One of the most unusual things about Intersubjectivity is that the songs aren’t actually that unusual. Cleaning Women may have a certain amount of name-recognition as “that band who make music using washing machines,” but to consider their latest album in such terms is to do it a disservice. Sure, it may have been created using entirely new instruments built from household cleaning items – including laundry racks, washing tubs, and yes, a drum-kit built from washing machines – but that’s largely par for the course in industrial music such as this.
The spirit and latter-day sound of Einstürzende Neubauten is present throughout (due, in part, to Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke producing and mixing the album), but on Intersubjectivity, Cleaning Women have created an album that owes as much to conventional pop-rock as it does avant-garde industrial; in a sense, it’s experimental sounds made familiar and welcoming. And, on the whole, it’s an approach that works, making this an accessible, enjoyable album.
Of course, industrial music has long held the capacity for creating sounds that are gentler than they are harsh, as Einstürzende Neubauten themselves demonstrated with records such as Silence is Sexy; and Nine Inch Nails practically perfected industrial-adjacent pop with Pretty Hate Machine. But Nine Inch Nails did so whilst largely using conventional instruments; and Einstürzende Neubauten never embraced the verse-chorus-verse nature of pop as Cleaning Women do on Intersubjectivity. Songs such as “We Work It Out” and “Leap of Faith” are packed full of memorable hooks and delightful melodies that could almost be considered radio-friendly, and must rank among the most accessible, overtly enjoyable industrial music ever created.
Take a “Leap of Faith” and check out this music video…
There are some moments when Intersubjectivity delights in challenging the listener, though, steering slightly away from purely accessible pop-industrial delights. “Life Among the Concrete Dust” is a dystopian lament, where the contrast between harsh bass and sweetly sung vocals results in something unsettling. Likewise, the jangling percussion of “Input Output” carries a sense of anxiety when placed against the rigid, almost robotic nature of its bass line.
Not every song works, though, and when they don’t work, they really don’t work. The verses of “Party Teufel” are the closest the album comes to anything harsh or typically industrial; but then it moves into a sickly-sweet chorus that does not fit well with what has gone before; instead, it feels irritatingly jarring. Likewise, “Living on the Streets” feels caught between two points, with serious, on-the-nose lyrics about homelessness and neglect coming across in a manner that is almost crass when accompanied by such bright, joyful melodies and energetic rhythms – it ends up feeling closer to a Stomp musical show than to Cleaning Women’s industrial roots.
Yet such missteps can’t sink what is a generally enjoyable album. And the notion of how accessible Intersubjectivity is never fades away. Industrial music may have started off with people using home-made instruments to create abrasive, aggressive sounds; but Cleaning Women, whilst still staying true to the avant-garde nature of the genre, are instead recording music that is welcoming and, generally speaking, quite gentle. It’s a fairly mixed album, but one that works more often than not, that successfully combines an avant-garde approach to instrumentation with conventional song-writing.
Check this sampling of the rad, homemade instruments used on the new album (click to enlarge).
Intersubjectivity Track Listing:
02. Leap of Faith
03. Shadows in the Air
04. We Work it Out
05. Je N’y Crois Pas
06. Life Among the Concrete Dust
07. Living on the Streets
08. Input Output
09. Party Teufel
Run Time: 37:04
Release Date: February 15, 2019
Record Label: Svart Records
“We Work It Out” and then realise all we needed to do was watch this video.
Blind Channel – ‘Exit Emotions’ [Album Review]
While ‘Exit Emotions’ (Century Media Records) contains many of the tropes from the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. Blind Channel continue to move from strength to strength.
Cast your minds back to 2021; it was a dark time for humanity, with the entirety of the world still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries going in and out of lockdowns, and the entertainment industry being brought to its knees. Yet, in the midst of all of this, mankind fought on, with some events managing to take place. One of these was Eurovision, which has delivered, over the years, some incredible winners and given lesser-known artists global recognition. 2021 saw Måneskin take the crown, but on their heels was Finland’s own Blind Channel in sixth place with their song “Dark Side.”
