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300,000 V.K. - Peter Paradox

The beauty of great feelings
completes itself after death.

When it is too late,
the sinner sees him for the first time.

Ok, let's not get too dramatic! Even though I must admit that most releases of the Laibach-related project 300,000 V.K. are white spots on my map. Or they were until very recently.

Nur "Also Sprach Johann Paul II" hatte ich schon seit langer Zeit, und auch wenn es bei richtiger Grundstimmung durchaus Spaß machen kann, ist es doch die bei weitem stumpfsinnigste mir bekannte Veröffentlichung aus dem Neue Slowenische Kunst-Umfeld. (Andere Alben, eines z.B. Bill Gates gewidmet, sind da schon deutlich anspruchsvoller.) Von daher war ich auch nicht allzu wild darauf, mir das bereits im April erschienene neue Album "Peter Paradox" zuzulegen.  

300,000 V.K. - Peter Paradox (CD) (2019)

300.000 Verschiedene Krawalle is a long-time electronic Laibach offshoot grown by one of the original "Vier Personen", Dejan Knez.

In 1994 300,000 V.K. released a "satanic techno" album, not even officially under the project name, but simply titled "Peter Paracelsus", which featured samples of Peter Mlakar, head of the "Department of Pure and Applied Philosophy of the NSK" and infamous speaker on special Laibach performances and events.
Even though is appearances are rare, his gnarly sarcastic voice is an almost equally iconic phenomenon within the Laibach universe as the sonor organ of Milan Fras.

Now, only twenty-five years later this coöperation has been revived for "Peter Paradox", on which Mlakar actually has a much more prominent role as a real frontman speaking lyrics in English, German, Italian and Slovene.
Ich habe jenseits äußerst rudimentärer Kenntnisse außer englisch ja nur deutsch anzubieten. Allerdings stehen mir für meine Rezensionen ja auch anders als Peter keine Übersetzer zur Verfügung.

Das wichtigste Element für den musikalischen Inhalt dieses Albums ist allerdings ein anderer Langzeit-Laibach-Freelancer. Iztok Turk hat vor allem "WAT" mitgeprägt und garantiert nun erneut einen harten, eindringlichen Elektroklang.
"Peter Paradox" steht somit den dunklen, bösen Techno-Laibach nahe und ist insgesamt in seiner Stimmung und auch mit seinen Chor-Arrangements dicht am Oldschool-Geist der 1990er und 90er Jahre. Wem diese Varianten der Slowenen mehr zusagen als z.B. die teilweise deutlich gesetzteren Kooperationen mit Silence, der ist mit 300,000 V.K. sehr gut beraten.

Personally I actually deem this a lot more addictive than Laibach's recent "Party Songs" EP, because it really concentrates on some of the heavier fun and in-your-face elements of their sound. And it's also surprisingly rich in musical variety.

Speaking of in your face: I did not expect some of the images in the booklet. (Nope, not showing those here!)

Neither did I expect the uncomfortable yet hilarious sensation of an almost seventy years old deep-voiced guy, whom you have only ever seen in close to Jagdverein Klamotten, obscenely chanting "Steck ihn rein!" in "Carnales Nihilsmus" with bombastic instrumentals, choir and all. Or speaking calmly over porn samples and clerical singing in "Zona Erogena".
Basically this almost feels like a play on the pornographic stuff which again and again makes both Rammstein critics and fans cringe alike.

But somehow he sells this shit. Das ist wohl das Peter-Paradox.

"Das Schöne, das Gute, das Wahre", sie bilden hier ein formvollendetes, kurzweiliges Ganzes.

Und "das Ganze ist mehr als das Ganze".

In the mountains
In the cities
And at the blue, blue sea.

Stick him in!


LAIBACH - Party Songs

One week is left. Only one week.

It's hard to fully comprehend that it's really happening, but after months and years of problems, improvements, delays "Laibach Revisited" will finally be released and dispatched on January 15th.

