Deep into his love of EBM, the Toronto based Gord Clement, known as NTTX, has made a comeback to follow up his first EP, ‘Objective’.
Known to the die-hard fans of DEPECHE MODE for his infamous cover of ‘New Dress’, with its beefed up, stomp beats and a politically charged change of lyrics (this time it’s Princess Kate, with an adequate video for good measure), the Canadian, formerly the singer and songwriter of ATOMZERO, ushers in some more heavy sounds on newly released ‘Of Beauty & Chaos’.
Since his departure from ATOMZERO, Clement has been utilising his strong vocal over some FRONT 242 inspired tunes, and the present offering is a good example of his harsher ear teasers.
The opening ‘Move Dark’ brings out the Doc Martens and isn’t at all suitable for the gentle synth lover. ‘Prey’ continues with a further dose of the “to be used responsibly” on the dance floor; it has some interesting elements to it, similar to the following ‘True’, which bears more refined concepts, along with almost vintage electronica in the choruses.
The EP’s gem however, is the slower tempo ‘Earth’. A synth ballad of sorts, not shying from a gentle guitar, it’s almost like AND ONE on ‘Virgin Superstar’. It’s as if Clement spent a month at a German retreat with Steve Naghavi, the latter playing the role of the master.
Enter ROTERSAND on the rework of ‘Falls Beautiful’. Clement’s voice on this one feels more redirected and manly, and it raises in line with the upward feel of the track. NITZER EBB-y in places, PRODIGY-like in others, this truly is a fascinating mix of what can be achieved when working outside of the otherwise laborious EBM genre.
Clearly loving his covers, the closing rework of the FM rock biggie ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ begs the question as to “why?”
Not the classiest of renditions, because the SURVIVOR’s version can’t be beaten, certainly not when bumped up to the industrial status, but clearly Clement had some fun there.
If you love your EBM, you’ll love this, but the feeling persists that NTTX may be a little more than an industrial monkey; the clear examples being ‘Earth’ and ‘Falls Beautiful’.
A very strong vocal presence and some interesting ideas place the man from Toronto well above many, and perhaps on the next outing, the audiences will hear something spectacular. After all, the Canadians have a long history with the good old synth…
CAMOUFLAGE are a cult German synth band, whose career has grown bigger and bigger over the years, thanks to excellent releases and the fact that no song has been similar sounding or routinely written.
‘Greyscale’ marked album number eight, and it astonished once more with full, architectural sounds and the deep quality of the writing. Yet, the face of CAMOUFLAGE, Marcus Meyn has decided to step into his own side project M.I.N.E
The collaboration with Jochen Schmalbach and Volker Hinkel, both members of CAMOUFLAGE’s live setup, promises a nod towards newer, darker electronica. As Schmalbach and Hinkel’s input into CAMOUFLAGE has been mainly limited to live events, Meyn gave them a chance to develop something new.
Schmalbach is indeed an international producer, who contributed to ‘If…’ on ‘Greyscale’, and whose style Meyn appreciates greatly. Since CAMOUFLAGE aren’t touring at the moment and no new material is being produced, M.I.N.E are hoping to fill the gap and entice new fans with an EP and plan to release a long player before this summer.
‘Things We’ve Done’ heralds the project and offers four different mixes to add to the variety. This easy listening track nods towards Dave Gahan’s solo achievements on ‘Paper Monsters’, but clear DEPECHE MODE influences are also palpable, especially from around the ‘Ultra’ era. Not necessarily that dissimilar from recent CAMOUFLAGE singles, it is loaded with ample amount of magnificent electronica and capable production by Schmalbach.
‘Dangerous’ follows with a dose of edginess, conveying a message of enticing relationships, while ‘Lean On’ exercises synth a la AND ONE and a variety of noises, that some again are quite DM sounding. “You’ve been hiding from life” actually brings back Basildon’s finest “you’ve been hiding from love” from ‘Free Love’ thanks to the way of its execution. A fair amount of guitar has been introduced into this one towards the end, awakening the moods somewhat.
The last track, ‘White Trash’, is fairly minimalist until the entrance of the chorus and is probably the best number on the EP. Mellow and not overly sophisticated, it rounds up the production nicely, without being too busy or in your face.
