Ad Inferna - Heroine (Revisited Trance Und Tanz) (Ionium Records)

Pretty much in line with my closing comments about the remixes featured on the original Trance'n Dance release, I can hardly find any hints of improvements over the original offerings in this Revisited edition of the work, offering "dance" remixes by the band themselves and four remixes/collaboration with the likes of Colony 5, Supreme Court, C-Lekktor and Micky Noise (sic). The addition of "dance" elements squarely detracts from the rhythmic power of the originals and projects Ad Inferna where they do not want to be if they like to stick out from the shapeless mass. The simple ingeniousness of the un-revisited tracks still strongly permeates the album, but the exercise of adding trite dance elements for the sake of it comes through as purely academic and does them no favour whatsoever. Similar considerations apply to the guest remixes. Hopefully Ad Inferna are not going to turn to cater to empty drugheads only and will instead move over to refine their skills on some forward looking, substance-abuse independent terms. Looking forward to their forthcoming DSM album, hoping to find good news therein. www.adinferna.com - www.ionium-records.info

Gianfri

Ad Inferna - DSM (Nilaihah Records)

And following the debatable effort of seen in Heroine (Revisited Trance un Tanz) the remix bonanza that has preceded this latest original release, good news indeed we find in DSM, which sees Ad Inferna reaching once more for their abilities in creating utterly groovy and sexy tunes. Powered by solid beats, dark and quick moving synth lines and a captivatingly mysterious vocal work, the French duo press forward in the dark electronic arena by revamping the best concepts of the glorious tradition of the genre, mixing in the right blend of goth glamour and dancefloor stimuli. Think (early) VNV Nation on a ride with (early) Project Pitchfork with the added value of sexed-up vocalists (male and female) who imprint their unique touch on the work. Numbers like The Second Half of the Sky or Crime Body are solid dancefloor winners bound to make the joy and happiness of DJs and punters alike, but as much as these tracks might stand out, the level is quite high throughout and Ad Inferna churn through the unadultered power of nine tracks, before getting themselves once more suicidally swamped in remixes that once again do nothing to improve on the originals. On the other hand, these three unnecessarily and forcedly pumped up tracks once again break the dark sensual spell brought by the album, which I find quite hard to believe the band are happy with as an option. www.adinferna.com - www.nilaihah.com

Gianfri

Aeon Sable - Per Aspera ad Astra (AF-music)

Debut without a bang for this German duo offering seven anemic tracks of seriously toned down goth rock. Their allege their music to hold atmospheres ranging from The Fields of The Nephilim to the The Sisters of Mercy, but I can only take this as a severely unfulfilled manifesto. Skeletonic arrangements, lack of innovation, unremarkable vocals and uninspired guitar work tell the listener there's a long hard way ahead of the two if they choose the way of gothic rock stardom. Only one track out of six, Agnosia, tells me that Aeon Sable are on to something, even if just to competently replicate something that's been done to death already. www.aeonsable.de

Gianfri

Alice in Videoland - A Million Thoughts and They're All About You (Artoffact)

I guess the heritage of ber pop acts like ABBA has left un un-deleteble mark on the Swedish scenes for generations to come. That's not to say Alice in Videoland sound like ABBA at all (no-one could, really!), however, they do share the jolly spirit, the taste for the tune and the instigation to dance to it in liberating fashion. On a sunny day. They put themselves forward as the "world's greatest electropunkband" and dare we disagree? Well, they surely have fine tunes and carry a contagious dancefloor viral stream. They have also moved forward remarkably since She's a Machine, so I was going to trying a closer dissection of their musical abilities. On second thoughts, I am going to remain fairly superficial and simply state that A Million Thoughts and They're All About You does feature quite fine moments, not surprisingly, those where the bpm slow down and the totally contrived "punky" attitude is left aside, as there is none of it anyway even when they ramp up the rhythm. That is basically due to the fact that they have stepped up the use of synths in a more creative fashion. No re-invention of the wheel, simply some steps up from their previous incarnation, which is not enough for me to go out scream about Alice in Videoland, but might please a few out there, specially as the warm season comes up. www.artoffact.com

Gianfri

All My Faith Lost - Decade (Final Muzik)

The album title is a reference to the band's first ten years of activity and, indeed, Decade has been released to mark this occurrence, towards the end of 2009. The Italian duo, who on this album are also strong of the collaboration of a number additional musicians, list among their credentials Cold Meat Industry, for whom they have released their two full-length albums in 2005 and 2007. They combine in crystalline fashion elements of the purest romantic darkwave of the heydays, melancholy and softly sung poetry, and evoke dreamy atmospheres that give the listener the feeling of being frail to the point they gently evaporate around our hearths and keep them worm with their soft touch. Aside from softly strummed classic guitars, cello, violin and the occasional piano passage provide the soft cradle upon which Viola and Federico perform their caressing vocal passages. If you long for peaceful atmospheres and long forgotten romanticism, look no further than this, All My Faith Lost are a pristine source for both. www.allfaithlost.com - www.finalmuzik.com

Gianfri

Attrition - Dante's Kitchen (Two Gods Recording)

