REVIEWS
SynthPoP For The Masses
TOC 2006 (1/3, 2/3, 3/3)

Colony 5 - Refixed

With 'Refixed' the Swedish duo 'Colony5' present a revised version of their last full-length album 'Fixed'. An ex-band member with the pseudonym 'Amplifier' is responsible for all the remixed songs.
On 'Fixed' all songs are more or less similar, but 'Amplifier' was able to give more variability with his reworked tracks. For example the ballad 'Fusion' gains warmth and authenticity because of the use of minimalist synthesizer sounds and therefore convinces with a different quality.
But 'Amplifier' was still not able to change the singing part which sounds too boring and flat in the long run. Anyhow, he succeeded in partially compensating for this weakness with the clever use of alternative electro-sounds (e.g. 'A New World Arise', 'Like Leaves'). Also the remix of the best album track 'Plastic World' was done well. The remix lost drive indeed but is able to convince, especially for lovers of analogue electro sounds due to its simplicity and selection of electronic ingredients.
'Like Leaves' in the remixed version suddenly counts as one of my favourites. 'Amplifier' kept the full beat but he utilized simple and sometimes mellow sounds which enrich the original with more spatiality and sympathy.

On the whole 'Refixed' is the much better album, as 'Amplifier' unshackled 'Fixed' out of the slough of monotony and turned it into a manifold album. Well, I still will not give it full points, as he was not able to improve the partially boring singing.


Date of Release: 25th November 2005
Rating: 3 megafons
   

Covenant ? Skyshaper

There exist only few bands that really understand how to create something new using traditional components. Thus Covenant have coined selective minimalist compositions which sound surprisingly up-to-date without covering any 'retro-elektro' influences in spite of obvious analogue synthesizer sounds.
Covenant understand perfectly how to make something more from less as lots of small effects are cleverly merged into simple basic melodies. Also the monotonous and lackadaisical singing does not really create any tension but is as slippery as an eel over the cool synthesizer sounds. Instruments are dominating the songs and the singing only transports some words ? rightly, that are Covenant though some vocals are performed surprisingly melodically (e.g. Brave New World, 20 Hz).

The music by Covenant will not fit all tastes ? sometimes it's too cold and too dark, but I am impressed by those electronic sounds. I'm not able to draw comparisons to other bands like Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk or Front 242 ? Covenant are Covenant, that's it! Beside some club-capable songs like 'Ritual Noise', 'Pulse', 'Brave New World' or '20hz' the ballads are also among the album highlights (e.g. 'The World Is Growing Loud').
People who ask for perfect electronic sounds will receive with Skyshaper the best that this genre is able to deliver.


Date of Release: 3rd March 2006
Rating: 3.5 megafons
   
 
De/vision ? Subkutan

A new year passes and the German duo De/vision surprises with a new album named 'Subkutan'. 'Subkutan' is Latin and means "under the skin" and I anticipate music which is haunting and emotional. The music and lyrics are written by De/vision themselves but the booklet betrays that Arne Schumann did the production, mixing, arrangement and programming of the music. That is what I was wondering about most. After their gig of their Subkutan Tour 2006 in Zurich I had the chance to speak with Steffen of De/vision. He told me that De/vision did approximately 80% of the programming themselves. Well, back to the review. Is Subkutan able to go under the skin?

The peppy opener 'Subtronic' shows that De/vision is trying something new. Club-capable beats and vocoders are dominating which will probably not fit every taste. The album continues with another mid-speed track named 'The End' which is one of the best album tracks. From now on Subkutan is identified as being from De/vision. The next song 'Star-Crossed Lovers' starts very calm where Steffen's singing comes to the fore. During the last third the character changes to a more aggressive form. This song definitely reminds me of some Depeche Mode songs from their last album.
The album continues with another calm track named 'Addicted'. This song has many striking effects in the background, also a very memorable refrain. De/vision keep the sedate character with the next track 'Obey Your Heart', though it's hard synthetic sounds at the beginning provoke different expectations.
The following songs 'No Tomorrow', 'Still Unknown' and 'In Dir' still keep the sedateness and convince with De/vision's typical wonderful and simple melodies without messing about. These are those upright songs which really go under the skin. 'E-Shocks' at last increases the tempo. The vocal parts in this song have a dub-mix style which will find favour with club-DJs. After this track three more ballads bring this album to an end.

'Subkutan' is a well made, creative and calm album, which has to be listened to often. I wished for some more powerful and mid-speed tracks when I did the review for '6 Feet Underground', because this is the fourth 'soft album' in a row.
Sometimes I got irritated by the many effects, which are throughout the songs, probably to prove that De/vision is very creative. The aim of producing very melodic songs which are able to go under the skin fails because of this over use of effects. The programming sometimes is too fidgety and sterile. But when De/vision present these songs live they make a 180 turn; the songs become more expressive and authentic. However this album also includes a highlight, 'The End' which will certainly become a classic.


Date of Release: 27th January 2006
Rating: 3 megafons
   

Eigner ? Recovery

The Austrian artist Christian Eigner started to work with Depeche Mode during the recording of the comeback album 'Ultra' in 1996/97. Since then Christian Eigner has supported the band on stage and for all further studio productions. He also did some co-writing for the latest Depeche Mode album and as a session musician he has played on about 300 albums for different bands. Therefore he has gathered enough experiences for his own solo project.

'Recovery' is his attempt to gain ground on the alternative/independent music scene. For singing he decided to arrange Barca Baxant who has a well-known female voice. She was also the voice of Princess Him and Silicone Pumpgun. 'Recovery' is marked by a full bass-line with powerful drums which create dark and rich rather than catchy songs. Thus the bass-line dominates the compositions (e.g. Stalking, Perfect). The gentle female singing of Barca Baxant is perfectly matched to the heavy instrumental core and is able to disarm the rich bass-backdrop or to enrich it (e.g. Go, Watch Me Grow, Recovery, Empty Stage). The songs 'Go', 'Perfect' and 'Empty Stage' are the highlights which represent excellent club-capable tracks based on fast beats and a catchy refrain. But Eigner still proves his skill in composing expressive ballads which remain dark enough without creating a too depressing mood (e.g. 'Still Here', 'Mood For Love'). For the final song 'Brothers' which is an instrumental track and takes about eight minutes Christian Eigner demonstrates his exceptional skills in drumming.

On the whole I have to say that Christian Eigner has released a creative debut album with some imitations of Depeche Mode's latest work. In my opinion this album is affected by a too massive bass-line and calm accompanying melodies. What I missed most is the absence of varied catchy melodies. Therefore I would appreciate more vivid compositions which dissociate from darkness. Well, finally it's much better and more creative than the latest Depeche Mode full-length album and I'm sure he is successfully going to gain ground on the SynthPoP scene.


Date of Release: 1st November 2005
Rating: 3.5 megafons
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