Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Red Black Red - Resettlement (

Now this is a piece of loose, electronic art. So many new acts these days claim improvisation and real-time creativity, and yet what comes through the speakers is precise and calculated, with nary a beat out of place. On the other end of the spectrum is Red Black Red, the latest venture from stalwart New Jersey musician Enrico Fernando.

Resettlement first and foremost, is an electronic pop-rock album. It’s got clear, weighty vocals, songs that tell a story, and guitars that add layers with understated riffs. It’s not abstract techno or IDM or glitch. And yet the beats stutter and twitch, stabs of electronics punctuate at odd times, and the tempos for all parts rarely match up. I can’t say I’ve heard much like it. He composed most of this album on a laptop while commuting on a subway, and honestly that little tidbit of info goes a long way to help me wrap my ears around this.

Inaccessibility aside, the album provides some noise worth listening to. Enrico’s vocals on “The Scientist” reel the listener in, while the deep grind and just-this-side-of-trash-can-lids percussion spits you back out. “Debris” is probably the closest we get to a majestic heartland rock tune. There are beats and melodic bleeps and bloops just under the surface, but it’s still got that anthemic feel and there’s even a guitar solo. “Black Pearl” mines similar territory, but going all-in on all angles makes it seem like he recorded two different version of the song and boldly sandwiched them together.

My conclusion becomes a warning, or maybe a challenge. Resettlement will defy preconceived notions, and might give your stereo’s equalizers a run for their money. I can’t say you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your efforts, but either way Red Black Red is going to make you work for it.

Gift Wrap - Losing Count (Captured Tracks)

Bendon Avalos from the Brooklyn punk trio B Boys decided to take a venture of his own into the world of post-pop solo recording, using the name Gift Wrap and setting up shop in his apartment. All the classic elements are here - disaffected vocals, parts where you can’t tell if it’s a synth or a guitar, straightfoward staccato bass, and your average garage sale drum machine percussion. Standard building blocks can still make something worth listening to though, if you’re writing good songs.

Things get interesting when the layers of noise pile up on “Change My Mind.” The album was supposedly a loose, experimental work, but hopefully he was paying attention to the knob-twiddle settings on that one because it sounds great. “Mirage” leans heavily into the electro-pop past, and the track is truly an album highlight, but we’ve been through more than one generation of this already. It brings to mind Ladytron circa 2001 more than OMD circa 1981.

Production is spot-on for what Gift Wrap is going for, and there are snippets of brilliance, like the changing gears on “Comatose” and the good sense to cover Egyptian Lover. But, in the end Losing Count is still only a fascimile of a copy of the original - a third wave rather than something creating fresh ripples. I think a very telling detail is that a video was made in conjunction with this release. It looks like a bad-copy VHS, to add to the old school asthetic. However, it wasn’t recorded with an old camera, it was recorded with a new iPhone, and they just made it look like VHS with some technical editing. I think that says it all.


Sam Davison & Precincts - Professionals (

When listening to outsider music I sometimes think I need to turn my perspective upside-down. This is some grating, challenging, and just plain weird shit. The first two tracks, filled with attempted singing and vacuum chugging have me questioning the boundaries of independent art. But I have to remind myself, “Yeah, maybe that’s the entire goal here.” The sound is super-stripped down, and while this music might be dubbed “experimental” it seems like everything that was put in is supposed to be there. No happy accidents, just some people purposefully being wacked.

As the album continues though, the tide turns from grating to interesting, from challenging to creative, and from weird to… well, still weird, but in a way I can appreciate. The spastic-beatnik “Apo Y Betun” is like space age bachelor pad music going off the rails. “We Are Professionals” is a great 100 second punk manifesto, and “I Want More, I Want Less” makes me think this guy spent a lot of time in his bedroom, alone, listening to Devo and Ween records.

“I Could Say I Was There” is a spoken-word ramble over an echo-y drone, and would appeal to anyone into storytelling and/or possibly dream interpretation. Professionals is chock-full of ideas, all over the place, and demands your attention. Sometimes it might not elicit positive reactions, but I think Davison knows that, too - see the closer, “I’m Sorry About Everything.”