M.I.N.E will most probably bridge the gap between a break in action for CAMOUFLAGE, but compared to its daddy, it is fairly lacklustre.
Meyn’s vocals are as always more than capable and the production from Schmalbach is indeed proficient, yet none of the songs seem to leave a profound mark.
The promised nod towards a darker electronica feel simply isn’t there; they’re decent songs, but they’re not CAMOUFLAGE quality. Still, Meyn and Co deserve to harvest new fans, with the upcoming album hopefully fulfilling the expectations a little bit more.
‘One’ is released by M.I.N.E Music via the usual digital outlets
“ROTERSAND is a friend who has been accompanying you for a whole decade on your nocturnal hunt’s Post-Industrial amusement. ROTERSAND is the beast right beside you – twitching, stomping, finally leaping upon you and clinging to you. Want to take us home? The beast can also purr like a black cat if it wishes. The beauty and the beast: an insuperable antagonism? In ROTERSAND both melt into one with complex elegance.” says ROTERSAND’s website, enticing the listener to dive into their twisted world.
The enterprise came into existence in Germany in 2002, when Rascal Nikov joined forces with musician and producer Gunther Gerl.
It wasn’t until the duo expanded into a trio, with the inclusion of techno and electro underground producer Krischan Wesenberg, that their sound really came into its own. The first album, ‘Truth Is Fanatic’ quickly established the notorious threesome alongside ASSEMBLAGE 23, COVENANT and VNV NATION as the core of electro industrial genre. ‘Welcome To Goodbye’, ‘1023’ and ‘Random Is Resistance’ followed, each expanding and enriching ROTERSAND’s style, accompanied with their legendary live performances, which, to some, are the best on the scene.
Here comes the poignantly titled ‘Capitalism TM’, sporting a front cover of cryptic messages, including “you dwell in our matrix”, “like monkeys in a tree”, “controlled by informatics”, and “believing that you’re free”; each describing the realities of modern human existence in the controlled environment of today.
Indeed the single heralding the long player is the politically induced ‘Torn Realities’. While the anthemic production is larger than life, one cannot escape the signature Virus TI patch, which was previously used by DEPECHE MODE on ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’. That aside, the track is a perfect introduction to big sounding numbers present on this outing, like ‘Monopole’, reminiscent of vintage AND ONE, ‘Disagree’, being a traditional ROTERSAND, or the opener ‘Not Alone’, starting off gently just to open into a full-on trance extravaganza.
‘Hey You’, nautically oriented in texture, which incidentally pairs excellently with the latest album from COVENANT, ‘The Blinding Dark’ released on the same day as ‘Capitalism TM’, brings memories of PET SHOP BOYS’ productions, with an immense club feel and enticing synth.
‘It’s About Us’ attacks from the beginning, with infectious hooks and foot stomping qualities, mixing classic EBM and melodious details, canvassing the lyrical message of a “shift of paradigm”. The sound of the month, accented by randomised filter sequence on the title track again, this time boasts with influences going towards AND ONE again, ‘Virgin Superstar’-style. The cryptic messages from the album’s cover are included in the track, pointing again to its political context.
‘Welcome Home’ slows the tempo somewhat, with gloomy lyrical content and Numan-esque vocals, accompanied by exquisite drum rolls and systemic synth, igniting this otherwise calmer feel of the production.
The closing ‘Überload’ shows that the best has been saved for last. The digital age love story is unfolding upon us with harsh beats from the onset, intertwined with a gentle melody and more synth hymn-like qualities.
ROTERSAND have done what ROTERSAND do best. Larger than life anthems, stomping beats and trance induced comas are to be expected from the beginning to the end of ‘Capitalism TM’.
Who said a political message couldn’t be equally entertaining?
Some bands crop out of nowhere, quickly put together the material, not knowing what the real direction of the album they’re writing is, then place high hopes for a fast success.
Other musical creatures work for years to develop their sound and perfect their trade, while branching out into other projects, just to come up with a masterpiece. The formation of DESTIN FRAGILE dates back to 1993 when Swede Pontus Stålberg started collaborating with various musicians before joining forces with Daniel Malmöf and Stefan Nilsson for live performances.
