Old School Electrology Volume 1
Electro Agression Records
To understand the value of Electro Aggression Records’ old school EBM and dark electro compilation Old School Electrology Vol. 1, it’s first important to get a good grasp on the things that it isn’t. Firstly, it’s not intended to be a history: nowhere across its four discs (plus downloadable bonus tracks) will you find style progenitors like Nitzer Ebb, DAF, The Klinik, or Leaether Strip. The book that comes with the set addresses those bands and others with an admirably complete sense of their importance, but it’s a literal preamble to the contents of the “beast box”. Secondly, as a passion project for label boss Nader Moumneh, the comp is not intended as an overview of the current state of those genres. Curated by Moumneh with a clear passion for his field of interest, each and every band was selected for inclusion by him personally, a mammoth task considering its seventy-some tracks, 5 hour plus running time and 5 year gestation period. That means that plenty of acts that may be pertinent to what’s going on in new old school EBM and post-endzeit dark electro (like say, Jager 90 or Dunkelwerk respectively) aren’t here. What it is, and what makes it an invaluable document of the scenes it addresses, is an exhaustively curated anthology of artists, the majority of whom will be unknown to even dedicated industrial fans. The diamond-mine themed artwork is appropriate in more ways than one: not only in illustrating the gems being uncovered, but in suggesting the rich vein of obscure but powerful music these artists are working.
Divided into a disc for old-school EBM, one for “authentic dark elektro”, with the remaining two disks featuring a mixture of both, OSE has a more than adequate canvas upon which to paint its vision. The first features the most well-known groups on it, with bands already known to EBM fans like Ionic Vision, Orange Sector, Spark! and Agrezzior delivering all the no-frills muscle and hate one would expect. Save for the perfectly serviceable but slightly out of place number by PP? there’s little stylistic variation here, nor should one expect or desire it; old school electronic body music is entirely about operating within the boundaries of the form rather than innovating it. A song like K-Bereit’s grinding “Blackened” or Ugh..!’s tongue in cheek shot at new school EBM “Rage Against Trancewhackedgoregalore” is unlikely to convert those not already on board with the classic template of metallic percussion and looping basslines, but do serve as exceptional examples of the immediacy born from naked aggression it can deliver.
Slightly less beholden to stylistic conventions, the disc of dark electro varies slightly more in form, dipping equally into the post-industrial and melodic faces of the genre for some exceptional and interesting entries. With entries like Second Disease’s “Ecstatic” and Pro Patria’s “H2S04” representing the tense, sample-laden mode and Brain Leisure’s “Self Reality” and Nodschlacht’s “The Collective” the stripe of emotion that serves as the genre’s spiritual backbone, an accurate if not historical picture of the genre emerges. Placed next to a typically sardonic and nuanced performance like Severe Illusion’s “My Car is Burning in Hell” and the complex and tweaky “Humiliating Procedures” by Object, the disk serves to also highlight some of the more outre branches dark electro stretches into.
Attesting to the care with which OSE has been assembled, the latter two discs are remarkably cohesive for a mixed bag of artists, many of whom stretch the definition of the compilation in a welcome fashion. Having the synthpop touched “Im Raum der Zeit” by Breathe stand shoulder to shoulder with the lo-fi buzz of Stin Scatzor’s “Noise in My Stomach” shows the variety possible within the purview of the compilation, but also points out the finer ties that bind EBM and dark electro together. Indeed, some tracks like Total Harmonic Distortion’s “Reversions/Mutations” blur the line between them clean out of existence, while Haujobb’s “Letting the Demon Sleep” (presented here in a wonderful unremixed version) is far removed from anything else present, but still fits perfectly in place. One can’t help but applaud Moumneh’s savvy in contextualizing these songs with one another.
The truth about a compilation like Old School Electrology is that you likely knew whether or not you wanted to buy it well before reading this, or any other review. The specificity of its tracklisting isn’t going to appeal to a majority of the current industrial scene, and it’s pricetag is likely to deter casual fans or those looking for an easy gateway to some of Our Thing’s more obscured provinces. That shouldn’t be taken in any sense as strike against it. In fact one of its strength is in it’s single-minded devotion to delivering on its remit, regardless of any commercial considerations. Whereas most compilations that boast all-exclusive tracks end up being clearing-houses for sub-B-side grade outtakes and remixes, the worst of these songs is still serviceable, an impressive feat before you even take into account the sheer volume of material. Still, on the off-chance that there are still fence-sitters considering whether to take the plunge, it’s worth saying: Old School Electrology Volume 1 is a fantastic release, in every respect a labour of love that sets a valuable standard. In the integrity of its vision and the quality of the material and overall package there isn’t any other compilation that can touch it genre-wide, proof that quality and quantity aren’t mutually exclusive. Highest recommendations.