Review: Various Artists – Artificial Selections

a3207601573_10More then a week ago, a new compilation emerged out of the alternative underground. A compilation that caught people off guard because of the beautiful representation of cold-wave, post-punk and experimental selections – including a wider variation of genres. Featuring both unrepresented artists and those who are not. First off are Excuses, the solo-project by Matthew Rowe whose debut was put out on the now defunct label Function Operate, back in 2012. This self-titled release featured five songs but his contribution to the compilation was with the track “We Are Fuel“. It is a raw track which lets a dodgy atmosphere with shoegaze fill out the sound-scape, together with the ambivalent riffing you’d only find within darker post-punk. Although his vocals on this song isn’t up to par with the rest of the landscape of sound, it is held up by the general mood that he delivers with sincerity. I just wish it was coupled with a better vocal representation because right now it sounds too cheesy. But I must say that it is a good opener which sets the bar for the rest of the compilation higher up.

Next I’m greeted with the fastness of minimal synth getting straight to the point. Just how I like synth-pop to be delivered. Behind this song called “Miss Jane Lover“, stands a duo which has released everything from their first album “Darkened Corners” to the more recent “Pour Ferrari“, whose moniker Tuxedo Gleam can be found on the The Scrap Mag’s fourth (third?) compilation “TSM 0004“.  Everything drenched in 80’s pastiche but with the colorfulness of the gleaming neon-colors that stream through sonically. Include this into a pop-oriented and energetic sound which could have those of us least interested in dancing, swinging around our hands as if we’re the swines of the night. When I’m at the second chorus, there is more afterthought embedded into the sound as the singer carefully laments with vocals that actually fit what I’m getting more and more used to. A sound which is in no need of change and which only heeds to the hedonism of the night.

From this to one of the weirdest combinations geographically, a Mexican and Russian collaborative effort whom call themselves Rhythmus 23. Having released an E.P. before this effort which had the title “Panzer Transmission (E​.​P)“, which could be a hint to what genre they’ve heavily incorporated into their sound. Unfortunately, they hadn’t created a track specifically for this compilation so we’ll have to do with “Panzer Transmission“, the song they decided to have on this compilation. They have a much darker atmosphere which induce electronic body music, together with regular synth-pop which complements it with nice melodies to go with the rhythm of the electronic baseline. I thought it was clever of them to combine the Russian and Mexican language which the vocalist manages to pull off without everything else becoming increasingly unbearable to listen to. Even though the song have a couple of strengths, I would’ve rather liked to hear a new song rather than an old one.

Everyone that simply couldn’t stand the electronic greeting which you’ve just had, prepare for even more. But now the compilation introduces Frostbiter, whom I haven’t really found any information about so I cannot utter anything about him. Here’s where paranoid cold-wave is put into play with his track “Waiting“. A song you’d probably put on your mobile phone with the snooze-function on. Although I like the grittiness of the atmosphere a lot, it becomes a bit nagging with the vocals that continually put in the word “waiting” in your ears. The repetitiveness of it makes it a duller song than I would’ve expect after such an eloquent intro and a much awaited cold detour.

Since the compilation seem to be dulling itself down from the rightfully great start, Joshua Noel Tanner‘s contribution “Disconnect” isn’t really much about the music as I think it should’ve been. Which is a bad thing to start with but he makes up for it with the song itself having a catchy chorus. His lyrical content isn’t that exciting to begin with, but there’s something with how the melody fits so well with “ooh-oh, it’s a disconnect, please don’t leave the number…” I find that part to be one that holds the track to a different standard than the rest of his rather dull song. I must applaud him for being able to connect the melody and rhythm so well to begin with but the more I replay it the more I wished the whole track to be equally as great. It really does nothing for me more than having that particular line, together with melody and rhythm – stuck in my head.

Unfortunately, it immediately continues to go down both in my interest of the music and the quality which I found in the beginning of this compilation. The Glass Cathedral is the next act, whose song “Love Ties Me Up” leaves me turning it off after having gotten through the first two minutes. It really does nothing for me. With everything from the almost midi-sounding drums to the general atmosphere of the track. Sure, the melodies and the rhythm is fine – but it is simply not my cup of tea. It doesn’t get better when he decides to infuse his own singing into it. After having to listen to that, I shut the song off and go straight to the next one.

