Secure the Shadow*, the first full-length release by Texas-based electro/industrial outfit Ctrl, was a testament to what one could do with sufficient talent and a very low budget. The production, although somewhat sparse in places, was more than merely competent, and effectively advertised the fact that Ctrl knew how to put out some good tunes as well.
With Is Burning , Ctrl continue to develop their distinctive brand of electronic rock, though I'm not sure how far they have actually come, technologically speaking. According to the liner notes, the album is dedicated to "anyone who has ever recorded into a stereo tapedeck with a plastic microphone, a radio shack reverb kit, a DOD overdrive pedal, and numerous inexpensive keyboards. And maybe a 486."
Regardless of the actual methods used in the album's recording, Is Burning sounds like a well-polished and professional effort. All of the beats, bleeps, and blops are well mixed and in all of the right places. A variety of vocal effects are used as well, tailored to fit on a song-by-song basis. In short, the album sounds great. If this was done on a shoestring budget, then Ctrl is working with some high quality shoestring; the kind that survives nuclear wars, dog attacks, and can lop off heads when swung with proper force.
Of course, this praise is moot if the music is poorly written. Luckily, this definitely isn't the case. The songs on Is Burning are rich with mood and atmosphere, from the album's aggressive dancefloor stompers, like WhiteParticleWandering and IwantToKnowHer to the reflective and melancholy Scot1, and the more experimental tracks like InvyVsKusser. Ctrl pile layers upon layers of sound, while always accentuating each of said layers appropriately. This does cause the vocals to tend to drown in the mix a bit at times (a feature which those who must understand every lyric will no doubt find frustrating. Then again, what fan of EBM/Industrial music actually pays that much attention to lyrics. Certainly not FLA or Funker Vogt fans, at least) . However, these times are the ones in which the vocals play a supplementary role to the rest of the music. Just like any of the other sounds used, they stand out when it is required that they do so.
So, before you shell out that cash to your favorite import distributor to acquire more HiQualityElectronikBodyMusik(tm), be sure to pick up Ctrl's Is Burning It will be cheaper, and will be worth at least as much. And when you do, be sure to tell others about the experience, and help give some more exposure to a band that truly deserves it.
* Reviewed in Legends #87 - 6/99.
Post: Analog Aether, Attn:Ctrl, PO Box 41598, Austin, TX, 78704