film, you all played roles in, that was written/directed and with special effects by Howard, all based on a dream by someone called Rick Matthews. Can you tell us about this slightly dystopian film?
Howard’s an amazing director and video graphics master with a twisted creative brain who has made a lot of interesting and unsettling films over the years. We were very lucky that he already had the idea for this short film bubbling away for a couple of years and put it forward that it could go with one of the tracks on the album, so that the music is a soundtrack to the film, and the film is a music video for the track. Both Daniel and I were enthusiastic from the start, and when we saw the shooting script, even more so. I’ve had a few discussions with people recently about how the film narrative can be interpreted, and whilst I have my own theories, only Howard knows his true intentions, and I think he’d like there being different individual interpretations out there, each no less valid than his. It’s great that thanks to YouTube, anyone, anywhere can see it easily.
Will there be more films in the future?
Yes. Well, I do dearly hope so. It’s easy for me to say when I just get turn up for the fun part of shooting it and don’t have to spend hours over a hot editing suite. We’re all keen to make more, it feels an integral part of the band, so it’s a question of Howard’s capacity, and I know he’s involved in a lot of other exciting projects. Hopefully we’ll start planning the next one soon.
DF kind of reaches back into that late 70s, early 80s British industrial sound which was often political or very raw ie Clock DVA. What are the musical influences that formed your taste in music?
Again this would no doubt be very different for Howard and Daniel, and I’ve always been pretty genre-blind and get obsessed over a disparate range of individuals and bands but other than Coil, I guess the most important bands for me relevant to this project would be things like: Killing Joke, Throbbing Gristle, Depeche Mode, Peter Gabriel, CRASS, Joy Division/New Order etc. from the UK, but also Tangerine Dream and SWANS… and I guess it’s hard for me to contextualise things that formed my taste and things that I got into afterwards retrospectively because they accorded to my taste. I was 16 when Head Like a Hole by NIN came out and used to love stamping about to it at The Catacombs nightclub in Manor House in London, and that and bands like PWEI were really when I grew from my existing rock and pop foundation into a more industrial direction, which led me eventually to Coil.
What you find yourself drawn to now?
I spent a few years sealed hermetically in my music collection and am just getting back into actively seeking out and enjoying new music. LIOC have released a series of compilations by bands that love or are influenced by Coil and (apart from the things I’ve contributed obvs!), there’s been some astonishing things on them… Recently I’ve been exploring the ambient work of Felicia Atkinson and Grouper, oh and also the new Paul Draper solo album, ‘Cult Leader Tactics’.
If you could time travel once, anywhere, where would you go and why?
March 17th, 1942, Pomona, USA. To watch one the preview screening of Orson Welles’ ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ before the studio destroyed it.
So what is in the future for Decommissioned Forests?
We already have various tracks lined up for potential inclusion on the next album. There’s an evolution in sound from the ambient soundscapes of ‘Industry’ as the new stuff has drum tracks and maybe an increased sense vitality and urgency. Lyrically, I’m thinking about how brains and minds work and potentially change in response to environments and stimuli. Our big dream is to put on a live show. This presents a number of challenges, from how to recreate the sound in a live environment to the fact that I don’t live particularly near Daniel and Howard for regular rehearsals, and everyone’s busy with work, family and other creative projects, but we’re hopeful we shall find a way. We’re definite that we want to be creating unique pieces with each performance rather than just recreating tracks
Thank you for your time Max. Red pills are on the right, blue pills on the left and the white ones are a very nice mint flavour!
A big thank you to you Adele and for your (seemingly) tireless work to support the underground. We salute you!
Just when you thought it was safe again to go near the water, Sea Lungs have returned with a new single, “Lighthouse Noir“. I swear on a bottle of gin (it is only good for swearing on) that these guys are getting better every release. Maybe they are getting into their groove or finding their sea legs but whatever it is, they should keep doing it. The new single conjures up visions of Sexgang Children with a little pinch of The Virgin Prunes and wrapped in the ever perfectly spine tingling vocals of Lennon, eerily sounding ever so like Rozz Williams. A story of madness brought on by loneliness and extreme melancholy, a heay toll that brings on suicidal thoughts while the wonderful guitars smashing down like waves on the rocks below. “Lighthouse Noir” is out on MantravisionProductions, so we though there is no better time than now to talk to founding member Jarrad Robertson about the band and how they are navigating the waters of the music scene.
