Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dark ambient mix v2 and commentary

Here is some commentary on a mix I put up recently on Mixcloud, Pure Dark Ambient volume 2.

Raison D'etre: In Abandoned Places. It's certainly hard to go past Raison D'etre when doing anything dark ambient related. I thought this would work as a strong introduction track, as it work as a strong introduction track to the fine album Requiem for Abandoned Souls.

Northaunt: Night came to us. I'm a latecomer to the whole Northaunt thing, I have to admit. After being pestered for years to listen to this artist, I finally got one of his albums, and it's insanely good. This guy is carrying on the torch for dark ambient now that many of the greats have packed up and moved on. This is a powerfully chilling and frozen track of grim despair and I love it.

Camanecroszcope: Xenthono-Rohmatru. This is just absurdly, insanely good. The more I listen to the two albums this collaboration project put out, the more I am convinced they are amongst the greatest works in this genre. I really like the flow of this track into the next.

Maculatum: The Nameless City part 4. Maculatum is a recent signing to Malignant Records, and I think a collaboration between Collapsar and Rasalhague (?). This album was inspired by Lovecraft's stories and you can see why. Super dark and super tense. The samples work wonderfully (anyone know where they're from?).

Hyios: Tephra. Another recent signing on Malignant; I know literally nothing about this artist than they put out a pretty fine dark ambient album a few years ago. This is the opening track on it and while it isn't really breaking new ground, it executes the classic dark ambient sound very well.

Combative Alignment: And Outside Glows the Red Dawn part 1. A very underrated artist; much of their back catalogue is extremely rare vinyl and I've only heard bits and pieces of it and it is jawdropping. They finally put out a CD release, on Malignant, and it's really strong, creepy stuff, quite hallucinatory and disorienting, a theme that continues with the next track.

Hall of Mirrors: Invocation. This is big, bold, super long and badarse release by two crazy Italians, who make tracks that are 20 or 30 minutes long. This is really bewildering and suffocating stuff, dragging your mind into places you're not really sure you want it to go, but by the time you get there it's too late.

False Mirror: Wasteland. This is a beautiful track from a beautiful album, that I think works perfectly in this position in the mix. After the weird madness of the last two tracks, this one gives you some brief respite before the final assault.

Terra Sancta: Forgotten. This is just massive, massive, massive, massive stuff. Colossal frozen walls of shattering relentless darkness, that crashes in wave after wave, until the final descent into beautiful despair. When Terra Sancta nails it, they are in a league of their own. Off a three track EP put out a few years ago, on Malignant Records (no surprises).

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Total Industrial Warfare mix and commentary

I recently published a new mix on my mixcloud account, certainly the heaviest and most intense yet. “Reign of Steel: Total IndustrialWarfare” is a nightmarish apocalyptic soundtrack to a world-ending war between humans and machines. It’s a mix I’ve been planning for a long time and I’m really happy with the result, especially the last few tracks. Here is a tracklist with some commentary.
1. Kristoffer Nystroms Orkester: biTer. This amazing track is from a staggeringly good EP released a few years ago on Malignant Records, brakeHEAD. The opening blasts of noise set the aggressive tone, then the thundering percussions, drones and samples add amazing layers and structure. I knew I wanted this for the opening track of the mix as soon as I heard it. Fun fact: this project is a side project of Megaptera, much like Negru Voda, who we’ll be hearing more from later in the mix.
2. Ex.Order: Generated Invasion. This band is the twisted, angry cousin of German ambient legends Inade. And what a track! It’s from a great release “War Within Breath” that Malignant did of various rare and old Ex.Order tracks, and fits the theme perfectly. War Within Breath rated highly on my list of best power electronics albums of all time.
3. Anenzephalia: Final Pulse. Everyone knows that this Anenzepahlia albums kicks arse (don’t bother with Nohaem); but the main reason I actually chose the track was the title and the samples. “No more running. We stop them here!”. The fact that this has some of the most aggro vocals in the history of anything doesn’t hurt either.
4. IRM: The Disease. A great track from an old and essential Cold Meat Industry classic, Oedipus Dethroned. Don’t forget to check out their other work though, it’s all awesome. The vocals and sounds make me think of clouds of toxic chemical weapons enveloping and killing hapless soldiers.
5. Navicon Torture Technologies: The Last Day. Picking one NTT track for this mix was hard enough, picking one from his album Scenes from theNext Millennium was just as hard, because you could pretty much just use this whole damn album. The first half of this track has vocals that are just too damn crazy to believe, and the second half has a wall of noise that is just too damn crazy to believe. NTT is still the king of power electronics.
6. Muskel: For Syftet Amnads. Muskel is one of the 17,000 side projects of MZ412 / Nordvargr etc, this one being a harsh noise act that only ever put out one release on Malignant Records, Seven Days of Pain. And holy crap it is noisy and intense! Definitely one of the heaviest releases I own, without resorting to boring Japanese noise tropes. An overlooked release worth checking out.
7. Steel Hook Prosthesis: Atrocitizer. This one is a new up and coming act on Malignant Records, that I’m impressed with and is going places, and managing to do interesting things in the noise / power electronics / death industrial areas. Their new album is high on my current shopping list.
8. Negru Voda: Turku. I love love LOVE this track, so damn much. One of my favourite tracks at the moment, and my favourite on this mix. I don’t quite know how to describe this sound or what I love about it, but everything about it rules. It’s the final track off the 3 CD collection on Malignant Records, Val de Luxe.
9. Xenonics K-30: G.M.A.S. Well, this is the track that originally inspired this mix, a few years ago. It pretty much sums up the whole idea perfectly, from beginning to end, and is a fitting finale to the incredibly awesome Xenonics K-30 album, “Automated”, that was a major influence for this mix and the whole Reign of Steel concept. “Threat level to facility integrity is past level seven, enacting disaster protocol”…
10. Imminent Starvation: Please. This is is one of those interesting tracks that by itself is just a cute quirky way to end one of the mostmonstrously powerful noise albums ever recorded, but in this context, takes on a whole new level. The idea I’m following here is that after the catastrophic battle in the last track, where the main human force gets wiped out, the survivors who escape into the wasteland receive this baffling message over the radio. But is this really someone they can trust?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cyberpunk mix and commentary

