Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Skinny Puppy’ Category

raslSOUNDTRACK: METHOD OF THE W.O.R.M.-Cicatrix (2015).

motwormMETHOD OF THE W.O.R.M. is the project of one guy–known as Grimm.  Cicatrix is a collection of songs that spans decades (“begun long before the present digital day”) and recently remastered and released.

The blurb on CdBaby (where you can download the disc–it’s also on iTunes) notes that Method of the W.O.R.M. is “an industrial hard rock with a trip hop edge, intelligent grown up lyrics delving into the microcosm and macrocosm of our world. Influences run the gamut of NIN, Massive Attack, Cop Shoot Cop, Swans, Coil, Tricky, Skinny Puppy, Tom Waits and many others.”

There’s quite a diversity in that list even if the bands are similar, and you can hear the melding of influences.  And you can hear most of them in the songs. But what sets MotWORM apart from these bands is a keen sense of melody in the vocals.  Most industrial music tends to bury the vocals with distortion or just under the music.  But Grimm’s got a good (even pleasant) singing voice which elevates the songs above the din of lesser industrial bands.

While it’s not like pre-digital technology was all tape manipulation, it also wasn’t as easy as it is now.  And the complexity in these songs shows a lot of skill and attention to detail.

“No Flesh” opens the collection.  After some interesting noisy samples (steel drums?), a slow bassline enters (which also sounds sampled—it’s got a very 70’s sound).  The song slowly builds with more and more layers of sound until the vocals come in–a gentle singing that also builds.  There’s a Skinny Puppy feel in the music, but the vocals are very different from Puppy’s style.  “Purge” is the first of many songs with sampled dialogue, but it’s the sounds around the dialogue that are so interesting–squeaks and buzzes, radio tuners? who knows where they come from.  Once the verses start, the main music in this track is more synthy–a compelling riff that wends through the mix.  When the distorted guitars kick in, it takes the song to an entirely new level.

“Burned” showcases the vocals up front in the mix over a simple layered melody.  But there are actually a lot of vocals in this song, including a fascinating sample that opens and closes the track.  Grimm adds layers of vocals–harmonies (or not exactly)–distorted vocals and clean vocals.  I particularly like when the higher voice sings a new (very cool) melody in the middle of the song (the sampled voice melds nicely if creepily with this too).  This song is a real highlight.

“Tragic Rabbit” has some more interesting samples and a pulsing synth line with cool swirling sounds over the top of the vocals.  “As If a Dream” is a slow trippy number with an excellent processed sample.

“A Viral Method” introduces live drums (which sound great and were provided by Swans’ Phil Puleo).  It also has a great live guitar sound playing a fast riff and harmonics.  There’s more great harmony vocals. And a wild riff for the bridge (do I dare say a bit prog rock?).  Although I love the cool samples and layers in the earlier songs, this live instrumentation adds an excellent urgency to the music.  The only problem with this song is that it’s so short.

“Absolution” starts off quietly but after the distorted guitars, the chorus is super catchy–the way it seems like it’s going to end but rebuilds itself.  It’s really well crafted.  “A Moment of Silence” opens with a retro-sounding synth bass.  It’s a fairly minimal song with the vocals really taking over as that synth line drifts to the background and new sounds bubble up.  “Wasted” opens with distorted guitars kind of like a Ministry song, but the vocals are much cleaner, which brings an unexpected quality to what could have been a typical heavy song.  Especially the chorus which is musically bright (even if it’s lyrically dark).

“Freak-O” (what a great title) opens with some loud jackhammer type drums.  The song creeps along menacingly (with a great sample of someone shouting “You are one ugly son of a bitch!”).  I like the simple melody that simmers up from the noise by the end of the song.  “Miscreant” opens with quieter acoustic guitars before the drums kicks in and a menacing synth line takes over.  The vocals are quietly sung with an interesting effect placed on them.  The middle of the song has some wild sounds–I’m not entirely sure what’s happening with them, but it makes for an unsettling ambiance.

