CD Review

Blank – “Artificial Breathing”

By Marcus Pan

Artificial BreathingArtOfFact Records out of Canada has always been known to put out quality synthpop and EBM. This has been the case for many years, and Legends has interviewed a few of their bands for quite some time(1) just for this reason. So it's no strange situation when another package rears its yellow-taped head from up north. This time around it was Blank's latest release, Artificial Breathing. A round of synthetic speed-pop for those who really like the stompy robot dance schtick.

Coming to us from Italy, Davide Mazza (vocals) and Riccardo Mattiolo (keyboards) prove to us that Italy still produces some of the best electronic dance to be found. Releasing self-produced demo tapes and CDs for about four years now, ArtOfFact brought them across the pond to the North American shores in the 2004 release of Artificial Breathing.

Wasting no time and getting into the speed-groove with Event Horizon, a fast paced synth-slam with growl-based vocalizations, already I'm enjoying this CD more than the previous I've written up(2) because the vocals are less monotone and more alive. Afterburn bubbles up into another enjoyable tune with synth-based rhythms, concentrating on the upper end of the spectrum at first before blowing into a full-on metallic dirge with amazingly catchy orchestration. Years of honing their skills in Italy's electronic underground pays off with a mature sound, tight arrangement and complicated movements. The rest of Artificial Breathing follows along this vein – well made electronica and Euro-industrial to stomp to, bop to and otherwise enjoy.

Let's chat a bit about electronica. Computers are so cheap, Casios go for a dime a dozen and I could fart something out that makes more sense than half of it in the time it takes me to hit record on a computer screen. The problem we face then is this – with so much of this permeating everything from commercials to pop culture to the obvious spots like the club scene and Internet, and the cheapness of which you can do it yourself, the music industry is struggling under a monster that is growing in girth and weight every month.

Out of the hundreds, thousands, gabagoozillions of "electronica" outfits out there are four main categories that I'm able to decipher in all the CDs that have crossed my desk. First we have the "classics" – and of course most of these guys are done and gone. They need no introduction from a peon like me. Then we have the "second coming" – those that are imitating the classic folks and putting out similar music that, while quite good, isn't much different than what we've had since Kraftwerk first recorded a bass punch. Some of it is blah, some of it is dead-on groovy and continues the scene admirably. Then we have the "innovators" that mix up something different. While not always good, it at least pushes the bar of what you can do with electronic music(3). And the fourth category? Let's just call them "the rest of it." There’s a whole lot of that.

Where does Blank fall? Probably on the higher end of the "second coming." Mazza and Mattioli's work is definitely high-end, extremely well made, very craftily produced and help us remember why it is we got into the industrial and electronic sounds in the first place. It mixes up our nostalgia for the old with the new technology of the recent and future to create a sound that is definitely known, but gives new “artificial breath” into the scene so that we can continue to bop to the music we’ve already come to love.

(1) Psyche in Legends #116, Netz in Legends #119, Massiv in Mensch in Legends #118 and Blank coming soon!
(2) That would be State of the Union. Not bad, but not Blank either.
(3) Recent examples include Von Magnet and Null_Objct.
Contact Information:
ArtOfFact Records
Post: 1057 Steeles Ave. W., P.O. Box 81630, Toronto, Ontario, M2R 3X1, Canada
Phone: (905) 707-6283

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