REVIEW: Run Level Zero - "Symbol of Submission"

By J 'Hirez' H-R

Chain Border

It's 'INDUSTRAIL(tm)' time.

I'm sure there's a special club where this sort of thing goes down a storm. It's in some conceptual zone where your belongings are carefully searched for anything that might betray a familiarity with ideas like 'breakbeat' or 'funk'. Such proscribed material is confiscated and you are then allowed to proceed to the club, which is surrounded by anonymous light-industrial units that are probably producing nerve gas and killer robots under contract to the CIA.

The casual dress-code is rigidly enforced. Anyone arriving in anything more interesting than combat strides and a black band t-shirt is taken to a special room where they are shouted at for hours on end by people who are convinced that freedom of expression is a betrayal of the punk orthodoxy and the world would be a better place if fun and jokes they don't quite understand are eradicated so as not to cause Doubt or Questions.

Symbol of SubmissionThe soundtrack is ... All the nearly-good industrial/EBM that makes you want to attack the DJ booth with hammers because it's just frustratingly not bad enough to genuinely dislike. It's like there's a dodgy shop at the wrong end of town where you can buy disks that you can feed your synths and sequencers which make them sound just like everyone else. In the back of that shop they take all the really good and mad and strange music and boil it up in this big vat. The breakbeats and odd samples and the quirks and creative mistakes float to the surface, where they're scraped off and thrown away. The rest - the foursquare beats and squitty patches and hackneyed lyrics - are rendered down like pig-fat and poured into disk-shaped moulds, ready to be bought by bands who just aren't inspired enough to create for themselves, but need some dancefloor fodder to keep the record company happy for another six months.

So what does all this have to do with Run Level Zero? (As someone with a minor exposure to the Unix(R) operating system, I feel I should point out that it's usually written as 'run-level 0' and it's a concept usually associated with the AT&T-derived versions, rather than those with BSD ancestry.)

Well, they're perilously close to being on that playlist-of-the-damned. A track named Strapped to Machinery is a really bad sign. Thankfully, though, some splendidly camp and ELO-like vocoder work in Fever Shriek saves the day. Battle of the Flies has some equally camp Vince Clarke twiddly bits which makes it sound like a song Erasure might have written in a fit of temper should miscreants have broken into Andy Bell's car and stolen all his rubberwear.

It's unfortunate, therefore, that all the vocals are delivered in a bus-station nutter monotone whisper. If you're really into that sort of thing, you'll dig the second half of this recording. The first half stands a chance of growing on you like mould. Especially if you strongly dislike techno and come from the midwest or Vancouver.

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