Tag Archives: electronica

The Music of 2017: Part One

The Best of the Not-2017 Discoveries

Noise Unit: Drill (released 1997)

Before we get to the actual releases of 2017, I will begin with this year’s discovery of a couple of bands who have put out albums that are truly great to my ears, and they come from two very different genres.  Both are old, well-established acts, but as far as I know only one is still active.  But boy – are they ever active.

The first is Noise Unit, an industrial electronica duo out of Vancouver, with links to Front Line Assembly and Delerium, who began back in 1989 with the album Grinding Into Emptiness.  As far as I can tell, their last one was 2005’s Voyeur.  I sampled a few things from Grinding into Emptiness, and Response Frequency, and Decoder, and they were good, interesting, but not attention-keepers.

Then I found Drill, released in 1997.  That was the game-changer.  What an album this is…the epitome of industrial electronica EBM, dense and intricate and as sophisticated as all hell; every time I play it I notice new things.  Melodic and addictive, definitely one of my best discoveries for a long time.

 

Pretty Maids: Pandemonium (released 2010)

And then there is Pretty Maids. Yeah well what can I say. The music we love the most digs into places in our psyche that other things don’t get to, and I have found that there is no predicting what that will be.  That Drill would work was not enormously surprising because I am not averse to the genre to begin with…but Pretty Maids surely was.  Established way back in the hair-metal heyday of the mid 1980s, at first glance they epitomize everything I don’t like about old-time classic hard rock and metal, and frankly their early albums don’t do much to change that perception.   But in 2010 something happened.  Well, Jacob Hansen, a new producer happened, and the resurrection of Pretty Maids makes Lazarus rising from the dead look like a parlor trick.

The last four Pretty Maids albums have rocketed to the top of my all-time album list; I started with their 2016 release Kingmaker and worked backwards from there, and then I hit 2010’s Pandemonium.

By jesus (as my dad would often say) this album might just be THE perfect melodic hard rock album. It has everything  — crunching heaviness, relentless energy, massive performances, even decent lyrics.  The vocal performance on this album is absolutely monstrous: Ronnie’s pipes must be made of cast iron. It don’t think there is a less-than-great song on this album (well, maybe “Cielo Drive”…),  but that title track…it doesn’t get much better than that.  By anyone.   Pandemonium astonishes me  – it fires every metal synapse in my brain every single time I play it, and I have played it almost daily since I stumbled on these guys.   Not just the discovery of the year — this album is the discovery of the goddamned decade, if not the century.

Au4: …And Down Goes the Sky

Released: 2013

Personnel

  • Ben Wylie: Vocals; keyboards; guitars; sequencing
  • Aaron Wylie: Vocals; keyboards; programming
  • Jason Nickel: Bass; vocals
  • Nathan Wylie: Drums; percussion

Contributors:

  • Melanie Krueger: Vocals
  • Anna Vandas: Vocals
  • Daniel Moir: Electric guitar
  • Niki Piper: Violin
  • Clara Shandler: Cello
  • Malcolm Aiken: Trumpet

Tracklist:

  1. Everyone is Everyone (and Everything is Everything)
  2. Lost Her Way Home
  3. The Propagation of Light (Through the Ether of Emotion)
  4. So Just Hang On, Beautiful One
  5. In Three Seconds I’ll Be Gone
  6. Forever Dancing Under a Fallen Sky
  7. Wherever We Begin to Fall (Broken Glass Will Surely Follow)
  8. The Empty Gorgeousness of All
  9. Planck Length
  10. Over the Edge It Goes

The great thing about social media is the sheer amount of music that can be found, via recommendations and links from friends, from various genre-based Facebook groups…Youtube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp…there is more great music out there than I will ever get to hear if I live to be a hundred. The disadvantage of social media is, well, the sheer amount of music… yeah.  I could spend my entire day online just clicking links.  It is both exciting and daunting at the same time. I simply have to bypass most of the stuff that people share: no time, no ability to focus on it, whatever.  I know I have missed a lot.

But eventually there comes some time to poke around, to sample the links that folks seem to be most excited about.  On one day I decided to try out a video shared by a few of my friends who were so enthusiastic they were almost incoherent. The band had a strange name seemingly taken from the Periodic Table, and the album cover was a rather beautiful bit of art.

This, the very first track I heard — which I believe is the last track on this album — stopped me dead in my tracks.  I could not quite fathom what I was hearing.  All I knew was that I had to hear more of the album, and when I did I had to hear it again.  And the more I played it, the more I had to play it.  It dug in deeply and insistently and relentlessly, like some musical version of Cordyceps, and zombie-like I was compelled to play the thing. Over and over.  This does not happen very often, and usually if it does, the album does not last for very long.  It gets overplayed and then set aside.  But so far there seems no evidence that I can overplay …And Down Goes the Sky.  This album seems to have found a special niche in my soul.

Continue reading Au4: …And Down Goes the Sky