Believer/Law – “Matters of Life and Death” (2014)

I initially dropped the needle on Matters of Life and Death with my Rega set to 33 1/3 rpm and thought to myself, “huh, this has a bit of a Tangerine Dream quality to it”. Then I realized it was meant to be played at 45 rpm (♠) and started over.

It doesn’t sound that much like Tangerine Dream any more.

OK, so the synths could be Tangerine Dream-ish, though at the proper speed they’re much more deliberate and less dreamy. The vocals, however, are very insistent, like shouting from a distance, straining the vocal chords but not overwhelming to the listener. While the synths are a bit retro, the complete package has an IDM kind of urgency to it, particularly “The Task At Hand”.

This is another title from the batch I recently bought from Chondritic Sounds. It’s available online HERE for listen and purchase. I have the gray version of the vinyl (edition of 200), which sounds great. I can’t speak to the other two pressings, white (100 copies) and black (300 copies).

(♠) Why oh why do they sometimes not tell us the record is supposed to be played at 45 rpm? It’s been a pet peeve of mine for a long time.

a;GRUMH – “We Are a;GRUMH… And You Are Not!” (1988)

By the time We Are a;GRUMH… And You Are Not! was released in 1988 Belgium’s a;GRUMH already had a half dozen albums under their belts, a sort of second generation industrial band that moved the needle toward a more mainstream version of IDM. Mind you, this probably would have blown my mind back in 1988 as I wouldn’t have had anything to compare it too outside of maybe Skinny Puppy due to my allergy at the time to any type of electronic music, so please don’t think the above is any kind of insult. Because it’s not. Because We Are a;GRUMH… And You Are Not! is hardly mainstream.

It’s easy to play the “this sounds like [fill in the blank]” game, sometimes even more so when your experience with certain subgenres is limited, like mine is with industrial. So let’s just say there are punk elements to the vocals on We Are a;GRUMH… And You Are Not!, but ultimately the greatest similarities are with the first generation of experimental industrial bands and Skinny Puppy. The delivery on the cover of “Another Brick in the Wall Part II” is pure Marilyn Manson… but of course a handful of years before Manson put out his first record. My guess is that the guys from a;GRUMH would hate what I wrote above, given that their liner notes make it clear that they’ve attempted to purge any potential musical influences from their style, closing out a paragraph-long liner note rant with “…we are not like any other so-called ‘band’, but also that WE ARE a;GRUMH… AND YOU ARE NOT.”

The B side is quite dark, opening with a track simply entitled “Kill”, followed by “Drama in the Subway”, a song about a woman who was raped and murdered on the subway whose plight another subway rider was actively trying to ignore, a veery Kitty Genovese murder kind of thing. “Hapeople” keeps the trend going with its anti-authority, anti-contemporary-society message:

Don’t ever say grace again,
It is infamous and dotty.
Endoctrinement of the masses,
Shape of selfishness.

Definitely a cool record. I’ll need to keep my eyes open for some of their earlier stuff.

Greater Than One – “G-Force” (1989)

G-Force was the last full-length album by the electro-industrial duo known as Greater Than One (aka GTO). Husband and wife Michael Wells and Lee Newman were quite prolific, putting out six albums between 1985 and 1989, followed by a smattering of singles in early 1990s. I’ve seen their brand of IDM compared to KMFDM, though I find G-Force to be less dark than the music of Greater Than One’s German industrial dance counterparts. Tracks like “Learn With Pleasure, Knowledge Is Power” try to get a bit edgy by taking on a more classically gothic sound, but they never reach the sometimes creepy or unsettling sounds one generally associates with industrial. If anything GTO more resembles some of Gary Clail‘s early works.

On thing that’s for certain about G-Force is that it’s catchy – I could listen to “Black Magic” on a continuous loop for hours.

Alexandra Atnif – “Session.2” (2016)

Alexandra Atnif certainly has been prolific in 2016, dropping something like six cassettes and a CD compilation of her earlier work on us in the course of 12 months. And so far I’ve managed to get my paws on all but one of them, the most recent of which is the two-track, 47-minute Session.2.

Alexandra refers to her style as rhythmic brutalism, a perfect description of her sound which had lots of hard angles and bleak soundscapes. There’s power in her music, like 100,000 volts blasting through your body and nailing you to the floor, stunned as your hair singes. But Session.2Session.2 is a slightly different feel. Whereas earlier works were more on the brutalism side of the line, Session.2 feels a bit more rhythmic, built on a foundation of club-worthy beats overlaid with crackling electricity and concrete. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to break out some glow sticks here. But parts of Session.2 make me want to get on my feet and move around, and not with a sort of anxious compulsion, but instead flirting with the edges of EBM, a corona-like effect of the sun crackling around the edges of my mind during an eclipse.

It’s likely her most approachable work to date. If you’re some kind of a hard-core purist that might be off-putting, but I continue to enjoy hearing her work as it flows over time, sometimes hard and crashing against the shore but also capable of graceful undulation. Session.2 is a tape I find myself constantly going over to the stereo to turn up… just a bit… now another slight twist of the knob… until the entire room is pulsating with sound. You can check out half of it HERE, and also buy either a digital download ($7) or an actual cassette ($6). I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in 2017.

Borghesia – “Surveillance and Punishment” (1989)

Oddly enough, this is the second time in less than a week that Yugoslavia will be referenced on Life in the Vinyl Lane…

I think the four-song Surveillance and Punishment (1989) came out right before the mega-meltdown that fractured Yugoslavia and introduced us all to the term “ethnic cleansing.” Borghesia’s music sort of fits the unease and tension of the time, with it’s abrasive style of quasi industrial electronica.

My copy came to me via the fantastic Guestroom Records in Oklahoma City, and since I’d heard Borghesia before, buying this record was a no-brainer. While somewhat similar to 1987s No Hope No Fear, the other Borghesia record I own, there’s one major stylistic departure, the Middle East influenced “Raga,” a song that sounds like a weird dystopian Persian dream. Contrast that to “Am I?”, with it’s trippy electro-vocals and sampling of James Brown, and you’ve got a record that covers a lot of musical ground in under 19 minutes.