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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Best" of 2014

As per usual yearly disclaimer: this is not a definitive list and I certainly have not listened to every release to come out in 2014; but here are my favorites out of what I did hear, in no order:

Skorneg - "Foehn"
Easily the best and most encompassing/hypnotic drone album I have ever heard. Music so deep that it transcends "music" or "sound" and becomes a multi-dimensional "experience". It's a brand new project of Fred Arbour from Cyclic Law/Visions and I can only hope that there is more to come.

Tehôm - "Lacrimae Mundi"
One of the best dark ambient records to come out this year, especially interesting due to the fact that this albums resurrects a project that hasn't released in 14 years. Fantastic mix of all the things I enjoy about dark ambient.

Shrine - "Nihil"
His previous release Somnia is one of my favorite dark ambient records so naturally I highly enjoy this one as well. Nihil, however, is much darker & "heavier" in some ways, though it carries the same exceptional level of production and similar spiritually deep and transcendent vibes.

Oyaarss - "Zamdega"
One of 2014's "next level" releases. An amalgam of a bunch of different styles - post-industrial, idm, post-rock, ambient, etc. done masterfully. Incredibly atmospheric, beautiful, and unpredictable. I've listened to it constantly since I first heard it. A must own for post-industrial fans.

In Slaughter Natives - "Cannula Coma Legio"
While this isn't exactly a "new" album, it heralds the much welcomed return of one of my favorite acts ever. Even after so many years, he sounds as good as he ever did. As a sign of things to come, I cannot wait for future material.

Huron - "The Other Side of Reality"
Ok, so technically this came out in 2013, but I didn't hear it until this year. That said, it's one of my favorite IDM records in recent history so it absolutely deserves to be on a Best Of list. It's full of brilliant constructions of space, complex IDM percussion, industrial accents, and dreamy melodies. The mastering is absolutely flawless and it's one of the loudest and cleanest/spacious records I've ever heard.

V/A - "Wounds of the Earth Compilation 6"
I realize that I released this and am biased, but this is a fucking good compilation with so many fantastic artists on it; I am honored to have been able to compile it.

There were a lot of other good releases this year, and a lot of great labels putting out exceptional records. Them not being on this list does not diminish their work whatsoever.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Machinecode - "Samurai"

Artist: Machinecode
Album: Samurai
Year: 2014
Label: Ad Noiseam
Genre: Drum and Bass

Man, these guys never sleep. In addition to their project Underhill, which had a new release on Ad Noiseam earlier this year, Tim Eliot (aka Current Value) and Dean Rodell are already back with their drum and bass leaning project Machinecode (not to mention this project has an earlier 2014 release on Subsistenz). Let me open by saying that I am absolutely no expert on drum and bass. It's one of those genres that I know of only in a peripheral capacity - I like a bit of it, listen to it every once in a while and know of several key artists, but couldn't tell you much beyond that. For that reason I won't be able to delve into this album in the way that other zines might; though I do have some familiarity with Current Value and his discography, so here is my take on it.