Meat Beat Manifesto – Impossible Star (Flexidisc)

Full disclosure: I haven't listened to Meat Beat Manifesto since Subliminal Sandwich. At the time, their edgy electro-industrial racket, complete with Jack Dangers' snarls and sci-fi soundclips, hit the spot for a young Mark, but since then I've moved on to less sinister sounds. The group might have as well, since what I've known in the past sounds very little like Impossible Star.

The title is an appropriate one too, since this album lets the manic mechanics of the 90s fade away in favor of something more cosmic. The washes of synth are dreamy, the drum beats are hollow (in that good, spacey way), and the rest of the beeps and bloops bounce along untethered. There are glimpses of the original fire here and there, like when the obscure sound bites pop up, the vocoder effects drop in, and what sounds like a giger counter becomes part of the instrumentation. Overall it's an unsurprising affair, the songs sound exactly like their titles dictate. See: "Unique Boutique", "Lurker", and "Synthesizer Teste".

I don't find it particularly exciting, but perhaps this is truly what evolution feels like. We've got robots making music for robots, which in some ways is a really accurate way to describe this. But is it any good? I couldn't tell you any more than a Keurig machine could explain what love is.

Gary Numan - Savage (Songs From A Broken World) (BMG)

Electronic rock icon Gary Numan is one of the pillars of the genre. The music hasn't changed much at all, but he doesn't need to since he's the one that invented the sound in the first place. And since the 80s are back, the man that once brought us tracks like "Cars" and "Telekon" rightfully reigns again. Savage is classic Numan - cold, deep, hook-laden synths with Numan's pained vocals and a bleak outlook on life. The lead single "My Name Is Ruin" says it all. The future is already here and it don't look good. Sounds great though.

Trans Am - California Hotel (Thrill Jockey)

Trans Am are geniuses. Musical artists have mashed genres before, but usually it's music that goes together like PB&J anyway (disco and rap, etc.). Trans Am are the only outfit that I know of that successfully blend post-rock and synth pop. Snappy, delectable drums mix with keyboard riffs and vocoder vocals. Mathy, almost proggy guitar escapades, the likes of which are usually seen on their longtime label Thrill Jockey, get funneled through a digital wormhole until it becomes a jazz-hacker-nerd-punk hybrid. And if that last sentence turned you on instead of off, keep the switch flipped and rock this album out, because it rules.

Beck - Colors (Capitol)

Beck's oeuvre has bounced around for so long, you can't really sum it up without resorting to the reinvented rhetoric and chamleon cliches. His last album was "one of the serious ones" and this new album is "one of the party ones." Enough said. Morning Phase sounded absolutely pristine and deservedly won the Grammy for Best Engieneered Album. Perhaps Beck took pride in that, because Colors, with all it's slacker raps, handclaps, and oddball instrumentation, sounds great. He's always had an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink aesthetic, but now that sink is polished clean and a luxurious studio is capturing the sound. The ten track album has plenty of highlights, hooks, and even a few throwback moments that nod to earlier works. Basically, if you're a long time fan, get on this.


Esmark - Mara I/Mara II (Bureau B)

Experimental artist Alsen Rau and sound architect Nikolai von Sallwitz put together a double album of spooky soundscapes and dark, ambient compositions. This is good news for people who like bad news. If you’re searching for a soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic nightmare, or accompaniment to a dystopian sci-fi movie where it’s gloomy and rainy 24-7, then look no further.
The music itself doesn’t really catch any ears except in rare moments, but the creation process itself, and the quality of the end result is fairly impressive. Lots of depth, lots of beats and synth lines taped and re-looped into the tracks, giving off some kind of quasi-analog feel. Another release from the underground, buried deep where the light of pop can’t get to it.