The Finnish nu-metalers already had a handful of records to their name but it was Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous that contained their aforementioned Eurovision entry and made the world really sit up and take notice. With its mix of metal, hip-hop, synth and a touch of glam, it was a breath of fresh air from the European region better known for its output of, let’s say, the (much) heavier side of metal.
With Exit Emotions, Blind Channel now have their eyes focused on bigger things. Whilst they have broken through to the mainstream beyond their borders, it’s not enough for the six-piece, as they explore what it means to truly be on the global stage.
Exit Emotions kicks in hard with “Where’s the Exit,” with its distorted nu-metal beat laced with some techno elements followed swiftly by distorted vocals mixing rap and metal styles seamlessly. Dual vocalists Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen bounce off each other in a symbiotic way, indicating how in tune with each other these guys can be. “Where’s the Exit” feels like it throws everything the band can portray at the wall from their varying influences, and while, on paper, a mix of metal, rock, hip hop, techno, and synth, if difficult to get right, Blind Channel nail it with absolute precision. Several songs on this record follow this formula, like “Deadzone,” “Wolves of California,” and “XOXO” (amongst others), and if the entirety of the record kept to this, whilst fun to listen to, it would run the risk of becoming samey. Thankfully, Blind Channel does mix things up throughout.
“Keeping it Surreal” maintains a relatively heavy approach but dials it back a tad to give the hip-hop elements more of a chance to shine and deliver a more emotional element with the band, highlighting the surrealness of their current position. This is followed by the extra-emotional “Die Another Day.” The tune opens with a piano melody and slows the entire pace of the record, and moves into ballad territory. Hokka and Moilanen are accompanied by RØRY, ensuring the sensitive lyrics portrayed are emphasized to the max. Despite the relative negativity of the lyrics, the trio somehow makes this extra melancholy tune drive forward positive feelings.
Exit Emotions is a great follow-up to Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous, and although it contains many of the tried and tested tropes of what was delivered in the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. The band has gone from strength to strength since their respectable placement at 2021’s Eurovision, which demonstrates they have lots more to offer than just their hit song “Dark Side.”
Exit Emotions Track Listing:
1. Where’s the Exit
W3. olves of California
5. Keeping it Surreal
6. Die Another Day
8. Happy Doomsday
9. Red Tail Lights
10. Not You Bro
12. One Last Time… Again
Run Time: 35:15
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Record Label: Century Media Records
The Western Civilization – ‘Fractions of a Whole’ [Album Review]
The Western Civilization delivers expressive vocals and a wealth of stylistic aromas with an existential richness on ‘Fractions of a Whole.’
It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Applied to Texas-based indie-rock outfit The Western Civilization, the adage refers to the chemistry between Rachel Hansbro and Reggie O’Farrell, a chemistry on display in their recently released album, Fractions of a Whole.
Speaking about the album, Hansbro says, “The new songs were inspired by the amazing people who are part of my chosen family. Reggie has always been good at reminding me of the positive things. (He is) another voice saying, ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.’”
Reggie O’Farrell and Rachel Hansbro first met while playing in separate bands. A friendship developed, resulting in two albums and performances at the Vans Warped Tour, SXSW, Halifax Pop Explosion, and, most importantly, an artistic alliance that survived a variety of obstacles.
Revolving around Hansbro and O’Farrell, The Western Civilization is a collaborative project with a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators who expose the actuality of Aristotle’s dictum.
The album opens with “Noctambulism,” a floating, folk-rock song with hints of Americana flowing through it. Driven by a sparkling piano topped by the voices of Hansbro and O’Farrell merging, the melody wafts and undulates like drifting clouds across the sky.
High points embrace “Bible Verses for Kids,” which reveals elusive Celtic flavors, a bit like The Cranberries. A rolling snare gives the rhythm a galloping motion as layered harmonies infuse the lyrics with choir-like textures verging on grandness.