So I recently published a cyberpunk-inspired mix on Mixcloud, called Neon Sleep Empires, and it's being well received - currently 1st on the Industrial charts and 4th on the IDM charts! Pretty happy with that. Anyway, as per usual, here is my commentary on the tracks and why I chose them.
1.Untitled by Gridlock. This track is from Trace, one of my favourite albums by my favourite band. It’s short and simple but sets the futuristic tone for the rest of the mix.
2.Vadus Arcology by Index. The name alone would have put this track in as a contender, and it has a great 90s futuristic feel to it. This is the first track of Index’s underrated 2000 album Ultra Hard Shadow.
3.Stockmarket by Cyclotimia. If you were pressed for time, you could do a cyberpunk mix by just playing this album: Wasteland by Cyclotimia. A really original and amazing work that typifies the motifs. Picking one track from this album was hard, but I really liked the subliminal voices combined with the subtle drones.
4.Parisville by Access to Arasaka. Another album that could stand as a cyberpunk mix on its own, or any of the other albums by this amazing new artist. The name is actually a homeage to a corporation from a cyberpunk pen and paper roleplaying game;  ‘nuff said!
5.Ghost of a working man by Architect. I wanted to start shifting the mix into darker and more sinister territory, and this track seemed to be a good way to do it. This is the first track off Lower Lip Interface, one of many strong albums by this Haujobb side project.
6.Thirteen by Dirk Geiger. I’m a very recent convert to Dirk Geiger, and I really like what I’ve found so far. Most of this album is much lighter IDM territory, but this is a great sinister track that works well in the mix at this stage. The guitars at the end take this up a level even further.
7.Cross fade by Haujobb. Putting together a cyberpunk industrial mix without Haujobb should be a criminal act. This fine work is the opening track off the often-overlooked Matrix release, consisting of remixes of the classic Solutions for a Small Planet plus other bits and pieces. The quality speaks for itself, really.
8.Pull the plug by Totakeke. Totakeke is one of the genuinely best electronic artists active in the world at the moment. This amazing track is from an early album, On the wrong side of the tracks. It fits the theme so well, and contains some really good samples from a really crap movie (The Thirteenth Floor).
9.Anticlinal by Ab Ovo. I had a funny feeling that this album by Ab Ovo would have something for this mix. I skipped past the first few tracks, wondering what I had been thinking, then found this one. Superb! It starts very subtle but builds up a really nice tension as the track progresses.
10.Underlying encryption by Scalar. Well this is my music project so it’s hard for me to talk about. I definitely had cyberpunk motifs in mind when I put it together.
11.Catch the Midnight Girl by Stendeck. This band is up there with Totakeke and This Morn Omina as the top electronic bands in the world at the moment. I love everything he has done. This is one of the best tracks off the truly excellent Scintilla album. It’s a lot faster than anything else on the mix but that was my idea, building up to a tense climax.
12.Observatory by Tinidae. Amazing stuff. This newcomer band on Tympanik Audio is the only post-Gridlock band to come close to the quality of the original masters. Picking one track off their debut Lights album was hard; there are a few others that could have worked very well in this mix (or might work well in the next cyberpunk mix I do… muahaha!).
13.Echo by Haujobb. More tracks from this band? Two tracks from Haujobb (and one from Architect, which is a Haujobb spinoff band) might seem excessive to some, but I feel that if Cyberpunk Industrial had an entry in the dictionary, it would just be a picture of Daniel Myer’s face. Many bands imitate Haujobb, few come remotely close to being this good.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Best industrial albums of 2013

