L-Tracks Music LT 007, 2011, CD album, 42m 46s, €14
The difference between the electro-industrial and powernoize genres can sometimes be no more than the degree of distortion involved. Much of this album’s beats and song structures could have sat quite happily on Matt Fanales previous Caustic release …And You Will Know Me By The Trail Of Vomit, but they have largely been constructed with cleaner, tighter, less brutally devastating sounds. There is distortion, sure (if it’s even valid to talk about an entirely synthetic sound being distorted), and some tunes are still on the powernoize side of the fence, but it’s mostly a bit of spice, a dash of aural vodka stiffening and thickening the mix, rather than its defining feature.
Trail Of Vomit has plenty of tunes that deliver on the dancefloor, but they weren’t aimed at it quite as precisely as the contents of the latest release. Fanale has taken his production work to the next level in terms of making highly focussed, irresistibly thunderous beats, although to my ear its been at the expense of some dynamic range, and some of his creative individuality.
The electro-industrial scene has developed methods and expectations in the last ten years, ones that most listeners and producers are plugged into: in terms of generating immense, floor-filling beats, technical standards have undeniably risen. Creativity on the other hand has taken a back seat: it can be hard to distinguish one act from another, and in fact, one tune can often be distinguished from another solely by the samples it employs. Despite this (or because of it) practitioners of the style have hyped their status as auteurs to comical levels, and often give the impression of having bought into the scene’s stylistic tropes, as though they think they are really vampires, demons, serial killers or commanders of intergalactic warships. Caustic has made a career out of poking holes in all this, using his powerful, snarling vocal delivery and brain-crushing beats to bring us the humour that is often all too lacking in industrial music.
So the crucial question with this album is this: has he effectively continued in this mission with this latest, more commercial, club-orientated release? And if not, what’s he doing instead? Has he compromised on his creative integrity, or just chosen a different avenue for it?
Well, I have to say that a big part of the humour in his earlier work was, for me, the sheer frothing insanity of it, and by taming things somewhat, he steps back from his role as the music’s court jester. The tunes in which his vocal is prominent, such as ‘666 On The Crucifix’ or ‘Hiroshima Burn’ still sound very much like Caustic, but some of the others sound frankly generic. There are also some brilliantly murderous beats, as on ‘Carpe Rectum’ and ‘Darling Nicky’s Gnarly Dicking’, but I don’t feel either track benefits greatly from the slicker production and mastering.
There are four collaborations on the album: ‘White Knuckle Head Fuck’, which features Faderhead, has a classic Faderhead synth riff, and really sounds like a Faderhead tune with Caustic on guest vocals. It’s a fierce electro-industrial clubtrack, but it doesn’t sound very Caustic. ‘Churn The Waters’ is a superb track, and mainly so for the guest vocal from Ned Kirby of Stromkern, which takes the form of a rap that verges on nerdcore in its delivery. ‘Generate Chaos’ features Bitch Brigade, although it’s hard to say in what measure: it’s a stonking beat regardless. Unwoman is a very interesting and creative musician, and I was intrigued to hear what her collaboration with Caustic would sound like: sadly it’s the weakest track on the album, with a pedestrian melody and an undistinguished beat.
Don’t get me wrong: this album is going to be on heavy rotation at Chateau Arditi for a good while. It’s full of juicy, saturated basses and jackhammer kicks, superb samples, insane vocals and beats that brook no standing still. As long as you remember to crank up the volume, it will always be a good listen. DJs will love this record, and Caustic is certain to get more club play than ever before. But to me, this sounds a lot more like other electro-industrial producers’ output, where earlier Caustic was unmistakeably, wonderfully unhinged.