Title: Gloom Wave Klassicks
Label: Noise-Joy (Also released on X.O. Skeleton)
Cat#: NJWMA-0007 (X.O.S.01)
Keywords: Darkwave, Electro, Experimental, Industrial
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
*PFWOOOOOSH!* Hello! It’s me again… your reviewer for the evening. I hope you are comfortably buckled in, because we’re about to embark on a dark journey through the industrial sector of town. Tonight, I am reviewing the album Gloom Wave Klassicks by Strictures, a two-man krew comprised of Dan Kilmartin (vocals, percussion, synthesizer) and Jess C.B. (computer). For the longest time they were my favourite local banned. I’ve known Dan for several years and, along with my collaborator Eric who I met much later, he’s one of the few people who I really connected with through music / sound / noise in my early-ish years. Met him when he used to walk around the mall with a cassette deck rocking Twitch-era Ministry, at that time I was pulling 9-to-9s loitering like a teenage rat around the same local mall with friends, usually completely high out of my mind, and I think I approached him and asked him if he liked Throbbing Gristle or SPK or something and the rest was history. 😛 Over the years we’ve both explored similar music terrain, from industrial, wave (minimal, cold, dark, et al), synthpop, post-punk, funk, Italo disco, electro, house, hi-NRG, noise, dark ambient, neo-folk and pretty much everything else that is good in the world. If it’s manic, intense, ultra gay fetishistic, electronic and makes people move, that’s basically what we’re into, with a few dips into other weird shit every now and then. We’d have times during which we wouldn’t see each other for awhile, then re-convene and immediately start swapping music back and forth, haha! Gotta love friends like that!
This album is very much, for me at least, a time-piece… or period piece, whatever you might call it. It was recorded through 2006-07 and released jointly through the net label Noise-Joy that I started in 2006 as well as X.O. Skeleton, a label then run by a mutual local friend/acquaintance Jacob (Skvmb) on CD in a DVD case with insert art. I was a big fan of this album, which felt at the time like a culmination of the Strictures project. Though, in a very short time after it’s release, it also quickly felt like Strictures was moving ahead toward even better, highly exciting material, particularly after the release of the single ‘Hope’ which lead to my anticipation of another album that… never seemed to come out. At the time that this was being put together for release I can remember the general vibe around the Strictures studio surrounding it being kind of like… constipation, like there was this horrible, sweaty shit that needed to come out, be done with, flushed out onto to the public… a demon that had to be exorcised so they could focus on the fresh stuff that they were a lot more interested in working on and releasing.
All over this album you’ll hear the TR-707. Every single one of Roland’s TR (transistor rhythm) drum boxes are quite a bit different and each are somehow both legendary (thus highly sought after) yet totally cult, and the 707 is no exception. It’s dirty, gritty, punchy, loves to be run through effects. It’s sample-based, much like the Linndrum or DrumTraks, but without a lot of the tuning options featured on those machines (or even most other TR pieces). A lot of that grit comes from the fact that the drum sounds were recorded at a low sample rate! It had a companion, the 727, which I loved… it offered Latin percussion at a similarly low sample rate, and both pieces could easily be synced with each other… in fact, both pieces are relatively simple to hook up using midi to a lot of other gear, but the one issue I’ve always had with the box is that it really likes to be the master, the centerpiece, and I don’t really like it in that function, wishing often that it would work better under a more efficient workstation piece like the MPC2000, for instance. I just recently got Dan’s TR-707 back to him. Since I hadn’t had one around in a long while, Eric and I had borrowed his to use on our first album as Material Action actually… it’s fun to compare and contrast it’s use on multiple records. Machines are like… what we use to get sounds, but always differ in so many ways when used by different artists for different purposes, something that has always intrigued me. It’s kind of like how two people might try to communicate the same idea, but in ways that differ in wording, nuance, tone, style, etc., therefore a general perception of the essential idea may be altered.
