This is how to make industrial rock become emotional and avant-garde. Swap the drum set for a drum machine with dirty filters and lo-fi output, and the drummer for one more used to ?80s electro and ?90s cut-up beats. Take all the guitars, and switch them with sampled guitars, with all the samplings scratchy and distorted. Add a programmer with leanings toward the moody and raw. This is what you get from brothers Fred and JB Hanak and their 3rd album.
I have mixed feelings towards this record. I place it firmly to the lower end of middle in our rating scale.
Beats- and percussion-wise, if you have heard any harder, faster Aphex Twin or Bogdan Raczynski, then you will immediately be familiar with the cut-up drums, the gritty squelches, the whining breeps that scitter-scatter over each other. For the most part, this is irritating.
What the brothers place over these broken glass beats is what is interesting. It has a definite rock feel. By rock I mean specifically that which was popular in the ?90s, and called "alternative" rock or alt-rock - a very inappropriate genre name, but nevertheless you know what I am refering to - and also the industrial sound at the time. But they have twisted and electrofied it into their unique mixture of noise, rock and beats. If it were mainstream, then they would be the contemporaries of a group like UNKLE, who easily blend hip-hop and electronic production with alt-rock and industrial.
The track which most resembles the rock music it seems to borrow from is "Liquid Words." A lonely, melancholy guitar chord opens the track and carries all the way through it. It's low on the scale and suprisingly emotional. It's also one of the few tracks that actually has vocals, sung in the key of heroin depression. Here, the squelches and squeaks are a blessing, rather than an irritation. A strange synth that sounds like a sampled and micronised church bell clangs here and there ever so quietly. It conjures the following images: A condemned building. Tiles everywhere. A hospital or sanatorium in ruins. Squatters arranged in the most comfortable spots they can find on the rubble. Everything seems to be seen through a blue filter. Intentional flaws and cigarette burns make a crazy vertical dance on the film.
"Insects Are Human" is an enigmatic, creepy hip-hop-feeling track. It has the feel of a badly recorded conspiracy film soundtrack, like one that might be made in overly dramatic ?50s low-budget Hollywood. It's fedoras, cigarette smoke and dark alleyways. The contrast is way up, with stark dark and light areas. Patterns move across ceiling and walls from passing car headlights. The main instrument seems to be sampled from the kind of bad yet effective piano music that graced such movies.
"Agueev" is another good track, though not exceptional. None of them are really exceptional for that matter. Anyhow, it's definitely got some xylophone action going on,with the distinct feel of water, tubular steel and glass in all the instrumentation. It's got a ghostly and intruigingly ethnic asian feel to it all. I'm feeling an Indonesian vibe in it. The choice of electronic accompaniment is well done, with an instrument that sounds like a tiny, straining servo-motor adding to the build-up at the end of this unfortunately short track. This song would definitely not feel amiss on some cyberpunk adaptation of classic Southeast Asian ghost stories.
Tracks that simply annoyed me are tracks like "I Feel So Bad," which sounds like a really bad ?80s pop song, modernised and cut up. The irritation of the Bogdan-style cut-up drums is at a maximum here. It's just noise really, with an unintelligible vocal track. It opens up with what must be a sample of some ?80s glam rock or hair band. And from there, it's nails on blackboards for the rest of the track.
"On Prescinct 13" starts promisingly enough. It's a guitar gently plucked and layered against what sounds like New York traffic, though it could just be clever layering of instruments. It's very mellow at first. Then this cut-up drum track intrudes about a minute into the song, and it totally throws you off. The drums stop and it's a confused electronic collection of whines, then the drums return and it sounds like malignant carnival music.
This is basically an album that would be interesting to have, certainly for novelty value or to have in a collection of odd music. But I'd only pay second-hand music store prices for it. Then, once owning it, I might listen to it once or twice, and forget it somewhere to be rediscovered months later, to be listened to once or twice through or played for a friend, then forgotten again. 4/10 -- Munir Remahl (25 May, 2005)