Savage Grounds
Separation Shock
Oraculo Records

There’s a tremendous tension that Swiss trio Savage Grounds, an energy that emerges from the meeting of their cool and minimal arrangements, and the ferocity with which they approach performing the material. If that sounds like a standard synthpunk description to you, be assured that there’s more classic European coldwave and body sounds in the mix here; witness how the plinky synths of “Denial” have any trace of tweeness washed away by the track’s muscly bassline and cracking snares, vocalist Kleio Thomaïdes’ monotone delivery curling into a sneer ever more surely as the track wears on. The same kind of energy is at play on opener “Distress”, except that its three-note arpeggiated hook comes out of the gate sounding rough and ready, the claps and sirens that accompany it taking on ever more threatening air the more manic things get. Conversely, on “Conflict” and “Uncertainty” the instrumentation is played back somewhat, providing a strong foundation but largely allowing the far more aggressive vocals from Thomaïdes to be spotlighted. It’s definitely a case of a band who understand where less can mean more, when to turn up the intensity, and how those two qualities don’t have to contradict one another.

Religus Order - Violent Vision
Religus Order
Violent Vision
Smashing Tape Records

Frankfurt’s Smashing Tape label has earned a rep for being able to ferret out up and coming throwback body music projects who buck the trends many such projects are swayed by, and the latest mini-LP from Alessio di Mezza’s Religus Order [sic] project is no exception. Between running his own  EUFEMIA and releasing a slew of material under a range of handles, di Mezza is likely approaching Violent Vision from a range of perspectives, but from the outside many of the seven tracks here sound like the result of a producer with a techno foundation returning not to the earliest or harshest roots of EBM, but to the wormier and at times poppier aggrepo sounds of the likes of Force Dimension. The funky burbles which begin to emerge through the noir haze of “Dream Of None” lends to the early 90s flavour of much of the tape. Similarly, while it would be de rigeur for most producers to try to beef up the swarming bass drones of “Under The Vatican” with speaker-frapping kicks, di Mezza instead opts for to have some rubbery synth toms ricochet their way up the spine of the bass. Elsewhere, the synthpunk flailings of “Bad Reputation” are brought to heel a bit with some cool, almost electroclash sheen. While still feeling very much of a piece with the lo-fi body music revival, there’s more than enough flavour distinct to this release.