CD Review

Nothing Inside - Three Releases

By Marcus Pan

Nothing InsideRome Clegg takes front role in Atlanta, Georgia's dark-synth act, Nothing Inside. With the help of Stephanie Stinson, Mike Coleman and Chris Camillo Ni have, over the past two years, put out an unprecedented three CDs in this short time; all full length and all with more than a dozen tracks each. Their next release, Decay, is currently in the works. Rome and crew use a dark, soothing sound to create his work - like voices in your head spun to a usually slow beat. Vocals, when used, are tinged with synthetic whispering and echoes. Many of the tracks by NI are very complicated, twisting computeresque sounds into themselves and sending them out in waves that grow like a lake of ripples as the songs move forward. They still remain self-managed, self-produced and self-promoted even after delivering to their darkwave fans three full lengths and a number of compilation and remix appearances.

Much of Clegg's work hovers between darkwave/industrial and trance. He can soothe and control in one track and then immediately launch into an uplifting barrage of muted beats and sliding keys. He stays with this format throughout his recordings, keeping a constant sound and similar tone throughout tracks. He uses samples and sound clips only sparingly and where appropriate. The songs will usually start out slow and swaying and slowly build higher in intensity, complication and sounds - more being added to the scope of the music until a crescendo of pulsating aural imagery is reached. Occasionally he'll trip around in a more experimental vein, but will still typically return at some point to the darkwave sound he's established and continues to prevail in.

EndEnd
Originally released in 1995, End was remixed in late 1997 and early 1998. Originally a cassette release, Clegg had the songs remastered and remixed before placing them on this CD release. End has sixteen tracks and together they consist of nearly 73 minutes of play time - a rather large amount for any release. The music contained on End is a soothing, darker sound, somehow moving quick enough to keep a unique flow but not speeding up too much and losing the ambience. It's a very subtle sound that he keeps throughout this one. The CD is about half instrumental, ambient melodies and half with lyrics. Rome's vocals are always whispered and the melodies are filled with sounds of strings giving many of the tracks an orchestral feel without losing that computeresque/darkwave sound.

Empty, the first track here, is a good opener, giving you a feeling of what to expect on the rest of the CD. Vocals are whispered and floaty, an almost underwater effect. The synthesizer melodies are subtle yet remain highlighted enough to keep the song away from monotony. Another of my favorite tracks here is Matter of Faith. Like Empty, this track does have vocals. The bassline here is rummaging and deep, mixing extremely well with the bouncing melody. "Loving you was always a matter of faith," Rome says - and isn't that the truth? Hate is one of the last tracks on the CD, a bonus track previously unreleased until now. This is a faster combination of sounds with a swift beat that moves along quickly, computerized synthetic melodies leading into Rome's token whispering voice.

HostHost
Host contains an angrier mood than the End release does. He moves into a harsher beat and more computerized sound here. Some areas even smack of experimental noise - but Rome applies a lot of control over the sounds so that it's not lost in the musical ether. Originally conceived as an EP dedicated to William S. Burroughs and his founding of the beat movement, though outside influences turned it into something more. Nothing Inside underwent lineup changes and "strange illnesses" during the creation of the CD, says Rome on the jacket, and you can distinctly hear the anger that he claims prevailed during this time. Rome goes on to say that Host "sounds the way it was intended to…so no excuses." None necessary, Rome…none at all. Included with the work of Nothing Inside are tracks from a number of side projects that members of NI were involved with. Band names include Stiff Kittens, Hate Turned Backwards, Mice In Tights, Karakul, New Dawn Fades and Tears of God.

Shatter starts out the CD with a sample that states, "Ladies and gentlemen, there's no cause for alarm." But I don't know. Following this the synthetic chords, pounding drums and metallic bass kind of make you feel otherwise. "Rome's not happy today…all hell's about to break loose on the speakers," is what I thought. And then the experimental metallic scrapes, vocals that unlike End are no longer whispers but growls, and whistles blared like sirens of impending anguish. Following Shatter however, the moods and sounds of the further tracks on Host turn back to the moody, dark sound that End made me familiar to. But Host seems stronger, with a swifter beat, more metallic sounds and with more of a rumbling feel than the ambient style of End. If End set an ambient mood for the soul, then Host wrenches the soul away. You can hear them treading on a more experimental path this time around. Another track on Host that I particularly enjoy is that contributed by Mice In Tights, a side collaboration between Rome Clegg and Chris Camillo. Incinerator is the tenth track on the CD and is a moving, wonderfully melodic piece that I have been known to jump to whenever I pop Host in the CD player. It's a song that takes you through the darkness and right up to that edge where the light begins - it's a hopping tune with eerie rhythms and moving basslines, but sounds somehow happy. Not My Little Pony happy, but more like the Smurfs found a way to make more chicks happy. I find myself wanting to hear more from Mice In Tights. Another highlight track is the fifth, Fade, a metallic groaning track with pounding beats and floating chord progressions. The vocals are near imperceptible - but fortunately they're printed on the jacket. I would have liked to be able to understand them however - they are drowned out by the rhythm, noise and succumb to overuse of vox.

StrangerStranger
A step even deeper into the ambient darkness is Stranger. It's very similar to the work on End with less of an orchestra/string sound and more of a synthetic/computeresque sound. The framework of the sounds is the same, although many of the tracks move along at a faster pace than most of End's work. Over 73 minutes of work here - 17 tracks in all! At the bottom of the first page on the jacket, Clegg writes "Puppy mode?" That's a good description as any - although Rome mixes in more ambience and mood than electro-industrial. Rome's (and Stephanie's) vocals throughout Stranger are much more tinged with effects than on End. Here they apply echoes so much that the words meld into each other and become, instead, a drawn out vocalized chant-like sound rather than separate words or lyrics themselves. One long "oh" or "ah," so to speak.

The first of my favorite tracks is the fifth, Blur. A moving song with a toy-piano melody and the bright, wispy vocals of Stephanie Stinson…I'm pretty sure it's her anyway. The song ends with the truth in words, "such a fragile thing as love…" I also must report that Macross over at In Perpetual Motion LOVES this track and wrote me about it the other day. Expect to hear a lot of Nothing Inside on IPM (http://www.digitalangel.com/ipm) as the weeks roll by. In Slip (track 7), you're treated to a bright melody of bells. The melody gives no clue as to the heavy bass and drum track that's to lead the song into the first set of lyrics. Sometimes the song names don't seem to jibe with the content of the track - Roadkill for example contains sounds that evoke images of niceness moreso than dead things on a highway. Sure the lyrics may involve dead things, but again you're not sure - a whole lot of echo effect is applied to them so each word runs into another and blends together. There are a group of very good remixes on here as well - Empty, Descent, Monster and End from the End album. The remix of Empty is particularly good, sounding almost as if the song was brightened - like Rome ran it through the wash with bleach.

Nothing InsideNothing Inside treads somewhere between Skinny Puppy noise-experiments and Mentallo & the Fixer electronic rhythms. Vocals are almost always distorted, many times to the point of not being vocals anymore - but vocals are not Nothing Inside's main draw. It's their complicated rhythms and electronic ambience that is their suit. If you're looking for something completely new, this isn't the place to go. What Nothing Inside do is take ethereal, ambient and incorporeal sounds and breathe into them an electronic rhythm and life. Nothing Inside is to electronica music what Dr. Frankenstein is to exhumed corpses…

Contact Information:
Post: Nothing Inside, Box 8521, Atlanta, GA, 31106
E-Mail: nothing@digiserve.com
Web: http://www.nothinginside.com

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