I got into Current Value somewhere in the middle of his career when he was forging the "skullstep" sound. It seems that he has since moved away from that - the opener here "It's Time" contains fragments of that sound, but it has a lot more going on. It feels like a combination of his older, more progressive (or whatever the correct term is) work a la Seeds of Mutation, his heavy darkstep, and classic old school drum and bass that had those great rave-y synths. I really liked that period of drum and bass so this appeals to me quite a bit. "Wires" is one of my favorites on here; it opens with a long intro of pleasant pads, beeping & muted synths, and eventually bits of melodious piano which gives the feeling of drifting underwater. Then about 2 minutes in the drums kick it full force and it instantly reminds me of classic 90s melodic dnb, LTJ Bukem style. I absolutely love that stuff. "Urban Drum" has a somewhat similar vibe and it has an MC on it (Coppa). Normally I fucking hate MCs, but he has a good flow and his voice actually fit pretty well and it's not a fucking obnoxious NWA/whatever gangster rap mashup, so props for that. I've always appreciated Current Value's penchant for long ambient intros and I dig that they bring that to the table here on a number of the tracks including "Seraphic". Ironically, "Labyrinth" features Balkansky which pretty much makes it an Underhill track; as expected, this one is slower and more gritty - though not quite a "dubstep" sound per say. The title track "Samurai" is another great throwback piece that reminds me of "dnb I liked" from the 90s (kinda similar vibe to CV's "Dark Rain"). Towards the end of the album there are a couple of tracks that I couldn't really get into including "Red Nova" and "Mining"; the production was muddy and they didn't have a driving groove I could connect with. However, the album bounces back with the very chilled out, moody "City Lights" which reminds me of, not surprisingly, a futuristic city at night. The album ends with the seemingly odd-fitting remix from IDM producer Huron, of whom I am a big fan. This remix is excellent and is one of the highlights of the record. He slowed things down and crafted an extremely spacious, atmospheric, IDM-infused mix filled with melodious bits of his trademark piano, which manages to retain a modicum of the Machinecode/Underhill gritty dubstep vibe (I'm pretty sure this track actually comes from the "Current Value & Dean Rodell" release Sparse Land from 2009 and was my favorite piece of that record - side tangent: if I remember correctly that was the first Current Value "dubstep" release and it still had a cool skullstep vibe and it was neat & groundbreaking so check it out).

I don't know what's going on in the wide world of drum and bass music these days and how this compares to other contemporary stuff, but I enjoyed Samurai quite a bit and I'm sure others would too. If you like the Current Value darkstep sound and are looking for a more variation with a bit of atmosphere and some throwback synthwork, than check this out. I like that this album contains a large amount of diversity and different types of tracks - different sounds, different bpms, different vibes, etc. That's one thing that turns me off from a lot of dnb - way too same-y, so it's great to hear a full length that thinks outside the box a bit in that aspect. Definitely a worthy addition to the catalog of these prolific producers.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Snowbeasts - "Ice & Shadow"

Artist: Snowbeasts
Album: Ice & Shadow
Year: 2014
Label: Component Recordings
Genre: Drone, Ambient

Ice & Shadow is the second album from the new droning ambient project of Raab Codec (owner of Component Recordings). The title is extremely apt, as it is perfect description of what this album sounds like: shadowy glacial drone.

Ice & Shadow delivers nearly exactly what you would expect from something described as "glacial drone". The minimal, dreary layers of droning conjure up images of walking through barren plains of snow and ice while being surrounded by hazy, grey skies and wintry mist. The cover image captures it fairly well: grey, cold, icy, and something of a grainy or gritty feel which gives it a "dark" flavor. Most of the songs are formed of the standard ingredients: long droning passages with the occasional synth beep or warble - like the distant sounds of machinery at a research base in the arctic. If you listen closely you will also hear plenty of subtle sfx and neat electronic, almost industrial accents (again, my mind instantly thinks of old machinery). Despite describing them as "standard", I do enjoy these tracks and feel like they would fall into the "above average" category for drone/ambient music - it's the proper ratio of boring/hypnotic/repetition and movement/things happening (albeit subtle things). Snowbeasts also aptly employ rising and falling tension to provide much needed dynamics in this kind of music. "Days Without Light" is a good example - the song is comprised of myriad small sections where the main component(s) of the track and their consort sounds rise, flicker, reverberate, and then shortly thereafter disappear from view - while yet retaining an overall feel of slow-paced, drone music. Things really pick up on the track "Ice Crawler" which contains driving analog percussion and conjures something of a Biosphere - Substrata vibe. Disappointingly, this is the only track on the album to feature percussion. It was done well and I'd really like to hear more of that sort of material from this project in the future. To be honest, I find a lot of "drone" music to be too boring and minimal to give merit too, but I rather enjoy this record and it kept me entertained in a way that a Visions or Gustaf Hildebrand record would.

