Longstanding Belgian project Empusae has always had a very loose approach to the rhythmic industrial style which Nicolas Van Meirhaeghe’s work is nominally rooted in; shades of dark ambient, death industrial, and electro-acoustic soundtracking have been liberally used in Empusae’s past. New EP Præter certainly continues that open-ended approach, and as the musical component of a choreography and fashion project with Bulgarian clothing brand Minoar reaches beyond the usual haunts and demographics of rhythmic industrial. Pieces like “Progressus Mysterium” are a nice reminder of Van Meirhaeghe’s compositional talents, slowly unrolling with clockwork chimes and stuttering beats woven into a murky tapestry of pads. For all of the smokey foreboding that the EP conjures up, though, some more vulnerable melodicisim is exposed on Præter as well. The Romantic piano figures which show up at the end of “Fiber Academy” are far different in provenance from the synths which give the processional “Virago” a mournful cast (perhaps recalling Fuck Buttons in their gloomier moments), but both show how Empusae’s talents reach beyond stern and strict industrial.
See Me Now
While Parisian producer Annelise Morel aka Sierra has been actively releasing music since 2017, it seemed that 2021 was the year that many in darker alternative quarter really started to pay attention to her. Her work is an easy sell for DJs: mid tempo post-Gessafelstein dancefloor burners with touches of classic EBM and darkwave, all rendered in sleek modern production. New EP See Me Now is perhaps her most accomplished stylistically, leveraging some big atmospheres to give her tracks scope and range. The lengthy intro of the title track is all tension, but even knowing that the beat is going to drop, it’s remarkable how filthy the slow-rolling rhythm is when it does make an appearance. Similarly, the 16th note workout of “Control” is rendered more suspenseful by a tweaky ascending synthline that slices through the song’s mournful pads. Interestingly you can hear Morel downshifting the dancefloor as a priority on some tracks: “All Or Nothing” plays as straight synthwave (albeit of the soundtrack oriented variety) via it’s big arpeggios, and closing track “Rise and Fall” is held together by a ghostly organ with token drums used to move it to it’s sinister, buzzing conclusion. While you could certainly classify Sierra’s work as belonging to any number of genre’s, its interest to us continues to lie in how much it speaks to broader dark music traditions without necessarily being of them.