Aaarrrghh…. welcome Jarrad Robertson of the band Sea Lungs. Come sit in the wadding pool with our pet kraken, whilst we talk of tales and scrim the shaw with Onyx.
Seeing as you are no land lovers, can you please introduce the crew.
Sea Lungs is made up of Andi Lennon on vocals, Dase Beard and Micheal Johnson share bass duties depending on the tracks requirements ( Dase does the noisy guitar bits too), I play the guitars and cover the drums (both live and programmed) and Ant Banister provides the production skills and throws some keys in when needed.
Now, not all of you live close to each other do you?How much harder does it make to construct your music?
I’d say it has taken some of the strain out making the music. I write the main composition of each song and then send it off to each of the guys to do their thing. We all just do it when we have time, and with the understanding that it gets done when it gets done. That takes any pressure out of trying to create something to fit a deadline. It would be nice to get in a room and hash them out though at some point. Micheal and I live 10 minutes from each other, yet due to recent lockdowns and family commitments we haven’t really had much of a chance to jam.
You are all in the darker alternative scene, so how did Sea Lungs come to fruition?
In early 2020 as lockdowns were beginning and live music stopped I decided to record some stuff at home, as countless others did. But it was a bit unsatisfying so I reached out to people I’d met while gigging with my previous band and asked for help to fill the songs out. Apart from Micheal, I’ve only ever met the other members once or twice so it felt like a long shot. Luckily everyone I asked said yes and now we have my perfect lineup. The bands we are all from make music very different to the SL stuff so it’s a place to experiment.
Sea Lungs is a rather curious moniker and I am wondering how did you decide upon it?
Like so many band names I borrowed it from a song title. It’s the name of my favorite Baroness track. But it felt right in what I wanted the project to represent. At the time when the idea for this project first popped into my head I was going through a rough patch with my mental health. I found that seeing the ocean, even if just from my car while driving home, would clear my head and allow me to breathe. So it just fit. When I started writing with Andi, without me telling him the name, he took the lyrics in a nautical direction so it seemed it was destined to stick
Your latest single is Lighthouse Noir, which is a rollicking and crazed sea shanty. Between the guitar work and Andi’s vocals, this is a hybrid beastie, a cross between Sexgang Children and Virgin Prunes with that sing song manner at times. How did the band go about writing this little epic?
The main guitar part for the song was a kind of guitar warm-up, or even subconscious tick kind of thing. I’ve been playing it for years just as a thing I do everytime I pick up my guitar. Anyway I got a new guitar pedal and as soon as I played the warm-up it just sounded like something from an old mystery film. After fleshing it out I got the mental image of a thriller set at a lighthouse. This is the only time I’ve actually passed an idea for a narrative on to Andi and he dived on it. He is a master at spinning tales and the lighthouse idea was definitely in his hitting zone.
The artwork for Lighthouse Noir is bloody awesome.Bilge away and tells us who created this masterpiece?
An artist called Nikko who I’ve had a few dealings with now drew this up for us. He does amazing work and I could not be happier with it. I said ‘hey, can you do a lighthouse?’ and that was the total of my input. With just that tiny bit of info He ran with the idea and nailed it. He can be found at @nikko_s_den on Instagram for more info.
Your previous single Piss Up A Rope is a far different creature, bringing attention to how very few take advantage of the many. Can you tell us a little more about this premise?
Again, Andi has to take all the credit for this. We like to look at the idea of Empires, both past and present. While these days there is less of conquering foreign lands and taking colonial possessions, there are still empires being built at the expense of the masses. It unfortunately seems that now we willingly provide the means for these billionaires to do as they please and applaud them for it. But a tech giant taking all of your information and selling it or a multinational crushing small business should not be idolized. There is no comparison to the atrocities of historical empire building, but I’m sure horribly exploited workers the world over may see some parallels.
With three singles released, are you guys looking to keep going this way or release these tracks on an EP or album?
The goal is definitely to release something in a longer format and to get something physical out into the world. That’s hopefully in the works for later in the year.
Mantravision is the label Sea Lungs is with and Ant Banister also does the producing, mixing and mastering, which may we say is excellent and with that in mind, how did you get involved with Ant and Mantravision?
-I have only met Ant once when his band Sounds Like Winter (which also features Andi) came to Melbourne and played on a lineup with my previous band. We got chatting and liked each other’s music. After I decided to begin Sea Lungs his name was top of my list to collaborate with. Luckily he liked the demos I sent him, or he has been too polite to turn me down so far.
So is music for you a more political thing or just whatever inspiration hits you with?