Definitely something to check out for fans of cold, minimal, electronic ambiance. If you enjoy Glacial Movements, Sleep Research Facility, Necrophorus, Visions, etc than give this a listen. It's not a game changer by any means, but it is a solid addition to the style of music.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Swarm Intelligence - "Faction"

Artist: Swarm Intelligence
Album: Faction
Year: 2014
Label: Ad Noiseam
Genre: Dubstep, Industrial, Ambient

Swarm Intelligence is the newest addition to the Ad Noiseam roster, and adds to their ranks of dark, industrial dubstep producers. "Faction" is an ultra heavy, sludgy album of crushing, dubby basslines and plodding mechanical percussion.

When I think of slow, industrial-strength dubstep the act that immediately comes to mind is, of course, Scorn. And Swarm Intelligence carries the torch nicely. His music invokes images of darkened, mechanical catacombs and the innards of abandoned, futuristic cities on dead worlds. Decaying star bases, rotten sewer systems, steam valves - it's all here like the most depressing re-imagining of an Alien(s) movie your mind can imagine. You've got the huge, languid basslines, noisy atmospherics (and warbling synth bits that bring to bring a broken spaceship console), and stomping industrial percussion that hits like a sledgehammer (though in rather slow motion). The darkened, minimal, drifting atmospheres remind me of Haxan Cloak, while the drums and dank quality of the songs also bring to mind a slowed down Underhill or Zeller. "Destroyer", with it's driving, super distorted bassline, reminds me of good ol' classic Vex'd.
While I absolutely love the imagery this music makes me think of, and I can definitely get into this stuff for a few songs, each track utilizes the same general sound and elements, so I tend to get bored and not want to sit through the entire album. The tracks could also benefit from a bit more in the way of progression.

While I certainly enjoy elements of this, overall Faction is a bit minimal for me personally, but considering the success of acts like Haxan Cloak and similar ultra heavy, slow dubstep/ambient/industrial hybrids, I can see this obtaining a nice following with Ad Noiseam fans. Tracks like "Antenna", "Outpost" and "Departure" are absolutely punishing and should definitely be on your playlist, yet others like "Motionless Sky" and "Infiltration" don't really have much going for them and can be skipped. Bottom line is that if you want dubstep with a more doom-y and mechanical feel, than give this a shot. I'm really curious to hear how he progresses in the future, especially if he can expand & diversify his sound palette.

Oyaarss - "Zemdega"

Artist: Oyaarss
Album: Zemdega
Year: 2014
Label: Ad Noiseam
Genre: Post-Industrial, Post Rock, IDM, etc

Ironically, I just (finally) started getting into Oyaarss' prior release Bads earlier this week, so when I saw a new album in my inbox I jumped on it. I'm not really sure how to categorize Oyaarss; his music involves a lot of crossover between genres: Post-Rock, IDM, Power Noise, Industrial, Ambient, etc. It's a bit like Comaduster but more aggressive and crunchier. It has come to my attention recently that Ad Noiseam seems to have taken over the torch of Power Noise with their releases in the last couple of years. However, whereas in the past the releases from Ant Zen or Hands could be described, at their most fundamental, as "distorted techno", the Ad Noiseam flavored Power Noise would be "distorted dubstep". Acts like Fausten, Swarm Intelligence, and of course Oyaarss. Oyaarss stands out to me because it incorporates so many elements beyond dubstep wub wub basslines & crunchy beats and is making what I would consider to be next level material.

Initially I was a bit disappointed because Zemdega forgoes almost all of the crunchy old school noisy Power Noise elements of the former release. Instead it chooses to focus all it's attention on the deep, organic atmospheres and bring those to the forefront. As previously stated, this record is an amalgam of several styles, all expertly blended into a fantastically fulfilling new form. Take some dreamy, floating Boards of Canada-esque atmospheres meshed with emotive melodies and mix it with a punchy industrial kick, crunchy unpredictable broken beats, and complex, non-linear sequencing and you have this record in a nutshell. The production and mastering are both surperb and allow the record to fully realize it's extremely deep scope and pull the listener into its realm. Once inside, it is very hypnotic and cerebrally satisfying. My favorite track on the album is "Silkta Dardedze" which utilizes layers of incredibly provocative melodies over subtle, trance-inducing pads; strange, deep, chanting vocals; and sporadic, crushing industrial percussion. All these components are coalesced into one of the most hypnotic and encompassing pieces in recent memory. Overall, this record has the depth and visionary qualities of good ambient (and/or post-rock) music, the punch & power of good industrial music, and the complexity & unpredictability of good IDM.
The only thing that I don't like are the screamo vocals that appear on a few of the songs. I find these to clash painfully with the music in all but perhaps one instance.