“I Love You Goodbye” is my favorite song on the disc.  It starts out simply with big guitars but quickly retreats into a much quieter verse.   There’s a great riff that throws in a slightly dissonant harmonic note that is just great.  But as the song builds into a unexpected bridge with horns, the song adds an dark carnivalesque atmosphere (and that harmonic note returns in a more prominent role).  It’s such an unusual riff and really bodes well for the interesting direction MotWORM might be heading (if they ever release anything else).

This is a real fun disc full of interesting sounds and samples.  If you like industrial music this is a disc totally worth checking out.

[READ: July 31, 2015] RASL

Jeff Smith is creator of Bone, one of my favorite comics ever.  As far as I can tell he hasn’t done a lot since Bone, but he sure did his research for this book.

The title is unfortunate (and is explained satisfactorily in the last few pages, but it’s still awkward and hard to manage).  But the work inside is extraordinary.  The story concerns dimension jumping, art theft and a whole lot of information about Nikolai Tesla.  It’s also more mature than Bone, in that there are a couple of (non-explicit) sex scenes.

In a nutshell, RASL (real name Dr. Robert Johnson) and his partner Miles are scientists.  They grew up together and studied the works of Tesla.  Miles married Maya, a beautiful scientist who has assisted them with their work over the years.  They delved deeply into the research that Tesla undertook (Resonant frequency, remote control, the earthquake machine, wireless communication) and used his ideas to create a machine that is something like a transporter/dimension hopper. They are working for the military but hope to be able to use the device to end wars (idealist scientists as they are).  Their small tests has been successful, but RASL believes that they need more testing to see if there are any effects when you use it on bigger subjects.

So he takes the machine and hops.  It turns out that each hop between dimensions takes its toll on his body and also tends to confuse matters.  (In one dimension, he checks his iPod and sees that Blonde on Blonde was recorded by Robert Zimmerman (I love that detail)).

We learn that RASL (who as the story opens has shaggy hair and cuts and bruises, unlike the composed scientist we see in flashbacks) has been jumping from dimension to dimension to steal precious works of art as a way to make some money.  There is also a really creepy-looking man whose face looks almost amphibian (Smith has some really disturbing characters in this book) chasing after him.  This man kills everyone that RASL knows in different dimensions because he is after something 9and he believes that the people in other dimensions are not real).  It is slowly revealed why RASL has been reduced to this state. (more…)

Read Full Post »

terrySOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Phobos (1997).

phobosIt’s tempting to say that Phobos is a carbon copy of Negatron, but that’s not true.  While the line up is the same, and the overall tone is very similar—very heavy, aggressive music—there are subtle differences.  The first is that the album sounds vaguely more electronic, as if they were really flirting with industrial after the experiment with Jim Thirwell on the last album.  E-Force’s vocals, while still abrasive and screamed have a lot of processing on them which makes them far more interesting and actually quite a bit more understandable.  There’s also a lot of weird electronic effects that link the album and make it feel more “spacey.”

And while there are different sections of songs and parts that are actually quiet, this i still a difficult album–the vocals especially are exceedingly harsh and will turn off people who like the instrumental sections.  I hate to sound like the band’s declining popular are all down to E-Force, but he is the weakest link in the band at this point.  Whats weird about thee two E-Force era albums is that although they are very very heavy with several weird parts per song, the basic structure of them is very conventional.  So instead of sounding proggy and weird, they sound more like a bludgeoning metal band.  Which didn’t really work for them.  Indeed, the band intended to if not call it quits at least take a hiatus after this album.

Phobos opens with “Catalepsy I” an introductory song—noises and whatnot.  And indeed, these electronic noises link all of the songs of the record, with different sounds in between the tracks (like the way “Bacteria” opens with spacey effects and electronic drum noises for 35 seconds).  But the first proper song “Rise,” has an opening guitar riff that is quite normal—dark, but normal.  It’s true that the heaviness of the chugging section is heavier than most (like earlier Voivod), but it’s still not that strange. Until the verses come in.  And here’s where E-Force’s vocals are a little different—more processed and robotic sounding.  It actually works a lot better.  And in the middle of the song while the heaviness is ongoing, that opening normal guitar riff comes back.  Rather conventionally.

