Techno Animal Reviews

Techno Animal: Radio Hades

Radio Hades Techno Animal - Radio Hades
1998 City Slang
CD, 14 Tracks

Review taken from False Prophet Campaign.

Of course, if you've ever read these pages, you are already well aware that I love Techno Animal. And because of my love, I've amassed a large TA collection, and that's why I personally am somewhat disappointed with this release. But this is a personal prejudice, and you'll see why in a bit. Radio Hades collects mostly rare and out of print 12" tracks, and puts them together with interstitial bits to make it sound like a continuous mix. Now I was under the impression that these were alternate mixes from the vinyl versions (I own all of them), which they aren't. So at least I have digitally remastered versions. Yet my other complaint is the fact that many of these were the slightly different mixes from the Electric Ladyland series, all of which are still in print. Why the vinyl mixes weren't chosen is totally confusing. Plus there's the track retitiling. Think of this as a public service announcement: "The Disciples of Dark" is really "Lost Transmission of the Ill Saint (Ultrasonic)" from Unmanned, "Beheaded" is "Intercranial (Anti-Matter)" from Unmanned, and "Ill Sinner" is "Lost Transmission of the Ill Saint (Anti-Body)" from Unmanned. Plus you get a shortened version of "Needle". Well I should review this on the strength of the tracks, which is still high quality. "The Myth/Illogical" is the EL version, and it still maintains that abstract hip-hop sound with soulful vocals from Kevin Martin, surprisingly. And I really like the beats added at the end of the track. "Intercranial" (EL version) is still a track of dense instrumentation, swooping massive sub bass, and metallic clanging percussion. Took me about 4 mixes of this track before I started loving it. "Toxicity" follows along with TA's more recent style, noisy abstract beats and dense synth work. "Return of the Venom", from EL2 is a track of weird backing synth/samples, and live dubby drums from Ice/God/Laika drummer Lou Ciccotelli. "Interplanetary War Chant" is an exclusive remix of the track "Cyborg Dread", this version stripped down to Dr. Israel's echoed vocals and percussive synth and beats. Practically no resemblance to the original, and still very great. "The Disciples of Dark", one of those "Ill Saint" mixes, is a great track of lumbering processed beats and ominous synth lines. "Dread Time Warp", one of the newest tracks on here, from this year's 12" Cyclops is also included here, and it's a marvelous track of sweeping low end, odd processed sounds popping up in the mix, and eventually some totally thumping beats, similar to the other Martin/Broadrick project The Sidewinder. "Fistfunk", also from Electric Ladyland 4 is mostly beats, from the noisy bass drums and the metallic snare parts, and the omnipresent TA processing. "Beheaded", the 2nd mix of "Intercranial" is a little noisier than the first, with extra reverb on everything, and the distorted ambience louder than the beat. "Needle", the short track that sounds like a monster eating vinyl records, appears here about a minute less in length than the version from Phobic, which is a disappointment...though the added bits between that and the next track are still pretty nice. "Bass Concussion", the other side of Cyclops is also on here, and it's mostly a processed drum loop with added police siren like tones in the mix, along with other odd bits. "Ill Sinner" isn't all that different from it's other mixes, except that the beat isn't as prevalent and there are more odd sounds around. "Phantom Tribe", the other exclusive mix of "Cyborg Dread" is even more different...very slow paced and loopy, with it's only resemblance to the original mix being a sublime percussion loop. And it all wraps up with "Excavator", from Electric Ladyland 5. Distorted crunchy bass (similar that of frequent Martin/Broadrick co-conspirator Dave Cochrane) mixed with straightforward dub beats and all sorts of ill stuff going on in the background. Even with all my bitchings, this is still a great disc, and I catch myself playing it alot, even though I've already had most of these songs for a while. If you don't have all (or any) of the 12"s or EL comps, you should not miss this by any means. If you've already got all of the stuff, think about how much you like Techno Animal and make your decision from there.

--Creaig Dunton

Techno Animal: Cyclops

Techno Animal Techno Animal - Cyclops
1998 Position Chrome
12", 2 Tracks

Review taken from False Prophet Campaign.

Another few months go by, and another slab of TA vinyl drops. These guys should release more full lengths and less singles, but hey, I'm ok with this. The A side of this 45RPM thang is "Dread Time Warp", a song built on an undulating bass synth sound and a high-end heavy breakbeat loop. This eventually gives way to a pounding distorted drum loop, matched with sounds like analog synth noises, and TA's traditional odd, disembodied random sounds. A rather unique TA track. The flip side is "Bass Concussion". This one has a more traditional drum loop, heavily distorted and harkens back to the "Unmanned" days. All this with weird siren like tones and distorted, crunchy synth tones everywhere. This is rather different than some of TA's previous output...still good, although not my favorite. A bit too short too, but what's there is good nonetheless.