A great release from an exceptional artist. It's one of those albums that is easy to get sucked into, whereupon it flies by and you wonder how it can possibly be over already. Needless to say, its been on loop since I got it. I'm really glad to hear artists that are still pushing the envelope and forging new ground when it comes to heavy, distorted, "post-industrial" music. Definitely a must hear for fans of Ad Noiseam, Tympanik, Hymen, and the like! I would also highly recommend the previous album Bads if you're interesting in hearing these kinds of atmospheres mixed into super heavy, old Antigen Shift style Power Noise.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wounds of the Earth Compilation 6

We are extremely proud to announce the release of our 6th compilation! Once again are honored to feature many brilliant artists from top notch labels including Cold Meat Industry, Cyclic Law, Malignant, Tympanik, Hymen, Ad Noiseam, Old Europa Cafe, Cryo Chamber, and more.


Part I (IDM)

1. Flint Glass - Talawaitichqua
2. Displacer & Nimon - Cloud Forest
3. Roel Funcken - Mesosphere
4. Huron - Disrupt The Standard
5. Hotaru Bay - Herbstgedanken

Part II (Dark Ambient)

6. Havan - Vasatya
7. Apocryphos - A Lonely Structure In Ithaca Chasma
8. Asbaar - Forgotten Equinox
9. Shrine - Sulphur Heart
10. TeHÔM - The World Ended
11. Paranoia Inducta - Apokatastasis
12. Worms of the Earth - Path Of Samekh
13. Anatomia De Vanitats - Ratio
14. Atrium Carceri - Bastard
15. Skadi - Scourged Soul
16. Cryobiosis - The Faceless
17. Sabled Sun - Home Planet
18. Eldar - Numen

Part III (Death Industrial)

19. The Vomit Arsonist - Upon The Floor
20. Steel Hook Prostheses - Sick Teeth
21. Darkrad - Izvergi
22. Aderlating - Gaze Of The Immortal Serpent
23. Theologian - Our Pain Is Hopefully Finite

[ mp3 320kbps ]
   [ bandcamp ]

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Statiqbloom on tour with Corrections House

Neo old school industrial project Statiqbloom will be joining the Neurot Recordings industrial/experimental/doom supergroup Corrections House (members of Neurosis, Eyehategod, Yakuza, etc) for their US tour.

Displacer releases 3 new albums

Displacer released 3 new albums this Halloween through his label Crime League.

The first is an 8 track EP of original music titled Electric Dreams

The second is a 19 track compilation of remixes he has done over the years. This includes remixes of Beefcake,, Known Rebel, Lucidstatic, L'Ombre, Converter and more.

The third release is a 20 track remix album of other artists remixing his work. This includes remixes by (Ghost), Prospero, Talvekoidik, S:cage, The Gnome, Worms of the Earth, and more.

Check them out: [ Crime League ]

Tonikom - "Seeking the Lost Mind"

Artist: Tonikom
Album: Seeking the Lost Mind
Year: 2014
Label: Hymen
Genre: Downtempo, Breakbeat, IDM

Tonikom returns once again with more of her patented downtempo breakbeats littered with beautiful melodies and bits of IDM flavor. This is her 4th record on Hymen, and easily my favorite thing she has released.