Technically the last original album release by Attrition, Dante's Kitchen saw the light of CD shops in 2004, over two decades after their first release. Martin sought to add a layer, with violin parts that sit in place of synth string backdrops or complement them in places, giving a softer edge to the work on many levels. Ambiences are brought forward on many tracks, pushing the fat electronics a step back than usual, but only rarely renouncing the sense of odd quasi-danceable ritual that accompanies much of the band's production. Dante's Kitchen is a much darker work than average in Attrition's portfolio, one where the usual ingredients are all twisted to apparently divergent directions and are then craftly melanged back to give life to an unpinnable work of dark dramatic electronic gothic connotations. Dark, mysterious, attractive, tempting, seductive, Dante's Kitchen possesses the hidden power to take your senses for a spin in subtle unexpected ways. This latest releases, asides from being fully remastered, adds 4 remixes of the track The Head of Gabriel. Not much gain there, if you ask me, in the context of this album. www.attrition.co.uk

Gianfri

Attrition - The Hidden Agenda (Two Gods Recording)

We continue parsing Attrition's back catalogue in its new and improved incarnation of remastered re-releases , courtesy of Martin Bowes' own Two Gods Recording label. We are proceeding in seemingly random order, as releases have piled up, so today I though tit appropriate to spin one of the hottest albums in the band revered career: The Hidden Agenda. This ranks among the highest in my personal favorite list, and I think I'm not far from the truth if I state that this is the album is the incarnation of the highest levels of Martin Bowes and Julia Waller partnership. One of the first things that pops up to the listener attention upon spinning the disk, is the fact that there's little to nothing on it betraying its revered age. 1993 was the year the work was originally released, and I frankly cannot think of just one more example of an album that could have been released yesterday, or any day during the past 18 years and still be able to disguise its age with such ease. Martin's electronic arrangements, a combination of gritty electronic phrases, fatter than life bass lines, laid against a backdrop of atmospheric synth movements, have meanwhile become an universally celebrated manifesto of electronic avant-garde going hand in hand with a moderate gothic sensation. These are laid down at their best here, with Martin's trademark growled quasi-spoken vocal work, coupled with Julia's unique counterpoint that ranges from operatic to ethereal and much in between. Here is where ber classics such as Lip Sync and Mercy Machine have found their first life. Now, if there's an album I would urge any relatively recent scenesters to go and listen to, this is Hidden Agenda. This edition also includes three tracks extra to the original, which first appeared on the Lip Sync single. Although not the first time the album is released featuring this tracklist, there are obvious improvements over previous versions due to a wise remastering process. www.attrition.co.uk

Gianfri

BAK XIII - Ibi Deficit Orbis (Urgence Disk)

Having followed BAK XIII since their acclaimed debut In Cauda Venenum, back in 2003, I have to say that I have enjoyed almost every bit of their 80's powered fusion of old and modern flavours of electro-pop, without shying away from the re-enforcing use of a dirty rhythm guitar. They have kept their output quite dynamic with each album offering a slightly different musical thematic, while their sonic signature remains throughout. Once again they have come up with an enjoyable assortment of tracks that offer joyful beats, quirky synths and flowing melodies and yet guitar to surge yet to a more prominent role. Beats. And fat basslines. Yes, let's not forget that BAK XIII are 100% danceable mainly on that account of that and the closely tied synth lines. Nearly every band who have started out on pure electronics have added the grunge of a dirty guitar along the way, and although I can see how it bodies up the sound, on some tracks it ends up feeling a bit overused on this album. On Saturday Night, or the Vanguard, for example, which both seem a bit too contrived. Among the highest ranking tracks I'd list, purely to my taste, the much upbeat Yes We Can't with it's NDW underlying electronics popping up midway and towards the end, the opener We Are Alive with its pushing rhythm and the more laid back In The Name of Industry or Twilight Prayer, BAK XIII have always had a pinch for the melodic slowlies. In fact, let me mention the second of two hidden tracks, a little jewel of drama-filled pop, with non name, but sitting there to be discovered as one of the nicest treats on this album. www.bak13.ch - www.darksite.ch/urgences

Gianfri

Beata Beatrix - In The Garden of Ecstasy (Wave Records)

Hailing from Tuscany, Italy, Beata Beatrix offer some seriously tuneful darkwave, graced by a captivating vocal performance by Hatria who sports versatile vocal qualities, being the leading force behind the band's efforts. Musically, they fluently combine some of the most distinguished traits of that Euro wave that is no shy with synth elements and pursues the rhythmic patterns a step further than many. In the garden of Ecstasy is the band debut long player, following on the trial of three successful demos, and it is remarkable how they come through unscathed on the long distance, as they convincingly sustain attention despite their diminutive 3-piece line-up. Synths and drum machine are very scholastic, yet these succeed in coming through neatly, providing the perfect backdrop for Hatria vocal adventures. They fluctuate seamlessly from electro pop to glam wave, goth rock to ethereal and find a very inspired moment of socially themed synth-wave with My Mother Is like A Stereo, which approaches the issue of sexual violence against children with a touch of retro bounciness. This is some seriously good synth-based wave that breaths some fresh air in the forever ailing goth scene. www.waverecordsmusic.com

Gianfri

Bisclaveret - Ephemeros [ante 'Te Deum'] (Zoharum)

With Ephemeros, there's a clear drift of Bisclaveret towards ritualistic atmospheres, a new-ish trait in the works of this increasingly affirmed duo from Poland. With seven tracks named after seven angels, Ephemeros offers pulsating dark ambiences made of drama and repetitiveness, complemented by supernatural vocal work tinted in esoteric shades, vaguely similar in some instances from the likes of Current 93 or friends, but considerably more intelligible, dark and mysterious in general. Maybe a clich, but dim lights to no lights is what best complements the listening experience here. Piano but also heavily treated guitars, mind caressing synth pads, heavenly choirs and a clever use of samples and electronics lift this work out of the crowded dark ambient arena, and into the more exclusive area of esoterism. A nice listening experience, capable of lifting you out of the everyday fluff while attempting to reconnect you with your interior grandeur, or what is left of it. www.bisclaveret.com - www.zoharum.com

