Cyborgs on Crack
Industrial Polka Classics
With the novelty of retro-EBM all but spent, and the glut of generic neon synthwave reaching critical mass, it feels very refreshing to hear artists like Croatia’s Cyborgs on Crack drink deeply from a more outré well of 80s synth music. Lurking around the edges of more celebrated throwback sounds, Domagoj Kršić has focused his output on the funky, mutant outliers, the acidic and psychedelic strains of post-industrial being particular touchstones for his work. New compilation Industrial Polka Classics brings together some of the best songs from his various releases into one package, a succinct if no less peculiar statement of purpose for the project.
Kršić favours bright, clean production for Cyborgs on Crack, the sunny feel as much a trademark of his music as the sounds and styles of the songs themselves. The squelchy upbeat pop of “I’m Dissolving” and “Dry Mouth” evoke acid house era Psychic TV, layering catchy melody and disaffected vocals over plunky synth basses and shiny pads. More of those primitive house vibes make themselves heard through the extensive use of digital pianos on “Hypno (Tekno Body mix)” and “No Words (enerrgee mix)”, tempering their quantized kick-snare and manipulated sample attacks. It’s fun music that doesn’t compromise on danceability for the sake of self-conscious weirdness; for all its warped samples and detuned synthlines, a song like “hello there my name is bob” retains an immediacy in its groove and funky swing.
Then again, the idiosyncrasies in Cyborgs on Crack’s approach are what elevates them from the ranks of other throwback minded electronic musicians. It’s the what-the-hell songs that really make the case for the compilation, binding it and filling in the blanks. “death cult iniation at chuckie cheez” extends a drum-fill intro into an entire song, forgoing pretty much all other musical elements for an expanding and contracting arrangement of synthetic percussion. “offendinator (pineapple mix)” is all off-key singing and excessive use of phaser, all the more hypnotic when twinkling synths and reversed sounds bubble up around its dinky keyboard-demo-song rhythm track. You can draw comparisons to the vital funk experimentalism of Severed Heads, or even some of Coil’s drug-fuelled forays into dance music, but Industrial Polka Classics consistently illustrates Domagoj Kršić’s own brand of eccentricity.