CD Review

V/A - "Empire One"

by Dan Century

Empire OneTinman is a small but promising electro/industrial label based in central New Jersey. I've known the label's owner, Jeff "the Emperor" Johnson, for at least ten years. In the late 80's and early 90's I would spend most Thursday nights doing homework and listening to his radio show broadcast on Rutgers WRSU. I credit him as a huge influence on my musical tastes, as he introduced me to the sounds of hundreds of aggro/electro/industrial bands and patiently answered my questions when I called him at the studio. Given his encyclopedic knowledge of the industrial genre, his radio show, job at a local independent record store and activity in the New Jersey scene, it made perfect sense for Jeff to start his own label. Why Tinman for the name? Well other than the obvious robot/android metaphor, Tinman is the first 6 numbers of his phone number!

Several years, nine bands and nineteen records later Tinman is releasing their first compilation: Empire One. For only $4.99 you get 16 songs by 9 of the New Jersey/New York area's most promising electronic/Industrial performers. Yes, only $4.99 - how could you go wrong?

Many of the bands appear more than once, sampling songs from their crude beginnings and their polished, confident recent releases. There are even a few songs found nowhere else - a bonus for collectors.

Here's what's on the disk:

Crocodile Shop: Celebrate the Enemy, Soviet and Grey Day Reign
Listen to a band evolve over the course of three songs, becoming more confident with their instruments, voice and song writing abilities. This captures the sound of the band as I remember them in the early 90's. Dark, soulless electronics supported by minimal guitar sounds. They have a real skill for writing moody 1980s-like pop with a confident, militaristic feel. Brings me back to my college years in New Brunswick.

I, Parasite: Flesh to Take and No Question
Quality electronic disgust in the same family as Front Line Assembly and early Skinny Puppy. Clever keyboard and bass melodies supporting a disturbed vocalist. All the drum programming and incidental noises you would expect. Great music to write code to. No Question is the best song on the comp.

Cydonia: Sacred and Ritual Imagine
New Order played by evil robots, or a really good Revolting Cocks b-side. Demon-voice vocals, cacophonic percussion and militaristic keyboards reminiscent of early Lead Into Gold.

The Aggression: Missionary Man and Gemini Sky
Creepy gurgling electronics, thrash guitar, over the top drum drumming, bizarre, unexpected tempo and melody changes. Angry but unaffected vocals. Like an electronic, homegrown Fear Factory.

God's Girlfriend: Jean, I Think I'm Sinking and People Are Bad
Seeing God's Girlfriend live is an experience you would never forget. Girlfriend is a 6 foot 6 inches tall post-op transsexual, as skinny as a stick and usually wearing little more than a bikini. Her set ranges from hyper-distorted noise to metallic Mamas and the Papas covers. Ghoulish and dramatic, raw and electronic. David Bowie's super-twisted step sister. If you have the chance to see her live, take that chance.

Android Lust: Where Angles Lie and Refuse
Possibly the most unique voice in electronica today: at once fragile and confident, angelic and robotic. Not-quite aggro electronic, well formed song structure and a great sense of tension throughout. Refuse is as good as cyber-electronica gets - I truly believe the singer is some kind of android/angel/savoir, lost in some future technologic wasteland (especially since I'm buzzed on Merlot as I write this).

Empire One is an inexpensive way to sample one of the few active and cohesive electronic music scenes in America. If you're hard core into bands like Front Line Assembly, Front 242 and Leather Strip take a chance and pick it up.

Contact Information:
Post: Tinman, PO Box 1114, New Brunswick NJ, 08903
Phone: (732) TIN-MAN7

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