Andi and I both share a love of History and take a huge amount of our inspiration and ideas from it. And the most fascinating parts are usually the most horrible. I think it’s a very common human trait to be drawn to diabolical tales, viewed from far enough away to not get blood on your shoes. There is no joy to be taken from it, it’s more just finding out what our species have been capable of and hoping we don’t repeat the horrors. And it seems that all of it has political ties so I guess it’s unavoidable.
I’ve always thought music should be a bit dangerous, a little uncomfortable. If you can listen to an album and not be left with questions or have been shifted in some way then what is the point? We aren’t necessarily making any blunt political points with our music but there are morals, like any good tale. How would a person react to the isolation of a lighthouse keeper’s work? Or in the case of “Piss up a rope”, how much wealth is enough, and at what or who’s expense?
Will we be getting a tale of swashbuckling pirates? Nay we do not want it but rather need it!
-I’m sure at some point there will be a mention of pirates, but probably not in a positive light. The romanticised idea we see of pirates from the age of sail is pretty far removed from reality. That being said my kids would love it, so maybe if this project fails and I move into children’s entertainment.
What music influences do each member bring with them?
One of my favourite things about Sea Lungs is the varied musical backgrounds we come from. Although we all kind of meet on the post-punk front we have all done very different things previously. Andi brings the Death-rock and punk vibes. Dase has played noise rock, post-hardcore, doom and sludge. Dase and Micheal both go pretty far down the experimental noise rabbit-hole too. Most of my influence is drawn from grunge, alt rock and a bit of metal so I guess when we throw it all together it makes for an interesting brew. Ant, besides being a local post-punk hero, loves all things synth and electronic so I’m trying to lead him astray by giving him heavier music to work on. But there is a strict no synths policy in Sea Lungs.
Do you think at some point youwill all get together to do some live gigs?
We are currently working out when that will be possible. It’s definitely going to happen, it’s just a matter of maybe outsourcing parts to people based in Melbourne or Sydney if we can’t all get together. But it will happen.
Speaking of live gigs, all of you are in other bands. How has covid affected your ability to play live and be creative in your other projects?
For me it stopped me in my tracks completely. Pigs of the Roman Empire released an EP just as the lockdown began but never got to launch it live. Not long after due to expanding families and work/ life balance we decided to call it quits. The last gig I played was in November 2019, which was the gig I met Ant and Andi at. Those guys are back playing shows with their band Sounds Like Winter which is great, and Dase is playing shows occasionally too, but for 2 years in Melbourne at least the live scene was dead. It’s regaining some momentum now but everyone is kind of holding their breath a little.
If you could be any famous seafarer (real or fantasy) who would it be?
While the idea of sailing the world is captivating, from everything I’ve read it is also terrifying and was for the most part extremely dangerous for numerous reasons. I’m not sure I’d be cut out for it. I think leading an expedition in the age of exploration, like Magellin or Drake, would have been quite an experience, but these voyages usually came at the cost of hundreds if not thousands of lives.
What will the seafaring Sea Lungs be getting up to in the future?!
Writing and recording more tracks. We have a few up our sleeves that we will be working on for a physical release in the next few months. Other than that just trying to stay as active in the musical landscape as possible.
Avast ye salty dog. Thank you for swabbing the decks so to speak young Jarrad and giving us insight into Sea Lungs. The kraken enjoyed very much nibbling at your toes and don’t trust the mermaids on your way out! Crafty wenches they be.
We are going to get a bit serious here. For Peace. Against War. Who Is Not? A Compilation For The People Of Ukraine was released this month by the label Component Recordings. A whopping 199 artists have donated a track each and all money raised will go to Ukrainian Red Cross and VOSTOK SOS to help the people who are suffering. I could say it was generous of the bands on this compilation but I think every single one would say they felt it was right and the decent thing to do.
I only know a few of the acts on this release but they come from around the world and all are from the electro, synth, industrial, experimental scene. It was our friend Tim Tigersblood Vester of the band Warm Gadget that brought it to our attention and I noted Decommissioned Forests. There seems to be a lot of great music and it really is not a lot to pay for 199 tracks which includes Wolfgang Flür (Kraftwerk), Steven Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire) and Jack Dangers (Beat Meat Manifesto)
Music in history has been used to create war fervor and march armies into battles but since the 1960s, especially, it has been a focal point to show injustice and discourage war mongering. Music can feed the hungry, call for justice and inspire people to embrace each other, creating common bonds. So please check out the Bandcamp page and consider buying this……. humanity starts with us.