Gianfri

Corazzata Valdemone Vs. Fukte - Manipulations (Toxics Industries)

The eye, as they say, wants its share, but the ear isn't penalised nonetheless. Thick rusted wire wraps the hand-made cardboard sleeve for this work between Corazzata Valdemone and Fukte, and the 39 minutes of mostly shapeless noise are as likely to bruise your ears as the wrapping is to bruise your hands. Neither of the two halves making up this work is known for compromising their harsh rendition of the sonic palate with concessions to the predictable arrogant pretentiousness of the self-proclaimed sin-frees. Least we think Corazzata or Fukte get out there simply to please the ears of the indoctrinated. Manipulations speaks the mother tongue of power noise and sonic deviance. Even the ever so celebrated rhythmic pattern that are often the driving vector in the genre are shoved into the background here, as the two protagonists enjoy the freedom of not playing by any standard. Even by power noise standard, they manage to deviate towards a hybrid that moves subtly -or sometimes not so- towards even more abstract levels of aural disconcert. Corazzata's pompous sonic totalitarism is quickly dissolved into Fukte's own nomadic grittiness. The mlange takes shape track by track and let me re-iterate it: this isn't for the subjugated. Even by power noise standards, Manipulations is pretty hard to digest, which, I guess could possibly be exactly the goal of the authors. www.toxicindustries.net84.net

Gianfri

Dawnfine - Imperfect Thoughts (Hybrido Records)

A very competent take on classic euro synthpop by this Brazilian outfit who have clearly elected to their heroes such acts like Depeche Mode or De/Vision. Imperfect Thoughts is their debut album and sums up the best elements of a genre that has flourished back in the eighties and nineties and has carried along up to the new century and who knows how long it is going to stay with us. Sporting a vocal style clearly inspired to Depeche Mode of the happiest times and some clean electronic delicacy that is clearly more new century than old, the trio showcases a fine ear for the caressing tune and a undiscussed competence in the songwriting and arrangement department. Allegedly, there's little of revolutionary happening here, but there's not always meant to be. Dawnfine interpret their role with ease, if anything, I am surprised at the lack of a hit tune on the album. But I am inclined to give them time to mature, this is their debut album after all. www.waverecordsmusic.com

Gianfri

Destini Beard with Midnight Syndicate - The Dark Masquarade EP (Linfaldia Records)

This is a treat by Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka of Midnight Syndicate, who join here forces with a young soprano chanteouse to give a new breathe of life to some of their tracks. Destini's theatrical interpretation is quite powerful, yet angelical and mesmerising at once, fitting like a glove the celebrated gothic style that is the blueprint of Edward and Gavin. I have to admit I have a soft spot for their gothic fantasy soundtracks since day one, so to discover how well this can work with a talented vocalist on top has been quite a rewarding revelation. One special mention goes for the last of the six tracks on offer, which is an electronic based remix that is quite reminiscent of Die Form. If you love gothic atmospheres, and even more to the point, if you love the trademark gothic of Midnight Syndicate, make sure you get hold of this little jewel. www.destinibeard.com - www.midnightsyndicate.com

Gianfri

Different State - Through The Falling Eyelid (Zoharum)

Different State is Marek Marchoff and is ranked high in Poland within the electronic industrial scenes. Through The Falling Eyelid is a fine work of hypnotic electronica, offering over one hour of laid back compositions that almost invariably sit on lazy beats and feature a variety of aspects of knob-twisting synthetic experimentation. Atmospheres remain quite sombre throughout, ambiences build up, come and go, rarely stay still, but wander in slow motion. While there is apparently nothing outrageously avant-gardist on this release, a less casual and more detailed listen is bound to reveal a lot going across the ten tracks on offer, including some pretty subtle experimental touches that are in fact the main general motifs on the album. You'll find also electric guitars though, so be warned in case you're a synth purist as there are no such boundaries here. Some sparse spoken word touches add to the feel of mystery on some tracks and, yes, even a subtle layer of spookiness envelopes from top to bottom. This is by no means an easy listen, on any count you'll need either the right laid back forma mentis or the matching taste for obscure diversions of moods. Or, indeed, a combination of the two. http://requiem.serpent.pl/differentstate - www.zoharum.com

Gianfri

Dperd - Io sono un errore (My Kingdom Music)

The quiet, sweet and melancholic romanticism of Dperd is one bound to strike love at first listen to all gentle hearts out there. Dperd are Valeria Buono and Carlo Disimone, who have to their active a two-decade long working experience within the Italian dark scenes. Their autumnal compositions, centered around Valeria's accomplished vocal performances, occasionally joined in duets by Carlo, dig in the best celebrated tradition of darkwave, with moody synth lines and clean cut basslines underpinning the tracks, clean drum programming, quiet guitar and piano phrases that give life to a range of moments going from crepuscular and emotional to elegantly gothic. They feel slightly less convincing when moving more towards post-punk territories, which they cannot simply cut that proficiently. This is marginal, however, as it is sufficient to ignore the last track on the album to get none of that. Otherwise an album that deserves full attention within the dark circles. www.dperd.com

Gianfri

Femina Faber - Tumultuor (Creative Fields)

