And Also the Trees
Further From the Truth
[EFA]

If the term "cult band" is too often misused, there's undeniably a formation on which everybody agree, And Also the Trees. Indeed, the Jones brothers managed to create an unique sound and to develop a very particular atmosphere, dipping out of raw emotions. An odd band who succeeded where few did, indeed, Simon Huw and Justin Jones transcend all the tension of their compositions when they perform it on stage, making of each concert an unforgettable meeting with their public.
"Further From the Truth" follows "Silver Soul" released five years ago. The eleven new compositions have neither the emphasis of their first albums, nor the blackness of the next ones, but a serenity and a simply charming sweetness come out of them. When Justin says that "several listenings are necessary to understand this record", he really means it, take your time to discover it, to try to tame it and seep into it to fully appreciate it. It's not that its access is difficult, on the contrary, it seems particularly accessible at first with its homogeneous compositions, but it surely is more intimist to what the band got us used to until now, it's simple, without accessory elements nor outburst. It's like if "Further From the Truth" got us closer to these geniuses with their everlasting ageless sensitivity.

Christophe Labussière



Archive
Michel Vaillant
[East West]

More than a simple film soundtrack which theme could have overwhelmed Archives' compositions, Luc Besson's new production make us discover a real album. Indeed, from the start, we find all the elegance these Radiohead's and Pink Floyd's offsprings got us used to. So, this soundtrack has almost everything to be the worthy following to "You All Look the Same to Me", except for some unwelcome aberrations which try a few times to undermine this album. Indeed, it's hard to bear the loud and soulless Nothing, or Friend which could be an Oasis' B-side at the best, or again, Nightmare Is Over which is a peak of silliness with its ridiculous vocal and its flabby orchestration. But fortunately, the whole result isn't too bad, because if the cinematographic needs might have forced Archive to create these tasteless tracks, the others surrounding them manage to keep the whole coherent. So, if we except these three tracks, "Michel Vaillant" appears to be a first-choice piece to add to the band's discography. Archive always master their effects, applying themselves to distil the essential with a minimum of means. It takes some skill to combine a very personal emphasis to a flawless songwriting. Once again, the album is fascinating, all in control. A good vintage.

Christophe Labussière



Collide
Some Kind of Strange
[Noiseplus Music]

Collide is back with a fourth album, "Some Kind of Strange", in which the lovers will find again what made their previous albums successful, with new differences though. First, the Trent Reznor's cherished guitar textures are there, and then the rhythms played on real drums (by cEvin Key on Euphoria) remind of "The Fragile" by Nine Inch Nails who then become the new legitimate reference of that band once introduced as a compromise between Curve and Front Line Assembly. Karin's singing is always more murmured than released, affording itself an oriental dance on Tempted. If the general tempo is pretty slow, as it was for the previous "Chasing the Ghost", the brand new thing is the use of acoustic guitars. For if they claim not to be traditional musicians, Karin and Statik don't forget to blend a few musical notes here and there that will save the listener who was drowning under sound layers and sub-layers. Modify contains that deep dimension confronted to the childish ritornello of Karin's singing, that it will deliver all its secrets only after listening to it a few times. The long time fan will be surprised to find such songs as Slither Thing, Inside and Shimmer which seem to be designed for FM radios as they're easy to get in and almost too much polite. Mutation and Complicated remain in the purest duet's tradition: heavy beats, whispered voice and guitar riffs mixed with the usual electronic manipulations. A very soft album though.

Bertrand Hamonou



David J
Estranged
[Heyday]

Even if it is less known than the career of his colleagues Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash, David J's is none the less consequent: seven albums, two EPs and a bunch of singles since 1981! Unfortunately, this new album won't help him to get the public he had with his previous bands. The Bauhaus' and Love and Rockets' fans will be really disappointed by this terribly pop-folk "Estranged". The first listening can even be painful for those of you allergic to the American folk full of listless slide guitars, exalted violins and suave choirs. Nevertheless, if you have the courage to linger on this record (and to ignore the irritating Guitar Man), you'll discover some wry and dark tracks, such as the rainy Ruined Cities, the dusk Crashed or the schizophrenic Bright in Your Absence. And even if some melodies remind of the brightest tracks of Love and Rockets (If Anything Should Ever Happen to You, the chorus of Arc of Return, Time in the Sun), "Estranged" is basically closer to the Byrds or the works of David J with The Jazz Butcher, in a very American atmosphere, with its country sounds and its gabbering guitar. Even if the whole isn't unpleasant and shows David J's great talent for melodies, we're far from the obsessing and dark ambiences he once developped...

