Blacklight Records is a creative new company that carries music that is out of the ordinary. Industrial, post-Industrial, Darkwave, Noise, Experimental, Trance, Dance, Ambient . . . You get the picture. The music found on a Blacklight CD is not your standard top 40 stuff. Frankly, some of it is way left of center. But the sounds and ideas conveyed on these discs speak to the yearnings people have to fill the void of darkness in their lives. Sonic manipulations—for that is what some of these songs are—exhibit man’s interest in gaining control over his circumstances; of making life bearable. So far the following releases have been made: Escape the Furnace (a 2CD compilation). Machines in the Garden (part one of the Cataclysm Singles), Collapsing Structure (part two of the Cataclysm Singles) and Blackhouse’s “Shades of Black” album. Soon to be released will be Terra Firma vs. The Atmosphere (part three of the Cataclysm Singles), Fatal Blast Whip’s "Seduction" EP, and Torn Skin’s
This is my second Blackhouse CD, the first being “Shock the Nation”. You would never know there was any connection between the two were it not for the name. “Shock the Nation” was a sort of combination of hip-hop anthems and industrial stylings. It was an odd combination, but interesting. But this is something totally other. “Dreams Like These” is like a Hitchcockian journey into the id. It is a soundtrack that “hover(s) on that thin line that borders between consciousness & unconsciousness”. I find that very intriguing. No one will listen to this like it is music. It is not that. This is so minimalist I can only think of it as Dark Experimental Ambient Noise. One immediately thinks of Twitch and the various experimental works of Matt Franz, especially “The Fluoxitine Effect”. In other words, this is a soundtrack for the movies in your head. You must be brave listening to it as the sounds contained therein are as disturbing as watching movies like “Eraserhead” or “Pi: the Movie”. In the end, the listener is challenged to confront those inner demons and emerge having been on a mental roller coaster ride. Enjoy the Vertigo!
At this point a detailed review may be superfluous. ETF has already sold out at Blacklight Records and will soon be out of print depending on how long other distributors have it in stock. Thirty songs from as many artists; some are exclusive tracks others appear elsewhere. This is an incredible sampling of underground experimental, industrial, ambient, darkwave from many talented artists. Were it not for this compilation many of these groups would never have been heard. It is well worth buying especially if you’ve entertained the idea of either buying a tape/CD from one of these artists or getting into electronic music.
Actually recorded in 1997, some of the tracks on this CD have already appeared on various Blacklight releases such as the Cataclysm Singles (parts 1,2,3) and last year’s “Seduction” E.P. Now, Fatal Blast Whip return with their quirky style of Industrial music, this time in the form of a complete album. Tracks which have not appeared on previous Blacklight releases include: “Vobolox Communicator”, “Interrogation”, “Dia Countess”, “Surveillance”, “Crashsite”, and “Threshold”, unless I am mistaken. Many, but not all, of these new tunes are instrumentals.
For anyone who has never heard FBW before, imagine what Disco might sound like on Jupiter (pictured on back of CD)! What makes FBW’s music so compelling is that they effectively create a mood with their music which in turn accentuates the message of their lyrics. At times you might even picture all those weird creatures from Jupiter on a dance floor, other times you may feel that you are listening to a groovin’ horror soundtrack. My favorite tracks include “Slave Device”, “Seduction” and “Dr. Death”.
After appearing on the Cataclysm Singles Fatal Blast Whip emerges with their first official release. This CD, interestingly, has nine tracks, although only 8 are listed. I have been trying to figure out what that extra track is. It turns out to be track number 7. After a little investigation I discovered that the unlisted track is “Forbidden” from Collapsing Structure. In other news . . . the title track of this CD has been remixed by 4 different groups: Battery, Pivot Clowj, Joshua Bourke, and Scar Tissue. Of the remixes the first two, Battery and Pivot Clowj are recognizably similar to the original except that they exhibit the quirkiness particular to each of those groups—especially Pivot Clowj. Of the other two, the remixes are so different that the song isn’t even recognizably similar to the original. Now, about the original version of “Seduction” plus the tracks, “Slave Device” and “Re-creation”, the sound has an eerie numinous sound to it. Those who’ve heard “Re-Creation” on Machines in the Garden will understand what I mean. In a way the sound is similar to Circle of Dust, Klank, Argyle Park, and Level except that Fatal Blast Whip uses synthesizers exclusively and a broader range of sounds. In contrast, the songs “Forbidden” and “Dr. Death” are quite unique and the only real description I can give them is “creepy”. Very industrial in nature. In summary, Fatal Blast Whip, the brainchild of Derek Jones, is a unique odyssey into a dark world reminiscent of Paul’s words in Ephesians, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness in this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
I shall do little to describe the contents of this version as I have done so extensively for the re-issue below. It is going to be very hard now to get hold of this original version. The highlights of this version are different artwork, a few different tracks, and a “treatise” which explains the title of this compilation. Most significant are the different tracks and the “treatise”. The biggest track highlight is the one by Azure Skies which is made up of Samuel Durling of Mental Destruction and one member of Sanctum. I sure wish more would be forthcoming from that collaboration. Another track highlight is the one called, “Zatgrass” by The Reclusive Cypher, a side project of Cybershadow’s Jess MacIntyre. The other great highlight is the “treatise” which explains the title, “Machines In The Garden”. It explains that life began in the Garden of Eden and that life will end with a highly advanced technological society; thus the title.
