The Pain Machinery
Complete Control Productions, 2011
While there’s been a huge resurgence in “old-school EBM” over the last decade (Spetsnaz, Jäger 90, Sturm Café), the vast majority of those bands have restricted themselves to a particular interpretation of classic Belgian and German bands (not that there’s anything wrong with that), so it’s interesting to hear a Swedish band taking up the mantle of the English tradition in EBM. Am I talking about Nitzer Ebb? Yes, the genetic markers of Harris and McCarthy are here, but they’re a common ancestor to so much of the current electronic landscape that that’s no surprise. Long-standing act The Pain Machinery, however, also gravitate towards the blunt and uncompromising vitriol of Portion Control, and use it to craft a harsh and unrelenting brand of EBM.
Some cuts, like lead track “Shine”, offer a claustrophobic and abrasive wall of percussion, but even more peel back the layers of noise and almost charnel atmosphere of their earlier work (the best of which was recently compiled on The Chaos Transmissions), to reveal angular and disquieting synthleads atop whiplash percussion. Plenty of tracks have more than a touch of acid house in them, and while EBM plus acid usually equals new beat, there’s certainly none of the cold austerity that marked that genre: “Never”, “Acid Breakdown”, and “Hate Me Now” (unfortunately not a Nas cover) are pure, aggressive workouts, and sound fresh and invigorating.
While social in aim, there’s a personal, biting anger to the tracks and lyrics here. Again, with regard to Anglo influences, the yobbish snark of street punk is a touchstone (used with far less pisstakery than delightfully goofy electro-punks Katscan).
At 14 tracks and 51 minutes, Surveillance Culture might be said to run a tad long. Considering the unremitting aggression on display, it’s certainly an endurance test at any length, though by no means an unpleasant one. It’s a refreshingly raw and unpolished slab of grinding EBM, which, while firmly rooted in an old-school ethos, blends together a series of sounds which all too often go unexplored.
NB: Auto Surveillance, a remix disc, was actually released a month before its LP of origin, and while I haven’t heard it yet the tracks on Surveillance Culture certainly sound as though they’d lend themselves well to remixing.