Christophe Lorentz



Dependent Club Invasion
Seabound/Dismantled/Pride and Fall
[Dependent]

Is it the will to create collector objects or just some commercial opportunism, but the German label Dependent are offering us here a box of three singles at a special price, three weeks before their official releases, in a limited edition of 1,500 copies. Beyond this strange initiative, we simply notice that each of these CDs is of good quality compared to the rather disappointing latest productions of the label. First and above all because Seabound imposes itself once again, after a promising start and an absence of more than two years with Contact, a track which hits the bull's-eye from the start. The Covenant and Apoptygma Berzerk should be wary. First because Seabound's new album, "Beyond Flatline", announced for the begining of 2004 could be the new future pop reference. Let's note that this EP has got three versions of Contact, a very good remix of Torn by Eskil Simonsson of Covenant, and a new title, The Attic, a kind of good progressive electro-techno track. Then, Dismantled proposes us more than an EP, almost a mini album (with seven tracks), a very well done work in the line of Nine Inch Nails but 100% electronic, with melancholic piano sounds (especially on the title Exit and even more on Morning Star), some well mastered Skinny Puppy-like vocoders (on two versions of Shift) and well assimilated reminiscences of Front Line Assembly (Backwards). Finally, because Pride and Fall, after a rather disappointing first album, make the best of this opus by offering us a euro-dance a la Icon Of Coil: nothing really original here, but the different versions of Paragon and the track Delusion are doped by the best BPM. So, while Dependent seemed asleep, these three EPs are rather a success. The electro appears to have a future.

Stéphane Colombet



Droom
128 1/2 Days
[A Different Drum]

Newcomers on the electro pop scene, the American duo Droom, has created in 128 and a half days, a rather good album, somewhere between synthetic wave (A Thousand Ghosts and Passion Junkie) and real future pop (Stay! and Face to Face). The singer has a very eighties sounding voice (we can't help thinking about bands like Human League or Clan Of Xymox), but it is in harmony with the melodies sometimes slow and even moving (Trust? and Eyes Like Oceans), sometimes totally electro-body (Wedding Day Dream and While We Can). These are the melodies we'll remember first, because they're varied and well composed. The thirteen tracks of this first album shouldn't disappoint the fans of the usual productions of the label A Different Drum (we think a lot of The Echoing Green), even if we would have appreciated a bit more of originality and coherence in the style. We'll surely hear about this band in the future.

Stéphane Colombet



Iris
Reconnect
[A Different Drum]

We remember "Disconnect", the first album of a particularly gifted American duo, who unexpectedly appeared four years ago, followed by three successful EPs in the synth-pop register ("Annie, Would I Lie to You?", "Danger Is the Shame" and "Saving Time"). Carried by the underground success of "Disconnect" and while Iris' second album was released by another label a few months ago, A Different Drum has decided to release an album of remixes, made up of new versions of "Disconnect", but also with two new versions of B-sides only available on the above-mentioned EP (Endless and Everybody Is Life). Beyond the question of knowing if this is a commercial move or not, this record brushes with perfection, engraving in marble the main contribution of "Disconnect" to the ideal discography of all the techno-pop fans. While listening to Annie, Would I Lie to You? remixed by T.O.Y., Saving Time by Neuroactive or Danger Is the Shame by The Nine, we realise that Xmas is coming and that it would be nice to put it on your presents list.

Stéphane Colombet



Neutral
Caller Id
[Hymen]

Another remixes' album embellished with novelties to satisfy the fans and draw the attention of the neophytes, and this time it's Neutral's turn to undergo it... Fortunately, the bittersweet ambiences of Nicole Elmer's compositions don't disappear in the more or less talented works of the different artists present here. The best ones are undeniably Xingu Hill, with their interesting approach of Birds in the Air, which keeps the important guitar's sound all the while putting agreeable chaotic electronic sounds, and End, who harmoniously restructures Carbon. So, among all these remixes, there are some novelties: some interludes ("answering machine" or "jazzy") and three unreleased tracks, or rather only one (the very ambient Silent) because the other two, Cut Paper and Carbon Paper, are actually successful reconstructions of old tracks (first, Blue Paper from "Font Translation Errors" and Carbon, from "Motion Of"). The result is that these remixes and these "new" titles exacerbate the captivating universe that Nicole Elmer developped throughout the years, and that's all their interest.

Carole Jay



Popoï Sdioh
Popoï Sdioh
[Nerves Prod.]

Popoï Sdioh is actually the new identity of Land of Passion, the very good French-Belgian goth-rock and batcave band, who has been growing a nice reputation for themselves since 1990, thanks to several quality demos and an excellent autoproduced album: "The Arrival" (1996). Since 2001, and after some changes in the band, Land of Passion has become Popoï Sdioh in order to underline its musical evolution. Because if the quartet always have solid batcave, death-rock and gothic roots, they play, from now on, a hybrid music mixed with electro-industrial sounds and a rage worthy of a metal-indus band. This remarkably well-produced eponymous album contains 13 songs and 10 "audiocrashtests", that is to say short, sometimes saturated, sometimes insidious experimental interludes. Beside these moments close to the industrial rhythmics or the dark-ambient, "Popoï Sdioh" reveals unusual dark and agressive compositions, which atmospheres of unhealthy madness are strengthened by a double possessed vocal (a voice from beyond the grave against superacute voices). Rich and varied, this unpredictable album even dares some forays in a crazy jazz and a demented waltz, faithful to the twisted mind of Virgin Prunes, Christian Death and Sex Gang Children, with modern and bruitist sounds in bonus. This is a fascinating success, and certainly the best neo-batcave record since the remarkable "Unexpected Emotional Sequence" of In Memoria and "Décompositions & Reliques" of Violet Stigmata.