Tumultuor is the debut full length work for the Femina Faber project, the brainchild of miss Paola Bianchi, one that fuses gracefully electronic and industrial sonorities with ethereal touches and enchanting lyricism, with texts in Latin that are a fantastic vehicle for exposing her talents as a vocalist. Contrary to artists that would first spring to mind when listening to Femina Faber, the most obvious of which could be Qntal or Helium Vola, there's is here a vast feel of avant-gardism in the musical backdrops to Paola's vocal work, to the point, in fact, that these can not be considered much as backdrops, but acquire a powerful role in the arrangements, surging to the listener attention with equal strength as the vocals do. Although alone in fronting the project, Paola enjoys the serious forward-looking musicianship of Fausto Balbo and Marco Milanesio of DsosDne, 9cento9 and a034 and the outcome is a highly enjoyable work of avant-etherealism that manages to titillate at once the romantic and innovatory, oblique instincts that creep within most of us. www.ludmila.it/femina.htm

Gianfri

Haggard - Awaking The Centuries (Artoffact)

A long-celebrated milestone in the goth/folk/metal arena, Awaking The Centuries was originally released by Drakkar back in year 2000 and has now been courteously brought back to the masses with this re-release by Artoffact. Goth-metal is not known for being our most comfortable playground, so it rarely falls under our radar. Awaking The Century did however manage to strike a neat balance between metal and classical elements, adding folkloristic touches and a well measured sprinkle of bombastic that blends right in as is never overblown. The metal elements are as a matter of fact an additional twist to the classic/folk themes and add drama and action to the production, which results in a very lively and theatrical album. Not a band as such, but a collection of an undefined number of musicians, they manage to enlist the New Moscow Radio Choir on this album, bringing even more theatrical action, while the solo male and female voices also work in that direction: be ready to put up with stereotypical guttural male vocals and operatic female exhibitions, but fear not as none of these elements is overdone at any point. Female vocals also take more delicious shapes which, coupled with choirs do give birth to suggestive landscapes that even briefly touch ton he dreamy in a few instances. Haggard also sported the gracious intelligence of folding the opus at just over 37 minutes, which I take it as a sign of the fact they did know exactly what they were doing when conceiving and putting together this album. It strikes me as a very natural measure to take to keep your musical message very focused, yet since the advent of the digital formats (CD and beyond), very few artists seem to take this as a valued starting point in their productions. If this album can keep me, a very skeptical goth/folk/metal listener, quite interested indeed, I take it it has the potential to work wonders on many more out there. And let's not forget this is a classic album for those well into the genre. www.artoffact.com

Gianfri

Haggard - Eppur si Muove (Artoffact)

Following on the acclaimed Awake The Century release, Haggard took four year to release another album, moving on from folk elements to fully blown symphonic orchestrations to celebrate with their pour Eppur Si Muove no one less than Galileo Galilei. Their interpretation evolves into even more articulate arrangements and epic movements. In doing so, it trades some of the most immediate appeal of their previous works, and not so rarely does it fall into the scholastic pretentiousness of prog metal, something we thought had forever been consigned to history. And rightly so. Eppur si Muove doesn't actually move itself much further away from some stereotypical canons of interpretation of the genre, resulting in a fatiguing listening experience, mostly devoid of thrilling moments. Unexciting, in other words. Nevertheless worth a praise is the effort put in by Artoffact, to release those works away across the ocean for the first time. www.artoffact.com

Gianfri

Horologium - A Handful of Dust And Ashes (Zoharum)

Grzegorz Siedlecki started his Horologium project back in 2004 and this release holds tracks originally published on the early ultra-limited album A Handful of Dust and the EP from the same year (2005) Opium. Navigating pretty dark waters, Horologium is a good example of dark industrial tinted in heavy ritual tones, enveloped in lo-fi, bare to the bone, black and white ambiences, that have been the bread and butter of a sizable army of no-wave dark artists out there bend on esoteric and similar anti-mainstream elements. One can taste influences from early days Ain Soph spread all over the 17 tracks featured, but these become very evident in Absoluta, the closing track of the Opium EP, and this alone should you give a measure of what to expect on this album. The last three tracks on the title list are live recordings, and this is a nice addition indeed, as it is always fascinating to compare the live vibe of such bare-bone projects, which is not very different from what you hear on the studio works at any rate. www.zoharum.com

Gianfri

K. Stanislavsky - End of All Things (Zoharum)

End of All Things marks the debut of Krzysztof Stanislavsky, who is a composer from Poland, and judging from this work, is one with serious credential for soundtrack scoring. What makes his work much intriguing for us at Darklife, is the highly electronic nature of his compositions. If this were a soundtrack, it would be one to a film dealing very likely with futurist settings, action, the word "cyber" thrown in somewhere down the title. The feel of the compositions is also genuinely dark, the school is definitely dark electro-industrial, with pulsating electronics, solid and complex driving rhythms, nicely complemented by a pompous share of orchestrations suggesting much action and drama. www.zoharum.com

Gianfri

Klaws Krossed - Kon-cept[e] Kon-tent[e] Kon-text[e] (Self-released)

Klaws Krossed embodies a transoceanic collaboration between Portlad, Oregon and Caserta, Southern Italy, homes of, respectively, Demian Rufus and Giuseppe Nunziante. They've flirted intensively over their reciprocal experimental, avant-garde and quasi-esoteric abilities and conjured up this work of deep dark mind numbing obsessive sonic manipulation and experimentation. Thoroughly punctuated by Demian's devilishly spoken lyrics, Kon-cept[e] Kon-tent[e] Kon-text[e] is essentially made of dark ambient/industrial soundscapes, soaking the voice-over into a mlange of immaterial cinematic moments that move very fluidly considering the limited scope of the subject matter. The limitations of which, only come to surface if you approach this work from a sane, consequential frame of mind. In the absence of which, it is very easy to become entrapped in the tangled labyrinth of abstract and immaterial scenes pictured over the course of the hour-long exercise. It is not quite as mesmerising as some, say, Coil seminal offerings, but that's the very direction you're heading to with this album. Maybe that's stretching it a bit too far, but there's a taste of early Ain Soph to be savored while listening to Kon-cept[e] Kon-tent[e] Kon-text[e], which, provided you've freed yourself from the sane, consequential frame of mind, can only be a highly intriguing and rewarding experience. www.myspace.com/klawskrossed