A personal favorite because of Hansbro’s deliciously casual vocals, “Fool” resembles a child’s nursery rhyme reimagined as indie-rock – dreamy, drawling, almost discordant vocals riding over loose, garage rock harmonics. The imperfect, raggedy feel of the tune makes it wondrously genuine and gratifying.
“Proselytism,” the closing track, travels on light, migrant surfaces as Hansbro’s soft, breathy vocals imbue the lyrics with subtle, eccentric whimsy, a kind of didactic reflection.
Expressive vocals, along with a wealth of stylistic aromas, invest Fractions of a Whole with an existential richness.
Fractions of a Whole Track Listing:
2. Stitches (read our song review)
3. Bible Verses for Kids
4. She’s by the Sea
5. If You’re Lucky
7. My Mess
8. The Snake and The Saint
9. The Ocean’s on the Rise
Run Time: 42:18
Release Date: February 16, 2024
Record Label: Independent
Two Faces West – ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ [Album Review]
Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock. On ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.
Denver, Colorado-based blues rock trio Two Faces West released their debut album, Postcards From Lonely Places, in the middle of last year. The album’s title discloses a singular theme: stories of American lives and the daily grind of life experienced, in all its glories and defeats, tragedies and triumphs.
Produced by Glenn Sawyer and Rich Veltrop, the album was initially intended to be an EP but grew into an album after a change in personnel.
The band explains, “If Postcards From Lonely Places seems like a stylistic mess, it probably is just that. This album was originally conceived as a 5 song EP and slated for release in early 2020. Vince Carmellini joined Two Faces West in 2019, and the new line-up decided to write five additional songs. The result is a group of songs with essentially a very dynamic group of songwriters and players, with different flavors and moods.”
Made up of Kurt Ashmore (vocals, guitar, sax, banjo), Mick Knudsen (drums, vocals), and Vince Carmellini (bass, organ, vocals), Two Faces West’s sound merges rootsy blues rock, rock, and hints of funk into what the band calls ‘crankin’ rock and blues.’
Of the 12 tracks on the album, entry points include opener “Ain’t Got a Clue,” riding a funked-out rhythm topped by skiffing guitars and dramatic flourishes of braying brass. Because of its familiar, irresistible funk flavors, the song grabs listeners’ attention.
Rolling out on a cool drum shuffle, “Vegas at 3AM” features dark, dirty guitars giving off grimy tones as Ashmore vocals imbue the lyrics with cautionary timbres. The mood of the song conjures up suggestions of ZZ Top, especially in the solo section, highlighted by sleazy, virtuoso licks.
“Hot Tamale Baby” ramps things up with its scorching textures of galloping blues-rock, radiating retro-infused energy. A personal favorite because of its muddy, growling guitars and Elvis-like vocals, reminiscent of “Jailhouse Rock,” “Brand New Suit” struts the pure essence of down-and-dirty blues rock.
Another grinder, “Moonshiners,” travels on a deep, gritty bassline and Mitch Mitchell-like percussion as Ashmore’s raspy vocals give the lyrics the dangerous savors of whiskey bootleggers. Whereas “Dirty Ol’ Man” snarls and grimaces on murky, sliding guitars that ride an austere, pummeling rhythm.
“Freedom,” a live track recorded at The Bluebird in January 2020, recalls the grand live performances of Humble Pie, oozing low-slung, smoldering, bluesy surfaces and a jam band atmosphere.
Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock: they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.
Postcards From Lonely Places Track Listing:
1. Ain’t Got a Clue
2. Vegas at 3AM
3. Hot Tamale Baby
4. The Ballad of Jerry Davis
5. Rocks Like a Country Song
6. Mountain Sunrise
7. Brand New Suit
9. Late Night
10. Spinnin’ Circles
11. Dirty Ol’ Man
12. Freedom (Live at the Bluebird 01/02/2020)
Run Time: 56:33
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Record Label: Independent
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