Various, Situation Stylers (Aerosolik) CD
Nine out of ten b-boys who expressed a preference said they preferred Phat Robert's The Cat from this selection of (mostly) instrumental hip hop. Bob's lackadaisical beats and electro jabs are prime head-nod fodder, second only to a large bag of skunk and a talkative companion in a loud nightclub. Elsewhere, Percy Filth journeys to the Centre of Dickie Davies via a huge kick drum and a discotypical break, Refined drops a huge cloud of atmospherics onto a more than functional loop and Sirius 8000 dig up a low-end double bass sample to power their minimal cut. Other material is not as strong but as a debut release, it sets Aerosolik up nicely.
Opaque, Temporary Lifestyle (Dental Records) CDS
Having spent no little time in Lancaster (I bought the first Shellac EP there many moons ago, trivia fans) I can see why Opaque might want to make this kind of post-industrial racket. The kind of thing you'd expect to find accompanying black and white film footage projected onto a demolition site in downtown Dresden as part of some art installation or other, Opaque's two improvised tracks beguile with a mixture of Warser Gate's quieter guitar scrapings and Ochre records' knack for spinning meaning out of no sound whatsoever. c/o Lancaster Music Co-op, 1 Lodge St, Lancaster LA1 1QW.
Various, Working With Children And Animals (Wasp Factory) CD
Two tracks each from The Chaos Engine, Arkham Asylum, Leech Woman, Goteki, Tarantella Serpentine, Hydra, Squid and Skinflowers. You could probably name their tune in one, but let me save you the trouble by filching from the publicity sheet this nugget: "industrial, darkwave and electronic rock."
The problem I always have with this stuff, apart from the fact that almost every exponent of it seems to have been locked into one bar of a DAF b-side for the last 20 years, is that I fear the pained emotion is as synthetic as the drums. I can never lose the feeling that Sputum MaterBaster is actually Jeremy Toffee-Anus from Horsham-Snotford, having a jolly good laugh on a load of poorly-programmed electronic equipment bought with Daddy's allowance. I have no basis for this prejudice, as you would expect, since none of the industrial types I've had the pleasure to meet have been any more pretentious than any of the other musicians I've come into contact with - but neither have they been the vomit-splattered spawn of Satan's sex donkey. Just look at Marilyn Manson for Christ's Sake.
Irrationality aside, you want to know what the music's like don't you? Well, it's best when it's least industrial in the EBM sense of the word. Leech Woman are past-masters of grinding cacophony and don't disappoint here; Kincaid is Adam and the Ants being done over by a sinister but silent robotic henchman and Section 13 a cavernous swirl. Tarantella Serpentine's Cocaine Disco Riot wouldn't have been recognised at Studio 54 and is more acid than coke, but would probably incite public disorder with its pummelling attack. Skinflowers are the shy kids at the party. On much better form here than their recent CDR demo, they try to fit in by slinging a chugging bass under Striplight but it doesn't work - we recognise them for the indie boys that they really are. Notoriously hopscotch in recent years, they've settled down somewhere on Radiohead's folkier side and we like it.
The Plastic Plan, BASIC (Samizdat) CD
If you favour robots from the BBC Microcomputer Book of Robotic Projects (circa 1986) over the humanoid, and slightly menacing, Servotron model - or if Servotron's albums donít come round quickly enough for you - then The Plastic Plan might be of interest. Devo, of course, provide the electronic blueprint but with seemingly only enough RAM for two instruments at once, The Plastic Plan's take on the right-angle byte-funk is necessarily sparse. Imagine two Smash robots trying to be Suicide on acid.
Techno Animal, Dead Man's Curse (Matador) CD
Roger Robinson stands alone, arms outstretched, pure amidst a maelstrom of distressed hip hop and destroyed metallic techno. A preacher, he pleads, exhorts and despairs in equal measure. His target, humankind, are engrossed by the spectacle, but ambivalent about his message, a message all but drowned out by the inhuman noise surrounding him. If hip hop originally came up from the streets, Techno Animal are coming up from the Earth's core.