“Mercury” has a more typical Voivod guitar riff although the pounding heavy chords are still quite heavy.  There’s more of the distorted vocals and weird chords for the bridge.  It also begins a series of increasingly longer songs.  This one is nearly 6 minutes.  While “Phobos” is nearly 7.  It also has an interesting echoing staccato guitar riff with E-Force’s vocals very distorted (like Nine Inch Nails or Skinny Puppy).  The bridge is a crazy noisy monstrosity and yet the middle section is very simple:  loud chords  delivered at a slow pace with interesting effects and fiddly guitar solo noises.  “Bacteria” reaches over 8 minutes long.  But it is unlike any of their earlier prog songs.  It has an interesting echoing guitar opening and a bunch of staggered parts.  But once the song’s major chords start up it sounds probably most like the previous album except for the lengthy instrumental/psychedelic section starting at around 5 minutes.

The album slows down somewhat with the 1:48 “Temps Mort” a short instrumental with what sounds alike an accordion. It’s a weird little time out (which is what the title means), and I like it a lot.

“The Tower” has an underwater kind of feel to it amidst the bludgeoning guitars.  The middle and the end have some very cool heavy trippy/spacey metal which is so radically different from the heavy Voivod chords that make up the proper song.  Indeed the very end is a minute of mellow spacey guitars.  “Quantum” is a pretty straight ahead (for Voivod) metal song with echoed vocals that take some of th edge off (until he screams the chorus).  There’s another cool instrumental section. In fact, the whole album has great instrumental sections, it’s kind of a shame the vocals are so offputting (although at the end of this song they are so distorted and computerized that they sound very cool)

“Neutrino” opens with those big loud slow ringing chords of noise before the simple but creepy solo riff comes in.  It’s 6 minutes long and has another interesting guitar line amid the noise.  It takes 3 minutes (of 7) before the vocals come in and the song gets much darker.  “Forlorn” is the closest thing to a hit on the album.  The chorus is really easy to sing along to.  And the verses are actually pretty straightforward.  It’s very very heavy and isn’t going to make the radio anywhere, but it’s still catchy.  The album proper ends with “Catalepsy II,” more swirling noises that sound like the beginning.

There are two bonus tracks on the CD.  “M-Body” was written by Jason Newsted and is the most industrial mechanized/voiced songs on the album.  It’s certainly out of place, although it does hint at what is to come on their next album.  “21st Century Schizoid Man” is a cover of the King Crimson song.  They’d done Pink Floyd and King Crimson fits pretty nicely.  As with the Floyd covers this one is very heavy.  Piggy gets the guitars right.  But as with the rest of the album, E-Force’s vocals just don’t work. Whereas Snake’s weird pronunciations accented the covers in a cool way, E-Force just seems to be forcing his way through the track (the fact that he puts 3 syllables in “century” is pretty unforgivable.  Overall the song is pretty great, although I’m not so sure about the guitar solo which sounds like Piggy doesn’t really know what to do.

And that’s the end of this Voivod lineup.  Two albums and a lot of lost fans.

[READ: September 20, 2013] Terry

I have known about this book for a pretty long time.  I was never really that interested in reading it because, while I don’t know all that much about Terry Fox, I felt like I knew enough about him to not bother with a full bio.

For those who don’t know (basically anyone from the U.S.), Terry Fox was a young man who developed cancer at the age of 19 in 1977. and had his leg amputated.  To draw attention to cancer research he decided to run (yes run) across Canada on the Trans Canada Highway.  He had a prosthetic leg, he practiced running every day (he was already a natural athlete) and he decided that in 1980 he would run from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific (he even had a bottle of water from the Atlantic that he wanted to pour into the Pacific).  His plan was to run between 26 miles a day.  Yes, run a marathon every day.  He called it the Marathon of Hope.