Brockmann/Bargmann - Licht (Bureau B)

After spending some time in the “Krautrock Guerilla” outfit Camera, backing up Michael Rother (NEU!), and working in the studio with the Tiger Liliies, Brockmann and Bargmann venture out to do something completely of their own. This collection of instrumentals shine, with melodies cruising juuust fast enough to make you feel like your car tires are floating above the concrete on a motorik road trip. Both artists are billed as improvisationalists, but that fact is masked fairly well, with structured rhythms and layers of sounds falling into place perfectly.
Highlights include the cascading “Deepmind”, the serene “Spektrum”, and “Horizont”, which could have snuck it’s way onto Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy score. The shuddering, tribal drums of “Schatten” is great too, evoking memories of the best that Juno Reactor had to offer back in the day. Overall a beckoning record, ripe with sounds that welcome return visits rather push boundaries. Chalk one in the win column here.

Eberhard Kranemann & Harold Grosskopf - Krautwerk (Bureau B)

Yet another release from German electronic music veterans. This time from guys who’ve logged miles with Kraftwerk and Ashra. The building blocks are all there - throbbing synths, waves of synths, and the occasional pounding and clanging of, what I suspect to be synthesizers. Which is all well and good, except for the go-nowhere songs and the repetitive tempos throughout. There really are some neat sounds here - the manufactured riff of “Paris Texas”, the bubbling thumps of “Happy Blue”, and waaaah-whoaaaa of “Buddhatal” that sound like a mash up of Close Encounters and adults speaking in the Peanuts cartoon. But those concepts just continue for a while and nothing really builds or moves. Maybe in the future someone will sample a cool snippet from this album and do something interesting with it.

Moebius Story Leidecker - Familiar (Bureau B)

Here we have yet one more super group collaboration from the fringes of electronic music. This time the team up includes Dieter Moebius of Cluster and Harmonia, soundtrack veteran Tim Story, and experimental composer Jon Leidecker, whose resume includes work with acts like Matmos and Negativland.
The trio convened in Montanna, took in the view at Glacier National Park, and then recorded this album. The sound is immediate, varied, and despite the genre tropes involved, natural. Overall the album has a “Hey guys let’s get together in the studio and jam” feel to it, but boy these dudes know how to weave their way around computerized sound. If you’ve ever looked at the set up of a synth-playing, knob-twiddling electronic musician, and wondererd “What exactly do all those buttons do?!”, this recording would give you a crash course. Familiar is intricate and showy, stereo-testing at all registers, tweaking in all manners, with plenty of subtleties sneaking in and out of the mix. Skittery synths and squishy beats push everything forward, with the apex coming right around the title track and “Block Blow.”

Coordinates met in time and space, producing what could only be captured in this exact moment. The fact that Moebius passed away a few short years after this was recorded only adds to it’s poignancy.

KMFDM - Hell Yeah (earMUSIC)

This German institution is now closing in on two dozen albums, spread out over a 33-year career. Their metal-techno hyrbid eventually fell comfortably into the industrial rock realm sometime early on, and while rock critics like it when bands turn corners, I think it's equally impressive that the band has barely changed its formula at all. Fad chasers get trampled by bands like these. Those pounding electronic drums energize with every beat, and those exact, mechanical guitars push songs ever forward. The vocals from Andy Selway don't carry the melodies that much (the sultry sounding Lucia Cifarelli is a bit more successful), and that makes perfect sense. I would expect everything here to sound like automated cyberpunk, even if it came from a human. What really binds this all together are the synths, filling in every available corner with hooks, trills, waves, stabs, and all manner of rapid electro-noise. Despite the classic KMFDM sound, one won't mistake Hell Yeah for something old. The group is too on point when it comes to ranting about the ills of modern society for that to happen. The uproarious "Freak Flag", the grimey "Fake News", and the foul-mouthed "Rx For The Dammned" make it clear this is a 2017 release. And if you've built up enough frenzied anger and are itching to riot, the album offers not one, but two completely-lose-your-shit anthems in "Total State Machine" and "Glam, Glitz, Guts, & Gore". It might not solve life's problems, but cranking up the stereo, turning on the strobe light, and raging to a chous of "THE GOVERNMENT HATES YOU!" has got to provide some kind of cathartic release.


Culture Wars - Culture Wars EP (

I'm trying to think of ways to explain Austin-based trio Culture Wars, aside from describing their competent but blatant mash-up known as "dance rock." A couple phrases pop into my mind as these songs rumble from the speakers: Radio-ready. Arena jams. Crowd pleasers. Car commercial music. I can't conjure up anything that sounds less pre-packaged than that. However, if this type of music is up your alley anyway, the band offers some nice tunage, even if it feels like it was ordered off the combo menu.