Gianfri

Lightphaser - Flashback (Self-released)

On a route to light to mid-weight rhythm electronica, Joseph Gogh proposes his own project Lightphaser with a quality sequence of tracks that showcase his penchant and talent for spacey atmospheres, upbeat rhythms, and a wink or two to quality EBM. Stereo field wide open, Mr Gogh exercises his abilities with highly articulated electronic sequences that own that correct balance between lounge and trance, and hold the potential to boost listeners' moods spiraling all over. This feels considerably more than a one-man effort: non only the electronic instrumentation is governed with transparent easiness, but the pondered addition of suitably treated vocal phrases adds a classy touch to the production. A female voice plays a role on a coupe of tracks, ingeniously bending the scenario slightly, which is a very clever move when playing mainly on repetitiveness and mind numbing atmospheres. I can read on Flashback many a creative reference to acts like Front 242 circa Up Evil / Off, and their late hi-tech electronica off-springs, which in my book can only be a great thing, and Joseph's interpretation is nothing short of superb. All this album could benefit for, if at all, is an additional layer of gloss in the form of high level mastering. www.lightphaser.hu

Gianfri

Ludmila - Disadorne (Milarecords)

With Disadorne we are looking over half a decade back now, the official debut on the long player format for this duo from Milan, consisting of Luca Valisi and Paola Bianchi, that has been released back in 2005. It's nice to sometimes look back at something that is not the flavour of the season, but is indeed something that has the potential to live on past fashions and marketing campaigns. As a matter of fact, Disadorne is a nice call-back on the best tradition of the melodic, electric darkwave that was big in the eighties and has since survived many of the aforementioned marketing campaigns and lives on with pride. Punctuated by pulsating melodies played on a bass guitar and minimal additional electronic ornaments, including rigorously programmed drum machines, Paola vocals gently work their way on each track, offering positive lyricism balanced between upbeat romanticism and a touch of melancholy. The sound is very raw and minimal and the vocals themselves are graced by minimal treatments, trying to retain as much as possible of the singer expressivity, and combining in a quite edgy, yet graceful way with the cut-to-the-bone arrangements. The occasional touch of avant-gardism provides that extra edge that moves this work a few steps away from pure and unadultered darkwave of the old school. Surely a dive in the past, but Ludmila have a few tricks down their sleeve that have the potential to hook the listeners and candidly resist to let go of them. www.ludmila.it

Gianfri

Mystified - Passing through The Outer Gates (Eulogy Series, Vol I) (First Fallen Star)

There is a theme around this series, the Eulogy Series, not surprisingly being the own passing away, as subjectively felt by the author. However macabre and not everyday's subject of attention in many people's mind, this is a pretty broad theme to be put into music, and dark, experimental ambient is strong, as a genre, of many tools that are very well suited to the task. Thomas Park, who is the man behind the Mystified moniker, is the man at the console, the one trying to describe his own demise and subsequent steps towards the alleged final place of rest reached by the souls. There is plenty of imagery going with the concept, the brand of dark and orchestral cinematic atmospheres built by Thomas doing full justice to all those and more, yet I can't fully tie the images shaping up in my mind while listening to this 50-minute opus merely to the concept of passing away and all that ensues, spiritually and mystically. The author's view is central to the work and that being a very personal view, comes through as very hard to convey in linear manner. Put it in other words, this could be the soundtrack to almost anything that evokes feelings ranging from deep Autumn melancholy in the intimacy of a lonely person place to the aftermath of some unspecified tragedy that has hit a wider population in a forgotten land. Either way, no sun shines on the eight tracks featured on this disk and I think we can all agree on that. The compositions are very much the fruit of a talented author, bringing together pure dark ambient and drone elements with an organic substrate that owns squarely to classical and orchestral music, albeit never rendered in its native ponderous shaping. Mystified journey through his own death is remarkably straight to the point. All traces of possible suffering have been removed, or they are not transparent to the listener, if you wish. If death is, this is a painless one and the focus appears to be on what comes next, none of which evokes drama or an implied feel something deeply bad has happened at all. Not quite "smile through your death", but certainly an approach of positivism to the message of eternal departure. Aside from all these considerations, Passing through The Outer Gates is a delicious experience, it's both delicate to the ears and pleasantly relaxing to the soul. An additional mention has got to go to the packaging. Coming in A5 "digipack" style gatefold sleeve with some special graphic and design features, this product shows that not all is lost and in the era of diminutive "as-cheap-as-you-can" digital releases, there still exist people out there who take releasing music and related artwork very seriously. First Fallen Star rank up high, get hold of this release and it's very easy to see why. www.firstfallenstar.com

Gianfri

Noisiv - DE ca DE (Self-released)