Various, Abuse Your Friends vol 3 (Abuse) CD
Abuse fanzine always talked a good fight, even if the bands it covered frequently turned out to be indie/punk by numbers chod. Sid Abuse's incessant ranting, his hyperbolic hyperbollocks, the relentless bigging-up of whatever he was into/releasing that week was infectious, even for cynical old duffers like myself. And, fair play, he's put his money where his mouth is and Abuse records have chalked up releases from Vyvyan, The Pin Ups, Sugarcoma and three volumes of Abuse Your Friends. Like its two predecessors, this one is patchy and, like its zine ancestor, its top heavy with heard-it-all-before same old same old. But, as with its zine ancestor, there are some absolute gems tacked on the end. Shortwave ram a Kraut rod up the arse of The Fall's shakiest moments; Monkey Bob kazoos along to tin pot Country rhythms and could be a close relative of Belgium's finest, The Shovels; Mocket make a shifty Quickspace rattle and DJ Downfall's The Bump has little to do with Kenny's novelty hit and everything to do with the disco-electro interface as recorded on Tandy's cheapest equipment. PO Box 2168, Reading, Berks, RG1 7FN.
Mogul, Rotunda (Elefant) 7"
I was back home a few weeks ago. The ring road is now an enormous doughnut with a vast hole at its centre. Where the Bull Ring used to be is now a chasm full of giant yellow Tonka toys and tiny ant-men. High above, shoppers shuffle along wooden walkways constructed by Fred Flintstone after he dreamt about The Jetsons. We are talking Birmingham and the Bull Ring is, or was, its major concrete attraction. Not far behind is the subject of Mogul's new single, the Rotunda. A building not threatened by the town planning cull, the Rotunda is cylindrical with rows of glass windows separated by black structural support making it look for all the world like an overgrown Rubik's Tube puzzle. Mogul reflect the 1960s futurist aspirations of its architects with their retro optimism filtered through budget moogs and a Telstar melody. They are the Poundstretcher Stereolab and this is full value for money.
Various, Continuous Sound Labordy Swn Cont (Fitamin Un) 12"
Most people, on finding themselves in a deep hole of their own making, would stop digging. Not Fitamin Un, they've thrown away the spade and brought in a JCB. Previous releases have pandered to the popular conception of music, at the margins anyway, but this 5-tracker resists even token attempts at conformity. The players (or anti-players) are BomBoomBomb, Trwsfynydd Lo-Fi Liberation Front, SJ Omega, Llwyr Llaethog and Dave Handford. Their aim is to "push back sonic boundaries and challenge all expectations." In pursuit of this end, BBB reprise a cut from their demo tape based almost entirely on the word "Blah," Dave Handford strikes rocks together repeatedly, SJ Omega and TFLF offer up engaging rough-hewn drones and LL do something impossible to describe in words. Beautiful noise, though. 8 Stryd Tywysog Leopold, Caerdydd, CF24 0HT, Cymru.
King of Woolworths, Stalker Song (Mantra) 10"
Minitel Conspiracy, the b-side, crushes Voodoo Ray under the weight of its own infectious glee, sticks a load of odd speech over the top and disappears off into the middle of a packed dancefloor. The title cut, meantime, is being a moody bastard with a monster distorted breakbeat and digital surging funk.
Ambidextrous/Novel 23, Cross Split EP (Shaped Harmonics) 12"
Art is a product of its environment. Discuss. That should keep the chin-stroking brigade busy for a couple of hours. They might even stumble across a grain of relevance which can explain why the trickle of abstract Russian electronica (EU and Fizzarum at the front) looks set to turn into a flood. Novel 23 and Ambidextrous share 6 tracks on this release, less abstract than EU but still fizzing and creaking with the tension of a deteriorating low-grade concrete tenement building. Novel 23 veers closest to dancefloor satisfaction, moving from the New Orderish robotics of Walk Now to the entirely friendly and melodic ML. Ambidextrous is the more interesting proposition, his Vox Box forcing Kraftwerk to decompose at gunpoint.