From the dark depths of merry old London town, there is a project by the name of VHS¥DEATH. What is this all about you might ask and I shall reply Natalie Wardle is VHS¥DEATH and along with Cruel NatureRecords are releasing the EP, Corrupted Geisha on limited tape format as of March 11th, 2022.
So we start off with “Space Bankers See You, The End Is Near” and the title alone is intriguing enough. Hip hop beats with broken pieces of conversation, singing and maybe a little Southern soul, that is until a man is telling how things are in the real world to a sweet stream of relaxation music. “Falsehood Of Man (Dystopian Mix)” is a whirlwind of soliloquy angst and breakbeats before “666 Pounds of Zero Gravity” with its electronic vocalizations. The connections between the demonic, the angelic and creation.
The dour organ plays sickly to Wardle’s distorted utterances for “Snakes In The Grass“. Like a possession gone wrong, this is part disturbing and part cute with the drum and bass tapping along nicely, Guitar distortion and multi layering are almost to the point of overwhelming in “What Is Your Worth,Vampire?“. Underneath all is this lovely guitar jangle and vocals that eventually comes to the fore.
If you are into industrial music and you don’t know the original “Everyday Is Halloween” then you should go sit in the corner and contemplate what you are doing with your life. The Ministry track is given a synth makeover, making it even more electronic, if that is possible. Wardle definitely can sing and does a sterling job in this sensuous ode to being a weirdo in a weird world.
This is experimental industrial music and it is not going to be everyone’s taste. The best way I can describe VHS¥DEATH is chaos with a zen centre. A sponge taking in all around them and then trying to make sense of so much information in order to find balance. The fusion of hip hop, drum & bass with synths and a smattering of guitar can be challenging and yet also pleasing to the ear. Well worth the listen and maybe your curiosity to listen to the Ministry cover might pull you in.
Not many musical acts can say they have continuously been creating and performing for 40 years. ATTRITION is one of those groups that have weathered the British music scene since their evolution in 1980, to become a force spoken in hushed tones, passing from an electro/industrial band to being something legendary within the scene. Martin Bowes had been at the helm consistently, throughout all the band changes. He was approached by Sleeper Records to release a special vinyl album to celebrate this milestone. They decided to pick music from the period 1986 to 2004, as this music has never been released on vinyl until now.
This compilation is named A Great Desire, containing ten tracks that can be found on a variety of albums which were all originally only released on Compact Disc, which was crushing the sales of vinyl by the end of the 80s. There are a selection that includes the wonderfully brass filled and brash “To The Devil“, the delicate and sinful “Acid Tongue“, the sexy “Sister Teresa” and the experimental and extraordinary title track, “A Great Desire“. To that end, Martin Bowes spoke to us about the new album and the past, present and future of ATTRITION.
Welcome to the rabbit hole that is Onyx, Martin Bowes.
Thank you for having me!
Did you ever foresee ATTRITION lasting more than 40 years and still making relevant music?
I don’t think I really thought that far ahead in 1980! And I still often get the feeling I have only just started in music… which propels me to make the next album or shows or videos or artwork…. I write music for myself… a cathartic thing… so the relevance I feel is only ultimately for me… but I know other people get something from my music and that makes me smile…
ATTRITION started in Coventry, your home city, which you have never really left and have your studio, The Cage there. Until the 90s, it has a been a city that bore the scars from the Second World War. Do you think in part this has been a catalyst for the sound and imagery of the band?
Well I arrived in Coventry as a 5 year old in the mid sixties, my parents moved here during the post war car manufacturing boom town era. I saw it falling apart in the eighties when the factories closed down (becoming a ghost town, as the song says) and after the first ATTRITION album in 1984 and first european tour (with the Legendary Pink Dots that same year) we all uprooted to London for a couple of years… after which I moved to Holland for another couple…. Coming back to Coventry in 1989. I think the industrial decay of my home town has definitely had an impact on the sound of ATTRITION, but it is also a very historic town…thankfully being restored these days… and that love of history has always been with me too.
Could you tell what influenced you into starting ATTRITION and how the band began?
