*Classic Album Review*
Geography (1982) Wax Trax!
An undisputed classic that defined the burgeoning EBM scene of Belgium during the early 80s. That’s not a typo by the way, EBM or electronic body music is a style that takes industrial elements and puts them together with electronic dance and a fresh-from-bootcamp militant punk attitude.
Geography displays some of the most creative synthesizer work to come out of that era. While most fledgling musicians struggled to afford all the expensive, new fangled electronic music gear of the time, Front 242 founding member Patrick Codenys had a stroke of luck. His father received a winning lottery ticket and gave Condonys money to buy himself a car. In an act of defiance we can all be thankful for, he bought synthesizers instead.
This set the stage for the band to have a sound creation playground worthy of their vision. What resulted on Geography was an all-out assault to the senses that people had not heard before. Persistent, infectious electronic percussion along with dark, pulsating analog synthesizers support the ominous, baritone croonings of main vocalist, Jean-Luc De Meyer.
What remains intriguing about the production quality is how the record simultaneously manages to sound perfectly of its time, yet fresh and modern with a polish that sets it apart from the era. At many points it sounds as though modern samplers are being used, when in fact, modern digital samplers were largely unavailable, save for the Fairlight CMI which was vanishingly rare and unobtainable. Instead these sounds were achieved through the highly creative direct manipulation of magnetic tape – perhaps a technique inspired by the sound art installation “Poème électronique” by Edgard Varèse for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, which left a deep impression on the people of Belgium and fans of sound art around the world.
For those uninitiated to the dark/cool world of EBM and early industrial, Geography represents the perfect starting point. Enjoy.
*Classic Album Review*
False Cathedrals (2000) Revelation Records
In 2000, Louisville’s emo/indie rock group Elliott, released False Cathedrals, their second full length album proceeded also by a slew of 7” EPs. The turn of the millennium represented an important maturation point for the band and the genre. False Cathedrals is a stunning step up in not only the strength of the song writing but also the production quality and the musicianship on display. During the decade leading up the this release, emo groups featured janky yet emotionally powerful performances that were awkwardly caught on tape and released in a fairly raw state. False Cathedrals has all the polish of a U2 record and sounds ready to be released on major top 40 radio. Thankfully this does not detract from the passion and emotional power of the listening experience. They somehow manage to play with the passion of a high school band while executing with the finesse of ‘first-call’ Nashville session musicians. A balance like this is rare and noteworthy in music.
Also for the first time, we got a true ‘headphone album’ in the genre. By that I’m not just referring to the production quality, but the journey that the album takes you on. We’ve recently gotten out of a period, when streaming services and the internet in general, have pushed artists away from the traditional full length album and into endless strings of singles. Musical artists have begun to (perhaps unconsciously) downgrade themselves to the level of ‘content creators.’ I’m glad to see that many people have begun to re-discover the wonder of a holistically composed record, who’s songs are all meant to go together in a specific order and have carefully timed emotional ups and downs. Singles are more like quick-hit, short YouTube videos and proper full lengths are more like a feature film you see on the big screen. Nobody walked out of a movie theater after watching Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and said, “Wow, that was some great content!”
There is a seriousness and weight to False Cathedrals that is captivating and undeniable. It’s a perfect example of how to compose an album and not just a song. So pop on your Beyerdynamic’s, lay flat on your bed and enjoy the journey that a true album can take you on.