One good thing about this self-titled self-release is that while the music is a blend of electro pop and bleacher-stomping rock, neither genre is sacrificed for the other. The synth lines are prominent, the beats are solid and dancable, and the guitars get their licks in too. "Bones" throws it all against the wall, rewarding listeners with a "whoa-oh-oh" chorus that will have the kids involuntarily chanting and putting their hands over their heads. It's a winning move, but they pull the same manuever with "Hideaway" leaving one wondering if they ran out of ideas on a 5-song EP. The last of the cuts, "Money (Gimme Gimme)" puts all their tricks into overdrive. The vocals are snarly, the guitar hook is classic rawk, and the beat is heavy and throbbing. It seems like the band has all their ducks in a row if they want to sell a sporty sedan or open for Twenty One Pilots. I'm walking over to another pond.

Tiny Magnetic Pets - Deluxe Debris (Happy Robots)

Here we have an interesting amalgamation of sounds, eras, and geography. Tiny Magnetic Pets (a reference to a cute little Japanse toy) take cues from 70s Germany krautrock and 80s French electro-pop, and guides them through a filter of turn-of-the-century indie electronica (think Darla Records at their most bleep-boopiest). And where does this band hail from? Ireland, of course!

The mixture of precise, set-my-clock-to-it rhythms mixes surprisingly well with the warm synth underpinnings, and the soft, lovely vocals of Paula Gilmer add another layer as well. The authenticty of sound is undeniable. It's the inexplicable feeling while you're soaking it in - that notion of "Yeah, they got it right."

If the music is the gold star on Deluxe Debris, then the sequencing is the one demerit. The opener "I Lost My Guiding Light" is ho-hum, and while I think the epic motorik-meets-dream pop "Semaphore" is a standout track, at 11 minutes long you're asking for a lot of patience right off the bat. "Radio On", featuring ex-Kraftwerk member Wolgang Flur, is the hit we're all looking for, and it's followed by some choice cuts in the form of the bubbling "All Tomorrow's Yesterdays" and the dreamy, floaty, "Cloud Sequence." Unfortunately, sandwiched inbetween is "Here Comes The Noise", a track the band thought was so nice, they played it twice (in two parts, or two different remixes - regardless, it's too much). "Never Alone" caps off the album, a nice tune that goes down smooth now that the appetite has been thoroughly whetted.

The band mixes together influences like Jean-Michel Jarre, Berlin-era Bowie, and the Pet Shop Boys. They've also gained fans like Michael Rother of Neu! and Andy McClusky of OMD. Freaking Kraftwerk veteran Wolfgang Flur guests on the album! That's a lot of names to drop in my audio book, and this chapter sounds pretty good.


Faust – Fresh Air (Bureau B)

One barely raises an eyebrow these days when they hear “70’s krautrock staple Faust have a new album out.” So many bands reform and continue to create these days, it’s hardly anything novel. These German “art-errorists” being as they are, however, never make it that simple. Fresh Air was recorded in the US over the course of their 2016 tour. So not only do we get new material, we also get live takes, guest stars, and field recordings.
The opening epic, recorded live at WFMU in Jersey City, is where you’ll get your classic Faust fill. The title track’s slow, haunting, undulating sounds draw you in, while vocals and voices juuust under the mix have your ears peering into that eerie darkness. Violin from Ysanne Spevack adds to the layers, while the drums and guitar sneak in so gradually before you know the track is already pummeling you with noise.

The middle section of the album takes you through Austin and Los Angeles, where a warped array of vignettes and fully-realized songs are ushered along with the help of the illustrious Barbara Manning. The best of the bunch is “La Poulie”, a tumbling, cranky motortik-on-overdrive tune with Jurgen Engler of Die Krupps lending a hand.

Finally, we close out with another 10+ minute opus back at WFMU, filled with Jean-Herve Peron’s tuneful ranting and ethereal jamming reminiscent of Dead Can Dance. There’s some really interesting stuff going on with this release, and I’d suggest that it’s as good as place as any to start if you want to know what Faust is all about. That being said, only those looking for a challenge to begin with need apply.

