This limited album (1,111 copies) comes in a fetching metal case and takes the form of a track-by-track rework of the ‘Holy’ album by German electronic musician Hecq (Benny Boysen). The remixes are all relatively extreme, typically leaving little of the originals barring the vocals intact (and sometimes not even that), replacing ISC’s music with abstract beats and minimal electronics. Whilst such a treatment is interesting for a few tracks, an entire album of mixes from the same person does tend to drag, though the relatively strong vocals of ‘Seven Lives’, ‘Sleepless’ and ‘Emergency’ are still able to shine regardless of whatever’s going on in the background (generally, the female vocal tracks are better suited to the Hecq way of doing things). If abstract electronica is your kind of thing, maybe you’ll find this thing worth a listen – those expecting anything ISC-like should stay clear, however.
Fallen angels, topless nuns and now a Garden of Eden concept for the artwork of ‘Exile Paradise’. Musically, Dennis Ostermann’s project is moving further away from it’s EBM/industrial influences of old, instead developing their darkwave/electro-goth side. This involves increasing the female vocal quotient once again, smoothing out Dennis’ own vocal contribution and ultimately concentrating more on songwriting than harsh rhythms and audio trickery. It’s not a direction that’ll please all their fans, but there’s no doubting they make a pretty impressive job of must surely be their ‘maturity of sound’ in full bloom. Continue reading
From angel breasts to nun breasts. In Strict Confidence aren’t afraid to be provocative with their album artworks. The music meanwhile, continues to develop – more guitars and more prominent female vocals are both in evidence. The combination of downtempo electronic bloops and crushing power chords on ‘Eye of Heaven’ get the album off to a strong start, leading neatly into ‘Seven Lives’, the chorus of which sees Dennis Ostermann use a surprisingly ‘clean’ vocal style, rarely heard on previous ISC recordings. Of the other Dennis-fronted tracks, the best are lead single ‘Babylon’, which combines melodic piano with the usual ISC staples, and the riff-heavy stomp ‘Another Night’ echoing of recent Terminal Choice (but with better lyrics).
There are a couple of tracks where Dennis duets with Nadine Stelzer, with ‘Closing Eyes’ scoring fractionally over ‘The Darkest Corridors’ (though this song does offer the most profound religious critique of the entire album). There are also a couple of songs sung by Antje Shultz, with ‘Emergency’ combining carefully constructed harmonies with a throbbing industrial backbone which resembles what Delerium might have sounded like had Leeb given his guest vocalists an FLA-style backdrop. The album’s flaws are few and far between – the only real disappointment is the 13-minute ‘Alpha Centauri’, a low-key ‘ambient’ instrumental that sounds rather misplaced and certainly anti-climatic.
NOTE: The limited edition version of this album comes with a 1-track bonus CD, a 12-minute track ‘Alpha Omega’, another ‘ambient epic’, though this time with a few spoken-word vocals. It’s no better or worse than ‘Alpha Centauri’ – both simply carry the whiff of self-indulgence.
Having finally delivered on early promise on ‘Love Kills’, In Strict Confidence deliver another round of dark electronics here. The albums artwork depicts forlorn, topless angels, certainly suggestive but in reality appropriate in their own way for an album who’s lyrical content is laden with ‘fallen/dying angel’ metaphor. The foreboding walls of synth and cutting rhythms set the tone nicely, with the coarse tones of Dennis Ostermann now often accompanied (or even replaced) by a female vocalist (Nadine Stelzer). ‘Herzattacke’ is the most remarkable track, mainly thanks to the flying strings and cries of ‘ANGRIFF! HERZATTACKE!’ in the chorus – as an anthem, this one could even topple ‘Zauberschloss’.