When he started out, the media coverage was nothing but as he progressed and his friend (who drove the van alongside him) started making media attention, Terry’s cause became more well known.  And by the time he made it to Ontario, he was a huge personality—making TV appearances, talking to anyone and, most importantly, making a ton of money for cancer research. (more…)

Read Full Post »

CV1_TNY_08_26_13Drooker.inddSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Negatron (1995).

negatronAfter The Outer Limits failed to grab an audience, Voivod’s lead singer Snake departed the band.  With just the two original members left (and no bassist or singer), Piggy and Away decided to start again.  And they went dark and heavy.  For the first 45 second of this album, you think, wow, Voivod has made a really heavy album—with thundering riffs and, yet still, some unusual chords from Piggy (the chord progressions are definitely still weird).  Then new singer (and bassist) E-Force opens his mouth.  And that’s when a good portion of Voivod’s  prog rock fan base started weeping.

E-Force is a screamer.  He’s not unlike Snake on the first couple of albums (although without the French accent).  But there’s very little diversity.  E-Force’s voice isn’t a total failure.  It works pretty well with the heaviness of the music.  But those of us who grew used to Snake’s singing can’t help but be disappointed by E-Force’s very limited range and style.

Opener “Insects” has some very cool parts and the music is kind of interesting—Piggy is always inventive and it’s cool to hear him mix some of his weird chords with such heavy music (the style is kind of like Killing Technology era but heavier and weirder).  And there’s some sequences where the chords are just bizarre and cool.  There is a bridge in “Insects” where E-Force sounds a bit like Snake and it’s like a great heavy Voivod album of old.

Speaking of heavy, Away sounds like he is having a great time banging the hell out of his drums.  I feel somewhat surprised that after the last few albums of mellowing out that both guys could ramp up to play so fast and heavy again.  “Project X” gives E-Force some room to do some different vocal styles (like on the first bridge which is actually kind of catchy), but the song is more pounding than exciting,

“Nanoman” brings some diversity, with a standard, but cool metal riff (and double bass drums). It also has a chorus that you can sing along to (or scream along to at any rate).  “Reality?” is by now standard scream fare, but there is a chorus “upside down reality” in which E-Force shows he can actually sing and that part is quite good.  “Negatron” is over 7 minutes long, and yet there s very little prog at hand.  It does have some astonishingly noisy dissonant chords, though.  “Planet Hell” opens with a bass riff that stands out a bit on this pounding album.  But it quickly begins to sound like much else of the album.  I do like the middle of the song where it breaks down into alternating guitar and drum breaks.

Starting with “Meteor” the album gets a little more interesting.  There’s more high notes in this song, especially in the bridge—it’s still heavy and bludgeoning but there is some diversity here.  I haven’t talked about the lyrics on the albums mostly because I can’t make them out, but on this song you can actually hear the lyrics and you can tell that they’re also not really up to snuff: “I don’t fucking care, I don’t care no more, I don’t give a shit.”

“Cosmic Conspiracy” opens with a simple echoing guitar line.  It introduces a sci-fi element that the album has sorely lacked.  Between that and the heavy drums and the crunchy bass, the song sounds really promising.  Indeed, when E-Force starts singing, it’s muffled in an interesting way.  And mid way through, it breaks into just martial drumming from Away.  This is the diversity we’ve been looking for.  There’s even an impressive (an interestingly effected) drum solo.  Then the guitars that kick in are fairly traditional but actually fun speed metal.  Sadly, E-Force’s voice doesn’t work with this section and kind of ruins it, which is a shame.  There’s some interesting guitar work in the end of the song but it’s kind of drowned out by E-Froce’s screams.  “Bio-TV” has a staccato sound that breaks up the pummeling.  And the middle has a kind of pretty guitar riff (and a simplistic sing along section that sounds great amidst the chaos).

