Individual Totem – “Electrostatic” (2018)

I got an email the other day from Toronto’s Artoffact Records touting the upcoming release  by the German electro-wizards Individual Totem, a band whose last album was described as an “industrial space opera”.  I was, needless to say, intrigued.  I’d never heard of Individual Totem before, but this sounded like something I needed to check out.

Everything’s just perfect when you’re near me…
— “Perfect” 

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Electrostatic opens with “Perfect”, a near perfect blend of percussive beats, 80s-style synths, and dejected vocals that seem to set the stage for a somewhat goth, somewhat post-punk style album.  But then the vocals kicked in on the second song, “Pure”, and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Things take a turn toward the dark side, a hard lurch to the depths of someplace with an undercurrent of danger.  The positive vibe of Everything’s just perfect when you’re near me shifted to an I want you, I need you that sounds more like a threat than a compliment, approaching the feel of being locked in a damp basement lit by just a single dim bulb hanging from the ceiling by a wire and awaiting your inevitable and certain to be unpleasant fate.

By the third song, “Warriors Of The Sun”, it’s becoming clear that Individual Totem have no intention of letting the listener get into a groove with Electrostatic.  This is their train.  They’re at the controls, and we’re just along for the ride, heading into the corners at speeds that well exceed what is safe.  And in case you were still harboring any thoughts that things might start moving in a more or less linear fashion you get “Lullaby In A Snowstorm”, a slow and morose journey that derives its beauty from sadness.  Nothing danceable here, leaving you instead just swaying as the music wraps itself around you in a thick blanket.

My life is a nightmare,
I’m burning in hell.
I’m dreaming of angels,
But it doesn’t help.
— “Dreaming Of Angels”

The next track is always an adventure on Electrostatic.  What will it be?  Industrial?  IDM?  Something in between, or something entirely different?  There’s a sense of anticipation as each song starts that makes Electrostatic a joy to listen to, and it doesn’t go away even after playing it a half dozen times.  Creating something with an overall feel to it while still keeping each and every track fresh and unique is not an easy thing to do, but Individual Totems make it happen on Electrostatic.

Electrostatic is due out September 7.  You can sample some tracks on the Individual Totem Bandcamp page HERE, and make sure to head back next week if you want to pick up a copy, whether that be the digital download or the CD put out by Artoffact.

New Order – “1981 – Factus 8R – 1982”

neworder1981factusI picked up this Record Store Day Black Friday re-release a few days ago.  I’ve been listening to a lot of Warsaw and some of the later, more dance New Order stuff, and I finally decided I needed to strike out a bit into that middle period – sort of late Joy Division/early New Order, the last of the Ian Curtis material and the first of the post-Curtis stuff, and this seemed like as good a place as any to start.  The RSD version of this five song EP, originally released in 1982, is on clear vinyl and limited to 6,000 copies.

It’s striking how obviously transitional this record is, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.  On 1981 – Factus 8R – 1982 New Order sounds like a band trying to find its direction, moving away from post-punk and towards something more electronic and dance.  Frankly I can’t say enough about how good it is.

Yes, there are parts here where it sounds like New Order is trying some things out and where the vocals seem to be trying a bit to hard to sound like Ian Curtis.  But all you need to do is drop the needle on side B and listen to “Temptation” to hear how amazing it is when it all comes together (in fact I just got up to play it again…).

I broke down the other day and ordered a copy of Closer, which I suspect will help me bridge the gap even more.  Warsaw/Joy Division/New Order is just one of those bands that, while I don’t have a ton of time invested in listening to them, I can’t seem to get out of my head, and I’m never disappointed when I decide to listen to one of their records.  I feel like I might be headed down a bit of a rabbit hole, but one that seems to be full of good music, so what the hell.

The Dirty Dan Project – “Music Concrète” 7″

This is “one of those records.”  As in, what the hell is it, and how did it come to actually be made by someone?  And not so much from the standpoint of the artists… but more the label.

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So here’s what I know.  The Dirty Dan Project was an Icelandic trio comprised of the Pollock brothers and Asgeir Bragason, and they released their one and only 7″ way back in 1981.  My guess is they were able to pull off getting GRAMM to put this out because the A side is comprised of two pretty good, standard rock songs, one of which (“Drifter’s Escape”) is a Bob Dylan cover.  It’s the B side where things get weird, and the name of the song even lets you know that’s going to be the case:  “Music Concrète.”  Now I’m only familiar with the concept of Musique Concrète (as the style is written) in a very vague way, but at the most basic level it’s kind of electronic music that doesn’t fit into the normal song structures, often using non-musical equipment to make music.  And don’t think that it’s a relatively modern phenomenon – it dates back to at least the 1940s if not earlier.  And, like the genre for which it is named, The Dirty Dan Project’s “Music Concrète” is pretty out there, mixing instruments, electronic sounds, and the human voice in a sort of mashup.  Definitely something that is completely dissimilar with the two songs on side A.

But let’s be honest – “Music Concrète” is why this little record is still interesting and relevant today, because it still sounds freshly weird and modern (maybe more post-modern… but you get the point).  Certainly not going to be in regular rotation, but it is a mind expander, that’s for sure.

カストロ – “Virtuacore Head-Bangers”

virtuacoreHave you every gone totally crazy?  And, you know… liked it?  That’s what Virtuacore Head-Bangers is like.  It’s a five-song freak show.  A drum ‘n’ bass dance ‘n’ bounce.  Samples and bass and beat and speed and samples and screeching and random and sorta hip hop and fast.  Is it industrial?  Not quite… not metallic and hollow sounding enough.  Maybe it really is virtuacore head-banging.  Maybe that’s a real genre.  At least for one band.  Or maybe that glass of rye went to my head and blotted out my senses.  Or maybe I’ve worked too many hours after flying a quarter of a way around the world with an overstuffed, overheavy bag full of precious Japanese vinyl including some Japanese virtuacore head-banging vinyl and it’s all starting to blend together like I’m walking around but still in REM sleep and sort of hearing things and noise and smelling the leftover pizza and thinking about having more rye and trying to remember if I need to put gas in the car before I go to work tomorrow.  But, you know, like to music.

For real.

I hope I can find my way to the office tomorrow.  If not I may just stay home and listen to Virtuacore Head-Bangers over and over and over and over again.  For real.