There's a deep abstraction layer between Noisiv and the listener, not straightforward to overcome or get adjusted to, so I'd recommend this be attentioned by a keen audience only, those able to gain deserved satisfaction from the listening experience. Noisiv are purportedly a no-beat project, with their hand pretty heavy on obscure texturing, with high quality and sleekly moving phrases whose extra strength lies in retaining a raw, gritty character, abrasive to the ear and soul at once. The occasional and carefree inclusion of vaguely ritual elements, is far from the norm in this genre, and the claustrophobic soundscapes that emerge add to this voyage through the first ten years of this twisted avant-gardist project. No-wave, no-tune, no-beat, no-drone. Anything else, yes. Be prepared to find no component of traditional, and even less so, music as you know it. Only visionary soundscapes with Noisiv. noisiv.de.vu

Gianfri

Patenbrigade: Wolff- Baustoff [Popmusik fr Rohrleger] (Zweieck)

It's remarkable the extent to which electronic pop has remained big in countries like Germany. When you consider the "catchy tune" phase space, I bet you wouldn't immediately think of how vast it can prove itself to be. Patenbrigade: Wolff are the current case in point, an outfit from Berlin who were grounded as far back as 1998, a spin-off of Dust of Basement former member Sven Wolff. The second project member is Lance Murdock. They have only come into the scene three years later in 2001 and it has since been obvious they can tell a good melody from a bad one really efficiently, know a lot about how to create highly polished synthetic landscapes, and also understand the much important concept of balancing beats with atmospheres. They cleverly avoid getting trapped in the pit of danceful tunes just for the sake of it and also cleverly steer clear from the high-BPM race. Their only (highly) peculiar trait is their main concept being based on imagery derived from the building trade. But this is a peculiarity made in Germany, where irony and sense of humor are concepts very sharply tuned to the local culture and traditions. There are deeply enchanting synthpop tunes on Baustoff, the most shining of which feature female vocalists, there are atmospheric tunes once more graced mainly -but not only- by gentle-gender vocals, but also a nod to masters Kraftwerk on the title track. More plagiarism than a nod, in fact. Also some leaning towards higher hitting EBM contents surfaces every now and then, perhaps the best moments of the album. There's no denying Patenbrigade: Wolff know how to operate their electronic gear truly well and, most importantly, their songwriting skills are very well catered for. It's only the ber silliness about the whole construction theme that plays a little against the desire to take them all too seriously. Unless you're German, of course, and qualify to find this fun. www.patenbrigade.com

Gianfri

Paper Gods - The Black Thalya (Fossil Dungeon)

Paper Gods feature John Fair of Lycia fame and The Black Thalya is a 15-minute bash of six short orchestral compositions that leave the listener with the uncomfortable feeling of having listened to just a home made demo. There are surely fine ideas in this EP, but to my ears orchestral music is way beyond this basic sketch of ideas. www.fossildungeon.com

Gianfri

Pecadores - Rogai Por Ns, Pecadores! (Wave Records)

EBM in costumes is not something new, and there is a whole school in South America riding this wave since many years. Pecadores, from Brazil, fit right in, proposing a theatrical take on Electronic Body Music that has good moments overall. What we have here is essentially driving beats, a selection of percussive elements and sparse electronics on top of that. All as a base to some abused devilish vocals, which frequently come for free in EBM from South America. While as I've mentioned there are some good moments, it all grows pretty tiring quite soon, as the core of almost all songs is made of a tireless tirade of beats over which the heavily distorted vocals go on with decreasing degrees of success in terms of aural excitement. Some hints to tribal elements make up for a bit of added interest, but overall the listening experience is quite flat and devoid of stand-out moments. www.pecadores.net - www.waverecordsmusic.com

Gianfri

Plastic Noir - Dead Pop (Pisces Records)

Plastique Noir is a blistering act out of Brazil, offering their valuable take on a genre that has been a pillar of the European scene back in the eighties, namely goth rock with an attitude. Welcome back to the days of goth rock as a dance act, those basslines doing the melody, those witty guitar riffs, the minimal synths and the mechanical drumming of a drum machine meant to resemble a drummer playing like a drum machine. Tons of energy and a creepy feel are the most immediate characteristics of the band's performance on Dead Pop and there are numbers on this disk, like Creep Show or Killdergarten, that possess all the qualities of the best goth-rock of the heydays, namely power and a tune. Yes, it sounds a bit like a dj-vu, but there is something un-refrainably appealing about Plastic Noir's go at the world of fun in darkness. There is something deeply paradoxical about hailing the debut long-player release buy a Brazilian band as a stand-out release in goth rock terms, just now as goth rock has dissolved itself to nothing but a memory of the past. Just a bad case of nostalgia, or true added value on Plastic Noir? I am not quite sure yet, all I know right now is that this album is damn good regardless. www.plastiquenoir.net - www.waverecordsmusic.com

Gianfri

Secret Druid Society - Restless (First Fallen Star)

If you're one of those who still hope to dance to the beat of a dark ambient record, I'm afraid that once more you'd be disappointed. I'd advice, in fact, to give up on that hope, as it is called dark ambient for a reason. Secret Druid Society are an outfit from Australia and that's all news available on them at this point in time. Ah, they're a duo. They work heavily with drones, not the first nor the last to do so, of course and as the majority, or totality, of artists engaged in this genre, they prop a concept up behind their work. Restless is meant to descriptive of the forces going about our planet once it has finally managed to get rid of its fastidious human leeches. It is intriguing and there's a potential for quite some powerful imagery behind it, but in the duo imagination the planet seems to go on with unpretentious nonchalance and remarkable uneventfulness. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't exactly expecting to dance to the beat of erupting volcanoes, but a higher amount of drama, that yes. Of course, as it always is with instrumental tracks, and even more so in the case of droning ambient, it is really up to the listener to attach their own visions and rolling images to the soundscapes, but as a matter of fact, things get a tad more biting once past the halfway mark, but just a tad more so, not enough I'm afraid to satisfy the curiosity spiced up in me by the theme. www.secretdruidsociety.org - www.firstfallenstar.com