The other obvious floor-filler is ‘Engelstaub’, an uptempo throb alternating male verses with a female chorus – an obvious dynamic perhaps, but one pulled off with great skill. A couple of more straightforward EBMish tracks like ‘Horizont’ and ‘Lost In The Night’ and the more mournful ‘When The Heart Starts To Bleed’ help keep the album interesting. The album does start to lose it’s way towards it’s conclusion – ‘Der Vampir und Dessen Verwandlung’ tries to sound creepy and ominous but sounds took much like a ‘made it up as they went along’ affair – this is followed by an instrumental ‘Der Tag an dem es Frösche Regnet’ which seems to achieve little more that dragging the album out a further 3 minutes and 36 seconds. The remainder is up to the band’s usual standards – anyone who enjoyed ‘Love Kills’ would do well to pick this one up too.
In Strict Confidence finally come of age on their third album – what the first two albums promised, this one delivers. Their dark electronic industrial sound has shown real refinement since the first two albums, best exemplified on ‘Zauberschloss’, the rhythms and ascending synth melody set to a backdrop more resembling a dark dungeon than a hi-tech industrial studio. They’ve come close in the past, but Dennis Ostermann’s project finally has it’s first outright anthem. The project has also found room for development in other areas – both ‘Heaven Is The Place TO Be’ and ‘Kiss Your Shadow’ make good use of guitar samples (though in the latter case, it’d still be a damn fine song without them), whilst the synthpoppy ‘Silent Memorial’ introduces female vocals to the project.
There are also the two parts of ‘Spread Your Wings’, alternating murmuring synth sections with Aphex Twin style beat rushes, with some choral elements somehow squeezed into the mix. Even when they go for a more straightforward melodic EBM/darkwave sound (as on ‘The Truth Inside Of Me’), they still usually manage to pull it off. Whilst the album does start to lose some of it’s focus towards the end, it’s not nearly as anti-climatic second half of ‘Face The Fear’. Whatever way you look at it, this project is definitely a sizeable step forward for the ISC project. It’s their first really ‘complete’ album.
The second ISC album follows similar lines to the first, a darkwave/electro-industrial hybrid, characterised by Dennis Ostermann’s gravelly vocals, cold electronics and minor-key pads. The album unfolds slowly with ‘Empire’ and ‘Alles In Mir’, reaching an early peak with the quickfire delivery of ‘Prediction’, ‘Industrial Love’ and ‘Hidden Thoughts’, three socially-aware songs with concepts and synth motifs both reminiscent of ‘Io’ era Project Pitchfork.
Sadly, these early strengths are not replicated in the albums second half. The noisy stabs of ‘Room 101’ are initially interesting, but ultimately comes over as a structural mess, whilst ‘Way of Redemption’ and ‘I Don’t Care’ both come over as being underdeveloped musically and too simplistic lyrically. We also get a couple of instrumentals, both of which are listenable but largely unnecessary. It’s a pity as we really start to see the potential of this project during the albums early stages. At the moment, though, they can only make it work for half an album.
Following a series of well-received tapes, In Strict Confidence make their full-length debut with ‘Cryogenix’. The formula at this early stage in the bands career essentially involves Dennis Ostermann’s caustic vocals performed over a background of ominous, percolating electronics, laden with grim melodic elements. As with Project Pitchfork and Das Ich (and this disc could certainly appeal to fans of either band), ISC develop a goth-friendly incarnation of electronic industrial. Continue reading
By my reckoning, it had been over three years since In Strict Confidence last played London, and that slot was a curtailed and highly misplaced six-song support for The Damned. Whilst ‘Promised Land’ from their decent album has seen a bit of airplay in the UK, the reality is that they’re just not that popular over here. They were headlining upstairs at Elektrowerkz, a venue with a capacity of around 300. Nonetheless, they’ve made it this far when many of their countrymen have failed to do so, so despite having seen them play M’era Luna a month ago, I decided to show my face and offer my support.
Promoters Cryonica had booked two support bands, though the first, Anti-Valium wasn’t really a ‘band’ has such. Neither, for that matter, did they ‘support’ the evenings proceedings. They’re a two piece (Andrew Trail and Hunter Barr from Knifeladder) who subscribe to the traditional, highly experimental school of industrial – layers of electronic noise and disembodied vocals. Unlike Knifeladder, however, they didn’t have John Murphy hammering out the tribal rhythms, and it was on that point that the project failed. The individual compositions simply didn’t progress or develop sufficiently – the noises just sort of floated there before they would twiddle a few knobs and cut to another line of attack. Maybe this sort of thing is an acquired taste, but having spent a day at the CMI festival earlier this year, I’m pretty sure I know how I like my avant-garde electronics, and this isn’t it!