--Creaig Dunton

Techno Animal: Re-Entry

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Review taken from Glitch

If the mutant marriage between monkey and machine has really just begun, its tortured honeymoon is currently frozen in stunning microcosm on Re-Entry, the new Techno Animal double CD (part of the ongoing ambient series from Virgin). On the cover, the upturned face of a screaming baboon is digitally smeared in a stretched and pixilated screech of raterized terror, and the artwork inside is a similar assortment of symmetrical and kaleidoscopically convolved images, all forming an appropriate backdrop for the fearsome 2 hours of perplexing and exceptional music on this dark effort from Kevin Martin (Ice) and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Final), which is probably one of the best "dark ambient" releases to date.

The first disc is called Dream Machinery, and starts with an eleven-minute fifth-world ditty called Flight of the Hermaphrodite co-written with and featuring processed horn- and breath-breath master Jon Hassell. The patron saint of what I had, to this point, thought of as an entirely different kind of musics contributes his trademark otherworldly riffs to a funky, lurching cauldron of loops that, like so many of the extended selections on this disc (most of which churn regularly past the 10 minute mark) churl and flange their way into expanded guginols of their original forms before disintegrating into perfect, atomized conclusions. This first cut treads where Hassell's own brilliant tribal/techno/hip-hop/jazz City: Works of Fiction would not have dared.

The Mighty Atom Smasher is next-- imagine Gigantor in the slam pit next to you, while onstage, gothic surgeons perform on their screaming patients with razors for instruments. This selection (as do most of the offerings on this disc) progresses in such a way as to actually make you ask after 5 minutes or so, "Whoa! What has happened to this music to make it sound like this all the sudden? Where have I been?" Sounds that started off as simple decays are now full-fledged rhythm patterns, creating third-effect patterns as they collide off one another, and what you thought was the bassline structure of the whole piece really wasn't as important as you thought: preliminary patterns are imperceptively replaced with new, monstrous ones, precisely controlled sonic depth charges that come up slyly out of the deep. You've been lulled, and some new, inconceivable musical beasts have stepped out in front of you while you've been away. You get the sneaking suspicion you've been hypnotized-- no, drugged is a better word. This music has serious psychoacoustic narcotic effects.

Heathen City Dub starts off with that kind of idiotic Autechre-like squirt/synth sound, but it quickly becomes a muscular, lurching, wind-tunnel dub-type thing. What a relief.

After two minutes of aimless ambient intro, Narco Agent vs. The Medicine Man begins its peculiar accumulation: here, an automatonic government agent and a steel drum band get mangled together in a tragic transporter accident. Again, patterns evolve and resolve seemingly out of nowhere; suddenly, a Moroccan Jajouka-like riff begins to assert itself, meaninglessly, organically, somehow perfect. It is also in this cut that Techno Animal's genius for synthesizing nonworldly human vocal choruses becomes apparent-- if they are voices, that is. This is another piece that dissolves in its own misty death-throws, before relaxing back into the fractalized ambient soup that birthed it.

The first disc closes with the twenty-minute-long centerpiece, Demodex Invasion: this track is precisely why $300 headphones were invented: try listening to this on a good stereo system in a dark room by yourself and you'll make chocolate on your sofa. A stilted, looped mechanical drumbeat slowly grows in depth and prominence while what sounds like warped electronic guitar drones are tortured and flanged until they morph into confused bagpipes playing on the far side of an underwater tunnel, only to break apart at the halfway point into a conspiracy of devilish whispers. Again , there's that completely secondary, integral, pulsating sub-rhythm that wasn't there before but DAMN! WHERE DID IT COME FROM?

Disc 2 is labeled Heavy Lids. Although less active than the first, it is every bit as devastating: it is simply more sublime, and deceptively sluggish. (Yeah, like Cancer is slow, too, but that doesn't mean it isn't going to reduce you to screaming jelly, over time...) Evil Spirits/Angel Dust is reminiscent of Scorn, as heard through a lucid dream or fever. Catatonia is protracted and behemoth, a slithering, drugged sliphop through the digestive tract of some lost, electronic beast. On Needle Park, Hassell returns with his dreamlike, exfoliating horn writhing above a cavalier bassline and an almost Shankar-like string riff in the distant background and more disjointed choruses.

Red Sea is the only place in the whole double CD where things drag-- ten or twelve minutes of masturbating harp cycles that get old quickly: but then it's on to probably the most "isolationist ambient" piece on the whole collection, Cape Canaveral, a truly frightening soporific soundscape not of launches into space and heroic deeds done, but of the ambiguous, indifferent and cold destination. If someone doesn't snatch this up as incidental music for some art/space film, I will: Kubrick would have given both his nuts for this music 30 years ago.

This disc pushes out the envelope for many so-called genres of music: dark ambient, techno, dub, and isolationism. There is really nothing else like it in structure or attack, and it does not seem to draw referentially from any identifiable source. It is not music that that starts, develops, or stops normally: the normal rules of thematic introduction and development-- either in Western or Eastern terms-- do not apply here. This is music that would not exist were it not for the technology that enabled its production, and as such it is fascinating to listen to sounds and compositions that is almost purely a product of its time. Approach with an open mind, and you will be rewarded.

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