Despite all the predictable complaining and doom prophets, there was a huge amount of amazing industrial music released in 2013. Picking 10 standouts was really hard, but here it is. This was a year dominated by Tympanik Audio and Malignant Records, with Hymen a close competitor. A bit sad to say that no Ant-Zen albums made the list (Diaphane's "Lifeforms" came very close), but there you go. Cold Meat Industry seem to have folded up indefinitely (permanently?), but that is a story for another day.

10. (ghost): Departure (n5MD). Departure is the debut album of a promising solo artist (ghost), from the US, on the respected n5MD label (started by the guys from Gridlock; nuff said!). It's a really nice, quirky and subtle electronica / IDM album, that works well as background music while working / reading, or can be listened to carefully, with nice production and melodies to be found. Firmly rooted in the Hymen / style of modern IDM, (ghost) still has his own sound and I think is definitely be one to watch. Track 2 is particularly good. And n5MD have all their stuff on bandcamp, so just go have a listen already!
9. ESA: Themes of Carnal Empowerment pt 2: Deceit (Tympanik Audio). One-man UK act ESA is a quiet and consistent achiever in the industrial power noise world; never signed to one of the bigger German labels (Ant-Zen and Hands), but he's been plugging away putting out some consistently good albums for some years now. The latest is no exception; I'd daresay it's as good as it's predecessor (Themes of Carnal Empowerement part 1: Lust), and packs some outrageously powerful tracks, including the best, No-one will ever Touch You (which ended up getting its own EP). Who says power noise is dead!
8. Zinovia: The Gift of Affliction (Tympanik Audio). I'm really in love with this stunning debut on Tympanik Audio. This solo female act comes out of Greece, and as I understand she's been working away on music for quite some time, but never got around to releasing any of it. Well the album is here and it's a doozy. Drifting, dreamy and moody electronica for sad Sundays and rainy afternoons, Zinovia's music merges the subtlety of analog sounds with the sophistication of beautifully produced electronica.
7. Trepaneringsritualen: The Totality of Death (Malignant Records). I raved about this album elsewhere; in fact I put it on my top 10 death industrial albums of all time. And for good reason - it's killer. Crushing, suffocating death industrial, in the finest Swedish traditions. Who needs Cold Meat Industry when we have these madmen running loose, inflicting their music on the world? Malignant Records show they are not a force to be messed with.
6. Architect: Mine (Hymen Records). For quite some time, Architect has been the IDM / electronica "side" project of EBM legend Daniel Myer aka Haujobb. But let's be honest, in the last 10 years, Architect has put out more and better music than Haujobb, and Mine is most certainly continuing in that direction. In fact, it's a serious candidate for best Architect album (a title previously held by Lower Lip Interface, in my opinion). It's not just the quality of the tracks here, it's the diversity. Myer shows he can move effortlessly from downtempo to glitch to trip hop to techno, outsmarting and outproducing the majority of people in any of those genres. Scary stuff.
5. R.roo: Innerheaven (Tympanik Audio). I liked R.Roo's first album on Tympanik Audio, mgnovenie, which came out early in 2013; it used a lot of pianos and strings to really good effect, and created some powerful emotions. Overall though I felt it was a bit too tense and restrained. This talented young Ukranian has followed it up quickly with Innerheaven; this moves beyond its predecessor and delivers an even more impressive album, with better consistency of production and quality of sound. There is some truly outstanding music here and it deserves to be heard. Tympanik have a bandcamp site too so you have no excuses to not go listen to this right now. (bonus extra: cover artwork by s.alt of Ant-Zen!!)
4. Navicon Torture Technologies: Your Suffering will be Legendary (Malignant Records). Huh? Wasn't 2009's the Gospels of the Gash the final album by NTT? Yes...... kind of. This isn't really a "studio album", but is a release of bonus tracks from a super limited edition of Gospels of the Gash, each of them done as a collaboration with another artist. I've raved and raved about how amazing NTT is before and I needn't do it again here. Suffice to say that on this album, as on others, he produces some of the most intense and mind-bending music you'll ever hear. This isn't quite as good as his other recent albums, but it's still NTT and it's still essential.
3. Tineidae: Lights (Tympanik Audio). There seems to be some secret facility in Ukraine that Tympanik have set up that spawns out amazing electronic musicians at a rapid rate. First R.roo, now another Ukrainian newcomer, Tineidae. Nothing was known about this act until this album dropped, and it dropped like a bomb. This is IDM firmly in the futuristic Hymen / n5MD camp, but I'd say it's some of the best music released in that style since Gridlock, and that is not a statement I make lightly. The production and composition here are jawdropping. The demand for the digital release of Lights caused Tympanik to do a physical release, which is nice. Just turn off whatever crap you're listening to now and get this. The only disappointment is the feeble final track (a topic I'm going to rant about on this blog at some point in the near future).
2. Phelios: Gates of Atlantis (Malignant Records). Massive. I can think of no better word to describe this album. The opening track, an amazing meld of cold dark ambient and intense tribal drumming immediately conjures images of colossal forgotten temples buried under thousands of miles of cold ancient water. And that is just the beginning of the journey, through deep space, abandoned ruins and cursed tombs. Phelios' previous album, Astral Unity, was extremely impressive and one I didn't think could be easily topped, but Phelios has done it, and is well on his way to cementing his claim of being the top dark ambient act active in the world at the moment.
1. Comaduster: Hollow Worlds (Tympanik Audio). I agonised a bit over the rest of this list, but there was never any doubt as to which album would be number 1. This crazy Canadian has released not only the best of 2013, but one of the best albums I've heard in years (if it wasn't for This Morn Omina's last album in 2012, it would probably be better than anything in that year also, and almost anything in 2011). The fact that this albums has a heavy dubstep sound to it, and I still love it, is a testament to how good it is (because generally I fucking HATE dubstep). Part EBM, part dubstep, part noise, part weird electronica, all awesome, Hollow Worlds is really, really hard to describe, but it's very easy to listen to and enjoy. So I suggest you do so. (Again, bandcamp, people!)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Great Bandcamp labels you should check out

