HANSEL/CONTRA/ATR TRIBUTE DTECH CDs!
ALBUM: The Virus Has Been Spread - A Tribute to Atari Teenage Riot
LABEL: D-Trash Records
REVIEWER: Robert Eaton
trouble with making a tribute album is that it’s often like making
another Star Wars movie. You have to have some good people on board,
because, usually, if you are doing a tribute album, you are treading on
sacred ground. Certainly that is the case with "The Virus Been Has
Spread," a tribute to Atari Teenage Riot. It’s hard to match Atari
Teenage Riot for sheer intensity, and in order for this tribute to stand
up, it’s going to require some pretty enterprising minds. Atari Teenage
Riot emerged in the newly reunited Germany in 1992, playing what the
band referred to as "digital hardcore" a nasty revolt against the
commercial German techno scene. Also, intensly political, ATR vowed "not
to reform the system, but to destroy the system." So, ATR went on to
release some of the noisiest, most uncompromising music we have ever had
the pleasure of our collective ears bleeding to. Doing an ATR tribute,
there’s going to be some noisy, nasty examples, none to easy to follow.
Fortunately, "The Virus Has Been Spread" delivers: there’s something
here both for the uninitiated, who may be approaching Atari Teenage
Riot’s music for the first time, and for the hard-core fan of ATR. For
this reviwer, the albums looses a little bit of it’s steam towards the
middle, but it bookended by Rabbit Junk’s blistering take on ATR classic
"Start The Riot" and (contemporary luminaries of noise themselves)
Schizoid’s version of "The Future of War." The best songs on this disk
manage to stay true to Atari Teenage Riot’s music, while adding a little
modern flourish, be it turn-tables, samples, or whatever. One of the
strengths of this disk is that it seems to have conjoured up the lesser
known and unknown acts from the genre, who in turn demonstrate they are
the right bands to carry the flag for ATR. This is a good jolt to
anybody that’s a little disturbed about how over-produced and safe a lot
of EBM and Industrial has gotten.
Massachusetts industrial hip-hop duo Hansel is back with a second full-length album, and though things are just as loud and chaotic as they ever were, there’s a more coherent vision to the music this time around. The punk ethos is still intact, but it’s better integrated with the band’s hip-hop influences now, with screamed rap vocals working with the hard breakbeat rhythms rather than against them on such tracks as "Psylents" and "Generate Humans." Turn down the distortion on "Cypress Millwood," and you’ve even got a beat funky enough to nod your head to. If the elements of Hansel’s sound are better integrated, though, they’re as eclectic as ever, if not more so. "The Death of Allen Steele," remixed here by fellow D-Trash Records artist Schizoid, crams dirty industrial metal up against jazzy rhythmic breakdowns, "Koslo (The Birth Giver)" mixes bleak trip-hop rhythms with reverb-drenched classical strings, and title track "Lorentzian Lineshaper" is like nothing so much as a Beastie Boys B-side as heard from the far side of a bad PCP trip. Then there’s the cover of Pat Benatar’s "Heartbreaker," complete with staccato violins, drum ’n’ bass snare rolls, and vocals that range from frantic breathlessness to brutal shrieking. For all the deliberate noise and confrontation, though, this is much more intellectual stuff than you might expect, and a surprising interest in such heady topics as quantum physics and astronomy makes itself known on opening track "Waking the Ghost" and the fascinating combination of synthesized cello, otherworldly chimes, and soft singing that is "The Uncertainty Principle." In many ways, this is extraordinarily violent music, but it’s certainly not dumb. If you can correctly interpret the distorted shrieks through the morass of metallic breakbeats and buzzing feedback, you might even learn something.
Hansel’s website at
Prolific Canadian producer E. Coli releases music under a slew of different names, including Strider, Ice Breathing, Nervous, and The Druids, but his main sonic outlet is Contra. On his first professionally released CD, Contra takes hard breakbeats and drum ’n’ bass rhythms and drenches them in chaos, distortion and samples. Despite the clinical precision with which he chops and splices beats and samples, E. Coli’s compositions are anything but clinical; "Biotapestry X" opens this album with a swampy morass of gurgling, static, and unintelligible bits of conversation, and "In the Bloodstream" uses flattened, almost wooden-sounding percussion loops for an almost tribal vibe, at least until the orchestral synths and piano loops make their appearance. While Contra’s music is heavily dependent on the manipulation of rhythm, it’s rarely club-friendly; apart from "Slime," which could probably slip unnoticed into a power noise DJ’s set list, these rhythms are too frantic for dancing in the conventional sense. Even when simpler rhythms appear, as on the ominous stomp of "Faiths in Decline," they rarely stick around long enough to establish a solid groove, instead leaping for cover in the face of grating feedback squeals or wildly pulsating analog tones. For all its intensity, Contra’s music has a certain cerebral quality, rewarding a careful listen with occasionally recognizable bits of classical pieces or comedic samples. Fans of such acts as Venetian Snares or Hecate will especially appreciate Contra’s abrasive approach to rhythmic complexity.
Check out Contra and E. Coli’s other projects at http://contra.dtrashrecords.com/.
An unholy combination of industrial, noise, hip-hop, and punk, Hansel’s debut full-length album is beautifully harsh and grating, offering a little something to please everyone and more than a little to offend everyone. Fans of the harsher side of industrial and electronic music will appreciate the processed vocals, overdriven guitar chords, and brutal breakbeats of "Greg Lindham" and the jagged keyboards and screaming of "No More Legs." Avant-garde techno fans can dig on the glitches and cut-up classical loops of "Molto Allegro" and the psychotic bass manipulations of "Sickle Celluloid." Drum ’n’ bass aficionados can groove to the frantic jungle rhythms of "KLGF" and "Planck’s Gruff," itself a remix of the more low-fi hip-hop and punk crossover "Planck’s Konstant." No single track on this album, though, is consistent enough in themes and influences to appeal unreservedly to any one scene, and the album as a whole is, if anything, more eclectic than the sum of its parts. The hip-hop rhythms are drenched in metallic reverb or speaker-shredding distortion, the wavering punk vocals are set to looped classical strings, and even the ambient tracks are interrupted by bursts of raw-throated shrieking and jackhammer kicks. Hansel’s total disregard for genre concerns and for accessibility as a whole makes this album all the more compelling. It’s not going to sell records, it’s not going to get club play, and it’s not going to turn the duo into superstars, but it’s not hard to imagine this debut creating a small but devoted legion of diehard Hansel fans. Check this out if you’re into similar genre-defying industrial and punk acts like Babyland or This Song Is a Mess and So Am I.