But as long as this wait has been; we can confidently say that Laibach  kept us entertained in the meantime. The complete milking of the North Korean cow - being their 2015 visit to Pyongyang and everything connected to it - alone secured lots of releases and activities. They toured in the name of "The Sound Of Music", released the album of the same name a couple of years later, starred in the documentary musical "Liberation Day", which was accompanied by the book "Liberation Days" (I reviewed all that HERE) and toured for the album in a different form again.

In November 2019 the final missing pieces of music of this cycle were released, with an EP that touches the tonal realm of "The Sound Of Music", but takes America and the fictionally heightened version of Austria out of the equation by focussing on the (North) Korean songs, which were played - or at least rehearsed - in Pyongyang.

So after bringing the West into North Korea, Laibach brings North Korea into the West, no matter if we want it or not.  

LAIBACH - Party Songs (transparent 12" EP) (2019)

"Honourable, Dead Or Alive, When Following The Revolutionary Road" is the core track of the release and featured in various versions. It's based on "the classic North Korean revolutionary opera" "Tell, O Forest" from 1972, which was "written and produced under the guidance of the Dear Leader Kim Jong Il". (Quotes from the Korean Central news Agency)
Yes, that makes "The Kitsch Of Music" sound quite cool in comparison, right?

However the song was deemed "too confusing" to play, so it was ditched from the setlist.

I kindly disagree with that sentiment. You can trust Laibach and their long-time cooperators Silence to make politically and ideologically laden material like this listenable and engaging, even if you don't understand a word. The "Arduous March version" very much in the style of "The Sound Of Music" is a duet of Boris Benko's unique dramatic vocals and the sonor speaking voice of Milan Fras. One singing in North-Korean, the other talking in Slovene.

The "Single Hearted Unity version" renounces the sharp beat and the snarling Laibach voice and focusses more on the Silence side, making it a piano ballad sprinkled with neo-classic and female spoken words in Korean.

The A-side closes with the studio version of "We Will Go To Mount Paektu", which was originally performed in 2015 by the Moranbong Band, a popular North Korean girl group, founded by - guess who, of course none other than Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un himself. Even though Laibach translated the lyrics into English at the suggestion of their hosts, the result shared the fate of "Honourable" and fell prey to the State censors. 
Musically this is pretty good standard Laibach meets Silence, somewhere between the two previous tracks.

That was the hi-fi half of this EP, as side B is a bootleg quality affair at best. It begins with the Korean traditional "Arirang" and another version of "Honourable", both recorded by the "Liberation Day" film team at the smaller of the two Laibach shows in Pyongyang, which was basically Silence playing together with students of the Kum Song Music School, as seen in the movie.

The closer is "We Will Go To Mount Paektu" again, this time featuring Mina Špiler on lead vocals, recorded live at the Ponghwa Theatre, so I assume during the final rehearsal, upon which it was rejected. The order of the state has been saved.

All in all this release is rather short and I wouldn't file it under the most essential Laibach material, even though it's good stuff and has a special significance. 

Thematically both the title of the EP and its pompous state propaganda content tie the whole "Sound Of Music"/Korea phase with both "Volk" (which also heavily featured the fellow Slovene duo Silence) and those other party hymns of "Spectre".

If you're only interested in the music, the digital download version of "Party Songs" should suffice. The vinyl version includes a download code though and once again features the great design artwork of  Valnoir's. So like the related previous releases this one's a worthwile beauty. 


ENVY - The Fallen Crimson

Promise/warning: The recent review of Kayo Dot's "Blasphemy" won't be the the last post about a release from 2019.

But for now let's look into the young present of 2020! Or even better into the close future, as Envy's first album after five years will be released in Europe in a month (February 7th) via Pelagic Records.

The post hardcore band has been existing for twenty-five years now (including a crisis in 2015 and the rebirth with three new members in 2017), but I must admit that I mainly perceived them as the name you usually mention along Boris and Mono, when you're talking about groups from Japan.

I do know and love their split album with Jesu (aka Justin Broadrick) from 2008 though, so I was keen on hearing what they have to offer today.

ENVY - The Fallen Crimson (2020)

Eclectic, in your face, brutal, overwhelming, beautiful. End of review. Bye!