The final track is by far the most interesting and unusual.  It is called “D.N.A” which stands for “Don’t know Anything” (seriously).  But what’s unexpected is that the song is primarily written by and sung by Jim Thriwell (of Foetus).  It’s not entirely clear if Piggy’s guitar is even on it (it is so distorted beyond guitar that it could be anything), although you do hear some chords near the end.  Away’s drums are in the mix somewhere (it may indeed be all machines).  It sounds like a Ministry/Skinny Puppy hybrid, and I would have preferred that electronic direction to the fairly generic death metal sound of the album.  I’m really not sure what to make of this song.  If you like noisy industrial music, this is an unexpectedly interesting track and surely a weird place to look for something like this.

There is a degree of irony that Blacky left to play more electronic music and Voivod recorded “DNA”.  But even more ironic is that Snake left in part to start a much more heavy hardcore band (Union Made) and then the next Voivod album was the heaviest they’d done.  It’s cool that Voivod is ever evolving, but this is a weird sidestep in a career of progression.  It’s not a failure, but it takes a number of listens to find the gems within the noise.

[READ: September 17, 2013] “The Tribal Rite of the Strombergs”

This Simon Rich story is very funny.  It begins (as the picture that accompanies it shows us) with Scrabble.  Jeremy is playing his father.  Jeremy always loses to his father.  And yet, Jeremy reveals that he has been playing Words with Friends (his father doesn’t know what that is).  And through Words with Friends he has learned that words like “qat” are playable (his father doubts the word but doesn’t challenge).

It soon becomes clear (because Jeremy can see the score) that although he is losing, it’s close enough that he might, for the first time, be able to beat his father.

When Jeremy plays Ta (a word they have always used), his father challenges.  But it is useless.  Jeremy’s father has a Z and that should do it. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SQUAREPUSHER-“Dark Steering” (2012).

Hot on the heels of a review of LMFAO I get to the other side of the spectrum in electronic music—Squarepusher.   There’s no big choruses, heck there’s no words, but this music shares something with LMFAO.  Well, actually it really doesn’t—except maybe keyboards.

Squarepusher play dark angular music. It’s very electronic and alien (and sounds like it may have been used in the background of Skinny Puppy songs back in the day). It’s abrasive and the sounds are otherworldly and yet in this song, there’s a melody to it.  I have but one Squarepusher CD—that’s probably enough for me.  But I am always interested to hear new music by him.  It’s impressive the way he can take a song that starts out so noisy and get it to sound like real music by the end.  It like the science fiction of music.

[READ: June 5, 2012] “Forward Thinking”

I have read only one book by China Miéville—Perdido Street Station.  I found it to be quite challenging for a bunch of reasons and figured I wouldn’t read more by him.  And yet I find that images from that book stay with me to this day (at least ten years on).  So maybe it’s time to give him another shot.  But where to start?

This entry in the New Yorker’s Sci-Fi issue is written as an “E-mail sent back in time to a young science-fiction fan.”  And I loved it.  I enjoyed how it started (with the author knowing that E-mail doesn’t exist at the time the recipient will get this—so who will it show up?)  And I loved the central question: “How did you get into this stuff?”  The sender knows that the kid will get asked this a lot, but the question should be turned around: “How did you get out of it?”  Because all kids love sci-fi concepts.  It’s just that some move away from it as they get older.

Miéville includes a few key moments in (his) sci-fi history: Page 40 of “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher” by Beatrix Potter.  What?  Indeed, for this is the first time that (you) will be ware of knowing something the protagonist doesn’t—that there’s  fish coming up to get him.

Next is Chapter 13 of Golem100 by Alfred Bester.  I have never heard of this book.  Although Miéville does warn us about it—he read it far too young and there’s some sadistic violence in it, what attracted him (and me, now) is the disrespect for text—part of the story is a musical score, another is a picture.  It sounds cool.  And of course it is long out of print. (more…)

Read Full Post »