Collide & Android Lust – new albums to take you away

Collide album Color of NothingCollide is one of those artists I turn to for background music — which isn’t to say that the duo’s music is without its edges, just that usually it’s the kind of cruisy, atmospheric electronica that makes the rest of the world fade away.

Not so with their new album, Color of Nothing.

Statik and kaRIN have come out fighting, with guitars leading the attack.

Opener “Wake Up” announces this urgency, the swell and subside of electronica topped by explosions of buzzing guitar as the song unfurls. The energy runs through the entire album, taking on a dance-floor groove in “Soul Crush,” an infectious swagger in “Side to Side”, a slow burn in love song “Fix”.

It’s still distinctively a Collide album, with Statik commander-in-chief in the studio and kaRIN’s bringing the evocative vocals (indeed, here there’s more of a consistent collision of those smooth vocals with spiky instrumentation than before). She touches on themes ranging from the global (“Blurring the Edges,” “Pale Blue”) to the intensely personal (“Intruder,” “Freaks Me Out”); from comfort, to resignation, to defiance.

A fitting soundtrack for 2017.

Android Lust album BerlinSpeaking of soundtracks, fresh on the download is Berlin: Crater Vol.2, from Android Lust. Oh my!

Funded through Kickstarter, the album was developed in part from Shikhee’s found-sound adventures in Berlin. On early listens, I’m not sure I’m getting much impression of that particular place, nor a sense of an unfolding narrative such as drove the (predominately) soundscapes of the water-themed Crater Vol.1, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the outing – one of sonic postcards, perhaps, possibly as much in time as space.

Which is not to say this album isn’t transportative – far from it. There’s an air of the urban – a subway feel on the analogue styling of “Daughters of Dawn” (think Glass Candy), a rain-washed city scape perhaps seen from the cab or bus window in the fetching “Heart Tunnel”, and the familiar touch of AL-style industrial (“In Memory”, “Insects”). And is that a ghostly callout to AL’s “Stained” on “Plaza Steps”? Elsewhere, muted conversation and bird chirps, the beeping of an alarm clock and patter of rain, offer a feeling of melancholy enlivened by digital rays of sunshine.

As always, the Android Lust journey rewards multiple, close listens, the layers revealing – suggesting – more the deeper one submerges. Down here in the depths of winter, it’s the perfect weather for it.

And while I’m getting excited about new music, on the near horizon is a new EP from Nine Inch Nails, Add Violence, in which it appears we’re getting songs of resistance and defiance. First taster “Less Than” shows some retro-style frustration, while second release “This Isn’t the Place” feels like a bridge at song No.3 on the five-song EP. Bring it on!



 

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Android Lust, telling tales without words on Crater Vol 1

crater vol 1Android Lust (US-based Shikhee) knows how to get down and dirty, electronically; she’s been flying my industrial flag since Nine Inch Nails went on hiatus, Trent Reznor heading off to greener, arguably happier places with his new outfit and his soundtrack work for movies and, most recently, a video game.

Now, on Crater Vol 1, AL is following that trajectory and proves just as adept.

I wish I knew the narrative guiding this album — and it is an album, ebbing and flowing across a sonic terrain of synthesisers, keyboards, vocalisations. How interesting, though, to mix up the playing order and seeing how that changes the nature of the tale …

I’m getting a low-fi NIN vibe on ‘I Need to Know’ — probably the most likely candidate for a single and one of only three songs here, AL’s voice restrained amid the fuzz and keys. ‘From the Other Side’ has breathy vocals gliding like morning fog over flowing, bouncing rhythms that echo AL’s previous footprints. On ‘Here and Now’, she again channels previous patterns to set what feels like the sublime point of no return.

Of course, the beauty of the instrumental album isn’t necessarily the story the artist has in their head, but the one it tells inside your own. Here, there is water, grey with clouds; travel, solitude .. there are mountains and perhaps, stark cherry blossoms, yearning, indecision.

‘First Man’, a halfway marker, feels like the closing of a curtain on the first act, the sensation exacerbated by the slow, woodwind and bamboo-style opening of the proceeding piece, ‘When the Rains Came’, building like a spring rainstorm from the first drops to the downpour, all golden from distant, low-slanted sunlight.

Yaakuntik is a one-minute bridge; ‘Precipice’ closes the album with an eight-minute sail through a lapping lake, a place of stillness and quiet beauty, fading into an inky night. Not so much a fall from a precipice as a gentle subsidence, a tender acceptance.

Had the album been named River Styx, it would’ve suited perfectly. Crater — what does it mean? The Pacific rim of fire? A caldera? Dust settling after the moment of impact? Ooh …

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, Crater Vol 1 shows an artist making a foray into new terrain, so very smoothly, and provides a most pleasant aural zone where one can trail one’s fingers in another’s dreams and make them one’s own.

Crater Vol. 1 is due to be in general release by the end of the month. I take heart that the name suggests there’s more to come.