Gianfri

Strange2 - Ciclos (Lovethechaos)

Ciclos (Cycles) is a fairly mature work of mid-tempo electronica that exposes many of the driving traits and limitations at the same time of the genre. This comes rather often in the form of nice vibes, cleverly put together soundscapes coupled with occasional lack of focus that diminishes the potential impact of the work. Ciclos moves along nice and clean patterns, but its complex structure does not quite match the immediacy of the rendition in a way. It feels like it's far too simple for its real character, while way too complex for the main mood it seems to be centered around. Upon repeated listening, I have come to the conclusion that the nice face-lift of modern electronica is a bit deceiving as there's quite more depth to that. So Strange2 are a strange beast indeed, my personal feel is that a bit more bite in places would have more clearly asserted the true nature of this project, as it transpires from repeated listening. There's lots of great stuff in Ciclos, a bit more of framework would have helped pushing the strongest messages through. www.lovethechaos.net

Gianfri

Sylvgheist Malstrm - Lahar (Connexion Bizarre)

Sylvgheist Malstrm is the project of Julien Sylvgheist, a French polyhedric artist who employs electronic industrial sonorities to convey his vision of the inexorable supremacy of nature over the shaky human (so-called) civilisation. The thematic around which Lahar revolves is said to be the 1980's eruption of the Saint Helen volcano, which had been, at the time, dormant for over thirty years. The album is said to have been a decade in the composition form, before finally being recorded and released in 2010. If we put aside the inspiration behind the scenes, what we have is a fluid outpour of dark electronic industrial in the best tradition of artists usually connected to labels such as Brume Records. Indeed, Julien Sylvgheist have had connections with Brume in the form of some compilation tracks. Lahar (which translates into volcanic mudslide) offers high value dark electronics, firmly sitting on busy rhythmic patterns, dense atmospheric layers of synths to create hypnotic cavalcades of pristine dark rhythmic industrial with a potential wide range as target audience in the scene. I frankly have to admit that not in the least this evokes natural catastrophes or "the inexorable character of death and destruction" (as cited verbatim from the accompanying notes) to me. This is not to diminish the value of this work (which I personally find highly titillating to the senses), but either my expectations about death and destruction have become integral part of my forma mentis so that they are everyday life to me, or one can simply enjoy this without any further picture attached to it. Either way, industrialheads, check it out and you'll be rewarded. www.sylvgheistmaelstrom.com

Gianfri

Testing Vault - Phantasmagoria EP (Final Muzik)

Testing Vault is a rather beast indeed, a thoroughly experimental project run by Daniele Santagiuliana and active in the underground scenes since back in 2003. Phantasmagoria is wrapped in a maniacal aura, driven by an inscrutable spoken word work (the intelligibility of which augmented by it being in Greek language) emerging worryingly from a backdrop of droning synth pads and other electronic effects. The whole exercise is very minimalist and you couldn't be faulted if you were to think this is the average dream as computed across an insane asylum. Maniacal aura, yes, but very softly tinted, never giving in to the temptation of spiking up into massive discomfort or general unrest. Although one is constantly under threat of this going to happen every minute, specially across the central title track, which occupies twenty-five out of the thirty minutes of the work. Either side of it, two tracks in which the soft yet unsettling backdrops play a stronger role, but the theme of a voice, however ghastly, remains to perturb the scene. High experimental value means of course reduced target audience, but the fact rest that those of us with a forward looking mind will remain highly attracted by these highly non-linear works. Ltd. ed. of 200 seems a bit stingy though, surely there's more of that out there? www.finalmuzik.com

Gianfri

Testube - Off Purpose (Glim Records)

Testube is Jeff Danos' main venture. With Testube we swim into high-end electronica peppered by dense beats, clever programming and a backdrop of chill-out atmospheres. Sitting midway between glitch electronica and textural electro-wave, Off-Purpose rarely stays on a steady pattern for more than a couple of bars, so its mainly chill-out nature nicely clashes with the intricacy of the arrangements. Vocals bring a needed twist of the scene on a few occasions and the constant non-rational steer towards something not expected keeps the listener vibe on the edge. Soft edge, but edge nevertheless. This is an interesting hybrid and mostly mired to modern-thinking listeners who neither look for instant gratification nor for militant electronica pureness. Perhaps not immediate to grasp, but in the longer run, it feels like home to your ears, provided avant-garde is an active word in your dictionary. www.testube.com

Gianfri

To Avoid - Passion and Pain EP (Self-release)

Perhaps billing themselves German Electronic Terrorists is quite overrating the band's scholastic take on by-the-book German electro mired to the new-century inheritors of the unsurpassed EBM heritage. Assertive beats, driving rhythms, tuneful synth lines and hard vocals, not exactly the most surprising ingredients for an act taking on the mission to keep punters collated to the dancefloor. What they do, they do it with competence, yet there's quite little to be excited about on this record, at least when you've gone past the first three or four songs on the EP. Whether you like the souped-up electro the band offer is a mere matter of personal taste, and mood perhaps. Having to endure re-mixes no end, however, is just not helping the band's cause, I feel. One already has that feeling that there's little difference between one song and the next. Having to endure several re-mixes in this context only brings to the feel that there was only one track in the first place, and ten additional re-mixes just because a digital release allows that at no extra cost. www.toavoid.de

