Amethystium: Odonata [Self
Odonata is a fine example of "worldly" ambience in the vein of Balligomingo and Enigma, maybe even Deep Forest. Then again, most new age/electronica CDs like this are. It's getting to a point where the genre will be worn out if bands don't find new ways to reinvent it. However, I believe Amethystium does create the music successfully and more importantly to an extent that makes it hard to dislike, although disappointingly some of the songs sound a little too alike, crossing the threshold of album consistency into redundancy. It seems Amethystium is more interested in Asian music samples whereas the existing trend has been to involve Middle-Eastern influences, which I think added an interesting essence. Overall I was impressed with Amethystium, especially as a DIY band using MP3.com as its main source of distribution. I recommend visiting www.mp3.com/amethystium so you can hear them for yourself.
Blackhouse: Dreams Like These
Sometimes deviation in music warrants experimentation, and sometimes experimentation is a convenient mask for a shallow grave of noise. On the inside cover of Dreams Like These, we are met by a mass of cliché pseudo-deep psychological gobbeldy-gook, an amusing part of which states, "The music and sounds on this CD are designed to instigate & perpetuate that elusive dream reality - allowing the listener to enter easily into the virtual dream world while remaining totally awake...it is suggested that you play this CD at low volume." A corn-dog in a Gucci suit is still a corn-dog. You shouldn't have to follow directions for a CD to have impact. I listened to the disc loud despite the recommendation and the sound pissed me off royally. This disc gets one star of saving grace due to the fact that a couple of tracks, although terribly slow, have some melodic properties that I found interesting. But maybe that's my elusive dream-reality talking.
Consolidated: Tikkun-Survivor Demos
Since the inception of Consolidated in 1989, the band has transcended any specific category of music. They have successfully melded and/or touched on hip-hop, jazz, techno, industrial, funk, noise, blues, drum n' bass, dub, and rock. Think it's a weird mix? I certainly do, and it is very unusual to find such a versatile band putting all of their varying styles into one basket. Strangely this album melds all of these different faces of Consolidated successfully onto one album. Each track is stylistically different from the last, making Tikkun-Survivor a refreshing album that's not likely to make you bored at any point. I don't believe there is a weak song on the entire album.
Din_Fiv: Welcome to Reality
I was not impressed by this CD upon first listen. It seemed rather dull in comparison to the first standout track, Through the Looking Glass. All of the songs sounded too similar until I listened closer, noticing some large differences and excellent programming. I think my problem was mainly with the unvarying vocals, which are very gruff and not always suitable to the exceptional music. Think Funker Vogt with more technical and musical intuition. While the vocals may be overused in their distorted state, they also have their good points in making certain tracks more powerful than others. I think this is a very strong album considering its dance-floor appeal, which doesn't always necessarily lend well to integrity.
Funker Vogt: Maschine Zeit
At first I dismissed this album as an unimaginative pile of glorified-techno-wannabe-industrial-for-broader-audience-appeal crap. In fact, it nearly got tossed out of my car window but it landed in the back seat. So I listened again. It was still a techno-industrial fusion, which doesn't always make for the most ingenious compositions - but this time I noticed the sometimes subtle use of erratic keyboard melodies just for the sake of having keyboard melodies, which admittedly wasn't altogether bad in every case. I was still a little disappointed, but upon further inspection I found various tracks that called my attention despite a repetitive beat that I could easily get with VNV Nation. But VNV has diverse and exceptional vocal usage, which I can't say for Funker Vogt who feel that voice distortion is a good idea if you want to sound like a bullfrog with throat cancer on every single song. Overall I would say that Maschine Zeit is terribly average, but there are a few catchy tracks (Maschine Zeit, Under Deck, and The Last) that make it worth owning if you're not saving up for that throat cancer operation.
Gooding: 3X [S3 Records]
Gooding is one artist that can never go wrong - he just doesn't know how to fuck up. His latest evolution brings us 3X, an ingenious and fresh masterpiece that is worthy of much praise and attention. His avant-garde approach to pop/rock music has earned him comparisons to Moby amongst other notables, and rightfully so - but his unique fusion of blues, trip-hop, funk, and electro collide with an organic force and style distinctly his own. 3X is just one of those albums you can't possibly dislike; it is a milestone in the underbelly of rock that will infect your CD player for a long time. It gets better every time you listen, and listen you will.