I was blown away by punk rock in 1977…. It was there for me at just the right time…what an angry teenager needed… helped make sense of the nonsense I could see around me…. And it still does. I had absolutely no musical skill or knowledge but needed to get involved in this… so in 1979 I started my punk/post-punk fanzine “Alternative Sounds” , writing mostly about the scene in and around Coventry at the time, which was a wonderful scene… the Specials and Two Tone being a very famous part of it but there was so much more…. I did 18 issues and a special for the BBC TV Something Else program at the time. In 1980 I finally started to mess with recording sounds and instruments and a fledgling ATTRITION was born…. We played our first few shows in December 1980 as a kind of anarchist/post punk guitar, bass, drums and vocals line up…After those shows we soon started to trade in guitars and drums for synths and drum machines….
February see the release on vinyl of A Great Desire (1986 – 2004), which is a collection of songs from that time that that were released on CDs. It was around 1986 when the CD was coming into vogue and many said that vinyl was nigh. What inspired you to do this release and is it satifying to see these tracks going to the classic and dare might I say, beautiful vinyl?
We have started to have some new vinyl releases or reissues and we were asked by LA/Berlin based label Sleepers records to release this vinyl… they actually chose the track listing which I found interesting as I always do it myself and it was good to have a different opinion. Its wonderful to have music released in any format but of course vinyl is very special…. They have included 2 posters with this too which is something you can only do with vinyl!
You remastered all the tracks at The Cage Studio. Was it a good feeling to wander down those musical lanes of memory and was it a big task to do the remastering?
I have a large box full of all the old DAT tapes from that era and it didn’t take too long to track down the original mixes and master them specially for vinyl this time… I’m really pleased with how they turned out… well I master music here almost every day so I’ve had enough practice by now! Its always a strange but ultimately nice experience… like looking through old photographs or diaries…. I’m happy with the past….
Was there anything that you would have liked to change or did change?
It was more just getting the old recordings to sound as good as they can… and have recordings from different eras and studios sit together well…. I think it worked!
You also run the record company Two Gods which was originally created to release the ATTRITION albums. Since then you have opened up the label and put together some rather interesting compilations. What does running Two Gods mean to you personally?
Yes I started the Two Gods label (taken from the song of the same name) in 2006 when I was releasing music through a larger distributor … so it was all the old ATTRITION albums, and some live and compilations or remix albums at first…I then took it further and digitised/mastered a lot of old recordings from cassette etc for digital only release… it made sense for the recordings that didn’t warrant a physical release but I still wanted to get out there… I expanded this for side projects like ENGRAM and took on some other bands for digital only release… that part was an experiment and I didn’t have anywhere near enough time to market the other bands…I’d thought of it more as a collaboration using my networks… so after a few releases and label samplers I decided to take it back to ATTRITION only and give me more time for me…
Since you released Death House in 1982, how do you think the sound of ATTRITION has changed over the years?
The sound has always evolved and changed…and there has always been two sides to the sound… a more upbeat, rhythmic side to ATTRITION, and I have also been interested in sound tracks… as a visual artist origionally I still see music in terms of pcitures, of landscapes… so I relate to soundtracks… This Death House was the first soundtrack we ever did… in amongst all the “strange” experimental electronic songs we were mainly recording… It was reissued on vinyl too last year and we finally got to perform it live… I got the original line up together for that and we performed it as “Death House Variations” with a new take on it…
Just before ATTRITION came into being, there had been several waves. Glam rock, followed by punk which then morphed in the post-punk. Yet, under all that was this odd electric style being pioneered in Britain by the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Clock DVA etc. What bands or music inspired you in your youth?
So many… I first got heavily into the glam of Roxy Music, Marc Bolan, Cockney Rebel, and Bowie of course…then I got into rock n roll in that boring period for new music of the mid seventies… then Punk totally captivated me… politically at the very least…post punk of bands like Kraftwerk, The Cabs, Magazine, PIL and Joy Division influenced the early ATTRITION sound…and then over the years I have taken in more and more influences… as much from life itself as from art….
Do you remember the first live band you ever saw?
I remember it well…it was The Stranglers here in Coventry in June 1977. A good time to be alive.
What acts or bands do you listen to now or find enlightenment in?
So many from the past still…I still listen to lots of old punk records… love The Fall… and over the years I got into classical and neo-classical… and bands like The Prodigy and drum n bass and rap from bands like Public Enemy …I get to hear so much new and “new to me” music in my studio all the time…. It’s all good.
I noticed on social media that ATTRITION has been featured as a exhibit, with flyers, posters and such things in Coventry. How does it feel knowing you are now woven into the fabric of that city?