Nilsson and Stålberg ran a side project, the EBM inclined SPETSNAZ, who released four albums and enjoyed fair amount of popularity. Malmöf returned to complete the DESTIN FRAGILE cycle, which has culminated in the release of ‘Halfway To Nowhere’ on Dark Dimensions.
Since it’s been a 20 year wait for the album, the expectations run high; ‘Run Away’, which opens the production, immediately brings to mind a mixture of vintage DEPECHE MODE and elements of Germany’s AND ONE with a clear vocal by Stålberg, that is quite different from what SPETSNAZ ‘s fans are used to hearing. Ethereal and gentler in tone, it somewhat resembles Mark Hockings of Bristol’s own UK electronica masters MESH.
Clever, heavier synth follows on ‘In Your Eyes’; burly, very AND ONE and decadent, it leads to ‘In the Frame’, which is characterised by CAMOUFLAGE-like landscape, off beat drum patterns and irregular keys. ‘Alive (It’s Up To You)’ opens with a recognisable Gahan influence, a definite gloomy love affair, bearing Doug McCarthy’s vocal stamp, with a filthy synth finish. The poppier and gentler title track floats in, with TEARS FOR FEARS meets ‘Ultra’ era DM qualities. Rather superb in its simplicity, it is roughly interrupted by the incoming ‘April Light’, which couldn’t be more AND ONE in its texture.
The rhythmic ‘Change’ brings out qualities of SPETSNAZ at first, to transcend into the perfect synth pop tune, just before ‘Worlds Apart’ breaks the beat, followed by ‘In Plain Sight’.
Unsurprisingly, elements of FROZEN PLASMA are rather palpable; many a band this year has used their influence in their own creations. A dance tune at its best – fast, to the point, not over complicated with unnecessary filler sounds and simple enough to please.
‘Out Of The Darkness’ is delicious vocally and musically alike. The PET SHOP BOYS styled production is marked with eloquent formulation of synths from the lost era, combined with AND ONE’s ‘Virgin Superstar’ style of manufacture of a superior electronic track.
The closing bonus ’11’ is fabulously surprising, a vintage Merry- Go- Round, Victorian music box, horse cart and choir certainly aren’t a concoction one would expect as the culmination of this record. But that’s exactly what you get. Truly inspired and wonderfully wrapping this excellent album up.
To some, the obvious DEPECHE MODE and AND ONE characteristics, so often audible on this production, could be a turn off. It has to be said, however, that DESTIN FRAGILE have made those influences their own and the overall effect is highly pleasing.
Sweden certainly doesn’t cease to give birth to some excellent acts in the genre. Stålberg and friends have the aura of the weathered, grown up daddies of electronica about them, which differentiates them from many an act on the scene.
DESTIN FRAGILE recently showcased their material at Gothenburg’s Electronic Summer 2015 Festival at The Brewhouse with considerable success. Let’s hope they continue creating synthpop soundscapes worthy of the ever expanding electronic Swedish music scene.
‘Halfway To Nowhere’ is available as a CD or download via Dark Dimensions
Much can be said and speculated about German-based AND ONE, a band with many releases to date and a cult-like following.
The founder, Steve Naghavi, a long standing EBM and DEPECHE MODE fan, is simply despised to the same extent as he is loved. But AND ONE’s input into the German electronic music scene cannot be denied or diminished.
The group has had many incarnations since its beginnings in 1989, Naghavi being the only original member now, rehashing couple of the pervious band mates.
Meanwhile the other founding hero, Chris Ruiz has enjoyed the company of another ex-AND ONE pal, Gio van Oli in his 2011 project THE PACT, after they stomped out of AND ONE.
It has to be agreed that since ‘Anguish’, AND ONE’s first release in 1991, all through ‘Flop!’, ‘Spot’, ‘I.S.T.’, ‘Nordhausen’, ‘18.104.22.168 Uhr’, and ‘Virgin Superstar’, the band had displayed a rare variety of tastes and changeability, all of the above clearly coming through on those albums, with a rather decent singing style and diverse use of sounds.