Ok, that's not all, but it's the shortest way to describe the essential qualities of "The Fallen Crimson".

Soundwise this band fits right in in the roster of the label, as there are definitely similarities to post metal of bands like The Old Wind or The Ocean, and a good portion of ost rock meldodies here are flavoured with that distinct Japanese touch of which Mono are the undisputed masters.
Mix all that with mostly the more accessible - but sometimes also the radical - stuff from The Dillinger Escape Plan and you're moving within the frame of this album. Yet even more than Dillinger it's the most dramatic peaks of their German flag bearers The Hirsch Effekt, which I hear mirrored several times here.

Unsurprisingly the whole instrumental execution of the album ranges from absolutely flawless to over the top.

The vocal performance is a mix of spoken words, clean singing and - undeniably the trade mark - those extremely hoarse and brutal screams and grunts, which feel like singer Tetsuya Fukagawa is just one second away from miketysoning your ear off.
Obviously I cannot elaborate on the lyrics, but I can at least recognise that the Japanese language lends itself very good to those deep aggressive vocal performances.

Of course every language, no matter whether you understand it or not, always has a certain influence on how you perceive music. Clearly understandable german vocals can distract me from the music (or blend it into the background) easier than english lyrics do.
On Envy's new album there are a couple of kitschy passages and almost the whole song "Rhythm" (with a female guest lead vocalist), where I'm not sure if I only accept them because they are sung in Japanese, and only the interplay with the speech melody makes them work.

Curious, but I'm wandering off into the realm of the hypothetical, I know.
Because what actually is happening on the eleven tracks of this record, just kills from the beginning to the end.

This is a wild, grand, elevating, punishing ride and I can hardly imagine anyone being disappointed by this more than respectable comeback.

Pelagic Records offers "The Fallen Crimson" as CD, standard double LP and in various lovely colour variations, which are probably already all out of stock by now.


KAYO DOT - Blasphemy / Purity

I've taken my sweet little time with this one. I didn't buy "Blasphemy" immediately  when it came out, but meditated a couple of months about what to order along with it ("Ash And Dust" by Year Of The Cobra it was) and which version to choose.

As exciting as it is that Kayo Dot has been signed by the artist-friendly and known for its high-quality releases label Prophecy Productions, it also means that there are several simpler (CD digipak) and more luxurious (60€ complete box) variations available, including the Prophecy signature product, which I ended up with: the two CD artbook, which in this case includes a bonus EP called Purity".

When I finally got the album I had so much other stuff on my plate, that I voluntarily approached it slowly with only a couple of runs in a week, until my head was clear enough to fully immerse in it.

In order to be able to review it however I also had to read twenty-two book pages of text, which may not sound like a task at all. But with a heavy eyesight irritation, which lasted more than a week following the last concert I had visited, a vision test at the wrong time resulting in a pair of new glasses, which made reading almost impossible... well, you get it; I had some very special circumstances. (Luckily now I'm sitting here after a second test, with my old glasses, and that eye shit is good again.)

But enough about Kayo Dot, let's finally talk about me!

KAYO DOT - Blasphemy / Purity (2CD book) (2019)

Let's start right off the bat with an ultimately useless statement: "Blasphemy" is easily the most metal album Toby Driver has released both solo and with Kayo Dot since "Hubardo" in 2013.

So what's useless about that observation? It doesn't really tell you anything, because even though Driver's writing is recognizable in a heartbeat, neither does the new album sound exactly like anything the band has done before, nor does it mean that "Blasphemy" has any deeper similarity to any particular metal band or metal style out there.

This starts with the instrumentation, in which keyboards and electronic sound design are on equal terms with guitars, while a bass guitar is almost completely missing, and goes on with Driver's categorical refusal to just for once go with the big easy hook or the straight banging beat and rhythm. Instead his formula is bound to long winding melodies and complex pulses, which don't necessarily reveal themselves to the listener on the first or second encounter.

That being said, once this album has taken hold on you, it nestles extremely comfortably in your brain. I'd even file it under Driver's earwormiest works.

