CD Review

V/A - "Distention"

By Marcus Pan

DistentionPittsburgh Pennsylvania is trying to build around themselves a strong electronica/industrial scene. While they haven't yet reached the point that the Detroit Electronica Coalition have achieved, they are rallying behind new label AlterCulture Records. Chris Sevanick's small label operation has come a long way since '95 and the days of The Silence, first release by Mindless Faith and Chris' own product. Since then they've picked up other bands; including his solo project Vivid Liquid and Gears Slowly Grinding, another of Mindless Faith's recording projects. Their latest release is Distention, a label sampler holding five bands on the AlterCulture label.

The release is very professional with excellent production, good packaging and even a CD-ROM track on the disc that holds band info and a pre-release of Mindless Faith's Contaminated video in MOV format. I must admit I still like MPGs better…but that's just quibbling. The CD-ROM track and information could have been laid out better - they don't touch the layout, style and information contained on the Interstellar Harmony release. But just the fact that it's there should be a lesson to all the other labels. Us goth-geeks LIKE this shit!

Bands included are Mindless Faith, Raudive Voices, Gears Slowly Grinding, The Unquiet Void and Vivid Liquid. The music here ranges from mediocre to rather good. Mindless Faith seem to be the headliner, and rightly so, with the most tracks. Let's take a look at the bands on the AlterCulture label, shall we?

Contact Information:
Post: AlterCulture Records, 360 Meyran Ave., 1st Fl., Pittsburgh, PA, 15213 Phone: (412) 802-0160
E-Mail: alterculture@usa.net & incubate@usa.net
Web: http://alterculture.hypermart.net/

Mindless FaithMindless Faith
Just shy of a half-decade ago in 1995, brothers Chris and Jasin Sevanick lit the flame that was to become the band Mindless Faith. AlterCulture was formed in 1996 presumably - the release of MF's debut cassette, The Silence. Since then they've appeared on a number of compilations, including Nod's Tacklebox O' Fun with their cover of Prince & The Revolution's When Doves Cry. I reviewed that recently, writing "I was also told by Jasin that he even had a cold at the time of recording...looking forward to hearing him without it." Well, he does sound much better without it. :)

All songs on the sampler CD here are set to appear on their Manifest Destiny release due in the beginning of 2000. Strangely enough, Contaminated didn't appear - I found that unusual because this is the video that appears on the CD-ROM track of the disc. They are said to be very aggressive and outright stomping during live shows - a tribute to the brothers' punk background. Jim Semonik handles their stage show lights and fog, creating a scene nearly out of Bladerunner from what I could see on their Contaminated and All These Years videos - the latter of which I have on a VHS tape locked away in a safe somewhere (hey, this thing might be worth money someday!). Also, live-member Paul Green handles the drum work turning the duo to a trio in their live performances.

MF do an industrial-tinged EBM thing. Their first track here, Rat Race, is an excellent song to start up any rivet-head dance floor. Next comes Strained, a slow and moody song that picks up later. It's a song characterized by dark windy synths and bell-like keyboards. The vocals and bass are windy and deep, giving the song a very "I'm lost" feel to it. They follow this one up with All These Years, another slow-starter with the windy feel. The song then goes into a more industro-stomp dancefloor number. The rhythms that MF use are quite infectious. Finally there's Prodigy, another good song that clearly shows that Mindless Faith are the best AlterCulture has to offer. It's harder-edged than their previous songs, closing their section of the CD off well and making them a tough act to follow - whether they be on stage or on disc.

Contact Information:
Post: Mindless Faith, 360 Meyran Ave., 1st Fl., Pittsburgh, PA, 15213
Phone: (412) 802-0160
E-Mail: mindlessfaith@mindless.com
Web: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/4357/MindlessFaith.html

Raudive VoicesRaudive Voices
Raudive Voices is a project by Jason Moyer designed as an experimental studio project. It is an experiment to create a musical form of the work by Konstantin Raudive, a parapsychologist. Konstantine was trying to find a way to use magnetic reel to reel tapes as a means of communications with deceased spirits - truly a mind-boggling thing. This is important to understand, as RV's music is quite esoteric. Knowing the drive behind the musical endeavors of Moyer has made it much more enjoyable to me.

Debut CD Re: Cycles is due to hit the streets this coming December, 1999. On this debut CD by Raudive Voices is older material from them, re-mastered and placed here with five new tracks. They have three tracks here on Distention from this upcoming release; Flicker, Accused and Dessau #. All three have a clearly Skinny Puppy sound with metallic wind, voxed up vocals and interesting rhythms. Ghostly voices lie in the background of Flicker, which makes it an interesting piece. I feel it should have been sped up a more, though, because it's very slow and tends to drag. The other two tracks are more upbeat. All have that circa-80's industrial feel.

Contact Information:
Web: http://raudive.hypermart.net/

Gears Slowly GrindingGears Slowly Grinding
Brand new and still cooking in the proverbial pot, Gears Slowly Grinding is a Mindless Faith side-project. This time the brothers are attempting to create a darker, more-ambient background. The MF stompable EBM rhythms are gone and replaced by a moodier synth background and, yes again, windy sounds. A few samples lurk in the background of GSG's first track, Induce, giving it an off-world fear and probably accomplishing the ghost-like thing more than Raudive Voices were able to (with the exception of Flicker I think). They also contribute Delusion as well. Again, like Induce, it is a slow and droning song. Also like their previous track, Delusion is a whispering song - Raudive Voices and Gears Slowly Grinding are very similar - although RV will sometimes add in a more moving rhythm beat.

Contact Information:
Web: http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/60/gears_slowly_grinding.html

The Unquiet VoidThe Unquiet Void
At fifteen, Jason Wallach began the project that is now known as The Unquiet Void. An ethereal/ambient electronic style, reminiscent of Firmament or a space-age Kraftwerk, The Unquiet Void provide three tracks on Distention originally from their Scorpio release. Rat Bastard of the Legends review staff is currently assigned Scorpio; it should have already printed by the time you're reading this one. So I'll leave it mostly up to him. Scorpio will also be found in a cult film from Phantom Productions as well, incorporating the work of Jason's Unquiet Void project as a soundtrack. Included here are Breathing Liquid Breath, The Cube of Bondage and A Constant Looming Uncertainty.

Contact Information:
Post: Jason Wallach / The Unquiet Void, PO Box 770951, Coral Springs, FL, 33077
E-Mail: theunquietvoid@juno.com
Web: http://come.to/TheUnquietVoid

Vivid LiquidVivid Liquid
The AlterCulture CD sampler closes with the work of Vivid Liquid. This is Chris Sevanick's solo project, but it's not his best work I think. Vivid Liquid kicks off The Tear with an interesting enough arrangement of space-scape style sonic metal scrapes. The synths are pop-sounding and don't seem to mesh well with the vibrational scraping. The final track that closes not only the work by Vivid Liquid, but Distention itself, is Neronaut. This one is beatless and relies on the listener's internal rhythm - but it's too experimental for me to enjoy. I prefer Mindless Faith's more-accessible style to something like this. I think it's again the keyboards-that-don't-fit versus the background scape that is grating me.

Contact Information:
E-Mail: xris@telerama.com
Web: http://www.telerama.com/~xris/