Get this disc if you can.
You could call this music for the Post-modern age. Most of what is found here could be classified as Post-Industrial, I think. Needless to say, the Cataclysm Singles in their revamped form represent a wide range of musical experimentation that ranges from post-industrial to ambient to experimental noise. Your average radio fan will not understand.
This re-issue of Machines in the Garden has only four songs in common with the original release but has ten of the same groups. Whereas the original had 14 tracks, this one has 16. So, if you have the original release you can get this one and still come out ahead. On the other hand, if you miss the original you’ll miss six ten tracks not found here including the one by Azure Skies which is a collaboration between Mental Destruction and Sanctum. With all that said and done, let’s move on . . .
This CD opens with a haunting darkwave track from Caul that is rightly called, “Metempsychosis”. Other darkwave/ambient tracks are “Broken Transmitter” by Signalbleed, “Out of the Ashes” by Red Rum Trance (guitar-oriented), “Human Condition” by Autovoice (a departure from their usual structure), “Steel” by Thymikon, “Return to the Human World” by Twitch (really scary), Blackhouse’s “Reason To Live” (tv static?) , Dendography’s “Laceration of the 8ight 5wo7dS” (with drums), and Dopple Kode’s “Zero Sum Cosmic” (beautiful and spacey).
By way of contrast are the dance-oriented and/or drum-beat with orthodox song-structure tracks. First off is globalwavesystem’s “2040 Bit” which is quite enjoyable but sounds a lot like “Cardboard Box” from their Hypercrite EP. Torn Skin shares “Shoulders of Geniuses” which is another aggressive track for them and the title of their forthcoming EP from Blacklight. One of the best industrial tracks on here is Fatal Blast Whip’s “Re-Creation”. Personally, I like this track even better than the one on Collapsing Structure. Perhaps, though, the most upbeat track on this CD is “Light Storm” by Joshua Bourke. You’ll find it hard to sit down on this one. It is followed by a beautiful track called, “The Eleven Moon” by Evonica. It is really a good track. And also, there is “Remnant” by Aphorism which is a pre-millenial look at the nation of Israel lyrically, and somewhat similar to Sanctum musically.
Finally, I saved my favorite for last. The track “Moth” by Cradle->Grave. It is a synthesis of styles which begins with light conga playing (imagine a beatnik). As the track goes on it builds in intensity adding layer after layer of sound. The end result is a very dramatic, emotion rending song. I don’t know how else to describe it.
This CD is another example of the fine work.
Blacklight continues to release compilations of experimental music from bands that could be classified in a hundred different ways . . . First off you have Dendrography with a really bizarre semi-ambient, spoken word, noise track called “Shiva’s Tourniquet”. The title alone is enough to prick your curiosity. Next is a great track called “Shame” by Torn Skin. It has an industrial feel not unlike X-Propagation or Autovoice. The keyboards on this track are absolutely killer and hypnotic. It is truly one of the best tracks on the disc. It demonstrates why Blacklight has signed Torn Skin to the label. The next track is also very cool. The group is called Evonica and the song is “Contrast Equality”. It is a haunting track that could fit a dance club scene in a vampire movie (just my impression). It is also similar to some of the stuff on the Argyle Park CD. Later on track eight we meet another act signed to Blacklight called Fatal Blast Whip. Their track is another scary, gothic tune called “Forbidden”. It has a very Industrial feel in the vein of older Nine Inch Nails. Following FBW is a track by Liar’s Paradise which is the latest and best project by Matt Franz (see above). It includes lyrics by Andrew Niemann. Next comes Twitch with what I would call an Impressionistic or Surealistic track called “In The Darkness Clawing”. Truly mood music. My favorite track is “Out Of The Darkness” by Temple of the Times who sound somewhat like early Deitiphobia/X-Propagation with samples, dancy syncopated beats, etc. I think it is the best track. Also included on the disc are Blackhouse (also Blacklight artists) and Graphic Verses who are reviewed above, M-Edge, Jagged Doctrine who might be a cross between Mental Destruction and Industry 11, Anaphylaxis, the dancy New Society, Paragon Null with a part minimalist/part shoegazer track called “@trophy” and Colossal Spin.