But ok, especially you Kayo Dot newbies want something tangible, a firm categorization.
How about post everything art metal? Come on, what the fuck do I know?
Of course there are moments when other artists come to mind (I personally have epiphanies of Solefald, Thought Industry, Björk and Steven Wilson or RPWL prog rock), but none of these stretch wide enough to be useful as a comparison which works for the whole album.

But what I can definitely carve into stone about "Blasphemy" is that it's a one-of-a-kind, highly adventurous, atmospheric, engaging and at times also fun experience with lots of details to discover.

Also: That unconventional trumpet solo in "Turbine, Hook And Haul" rules.

But back to my initial point: What makes "Blasphemy" feel metal may partly be the production by Randall Dunn, but first and foremost it's the joy with which Toby Driver and his carefully selected band endulge in the theatrics of the sci-fi/fantasy story on which the album is based.

This includes Driver and his companion since "Hubardo", Ron Varod, both doing some pretty heroic guitar shredding, as well as Driver going quite crazy with his voice. It's nothing new that he has a wide range from falsetto over "the thoughtful goth" and spoken words to aggressive metal, but on his last handful of releases he mostly stayed consistent in one style.

On "Blasphemy" however he goes back to the days of using a huge chunk of his repertoire, going all over the place with a manifold of fantastic but also some decidedly weird choices like Kanye West in the methanol chamber on "An Eye For A Lie". On the other hand when the lead single "Blasphemy: A Prophecy" came out I wasn't the only one wondering if that was David Tibet on the microphone.

As mentioned "Blasphemy" is a concept story album. It's based on a novel by the same name by long-time collaborator Jason Byron, who during the past twenty years has been providing lyrics (and sometimes also death metal vocals) for Maudlin Of The Well, Kayo Dot and Toby Driver's solo album "Madonnawhore". Unsurprisingly he also wrote the complete lyrics for this album.

Besides the usual lyrics and band photographs the beautiful 2CD/book version of "Blasphemy" also contains the first two full chapters of the novel.

Byron depicts a dystopian civilisation which lives forced back into the highest regions of the world, its continents seperated by the deadly sulfuric fog called the Q'Sh, which can only be crossed under dangerous circumstances by airships.
I won't spoil anything about those two chapters, both from the perspectives of rather unlikeable characters you're not truly supposed to identify with, and the song lyrics, which depict later episodes of the novel, here. Not only because I don't want to, but also because I don't really feel I can. Byron's world-building is quite advanced (Rejoice, no Dream Theater "The Astonishing" half-assery here!) and challenging for a non-native reader - and even though I get most of it I couldn't succesfully retell it. Also the whole story isn't told completely on the album anyway. At least that's my guess.

Without a doubt the unique tone and oddities of both the story and its musical realization compliment each other to great effect and make some excellent concept album nerd food.

The bonus disc "Purity" is a remix EP, which contains six new tracks, formed by Mathew J. Serra aka Wet Math exclusively with sounds from the original album.

While I will never make up my mind about how I feel regarding this whole remix idea, the result in this case is enjoyable and interestingly sounds much more like a straight catchy verse-chorus thing than the source material. Well, the vocal sampling is silly sometimes - as it so often is in these kind of mixes -, but just as with "Blasphemy" you sometimes should probably just relax and have a littel bit of fun with it.

All in all this whole release - arrangements, performances, lyrics, concept, production, the artwork, layout and content of the physical release - is wholesome as fuck, but of course, as always with everything Kayo Dot, only a niche product for aficionados.

It shouldn't be, but hey, look at the world around you and the taste of its inhabitants! You see it, right? Let's be brutally honest: We only deserve mumble rap, Helene Fischer and Sabaton.


PHOTOGRAPHY 2019: film

Holga GN + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 04/2019

I've already spoiled it in my look back on my digital photography in 2019: I didn't shoot many films at all this year. Pretty sure it's my record low since 2006.