Tycho Brahe and Psyche electrify the Espy


It was arranged a week ago and barely publicised, but the Tycho Brahe and Psyche gig at St Kilda’s legendary music haunt the Esplanade Hotel (the Espy) was one of those cosy gatherings that fans salivate over for years after.

Tycho Brahe, from Brisbane, operating in duo mode with Ken Evans on bass and vox and Georgina Emery on keys and backing vocals, opened for German-based duo Psyche in the Espy’s basement room: tiled floor, cats and dogs wallpaper, and oh the cute rudeness in the band room tucked away behind yet another flight of stairs!

I was thrilled to hear Tycho cover Joy Division’s ‘Atmosphere’, Real Life and Depeche Mode; they pulled Psyche’s Darrin Huss, originally from Canada, up to take lead vocals on ‘Tainted Love’ with its neat segue into the Dr Who theme. They closed with a new track, ‘Love Rocket’ , and it was a blast.

Ken reports that the home studio is operational once more, though work still remains to be done since the family home was submerged during January’s disastrous Brisbane floods.

Psyche were largely unknown terrain for me — they have an excellent track on the Brisbane flood fundraiser Surge and Subside — and they put on an entertaining show, drawing on 30 years worth of material. Darrin was perhaps best described as exuberant as he pranced and yowled for the best part of two hours, giving it his all. Ken returned to do backing vocals on a Yazoo track (‘Situation’?), and there was another Joy Division cover (‘Disorder’, if memory serves) amongst others. ‘Gods and Monsters’ was one track that stood out in the EBM assault overseen by Stefan Rabura.

It was a fun night with an appreciative crowd drawn from across the spectrum: fish nets, tight jeans, checked shirts, sloppy t-shirts. With such a great vibe, it was a definitely a good gig for the psyche.


Sounds of the Universe by Depeche Mode

depeche mode: sounds of the universe

depeche mode: sounds of the universe

Oh my goodness. Depeche Mode turning to lounge room singers?

The new album, Sounds of the Universe (Universal/Mute), hits its lowest point with Jezebel, with Martin Gore on vocals. A dreary tune, it features some amazing ’70s organ effects that should have relegated this song to the discard pile.

The English electronica champions seem to have overlooked their recent successes with heavier singles such as Suffer Well and A Pain That I’m Used To to wallow in their ’80s glory.

Plenty of attention has been paid to studio production, not enough to grabbing the listener’s attention as the album cruises along on a bed of synthetic beats.

Fortunately, Dave Gahan is in superb voice, managing to infuse some emotion into relatively emotionless, but cleverly layered, arrangements. Check out In Chains, which opens the account on this, the group’s twelfth studio album.

Single Wrong (check out the funky, Saw-like reverse driving clip below!) is not a fair indicator of the frequently pedestrian fare on offer, although the superb closing song, Corrupt, ensures the album finishes on a high with trademark DM synth groove and heavier bass.

Gahan showed solid writing chops with Suffer Well, on the band’s previous album, 2005’s Playing the Angel, and contributes three co-written tunes here: Hole to Feed, Come Back and Miles Away/The Truth Is. Hole to Feed is the pick, one of the more distinctive tunes on the album thanks to its swaggering percussion, although Miles Away offers a catchy chorus.

Each song rewards independent listening with its individual touches _ fuzz guitar on Fragile Tension, for instance _ but few stand out from the crowd.

And surely it’s past time to be dangling a few twee bars of musical noodling minutes after the last song has ended, just to stretch out the album’s duration.

One of the Sunday-Mail’s funkiest reporters, Sally Browne, chatted with Dave Gahan and reports a visit to Australia as part of their Tour of the Universe (which wouldn’t be much of a ‘universe’ without an Aussie leg, would it?). Fingers crossed!

Wrong by Depeche Mode

Gary Numan blasts Brisbane

Unfortunately, Gary Numan’s triumphant return to Australia, playing Brisbane’s Tivoli on March 2, coincided with my losing net access, hence the late post.

Suffice to say, Numan was superb. Brilliant light show; deep, timber-rattling bass that didn’t make the ears ring; hot young dudes on guitar, bass, keys and synths; and Gary, ah Gary, turning 51 next week, so clearly enjoying his renaissance since making such a profound impact with his Tubeway Army back in the late 70s (when he last toured Oz).

The two-hour gig concentrated on his most recent album, Jagged, recently released as a two-CD remix called Jagged Edge. But the crowd — and it was a pleasingly but not uncomfortably large crowd — also thrilled to the early hits including Cars and Are Friends Electric?. A blue-washed rendition of Down in the Park went over a treat.

The gig really did showcase how far electronic music has come, and Numan’s role in it.

The set unfolded almost continuously, and there wasn’t much chitchat from the man. Which was a pity. But Numan was a charismatic presence, stalking, sometimes a little meandering, and flashing a grin during those older tracks as the crowd responded.

It was a sign of a great gig that I had his Haunted running through my head the next day.

Flashback: my interview with Numan is here.