The other support tonight were the ever-present Katscan. My opinion of this foul-mouthed collective has waxed and waned over the years. Sometimes I’ve found their electronic industrial with punk attitude entertaining – on others, I’ve found myself standing there wondering what was so special. Unfortunately, tonight’s performance fell into the latter category. Martin Katscan was giving the mic it’s usual abuse, but through the rather underwhelming Elektrowerkz live rig, any vitality the music may have had was lost.
And so In Strict Confidence came on to headline. They seemed to be lacking their live guitarist, whilst the keyboard player was clearly working with borrowed kit (or to put it simply, his keyboard had a big ‘Kat5can’ sticker over the back). Still, at least both of the band’s vocalists were present. ISC’s recent recordings have utilised increasing proportions of female vocals and it simply made sense to incorporate them into the live show. Pity they didn’t have the guitar to incorporate as well.
Anyway, the assembled four-piece arrived on stage without much of a build-up and immediately set about performing ‘Promised Land’. Dennis’ vocals sounded OK, but it took a while before Nadine’s were audible in the mix, and even then they were never loud enough at any stage of the show. The early part of the set saw them dispatch the majority of their ‘dual vocal’ songs, with ‘Seven Lives’ being the strongest of these. Dennis was then left to perform three ‘classics’ on his own – ‘Kiss Your Shadow’ and ‘Zauberschloss’ both working well, but the version of ‘Herzattacke’ they’re playing these days is not as good as the album cut – the crucial ‘Angriff! Herzattacke!’ seems to be lost somewhere on the backing track when it should be belted out over and above the lyrics that follow.
They eventually finished on ‘Fading Light’. By now there was a little more cohesion to things, though this was still always going to be a ‘best of a bad job’ performance (exactly like ISC’s last London show, for that matter). There was enough of an audience to call for a couple of encores, with ‘Emergency’ from 2004’s ‘Holy’ making a surprise appearance (it also being the first time I’ve seen ISC perform a song without Dennis Ostermann on stage). They eventually closed on ‘Engelstaub’, which sounded as good as it could have done under the circumstances.
I still felt a little disappointed by what I saw. Whilst the band I came to see have a decent basic set and seemed at least able to perform their own songs with proficiency (‘Herzattacke’ aside), the Elektrowerkz soundsystem just wasn’t up to the job tonight. I happen to think In Strict Confidence are sorely underrated in the UK, but it’s been years since they’ve had a decent chance to show us what they can do. There was a Noisex show at around 1am, but I was fading fast and decided to skip Raoul’s beat frenzy on this occasion.
By my reckoning, it had been over three years since In Strict Confidence last played London, and that slot was a curtailed and highly misplaced six-song support for The Damned. Whilst ‘Promised Land’ from their decent album has seen a bit of airplay in the UK, the reality is that they’re just not that popular over here. They were headlining upstairs at Elektrowerkz, a venue with a capacity of around 300. Nonetheless, they’ve made it this far when many of their countrymen have failed to do so, so despite having seen them play M’era Luna a month ago, I decided to show my face and offer my support. Continue reading
Sunday saw an early rush to get back to the site in time for the ridiculously early 11:20am start for Solitary Experiments. As creators of one of the better EBM/future-pop style albums of 2005, I was rather hoping for a longer set, but 5 songs would have to suffice. To make matters worse, they were suffering the sound quality issues that often afflict early-hours bands in the hangar. Given all that, the Solitary trio did the best job they could in the circumstances. Opening with ‘Delight’ (a minor hit in the London scene), they performed what I believe to be the strongest tracks from ‘Mind Over Matter’ (‘Still Alive’ and ‘Pale Candle Light’ included) and also sneaked in ‘Watching Over You’ from their previous disc. Continue reading