When I spoke with Dan before he left for KC several months ago he told me he wanted me to write a review of this album but to be as honest as possible about it, I guess what most critics would call objective; to talk about it’s flaws, it’s failings… to not be too sentimental with it. I will try to do that, but it’s been making me think that… there are some albums that are timeless, but this is one of the kind that is hard to separate from the general time period, emotional mood of the period and place in which it was released. For late 2007 and early 2008, it was the right time and right place. It filled a void. Sound wise, and this is just from memory, it was sort of like Nitzer Ebb, very industrial dance, EBM, maybe some new beat vibes, with several decadent, intensive psychedelic spaces in which loud, distorted programmed drums would ring out as if into a deep cave. It makes me think of the places in which the album was recorded, places I visited relatively frequently that these artists occupied and worked in. Computers, synth keyboards, drum boxes, all hooked up to an amplifier, sticky from spilled beer, covered in cigarette ash… the sort of thing that looked like it had spent half of it’s life off the factory belt getting pawned and re-pawned by broke artists due on rent or needing a quick fix. It was a chaotic environment. That is the type of environment in which this album was spawned, and this environment seems to radiate out from every single sound you hear… oh, I just realized that I should probably stop all this chatter and talk about the tracks! 😉
The first track is ‘Ghost Inbetween’, which starts with some feedback and what sounds like little bits of sampled sound dripping. There’s a lot of breathing in dense space. A heavily corrosive sounding rhythm track starts, which changes up a bit, gets funky. Blasts of explosive noise come in regularly, drum groove pounding. From within the murk, voices emerge, clouded by echos and strange reverberation. It’s like something from out of a creepy old grotto or a dark mausoleum. The production is spartan, bare, leaving lots of room in the mix that is only ever filled by the emanations that just sort of blow out at us. Ends with harsh feedback signals and a click. We hear the next track begin to creep in…
… ‘Masochistic’, probably the first track from this album that I was really into when I heard it, as I suspect a lot of people might have been. It’s probably one of the most overt dance pieces on here, very EBM but punishingly mechanical, factorial. This was, I believe, mostly or wholly compiled on Reason with maybe some Electribe thrown in. The beat is a 4/4 stomp with factory noise bassline sequences and dark vocals and samples, explosive. Drives itself like a nail into your brain, very catchy. Roughly halfway through we hear some really nice bell lead sequences, some drum and sample freakouts… this whole album is a freakout though, part of it’s brilliance. Deep, heavy ass bass crushes you for a split few seconds… so much movement in the mix. Again, we hear traces of the next track mix in…
… which is titled ‘Poisonous Soul’. Several layers of deep, saw bass cascade over us like dark waves and we are unable to surface for air. The rhythm is like a chunky break with intensive echo and reverb. The vocals work really well in the mix. After awhile of having this album around I eventually began to really like this track a lot more than the previous one, ‘Masochistic’, but both are good. I like the sample use on here, the strange funk of frequencies that lend it an air of radio broadcast fuzz. I also love the tightly sequenced electro blips that come in, shuffling in a sequence along with the sampled voices. The frequencies sound like corroded cables, frequency distortion is prevalent. The gritty bass blast toms add a lot of depth (we’re all in the tom tom club here). We hear a thick, sweaty beat come up, which tells us that…
… the next track, ‘Me And My Rhythm Box’, is starting. This is actually a cover of a track in the cult film Liquid Sky, which is about a model in NY on heroin. These tiny UFOs keep following her around murdering everyone she sleeps with. It’s from the early ’80s, lots of fun for people who like really fucked up weird films like I do so you might check it out sometime. Anyway, this track is all about the rhythms. We hear vocals spread out, echoing, refracting, distorting to shit… later, something like synth horns come in, but I think they are guitars and/or a violin played by this guy Kyu who I’ve met a few times. I co-DJ’d with him at Dan’s going-away party a few months back. This is a smallish town I live in. The rhythms get more and more intense, dubby almost, treated with insanely deep layers of effects. It begins to fade, we hear strange distorted and diffuse vocals at the end.