Ant-Zen and Hymen
This one is a no-brainer; Ant-Zen is one of the best if not the best record labels in the world for power noise, and its sister label Hymen is arguable the best IDM / electronica label in the world (yes I know about Warp Records, I don't think they're anywhere near as good as Hymen, I don't care how sacriligeous that is). Both labels have pretty much their entire discography of the last 10 years on Bandcamp, where you can stream and listen to however much you want for as long as you want with no ads, or buy albums for a very cheap price (usually about $10 per album), with a big chunk going to the artist. How good is that! Want to find out which Synapscape album is the best? Keen to finally discover the tribal sounds of This Morn Omina or Tzolk'in? Knock yourself out!

Love Hz
This is a recent discovery of mine. It's a bandcamp-only label, and it is really interesting and unique music and I am totally in love with it. Love Hz (get it? cute title huh) produces basically hardcore techno, with a cinematic / emotional / atmospheric feel to it. Some strings, pianos, pads, etc, running alongside dark crunching German / Dutch style hardcore techno make for a wonderful combination. Even the aggressive German hardcore legend Stormtrooper released an EP on Love Hz, and it is fantastic. Definitely one to watch!

Cryo Chamber
This label was started by Simon Heath aka the busy dark ambient act Atrium Carceri, who put out a whole bunch of good albums on Swedish juggernaut Cold Meat Industry before they went into indefinite hibernation. I thought they were a bandcamp only label (especially as they advertise themselves as a 24 bit label, and audio CDs only store music at 16 bit resolution), but it seems they put out CDs as well. Anyway, Mr Atrium Carceri has put out a couple of recent albums on this label, a cool science-fiction themed ambient side project of his called Sabled Sun has put out a few albums, plus a whole bunch of new up and coming dark ambient artists have albums released here also. I guess they all have to find a new home now that Cold Meat is gone... and despite the name, Cryo Chamber seems to be a very warm and welcoming home. Go get yer dark ambient on right now dammit!