As promised in Blacklight's pre-release info this disc focuses on the dance/industrial side of electronic music. The effect is to create the most consistent and satisfying disc in this three disc box set. Honestly, I have truly enjoyed listening to the great variety of styles from techno to ambient to industrial to darkwave on the first two discs (reviewed above), but obviously "switching gears" can diminish the overall effect. The tracks on Terra Firma Vs. The Atmosphere are all of a similar vein. And because they are from 16 different bands, you could put this disc in at a party and never need a DJ.
Many of the bands here, though not all, play a style of music akin to various Circle of Dust/Argyle Park songs. There is, of course, more variety due to the differing personalities and approaches of the musicians involved, and yet I think it is an appropriate comparison. The earlier tracks like Fatal Blast Whip's "Invasion (X-Files remix), Temple of the Times' "Bloodstained", A Different Kind of Cop's "Concession", Evonica's "Denial's Hypodermic", Skindot's "Distraught" are all keyboard dominated and dancy. Most of the tracks that follow are heavy and include guitar like Seek's "Revelation", Toxic Church's "Turn Around", Culture Whore's "Conflict" (really raw, aggressive) and so on. The last two songs are the only two oddballs of the group and I assume that is why they are last. Track 15 is "Lullaby" by new Gothic sensation Rackets and Drapes and the final track is another noise/mind twisting track from Matt Franz under the name of Shuriken. Each of these tracks are worth listening to.
You may notice that two tracks on this compilation also appeared on Escape the Furnace. Incorporated's "F#9mm" appears in the same form as it did there. However, the other track, "So Inspired" by Jagged Doctrine is about twice as long as the version on Escape the Furnace.
I find my self intrigued by the concept behind these three discs as well as the musicians behind the songs. This type of music is for the thinking person who has an interest in analyzing the theological and philosophical movement in humankind. It also explores the ever broadening scope of musical experimentation. Kudos go to Blacklight for picking some excellent tracks (48 in all, over 3 hours).
I was very eager to receive this CD because I enjoyed “Out of the Darkness” so much from Collapsing Structure: The Cataclysm Singles Pt. II and “Bloodstained” from “Terra Firma Vs. the Atmosphere: The Cataclysm Singles Pt. III”. Those songs really hooked me. Now I find myself listening to this E.P. and finding that the band is able to produce more than two catchy tunes. As their name suggests, Temple of the Times make it their business to comment on the culture in which we live. This is most obvious in the lyrics of the title track and also in the song “Babylon”. First, anyone who is paying attention will notice that “Requiem for the Lost Children” is a song about abortion. This message cannot be overemphasized, i.e., there are millions of victims in our society without a voice, the lost children. “Bloodstained” talks about the fallenness of humankind and “Babylon” talks about the idolatry of humankind. “Seventh Seal” obviously comes from the prophecies in the book of Revelation and describes a bleak scene on Earth as a result of sin and judgement, and “Out of the Darkness” speaks of spiritual deliverance by leaving the world of sin behind and being sanctified by God’s power, a reference to I Peter 2:9. So from a lyrical standpoint, tracks 1-6 follow a logical progression from the sinful, fallen state of humankind to judgement and redemption. This is very well done. From the lyrical standpoint alone this release is a good buy.
Then there is the music. There is a real sense in which these are rock ‘n roll songs played with electronic keyboards, synthesizers, and drum machines. There are so many nuances in electronic music today, but the basic structure of songs 1-6 are really pretty straight-forward. It is not until you get to the remixes (tracks 7-10) that they take on a more characteristically electronic flair. Especially noticeable is the remix of “Requiem …” by Pulse Legion which I think is rightly described as Electric Body Music (EBM). The remix by 9th Wave sounds very aggressive synth-pop in the vein of The Nine or Neuroactive. The vocals on this remix sound almost gangsta rap. Needless to say, there is a lot here both lyrically and musically. In my opinion, this release is one of the most profound yet released by Blacklight.
Review coming soon!
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