Gianfri

Troum - Autopoiesis / Nahtscato (Zoharum)

With Troum we move to Germany and a duo themed around dark ambient in general, the droning variety to be precise, but who add their own flavor by means of a subtle, and at some stages not so subtle, experimental vein. This particular Zoharum release combines two albums previously released on vinyl only and on different labels, cramming lots of goods on a single silver disk. On Autopoiesis the mood is very slightly leaning towards a certain progressive feel, while on Nahtscato we find more genuine lo-fi experimentation, tinted by bits of tribalism, industrialism, esoterism, and even a bit of noise, resulting in a more articulate program, yet generally based on droning backdrops as it were. This is seminal stuff from top to bottom and gives a great perspective about how wide is the phase space within the dark ambient, experimental container. And recommended to trained ears and minds only, please. www.zoharum.com

Gianfri

Urceus Exit - Compensation for the Sound of Silence (disc 1) (Artoffact)

Urceus Exit follow upon the 2005 Contra debut album is another joyful tale of electro pop that will certainly manage to raise another few eyebrows out there. Moving forward to more assertive soundscapes, Urceus Exit turn a record that is certainly a slow burner, but once it grows and burns to full force, is very hard to abandon. Seamlessly employing such armless instruments as electric guitar to the top of their potential while stripping out their potential to annoy, one of the driving force behind the duo out of Vancouver, BC is the taste for a tune or two, which coupled with tight electronic arrangements that owe a great deal to the best synthpop heritage, contribute to make this album such a pleasant listen throughout. As they stay away from edgy sonorities, they might risk cutting out the more militant fringes of listeners in the genre, but for however many that will judge this work too soft for their tastes, an equivalent number of unsuspecting listeners will be drawn to it for its simple yet meticulously cured arrangements and catchy melodies. Me one of many among them. www.urceusexit.com - www.artoffact.com

Gianfri

v01d (feat. Ayria) - Weakener EP (Artoffact)

Joe Byer is the man behind the v01d moniker, an accomplished producer who has acted behind some of the most out there acts nursing that pot of electro/dance/industrial hybrid that has become so popular not only for the existence of such behind-the-scenes hands such as those of Joe Byer, but also for the aggressive promotion of the few labels behind this trend, those brave enough to swim against the decadence of the music industry as we know it. Accordingly, this teaser by v01d is a flawless exercise in how to make a tune with a) electronics, b) an obligatory distorted guitar, c) even more obligatory chick vocals, this time courtesy of Ayria. This results in a very pleasant, though inoffensive, piece of dancefloor euphoria that you'll have forgotten straight past the first time you've excitedly danced to it. www.artoffact.com

Gianfri

Via Obscura - Traum (Self-released)

A touch of gentle gothic is never a bad thing, especially when it manages to convey emotional messages without necessarily needing to fall back on sounding like (or being inspired by) someone else up the chain, who were in turn inspired by another link up, and so on. True, there's only so much to achieve these days within such a genre, but Traum is a good indication that simplicity and sincerity are two good weapons in this quest. A German trio at their debut long length release, following a string of compilation appearances and a debut EP as it is often the case, they state that their music sums up to more than the simple addition of their individual contributions. Graced by the fascinatingly soft yet commanding vocals by front-lady Anne-S., their compositions move in slow sensual motion, seamlessly integrating seducing dark melancholy and moments of epic rock, classicism and even a soft prog substrate that permeates the whole production without becoming at any stage evident (except perhaps on the closing instrumental, which is a sumptuous instrumental cavalcade that wraps the album up in style). Often driven by piano and featuring a nicely tamed (mainly) hard guitar work that adds bite but fortunately never steps to front stage, they find a collating layer of synth strings and pads that sit softly over an assertive rhythmic backbone. While the star of Traum is certainly the vocal work, all is so well balanced that it feels quite unnatural to try and isolate the various elements contributing to the overall feel of the tracks. Credit quite certainly due also to the man sitting at the producer chair, one Siggi Bemm of Tiamat, The Gathering, Letzte Instanz etc, fame. I can only but recommend this album for those moments in which peace, quiet and some introspective-stimulating atmosphere is needed by your humble self. www.viaobscura.de

Gianfri

Visions - Summoning The Void (Cyclic Law)

Visions is the brainchild of Frdric Arbour, who is in turn Mr Cyclic Law himself. This is a label that has since long now become one of the most prolific sources of quality dark ambient, and related, productions. Summoning The Void is a very representative title for the description of this work. The imposing drones that open the record, and go on for almost half of the work over the first two of the five tracks included, are definitely summoning in nature. They build up very quickly and go on to establish very heavy weighted, claustrophobic atmospheres, interspersed with clanging and industrial elements that reinforce the impact, resonances coming and going, and a selection mind cutting frequencies that engulf the listener neural network and seriously threaten never to let go of it. Dawning, Void, Infinity, Vortexed, Invocation, are all keywords highly evocative of the sort of soundscapes that are on display with Visions. Names like Lustmord do spring to mind while attempting to dissect the sonic elements and coming up with a rationale description of this work. But, for all dark/drone enthusiasts (for lack of a better fitting word), and those with an inclination to death industrial as well, this is meant to be a highly immersive experience, the rationale plays no role within the self-contained microcosm offered by Summoning The Void. A detailed, seriously hi-fi and distraction-free listening is highly recommended, in order to take full advantage of the myriad of subtleties that are part of the driving force of this high calibre work. A world apart from some relatively simplistic drone ambient out there. www.cycliclaw.com

Gianfri