Coventry is the UK City of Culture 2021/22 and I have been a part of that… my fanzine was featured heavily as part of the Two Tone exhibition here and as part of a Coventry music mural in the town centre… was great to see a photo of me up there… I offer to take anyone to see it when they visit… ATTRITION has featured as part of a Coventry music scene of the early eighties photo exhibition (we played a show as part of that too) and I had some music commissioned as part of a City compilation of bands… Despite living here in Coventry I never had to much to do with the place musically (I had so much of the world to get to) so its been nice to have the recognition now.
You did the mastering for the Thanatos album Covered Country. I am still trying to think of payback to inflict on a certain Kiwi that tricked me into review it (country and I don’t mix). How did you find listening and mastering this genre?
Haha! That’s my old friend Pat Ogl! He used to work for our old US label Projekt back in the nineties and we always stay in touch…. I love his songs! I’m also a Johnny Cash fan so give it a few more plays, it will grow on you!
I know you do a lot of mixing and mastering for others. Has covid affected how you go about playing and promoting with ATTRITION?
Well between Covid and Brexit we haven’t been able to play abroad since we went to Tokyo in December 2019… have been playing some more low key UK shows recently so I’m hoping things get better again soon…I am used to touring all over the place (we have played on 4 continents so far) so I’m missing all of it… I know its been the same for so many bands… promoting isn’t too bad, I can still do that in other ways… and for my studio, I’ve actually had more music sent to me to mix/master than ever, as more bands concentrated on recording.
What plans lay ahead for Martin Bowes in the future and what shall we hear next with ATTRITION?
My long delayed new album, The Black Maria… will be finished soon and out later this year (planning vinyl of course) and I am also planning to release a lot of the older CD only albums we did in special limited runs…. And then I’ll be onto the next album and hoping to get out to play near you sometime soon!
Thank you for so kindly for talking to us.
Thank you for the interview…. Martin Bowes, Coventry, England. February 2022
Just when you thought is was safe to get back into mother nature, a single is carelessly discarded by the lads in DECOMMISSIONED FORESTS and low it was called “Drop Brick“. It was released in January, on the 14th of 2022, ahead of the soon to be unleashed Industry album. I, your humble reviewer decided to cheekily nick this description from their bio…..
Formed around the creative axis of Howard Gardner (Non-Bio,Pillars Of Golden Misery), Max Rael (History Of Guns, Spucktute, Raelism), and Daniel Vincent (The Resonance Association), DECOMMISSIONED FORESTS create music that is dark in outlook and electronic in nature.
Not going to lie, the keys from the beginning bring forth memories of Tubular Bells, but the vocals of MaxRael save us. For the initiated, Rael very well could be channeling Coil’s John Balance, it is truly uncanny and very lucky that Coil is a band that the group are very much into. On much more serious note “Drop Brick” is empathising with a monster. The thoughts that they might go through, pain, loss, anger, loneliness and the hunger to have to what is kept from them. In the end there is no end and only the exhaustion of reality. The synths peal over and over again, cementing the ground hog perception and you feel the heaviness of wanting to pass away.
The more murky sounding “I Can Stop The Noise” is kind of the b-side, filled with a story told in a matter of fact way about a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, whom hates her husband and plans something diabolical. The electronics are so low, you strain to hear them as they dwindle to a slowing heartbeat.
There are no less than four remixes of “Drop Brick” and one deconstructed mix which I think I can safely say where done by all the band mates. The Pillars Of Golden Misery is is all prickly and angry while the Safety Deposit Box version feels like a much more lighter version with it’s cute electronics, that is until the sped up vocals join in like that mantra. The Raelism remix is like a lads night down the pub with the boys that gets thrown into the Twilight Zone. Talking about the weird and wonderful is The DOMH Deconstructed version, giving you Twin Peaks vibes with the vocals running backwards, the swell of electronics in the background that just seem out of reach yet full of promise to swallow you in the noise. The Non-Bio remix is full of the noise and cacophony of buzzing electronics trying to crawl under your skin, as they are pushed to the limit and we wouldn’t expect anything less.
The guys have also included the original demo version of the song which was originally named “Halt Program“. It is a far more keyboard friendly version, the bare bones so to speak, without the vocals but it is still a very compelling piece of music and it is interesting to see how it developed into “Drop Brick”. DECOMMISSIONED FORESTS manage to find the quirk in things and bring them to the fore. The ability to make you listen to what is almost most there or the subtle yet sudden change in direction that takes on a completely different journey. Call it experimental post-industrial or dark electro-ambient or whatever but in the end it is about that journey you take with them and in that process, the visions they can bestow.