After a short intro, the album kicks in with "Dark Hand" which sets the tone for the record. On Seeking The Lost Mind Tonikom crafts excellent, dreamy songs full of floating melodies atop steady breakbeats with the occasional bout of glitching and IDM flourish. It gives me a sort of retro future spaceship vibe. The style brings to mind her German contemporary Angina P, as well as the older, more illusory sound of acts like Mouse on Mars. I couldn't get into The Sniper's Veil that much because I felt like the songs all sounded too similar; however the tracks have much stronger identities and increased variation between them. There is definitely a specific sound that runs through the entire record, though the songs can easily be discerned from one another. "Nocturnal" and "The Narrowing Path" are both great pieces that continue this dreamy spaceship mood through interstellar pads, catchy melodies and steady breakbeats with a bit of glitching sprinkled in. "Kokoro" flirts with an album Burial-esque chilled out vibe, but with stronger weightier drums. "The Cavern" has something of subterranean vibe with it's heavily reverbed plucked melody and everpresent droning pad. It's also got a solid driving beat which sounds like halftime drum and bass complete with that tinny dnb snare. "Drowning Again" has very fast paced drill n bass drums juxtaposed with slow, airy pads. The album ends with "Tebanasou" which has a sleek, darkened futuristic city vibe and some neat vocal bits sporadically placed throughout.

An excellent record to put on and chill out to. One of those that zips by quickly and when it's over you think "wow, this can't be over already can it?". Like I said previously, this is my favorite thing that Tonikom has released. Overall the melodic content on each track is stellar and captivating. The percussion can feel dense at times, but it never overwhelms the other elements and everything remains in balance. Definitely something to get for fans of the more subdued side of Hymen and IDM. If you're looking for upbeat songs, dense drums, and synths that fit one or more categories: airy/dreamy/nostaligic/futuristic, than check this out for sure.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bisclaveret - "Theu Anagonsis"

Artist: Bisclaveret
Album: Theu Anagnosis
Year: 2014
Label: Zoharum / Steinklang Industries
Genre: Dark Ambient

Bisclaveret is another band whose name I have seen many times over the years but unfortunately haven't gotten around to checking out. As such, Theu Anagnosis is my first experience with the act, and I'm rather impressed. This is a joint release from Zoharum and Steinklang Industries and is available on both CD and vinyl.

I suppose this would be filed under the "dark ambient" tag, though it's different than what I would expect if someone were to tell me "hey this is a dark ambient release". The first track, "Seven Lands of Happiness", begins with a simple koto melody over waves of pulsating and shifting drones, mixed with subtle, ritualistic vocals. While the melody doesn't change, the underlying bed of drones continually shifts to keep the listeners attention. The production is very clean and, as such, this creates a deep listening experience and draws the listener into its vortex. With the second track the pattern becomes clear: melodic lines (either plucked or piano) over drones and low vocals. The second track is more minimal, only utilizing an ancient sounding piano and vocals. "Three Sacraments" uses a xylophone-esque melody over layers of emotive pads and builds until tribal percussion comes in for the last third of the track. The successive tracks are all generally a variation of the aforementioned; strange and wondrous gothic-tinged acoustic melodies alongside deep reverberating droning textures and arcane vocals. I can't think of much to reference, except perhaps Vortex when the tracks have vocals - though Bisclaveret have much stronger production. The record maintains a constant sound throughout, though each track is different from it's predecessor. Many pieces are purely ambient, though some such as "Humani Sanctus" contain subtle, but effective, rhythmic elements. The album comes to a close with the epic "In the Hospital of Lost Souls" which has an extremely melancholic and sacral vibe to it conjured by the wonderfully dreary pad and heavenly (or perhaps, fallen from heaven) choir combo.
The biggest downside of the album is that it is very short - only 38 minutes in length.

This record is fairly hard to classify. Each track is quite different, though they all operate in a somewhat similar manner and purvey a certain dark, ritualistic tone. If you're interested in deep, ritual dark ambient but want something more active that utilizes instruments & percussion and does not rely purely on droning textures than give this a shot. The strong production values and atypical approach to the genre make this a memorable listening experience for sure.