Finally, things start to head for the better. With the artist Person:a and his track “Shattered“, the minimalistic synth gives itself a comeback together with the delusional mixture of cold-wave. Suggestive, in tone with the rest of the atmosphere, slipping away. From the casually laden whisperings that echo into the atmosphere and back at you again, you feel almost claustrophobic when you listen to it once again and realize how unaffected the rhythm is by it. It just continues to go on, and on… and on. Outdrawn synthesizers that capture the beauty in the dismay of itself, to the out of tune clinks on what sounds like a modified arpeggio. Well, this is a reminder of how fast you can get something on the right track once again. Beautiful track which haves you in shackles throughout the rough two-minute ordeal that you’ll listen to it. It feels longer. No longer.

I’m not too fond of hearing the Spanish language when it comes to electronic music. But with the Mexican mastermind Rogelio Serrano‘s brainchild Equinoxious, he brings a haunting experience with the track “Flesh (Version Espanol)“. Having released his triple-single “Astros Prometidos” now in 2014, it feels nice to become acquainted to his music via this compilation. This whole track feels like a spiral downwards, but when you least know it you’ll be stuck in a maze of different analogue synthesizers matching each other to the beat – with a nicely crafted beat which isn’t out of place – nor out of realm with his crazed out minimalism. Whereas the cold-wave influences can be heard and found scattered alongside the coherent atmosphere of his track, he leaves the overt sound-scape to be articulated by minimal synth. It is great to have found out that minimal synth doesn’t just spawn abominations, but also skilled craftsmen who know how to do their own thing.

Honestly, when the next name on the artist is “White Christian Male” – I am bound to find it heretical. I was thinking that it’d be yet another ploy with a provocative name, but when I scoured the internet and found more iconography from this solo-project, I was bound to find a liking to it. If I talked about paranoia before, prepare to be introduced to a whirlwind of insanities and the harsh reality that is properly curated industrial. His track “Live It Down” is actually danceable. The general rhythm follows a pattern which makes it easier to bob your head to. Not to mention the excellent portrayal which he manages to give his own vocals as it is clashing with the most vile metallic sound you’d possibly hear outside of industrial. His vocals is a nice addition to the atmosphere of the track and you can’t be other than impressed by the disorganized fashion this and how it fits so well with the otherwise organized bombardment. Great track and probably one of my favorites off this compilation.

I think that the aforementioned track brought upon an industrial resurgence. Because the next track “No Way Out” by Betty and the Knives is in the same fashion. Except that it is more of a display in the largeness that industrial music can have. A bombastic endeavor which is coupled by the calmest female vocals that chant the name of the track over and over again. I realize that there is no way out but I do not want to get out because this track is so damn great. From the knifes that serve as a rhythm when it is trashing your nicest porcelain and just making a mess of your house. To the gigantic sound that could be nothing more than a noise-infused static sound that blasts out like a furnace heated with the help of coal and fire. I feel sooty and dirty despite how many times I replay this track. Even though I don’t want to give too much credit to only the industrial acts of this compilation, I believe these two tracks “Live It Down” and “No Way Out” make the second half of the compilation much better.

Here we go again. The sole member of the project Impersonate Or Die, Nick Stonem, comes at me with the song “Blow Your Head“. I am not a fan of the rather enforced vocals. Nor am I a fan of the sound-scape in this song at all, really. It feels like too much of a mish-mash in between genres and it is not executed properly. Even though some of the song is tolerable and could be said to be some kind of weird combination between darkwave and synth-pop gone wrong. But at least he’s trying and this is the sole project of one man, so I can cut some slack for what he’s doing with this song.

Everything ends with Marital Vows. The solo-project of a man called Daniel Stolarski. He released his debut-album a year ago and it was a self-titled one, put out by Passed Love – an American label. The track he brings to your ears is “Human Error“. I’m not too sure whether I would discard his effort, being the longest song on the entire compilation. He also brings a whole other kind of thing to the compilation with his drugged out – droned out – crazily noisy but dizzy experimental industrial. This is probably how it’d sound in your head if you couldn’t handle your hard drugs. A kind of metamorphosing trip which never seems to end. Later on in the sound-scape the atmosphere becomes ever more sinister and reminds me more of something that would come out of a harsh noise-act. Although I have a love and hate kind of relationship to this song, it has got a lot of complexities going on that is not noticeable at first listen – the modular kind of sounds – crossed over with the noisy apparition of sudden explosive sounds. I like it, or not. I don’t really know.

This was my review of the compilation “Artificial Selections”, which is the first release on the American label Chromatin Records. Although it contained some disappointments, that’s what you usually get whilst listening through a compilation. However, there were a lot of positive surprises with this compilation and I think most of the tracks outweighed the negative side of this release. For me, a compilation is actually good if it contains some good tracks – in relation to the amount of tracks that are in a compilation. So I am certainly looking forward to what Chromatin Records will be releasing in the near future. Stream the whole release down below.

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