Tru-school heads sit up and take notice, class is back in session and Prof. Kyronfive is dropping gems on that early 90s electro-industrial tip. We’re happy to have another guest lecture from such a distinguished colleague in our field, so let’s just pass the mic.
So, I’m back. You’re probably wondering, “why hasn’t she written sooner?” First of all, why do you sound like my mother? Secondly, I have an excellent excuse. Honest. You probably think it’s because I got busy with my day job or something. Hilarious. Actually, here’s the truth. I flew on a clandestine mission to Vancouver on the invitation of our venerable ID:UD hosts so they could train me to tag in at the WWE as Roman Reigns’ newest partner in The Shield. Or at least that’s what they told me right before I blacked out. I don’t really remember much. Anyway, the good news is, during my 24 week rehabilitation phase, I was finally able to finish my latest 199X column. I hope you enjoy. This edition takes us from the land down under, to the chilly northern climes of Sweden, to Belgium, the birthplace of EBM. And all within a day of 1999. Read on.
This Digital Ocean “Android”
The German labels Machinery and sub-label Dynamica were probably most famous for being the ‘90s homes of Snog and (pre-Virgin) And One. Australian nihilism and Teutonic EBM aside, their biggest hits seem to be with guitar-industrial hybrids, from Swamp Terrorists to Cubanate to Oomph! to Dance or Die. So I guess it’s not entirely surprising that This Digital Ocean, a moody, synthy Australian trio, got lost in the shuffle. The group produced two records for the label, neither of which indelibly fixed itself in music history. Which is a small shame, because I’ve always loved this track. Machinery/Dynamica had an office in LA for about a minute in 1994. I remember going down there and getting a smattering of CDs, some which would become successful (Cubanate Anitmatter), and some … not so much (who here remembers Coptic Rain?). This CD was one of the bunch, and a delightful find at that. “Android” comes from the band’s second release, Trinity 3000, which suffers from some sophomore wobbles, but was otherwise a solid effort. Additionally, ever since I first heard this track I’ve been convinced the band lifted the bass line from the Front Line Assembly song “Outcast”. Give it a listen. Am I crazy?
Insekt “Torture (Rhythm Pain)”
In the late ‘80s, having completed his tour of duty from Absolute Body Control to Absolute Controlled Clinical Maniacs to The Klinik, Eric Van Wonterghem was ready to retire. Actually, not! Teaming up with Mario Vaerewijck in 1989, the duo released four records and a live album before going on hiatus in the mid-‘90s, popping back up once more in the mid-aughts. (Belgian bands never die, it seems. They either form side projects or wait the minimal amount of time needed to be reliably called a “reunion.”) This track, from their third record, Dreamscape, is brilliantly unclassifiable in the way that most of Insekt’s repertoire can be: noisy, funky, and dancy; post-minimal EBM, but pre-powernoise. In many ways Insekt was a little ahead of its time, sensing that dancier EBM shift that fellow countryman Suicide Commando would completely lock down a decade later. Both Van Wonterghem and Vaerewijck have had successful careers beyond Insekt. But, I wish they’d come back. I had an opportunity to see them live at Wave Gotik Treffen in 2004 and they completely blew everyone’s hair back with their energy. I’m not done fearing the Insekt, guys!
Children Within “Collective Minds (Party Mix by Covenant)”
Fact: in the ‘90s, the entire country of Sweden completely cornered the market on frothy, oozing synthpop. And Children Within’s 1996 release, Sea of Life, lives up to that hype. I’m a bit remiss, then, to be posting a remix as their first entry into my 199X column. Mea culpa. So I’ll say this, if clap-your-hands-say-yeah synthpop just a shade away from “Just Can’t Get Enough” is your jam, you absolutely must check out Sea of Life, in particular the track “Efemeris,” to get your sugar fix. But for the purposes of this column, I will be highlighting this little-known remix which is also, I believe, Covenant’s first published remix ever. I think it’s testament to the success of the track that it manages to make credible dancefloor fodder out of a song that – honest to god – is about a school of fish. (It really is. Listen to the lyrics.) Interestingly, Eskil Simonsson tells the story that, in executing this track, he set up only a drum machine in the middle of the living room floor – because his apartment was so small there was nowhere else to put it. Thus, the stripped down percussive nature of the remix, still reflecting Covenant’s earliest EBM-inflected sound before Europa. Children Within had a few releases after this, but Sea of Life, to me, still remains their finest record: poppy, dreamy, and thanks to this track, damn danceable, too.
This Digital Ocean, wow. ‘Omen’ used to pack the floor back then and it’s really too bad Trinity 3000 didn’t draw a bigger audience, it is easily the better of the two records the band made. Loved Coptic Rain’s first two albums and they had a one-off side project on Hyperium called April Nine that owned. Worst band on Dynamica? Think About Mutation. Hands down. Insekt never did a bad album, until Teenmachine. Just pretend it never happened, boys and do another. We’ll forgive you.
Sea of Life is an amazing record, my favorite 90s synth pop record. Probably a bit too poppy for the time, and the ecological themes were a bit out of step with the goth/industrial/etc crowd at the moment, but it’s worth rediscovering.