Less can be said about more recent productions, such as both ‘Bodypop’ albums, ‘Tanzomat’ and the ‘Zerstörer’ EP, not to mention the post-Ruiz ‘S.T.O.P.’, which couldn’t even be saved by the collaborations with the likes of Douglas McCarthy of NITZER EBB on ‘Get it!’ or Eskil Simmonson of COVENANT on ‘Low’; both songs were actually really good, but somehow lacked the soul and repeated the boring-by-now AND ONE sound. The most recent album trilogy ‘Magnet’, ‘Propeller’ and ‘Achtung 80’ has been a total flop, receiving rather harsh reviews in the electronic music circles. It has been, indeed, criticism well applied for the overuse of the same old base drum beats, overfamiliar sequences and Naghavi’s never changing vocals, which once sexy, are now sounding rather mundane and in the past.
To the weathered AND ONE fanatic, it would have become quite clear by now, that one of the albums hasn’t been mentioned as yet… Yes! THE ALBUM! The last production that the band released for Virgin Schallplatten, before they moved onto Out Of Line in Europe and Metropolis in the USA, was the all-German ‘Aggressor’.
2003 witnessed a brave move into twelve songs performed in the group’s mother tongue, with the all-necessary harshness and roughness associated with the German language. This courageous step proved to hit the spot, not only in their native Germany, but throughout Europe.
The album flows, in a way that ‘Black Celebration’ progresses for a DEPECHE MODE fan, with exquisite track joining sequences, leading one powerful tune into another, skilfully placed to achieve the top of greatness, the heights of confidence and the depths of dominance. ‘Kein Anfang’ opens with the rather familiar signature AND ONE sound, which is best imagined as the sounds one would hear during a severe ear infection. (This is not a derogatory comment by any way)…
‘Schwarz’ rules from the start, with the beat so catchy, you wish you had paid attention to your German at school a little bit more, so you could sing along with Naghavi. The track is as “black” as its follower, ‘Krieger’, which was released as the first and, surprisingly, only single from the production. A “Warrior” indeed, stompingly exquisite and layered with gentle female backing vocals over the harsh beat. ‘Sternradio’, named after a nightclub in Berlin, accurately described as containing “a chipmunk voice”, is racy and driven, sung by Steve Naghavi with a smirk in his voice… it is both catchy and sexy.
Then the gutsy ‘Speicherbar’ enters. Is life really “storable”? Clever lyrics are intertwined within a gentle, yet daring melody. Ear infection comes round again with ‘Fehlschlag’; it’s not a “failure” at all, but a melancholy-lined, well arranged track that is very political for AND ONE, and superb in its meaning. ‘Für Immer’ has religious and existential elements in the lyrics and marvellous synth basslines with its very militant character and bearing industrial elements.
An instrumental, ‘Einstieg’ introduces the superbly powerful ‘Strafbomber’.
This is a roar of menace and scream of violence that has also lends itself perfectly during AND ONE’s many live performances. Chris Ruiz takes the vocals over on ‘Fernsehapparat’ briefly, a forward track once more, with elements of bumpy synth and a wholesome beat.
Different in feel and possibly the weakest song ‘Tote Tulpen’ somehow doesn’t fit the album, but inserts an eclectic element into it, leading onto the last track, cleverly titled ‘Kein Ende’. However, it is a rather poor instrumental and certainly doesn’t lend itself as a finish to this, otherwise superb, album.
What the future holds for AND ONE nobody knows, their back catalogue is a rather eclectic mix of the great, good, not so good and dreadfully bad. Steve Naghavi’s handsome looks and fantastic stage presence have always added well to the mix and the fans have not been put off by the poorer releases or band arguments alike.
All this said, the electronic music scene would kill for another ‘Aggressor’, or anything with a good dose of the oomph that AND ONE have been known for. Maybe one day… for now, get your army boots on, your uniform pressed, and march to the ‘Aggressor’ once again; it is, after all, next to impossible to sit still while this masterpiece is on! Deutsche Musik vom Feinsten!
‘Aggressor’ is still available on CD via Virgin Schallplatten