Industrial Propaganda Records
Well this label does what it says on the tin: it releases big, bad, ballsy hardcore industrial techno. Mainly via EPs, plus some compilations, and some old fashioned mixes. I don't recognise most of the bands on this label but who cares, they all sound awesome!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Great Mixcloud channels you should follow

I've raved enough about how much I love Mixcloud. If you love Mixcloud too, make sure to check out and/or follow these cloudcasts:

Headphone Commute
This one is a no-brainer; Headphone Commute is a pretty serious weekly podcast for ambient, experimental, IDM, cinematic, etc music. They have a sizeable presence outside Mixcloud, and is one of the top 20 Mixcloud channels, with over 25,000 (!!) followers. The casts are usually guest DJs and I find they cover the experimental, ambient and cinematic end of things very well, the IDM and electronica end of things not quite so well. Still definitely worth following though, and also worth having a look through their back catalogue of mixes. The guest mix by Tympanik Audio / Ad Noiseam ambient artist Subheim is superb!

Low Light Mixes
This cast specialises in the very minimal ambient end of things, and does a really good job. Casts are usually "themed", e.g. based around the sun, air, ice, and so on, which is a bit wanky, but nice.

Led Manville
This Spanish fellow is a very solid DJ, who can beat and keymatch with ease. His regular mixes are of an exceptional level of quality, and he's also produced a whole bunch of fun industrial / synthpop mashups (though those seem to live mainly on youtube).

This crazy Columbian is my favourite "hard" DJ on mixcloud. He plays a mix of club industrial and hardcore techno, and completely rocks! I wish he put out mixes more often (though I can't talk, I only put one up every few months).

End: The DJ
The most famous industrial DJ in the world. If you want to hear where industrial club music (e.g. EBM, aggrotech) is up to, listen to End: The DJ. End and Led Manville are currently the best in the world at this stuff.

Thingstocome aka The Horrorist
I don't actually love The Horrorist's music (I like a few tracks here and there but a lot of doesn't do much for me). However, he is one hell of a DJ. He plays regularly in New York and uploads his mixes pretty often, which are a weird but awesome combination of weird old acid, techno, electro and old-school EBM.

Leon Tranter aka DJ Dasein
Bit of blatant self-promotion... that's me! Go follow if you haven't already.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We live in a good era: Mixcloud and Bandcamp

I'm going to go against the overall trend of cynicism and gloom that pervades the industrial (and pretty much every other music) community, and say that right now we are living in an extremely good era. Well, definitely a great era for fans / listeners, maybe not such a great one for artists, labels and producers: that's a complex discussion for another day.
There are two well-developed and extremely useful tools around now that make it easy to research, discover and listen to music (new and old, but especially new).

The first of these is Mixcloud. I goddam love Mixcloud so much. I have my own Mixcloud account, and every few months I drag my lazy bum to the decks and record and upload a mix. But more importantly, I follow about 70 DJs / cloudcasters on Mixcloud, and every day or two I listen to a mix they have uploaded. I have discovered an amazing amount of exciting music by doing this, and cannot recommend it enough. If you don't know who to follow or where to start, just type in a genre name and see what comes up, or start clicking on mixes in the main news feed until you find something you like. The refreshing thing about Mixcloud is there is a huge amount of really good mixes and cloudcasters in the non-mainstream end of music, especially in the ambient and experimental area.

The next one is Bandcamp. Digital music distribution has been around for quite a long time, but Bandcamp is a refreshing alternative to the lazy bloated juggernauts that come to mind (Apple, Amazon, Google). There are many things to like about this channel. Firstly, Bandcamp lets you download your music DRM free, in whatever format you like, including FLAC, and we like FLAC because it's lossless, right? Right. Secondly, Bandcamp takes a very small cut: 15% of digital sales, and 10% of merchandise sales. My understanding of the big bastards is that you are lucky to see 50% of your sale price as royalties. Thirdly, and for me most importantly, I really like how Bandcamp strongly supports the concept of labels. If I want to hear some of the music that Ant-Zen put out last year, (because I love Ant-Zen and so should you), I don't have to dig around trying to find 20 websites or bandcamp sites for all these different bands, I can just go to the Ant-Zen Bandcamp site and all of their releases are right there. And not just the new ones; I can find out what that that weird Philip Munch solo album from a few years ago sounded like, or whether Nin Kuji is worth the fuss that's been made over him, or relive the fun of Morgenstern's "Cold" (ah good times). And then of course, if you like them, you can buy, for pretty damn cheap too: usually $10 or $11 per album, much less than the $19 or so that ripoff  iTunes charges Australians, which is a fourth thing to like about Bandcamp.

So if you haven't already, start using these great tools! There is plenty of amazing music out there, despite the predictable cynicism of the boring naysayers and tiresome gloom merchants. In the next week or so I'm going to run through some of the best finds on those two great sites.