Out of Line
As is the case with so many niche bands in the post-album era, Frankfurt’s Solitary Experiments have stayed on a steady schedule of annual releases, both to fill the gaps between actual albums and to continually have something new to flog to their loyal fans. Between their seven proper albums, the melodic electro-industrial quartet have managed an impressive slate of remix releases and compilations, if judged by volume at any rate. Solitary Experiments are very familiar with how to mine their own catalogue for maximum return on investment. Their latest interstitial release is Memorandum, a collector’s box repackaging of their very first demo tape, with all manner of bonus materials tossed in to sweeten the pot. Positioned somewhere between an archival release and a deluxe fan package, it’s more interesting as an example of how a collection like this can be parcelled together than it is for the music itself.
To wit, the aforementioned demo tape Risc de Choc Electrique is not particularly notable as an artifact of a bygone era: in fact it’s pretty mediocre, all told. Tellingly for Solitary Experiments, none of these songs were held over or reworked for any later releases, while their second self-released album Death In Small Doses was pillaged for their label-backed debut Final Approach (which in turn has been repackaged numerous times since). While a few of the songs hint at the solid mix of sentimental melody and heavy electronics that would follow (“Torment Machines” and the Star Wars-sampling “Wake Up Your Mind” both approach some mid-90s Zoth Ommog sounds) this sounds largely like what it is, the first faltering steps of a band figuring out their sound and approach. Whether consciously or not, the remastering job retains the sense of listening to a tape release, the slightly muddy sound and occasional bit of hiss lending it some charm where a more forceful update might have shone an unnecessarily harsh light on these compositions.
In an attempt to cover a few more bases, Memorandum also includes a new remixed Best Of, featuring some reasonably good retakes courtesy of bands as disparate as Psyche, Steril, Der Prager Handgriff and Mesh to name a few. It’s a well Solitary Experiments have gone to on several occasions (notably on Compendium and Compendium 2, each of which paired a small amount of new material with enough catalogue remixes to choke a horse), and as such is less attractive than it might have been otherwise, especially where a large number of the “hits” remixed are album cuts from 2013’s Phenomena. New symphonic release Heavenly Symphony is also included in the boxed version, featuring symphonic versions of their most popular songs, a now wholly worn out format that doesn’t actually do much to highlight the strength of the original compositions. These bonus discs come across as slightly puzzling in a package like this, if only because Solitary Experiments have never done an actual greatest hits release, seemingly a gimme when you need some filler.
For all my reservations about it, I can’t really fault Memorandum for being what it is: a hodgepodge of music intended to appeal to the fans of Solitary Experiments hardcore enough to still be willing to buy a fancy collector’s box. Who else would be interested in both a demo, a DVD of various live appearances and a slew of rejigged songs that have already been remixed on innumerable other releases? It’s at least notable that a perfectly serviceable upper mid-card industrial scene act like Solitary Experiments can still command that kind of loyalty in 2015, at least enough to justify Out of Line putting this thing together. In a digital era, that sort of dedication to physical product is rare enough that its very existence is worth tracking, regardless of what it actually constitutes musically.