Index: Ultra Hard Shadow [COP
Index is an outfit fronted by only one member, Eric Chamberlain, who describes his CD as a "spiritual experience." Perhaps the introversion of one man can account for the emotionally and artistically consistent values found within. Ultra Hard Shadow is a dreamscape of otherworldly brilliance, both melodic and foreboding at the same time. This diverse and paradoxical nature is also obvious with the melding of various influences (including classical, industrial and techno) with pure electronic creativity. Chamberlain's complex style is both infectious and moving, and worth every penny. I recommend Ultra Hard Shadow emphatically.
Juno Reactor: Shango [Metropolis]
The long awaited 5th Juno Reactor release is finally here, boasting a hard-hitting combination of strong techno and trance with some unbelievable style integrations from all over the place. Hands down, Masters of the Universe is my favorite track, a perfect microcosm of the entire album packed into one song. Displaying a diverse bank of beats and a range of original sound structures not found in many techno releases today, Juno Reactor shows us once again why they are at the forefront of the genre. If this album is also representative of the single for Pistolero (the album's strong 1st track), I intend to pick that up as well.
Medieval Babes: Undrentide
Featuring some of the same blood that makes Miranda Sex Garden a superb and original band, new production by Velvet Underground founder John Cale, and a more modern approach to their theme and music, The Medieval Babes emerge with this innovative third albumwhich combines anciently-rooted songs and compositions with a sprinkling of new-world influence. Within the tracks are ambient fusions of acoustic elements (such as recorders, bells, guitars, dulcimer, and even the hurdy gurdy), with Middle English, French, German, and Italian poetry pieces beautifully vocalized by over ten Babes. Just as the first two albums, Salva Nos and Worldes Blysse, Undrentide makes for a fresh and fascinating listen, absolutely unparalleled in style.
Psyche: Misguided Angels
Misguided Angels is Psyche's first American release in a long time, appropriately showcasing 16 of their best tracks, collaborative efforts and rare pieces for a deprived audience. Among the guests on this album you will find Lights of Euphoria, Haujobb, and even a 1982 demo track featuring Dwayne Goettel, formerly of Skinny Puppy. This diverse album crosses the realms of new wave, synth pop, and industrial dance with surprisingly excellent vocals and a superior originality in music that I found refreshing. The music itself shifts from upbeat dance to dark electro. Misguided Angels makes me feel guilty that I haven't heard this band previously!
Terminal [ADSR Musicwerks]
SMP are known for their harsh in-your-face electro fused with heavy beats, catchy rap-like lyrics and infectious style. Terminal is their greatest work, hard as ever and graduating to the next level of production. Boasting 17 tracks, this album works for its money and doesn't disappoint. Standout tracks include Chemicals, File 484 and Mutate, but that was a hard decision to arrive at after listening to 17 consistently brilliant tracks.
Tales: Echoes From the Last
Fairyland [Somewhere In Time]
Just as the name might imply, this disc is an ambient journey through an AD&D player's wet dream. Dense synthesizer washes and otherworldly sound effects are melded with hints of anything from jazz to new age, but are based on a spooky platform that makes this a good disc to have playing while slaying Orcs and making saving throws against evil wizards...especially when the fucked-up chanting comes into play. The song titles are enough for a giggle but actually don't seem that cheesy in reference to the music, which bring them into different contexts. If the phrases Elves of the Golden Clouds and The Wizard of all Times make your toes curl, at least give the CD a listen and don't pay attention to the names until after you've had a magical journey through the Last Fairyland. I recommend this one highly; I found it very interesting and quite beautiful despite the horrendous cover art which doesn't fairly represent the earcandy inside.
V/A: Diva Ex Machina [COP
It's about time someone put out a compilation thoroughly worth buying! Kudos to COP for assembling 16 tracks of the finest examples of female influence over subversive, gothic, electronic and experimental music. The female-empowerment motif is a much-needed touch for genres mostly dominated by guys (who sometimes wear more makeup than the girls). Here you'll find a wide and incredible range of performers from In The Nursery and Love Spirals Downward to Gitane Demone and Diamanda Galas. Also, I will add that this is a rare compilation where all the tracks are wisely chosen, making for a fully appreciable album with no weak points. This comp got bonus points from the start just for having Diamanda's name on it. Highly recommended.