CD Review

State of the Union - “Inpendum” & “Timerunner”

By Marcus Pan

State of the UnionAnother electronic act trying to blend their own (expected) type of EBM, State of the Union hails from Los Angeles, California. While the world is getting pummeled with electro-EBM acts, futuristic styles and synthetic strains designed to sound like you've just stepped out of a timeship into 3027, State of the Union are at least one of the highlights of this inundated genre.

Through the 90's, singer/creator Johann Sebastian worked his magic in other industrial and electronic acts and now steps out on his own as State of the Union. When live Johann performs vocals while Hector Del and Jose Montesdeca mess around with synthesizers and Jimmy Nimra bangs percussion. At this point they've stacked up three releases. There's Black City Lights, and the two that I'm talking about here today – Inpendum and the maxi single Timerunner.

Union's style is common, but well done. Synthetic melodies combine with high beats per minute to create futuristic strains. High complication is a highlight to the music and the make up is a friendly blend of trance, techno and darkwave. I can call upon comparisons with Nothing Inside, Netz and Massiv In Mensch to name a few that stand out in recent memory.

ImpendumInpendum is, in my opinion, the better of the two that WTII Records sent my way. This CD tells a story of a future time when "machines dominate," and has the interesting effect of fusing Terminator style imagery with 80s synthpop grooviness. Opening with two instrumentals (Inpendum and Escape) the CD sets the tone you'll enjoy through the rest of the CD. Somewhere in Time is the first vocal track on the album, with Johann's voice keeping a low-key, bass-tone and not trying to become a main piece of the music; not succumbing to most lead vocalists' ego trips that appear when they try to push said vocals over the music rather than blend with it. Instead, State of the Union combines all facets of the arrangement together well.

Nara slides into a trancey, surreal-like dirge with some spoken word enmeshed in smooth rhythms and drum 'n bass. It's something of a minimalist piece and doesn't stand out much, but it surely shows State of the Union's prowess at creating a lot from a little. Unforgiving Time takes synth-lines right out of old school Erasure or Kraftwerk and molds a fine piece of music. This is an example of a band taking a well-worn genre and dry cleaning it so that it's fun to wear again. The only caveat by this time (we're at track five right now) is that Johann's vocals begin, slightly, to sound a little monotonous. But the effect going for here is one of smooth, unabashed future-pop so that can be somewhat forgiven within the grooves.

After the slow low-down dirge of Suffer the Fallen, the stepped-up beats of Makina Mata move the floor. Johann still continues his bass-laden dirge, but allows a little bit of feeling to flow into his voice during choruses though he does tend to hold notes a little long. Something which can at times flatline the track a little. A little instrumental break with Hypnosis and then we go back into vocal tracks with Afterlife, another well made future/synth pop ditty.

TimerunnerTimerunner, a max-single that includes remixes of the nominal tune three times over, includes three further tracks labeled Experiment I through III and has another called Children of the Night. Continuing the journey through the future of cyborgs and sentient machinery, Timerunner opens very soothingly with Al Principio that includes a (Spanish I believe, but it’s damn hard to tell with the echo.) spoken word section over top. Ambient sounds mix in the background and just ooze you along into the original version of Timerunner which immediately runs off with a high level beats per minute and is populated by very well done synth work and keyboard arrangements. Very catchy. Experiment I is a hard-edged drum ‘n bass track, hard hitting but a little drawn out. The following Experiment II continues the barrage. Thankfully Children of the Night rescues us from the over-the top slams and constant bangings of the experiments, but exists only to dump us into Experiment III which is, while a bit lighter, another drum ‘n bass track that starts like the others but fortunately turns up a bit of a melody.

Overall, State of the Union isn’t going to jump out and grab you screaming, “Hey this is really off the wall new!” Not at all. Instead it’s going to bring you back to the best of the EBM and industrial revolution as brought to us by Kraftwerk, Erasure and early Ministry. What Johann Sebastian lacks in versatility of voice he certainly makes up for with his musical prowess and synthetic arrangements.

Contact Information:
WTII Records, LLC
Post: PO Box 13495, Chicago, IL, 60613, USA
Phone: (773) 755-2415

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