A couple of weeks ago (early December) I received a bag with three developed films back from the laboratory. The one film I had been filling the weeks and months before was totally empty, because the film hadn't been loaded into the Split Cam correctly - again. *sigh*

The next film took me a while to recognize. Is this really mine? Ahhh, that was back in May.

Most of the third film was shot on the same day, so yes, I didn't shoot a single frame of film during the second half of the year - even when I thought I was.

However in the compilation below I included a good portion of pictures I haven't shown anywhere else yet. And in case you're interested in more stuff from the cameras I used, you can find it on my flickr account in the following albums:

The good news:

Today on my New Year's Day walk - a tradition which I paused last year due to bad weather - I filled half an Agfa APX in my La Sardina Sea Pride. So my start into 2020 is already a little more promising. Let's hope I can keep it up!

And now let's see what I did in 2019!

In January I stopped for a couple of shots on one of the few snow days:

Holga 135BC + some 400 ISO film, 01/2019
Holga 135BC + some 400 ISO film, 01/2019
Holga 135BC + some 400 ISO film, 01/2019

In February I dedicated a whole 30 picture series to an abandoned supermarket in Itzehoe:

Holga 135BC + some 400 ISO film, 01/2019
Holga 135BC + some 400 ISO film, 01/2019
Holga 135BC + some 400 ISO film, 01/2019
Holga 135BC + some 400 ISO film, 01/2019
Holga 135BC + some 400 ISO film, 02/2019

Shot a couple of medium format pictures in various places...

Kiev 88 + Ilford HP5 Plus, 02/2019
Kiev 88 + Ilford HP5 Plus, 02/2019
Kiev 88 + Ilford HP5 Plus, 02/2019
Kiev 88 + Ilford HP5 Plus, 02/2019

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 02/2019
Kodak Brownie Hawkeye + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 02/2019
Kodak Brownie Hawkeye + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 02/2019
Kodak Brownie Hawkeye + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 02/2019

Kodak Brownie Hawkeye + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 03/2019
Kodak Brownie Hawkeye + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 03/2019

And of course I also tried to incorporate a little film in my annually Roadburn Festival trip to the Netherlands in April:

Chupa Chups Photo Pop + some expired colour film, 04/2019
Chupa Chups Photo Pop + some expired colour film, 04/2019
Chupa Chups Photo Pop + some expired colour film, 04/2019
Chupa Chups Photo Pop + some expired colour film, 04/2019
Chupa Chups Photo Pop + some expired colour film, 04/2019
Chupa Chups Photo Pop + some expired colour film, 04/2019

Holga GN + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 04/2019
Holga GN + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 04/2019
Holga GN + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 04/2019

Holga Wide Pinhole Camera + Lomography Redscale XR 50-200, 04/2019
Holga Wide Pinhole Camera + Lomography Redscale XR 50-200, 04/2019

I left one 6 x 12 cm double frame free to shoot at least one picture on April 28th, which was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day:

Holga Wide Pinhole Camera + Lomography Redscale XR 50-200, 04/2019

Also some frames left on other films...

Chupa Chups Photo Pop + some expired colour film, 04/2019

Holga GN + Fuji Neopan Acros 100, 04/2019

And now we're already at those last two rolls shot in the lovely tourist city of Plön in May and developed in December:

Adox Golf + Orwo NP22 (expired 04/1988), 05/2019
Adox Golf + Orwo NP22 (expired 04/1988), 05/2019
Adox Golf + Orwo NP22 (expired 04/1988), 05/2019

Jelly Cam + some 400 ISO colour film, 05/2019

Jelly Cam + some 400 ISO colour film, 05/2019

Jelly Cam + some 400 ISO colour film, 05/2019

Jelly Cam + some 400 ISO colour film, 05/2019

Jelly Cam + some 400 ISO colour film, 05/2019
Jelly Cam + some 400 ISO colour film, 05/2019
Jelly Cam + some 400 ISO colour film, 05/2019

...and finally filling the last couple of frames...

Adox Golf + Orwo NP22 (expired 04/1988), 05/2019
Adox Golf + Orwo NP22 (expired 04/1988), 05/2019