After this is ‘Shattered Face (Live)’… we hear a distorted bass synth sound, a slight touch of a drum kick, phasing / warped vocals that sound like they’re blurring into the sound of the bass. The drums seem to echo into white noise, really wild! For awhile we hear the drums being bashed, reverse-echoing. A sudden random bit of vocal sweeps up, then we hear just a piece of…
… ‘Pure Light (Live To Cassette)’ comes in, which I will admit publicly is one of my favourite tracks, if not my favourite track on this album. Ok, it’s my favourite track, yeah. Just some insane 707 programming with a bit of tape distortion, echo, reverb, persistent tempo-shifting… what more is needed? This is the real deal. Everything begins with a drum machine. We hear something almost like scraping or a tambourine, hard to tell which, and I believe this must be from the Electribe. We hear some rumbling shitbass blow up in our heads, then the beat comes back in. So awesome. It gets almost too distorted, like you can almost imagine that it might have sounded a bit different while they were listening to it live but might have been mixed a little hot into the cassette which can only deal with limited bands of frequencies, but that’s part of the charm of it all. Then we hear…
… this badass electro beat with rapid delay echos come in on ‘Elaine’, which was another of the tracks on this album that I was immediately responsive toward. I must be a b-boy at heart. Chunky saw bass comes in, some vocals that really rock it! This track is really gritty, lots of fun, arguably the strongest track on the album. Things get really distorted for a bit. ‘Elaine’ also features someone I never met but heard of, Cloud, on guitar. The guitar doesn’t really add anything for me that I feel needed to be here, but it does have some interesting melodic juxtapositions with the vocals every so often and, considered by itself, kind of has a nice, vaguely Arabesque / post-punk / surf sound. “I want you to touch me” Ends with a rumble of saw wave bass!
Then it’s ‘Destrikter’, which sounds like a deadly poison gas of bass and gloom. Voice at whisper, it’s almost like a spoken word piece amidst the polluted, noxious atmosphere of sound and subtle noise play. A synth with maybe a noise-filter all the way up and a bit of resonance comes in, sounding as if it were a siren in the background. A rhythm drops in after a sonic explosion. It’s minimal, but the crash or ride seems to be running out to a run-away echo, growing louder and more intense. It’s hard to focus on any one sound, everything seems to together create this kind of dirge that I get lost in, like someone running through a forest unsure of where I came from or where I’m going, as equally unsure of the origin of the sounds that seem to follow me in the dark.
Then… it’s time for ‘Hide (Drunken @ CV Gate)’, a very strange experience to be had. There’s an electro groove, shadowy singing courtesy of someone going by Nullmon who I think is Nathan who’s track in the Reptiles project I reviewed awhile back. There are additional live synths by Kyu, too. It sounds very lofi, reverberating, like… some kind of underwater basement lofi electropop, drunken-style, with occasional feedback. It has some nice moments, sounds for the most part very improvisational! There’s a part toward the end during which everything gets loud very suddenly and then fades back.
The last track is a bonus, titled ‘Distrust’. There’s a burst of electronic noise and then a sort of sequential bass groove comes in, bit of distortion, trance-inducing. It goes on for the first half of the track, and then we begin to hear other frequencies very subtly emerge in the mix. These lead to the addition of a saw-wave string synth that adds light touches just before the main sequence starts changing pitch a little.
So, in final… is it a “perfect” album? No, and yes. For me, every flaw on this record feels like a crucial part of the experience that couldn’t be altered or else the album would lose something, feel like less of a living memento. Every record achieves something in it’s creation, and this one is like transporting right back into the crusty abyss from which it came, the abyss of 2007: a height of artistic work for Strictures and myself, accompanied by a foggy, gloomy misery of the sort that impels such work, one we all might have probably largely forgotten. You should definitely check this album out, it’s one I would highly recommend. You can feel the gloom at the link I’ve customarily placed below. Cheers!