DER PLAN – Unkapitulierbar (Bureau B)

One of the pioneering acts of the Neue Deutsche Well (New German Wave) is back! Yes, the line-up has fluctuated over the years, and yes what was once their trademark experimental industrial/synth pop barely registers on the strange-o-meter these days, but nevertheless the band turns in a very solid effort. After 35+ years (with some lengthy hiatuses) of music making, Der Plan’s Moritz R has a bag overflowing with tricks, and he uses all of them to great effect. Plinky beats, pulsating bass lines, and synth hooks permeate most tracks, with a healthy dose of sound waves, vocoder effects, and an intriguing production that I can only describe as minimalist flair.

While top-notch execution is respected, and strong songwriting is always welcome, two more facets of Unkapitulierbar push the record toward the recommended pile: diversity and brevity. There are moments that sound fairly modern – the near-glitchy opener “Wie der wind weht,” and some that are yeesh-evoking 80s pap – the whispery “wowowow” of “Grundrecht” in particular. There’s one song sung in English (and it’s great, with a guest female vocalist), and there’s a tune that reminds me of Welsh-pop act Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. “Der Herbst” is an obvious homage to Fun Boy Three’s “The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum.” There’s even a reggae song. Yes, reggae through a German synth pop filter. Not kidding. It’s quite impressive how much they cram into 39 minutes. The longest song here is four minutes long. By comparison, four minutes is the length of the shortest song on Kraftwerk’s Autobhan record. Each song has a job to do, and once the task is complete, the clock is punched. No wasted space, no bloated drone-fests. German efficiency saves the day!

NRVS LVRS – Electric Dread (Hz Castle/Big Bldg)

Coming in at three songs shorter, but 13 minutes longer than Der Plan’s album, this darkwave disc takes a while longer to sink into. Every song unfolds at a slow pace, but that’s not to say each one is without surprises. There’s a 1980s soundtrack vibe throughout, but tracks vary between Bowie-lite male singing and echo-y female vocals, gloomy city-scapes and majestic climaxes, and the oddball inclusion of various instruments. You’ll hear skronky sax in “I Am Almost Perfectly Awake”, impenetrable mic effects in “Voyeurs!”, and Casio-esque handclaps on “Lost To The Max.” The unraveling of the record is so slow-motion, the rumbling bass, back beat, and shouting of “Rich Man” is like a bolt from the (dark) blue.

There’s great production here, their vision is clear, and the band knows their way around a pair of headphones – the sound is quite immersive. As I toured through Electric Dread I enjoyed the experience, but any distinct memories have since faded in the rear view. The bottom line is they have a big, shadowy, urban playground that does absolutely nothing, other than provide you with a place to get lost in.

Ohmslice – Conduit (Imaginator)

Post-weird, no wave, improv-fusion outsider pop? I know, at first pass I too almost turned my head away in confusion and/or disgust. “Oh great, another attempt at being… creative.” On subsequent listens, I’m acknowledging they succeeding in this endeavor, and almost ready to admit that they nearly made it accessible, too.

The blending of electronic and organic sounds is seamless, and when they can’t get the sound they want from an instrument, they invent a new one (see also Bradford Reed’s electric board zither and his work with King Missile). Deep, syncopated rhythms entrance the listener, while the layers of creepy guitar and horns will have you checking under the bed. The fact that these recording sessions were live and spontaneous means the rotating cast of players (featuring session workers who’ve spent time with Blue Man Group, Yo La Tengo, and Swans, among others) were probably kept on their toes too. All the sounds being filtered through a modular synth is what gels this into a cohesive sound, so no matter what path you take, all roads lead to Reed’s palace of bizarre.

The final element in Conduit is Jane LeCroy’s poetry. Her words are occasionally beat, sometimes dreamy, and always adding to the notion that this is music made by and for those outside the typical musical boundaries. Ohmslice is not everyone’s cup of tea, but just coming up with this new and different flavor at all is a remarkable accomplishment. is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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