Christophe Lorentz



Proven in Action
Compilation
[First Aid]

For its first release, First Aid, the new label created by the Swede Anders Karlsson (The Pain Machinery), offers us a compilation entitled "Proven in Action", probably a tribute to the eponymous Test Dept's live. There is undeniably some action on this record which boasts to be "an antidote to the stagnation in the electro-industrial scene". Stagnation meaning "absence of progress" (a literal definition which could apply to this genre), one can think that his "auto-proclamation" is quite pretentious! We remark that behind such modesty hide a rather large representative panel, which has the merit of offering only novelties, but which also contains some unavoidable cliché tracks... Nevertheless, we'll also notice the appreciable presence of numerous Ad Noiseam's bands (which collaborates to this release): Detritus, Tarmvred, Cdatakill, Larvae, but also old acquaintances with a title of YelworC (the first one in ten years) taken from their future new album. Arzt+Pfusch also offers us a new track which almost samples the same film dialogues ("The Others") than Venetian Snares on his track Children's Limbo. Decidedly, this film inspired a lot of people. We wonder what Diskrepant and LEAK are doing on this record, even if Anders Karlsson might try, by doing so, to be a bit exhaustive. "Proven in Action" isn't a bad compilation -the fans of this genre will love the few stereotyped tracks made for slippery dancefloors- but, as for the antidote...

Carole Jay



Relaxed Muscle
A Heavy Nite With...
[Rough Trade / Pias]

It's hard to say if those who are still grieving Pulp's disappearance will find some consolation in this Relaxed Muscle's new album. Ousted by Island, his record company, for the low sales of his last albums, "This Is Hardcore" and "We Love Life", Jarvis Cocker seems to have let bygones be bygones concerning Pulp: we all knew him as the skinny, sexy and restless dandy, from now on, here he is as "Darren Spooner", wearing a skeleton suit, made up as it was Halloween. Surrounded by Richard Hawley (who often collaborated with Pulp) and Jason Buckle (of the Fat Truckers), his new caprice is a kind of freaking, glam and burlesque electro-rock mix, probably more interesting to listen to on stage or at festive times than at home. So, the nostalgics won't have their money's worth, even if Jarvis is clearly Pulp inspired in a very pleasant finale (Mary, I Just Called to Tell You That Both Our Children Are on Drugs).

Renaud Martin



Stin Scatzor
Industrogression
[Black Flames Records]

There was a time when Stin Scatzor alias Stephan Bens was one of the best actor of the, very, very underground Belgian electro-industrial scene. Strange is the fate of this artist who evolved under the friendly wing of Johan Van Roy of Suicide Commando (they collaborated together on the project Lescure 13), who was himself supported by the mentor Dirk Ivens of Klinik. Never going into solitary sweeping productions, Stephan created, like his compatriots (Typis Belgis, Truncheon) auto-produced analogic tapes, all impregnated with a disturbing darkness and an emergency. At last, after 13 years of maturation, the rough sound of Stin Scatzor is available in a digital format, thanks to a Polish label. Is it better, may you ask. Well, if "Industrogression" sounds like a compilation of hits tested in "body cuir" parties, the whole sounds terribly dated. The rather dirty production (is it done on purpose?) hardly hides the harmonic weaknesses of the compositions. Where have this dilettante genius' brilliant ideas which captivated us with three lines of rickety melody gone? It seems that the best times of industrial music have definitively gone. Or as some would say "wrong place, wrong time".

Anthony Augendre



Worlds Of Possibility
Compilation
[Domino]

The English label Domino is celebrating its tenth anniversary, so there was no reason why we should escape to the usual exercise of the anniversary compilation. So, we find on a double CD a wide range of tracks taken from the albums released by this label. The first record is dedicated to the important bands, which are impressively numerous (Sebadoh, Royal Trux, Palace Music, Smog, Elliott Smith, Clinic, Jim O'Rourke, Pavement to only mention a few). The second CD shows the more electronic and less "American rock" orientations Domino has taken on these last years, like the rough rock of The Kills (worthy heirs to Royal Trux), the melodic pop of Clearlake (with the title I Wonder if the Snow Will Settle, worthy of Morrissey), the post-rock of Hood, the electro of Four Tet or Matt Elliott. A first-choice selection for one of the most prolific label of these last ten years, and at the price of a single CD. That's what we call a successful anniversary.

Renaud Martin