This week marks ten years since I registered amodelofcontrol.com, and got to work promoting my music writing (the first permanent home I’d given it), and then over the coming months also promoting my then nascent DJing (tcf began in March 2004). I first began writing about music back at University in 1996, and my writing appeared in various places until my website got going. Sadly little of my earlier writing actually survives.
Anyway: I’ve tried to continue to write about as much music as possible, be that in the form of reviews, my Tuesday Ten series, end-of-year or decade round-ups, interviews and a few other odds and sods – and while I’ve from time-to-time contributed to other websites and publications, I’ve more recently concentrated on just writing here. That’s mainly due a lack of time (and a dislike of deadlines!). On the sidebar, by the way, is what the Wayback machine has kept of my old versions of the site: the odd formatting I used for many of my website designs clearly hasn’t played very nicely with it.
So to celebrate the tenth birthday of amodelofcontrol.com, here are ten artists or releases that I discovered over that time (one per year), and why they are important to me and to their wider scenes, perhaps.
The first year that amodelofcontrol.com was live was a year of big change for me. It was the year where I decided to up sticks from my home in Huddersfield (and later on in the year my job at O2 in Leeds), and move to Sheffield. This resulted in lots of changes in many ways, but the one relevant here was that I had a whole new set of bands and clubs to discover.
One of the first new bands I discovered in the city (thanks to a recommendation from my friend Kelly) were a band who at that time had just released their first album, The Fall of Math. Basically a post-rock band who understood dynamics better than any of their peers, they mixed heart-stopping melodies and staggering passages of music that simply made them sound utterly unique. Live, however, they were on another level entirely, rocking harder and better than anyone else around at the time.
And they were enthralling. The first time I saw them live was at end of 2004, supporting Mad Capsule Markets at a riotous, chaotic gig that had our jaws on the floor, and as they developed and added more power to their live show (the peak being a later show where Hole gained backing visuals from nuclear horror Threads, which was set in Sheffield, of course) they became even more essential, and gained a heck of a following far beyond their home city.
They’ve headed into more electronic realms in the ten years since, but return to their roots for one night at the end of March, playing the whole of that magical debut. Needless to say, I’ll be there.
The obvious expectation here would have been to write about Cyanotic…so I decided to think a bit laterally. This was a release that I picked up a little after I first discovered Cyanotic and got in touch with Sean Payne, and this was a window into a world of artists and industrial stylings that I would never have otherwise heard. This was a snappily mixed compilation that took in thundering industrial, pitch-dark drum’n’bass, contemplative electronics and even searing industrial punk. In particular, this one CD was my first discovery of ManufraQture, Encephalon, Rabbit Junk, v01d, genCAB – and I still listen to all of them now. In fact, this was the first tanglible sign for me that there was something worth paying attention to in the US industrial scene that wasn’t another futurepop or Suicide Commando clone for the first time in a while, and indeed ended up being a gateway drug into a scene I’ve written an awful lot about since and enjoyed an awful lot. It’s taken a while, of course, but Cyanotic finally play the UK later this year.
The first time I heard Prometheus Burning, I was perhaps a little behind the curve. My friend Tony Young played me some of it while out one night, and my interest was piqued enough to go and pick up the album in question. This was their first mainstream release Beyond Repair, and it was a hell of a jolt. This was scorching, noise-influenced industrial that had moments of being very harsh indeed, but the really unusual bit was that for a band so extreme, they made extensive use of vocals. They were no gimmick, though – they were integral to the sound and the vicious intensity was only heightened by her vocals spitting fire and brimstone.
The years since have had somewhat mixed fortunes for the band – issues with labels and other things, from what I can tell – but they came roaring back with KILL IT WITH FIRE in 2012 (their fifth, sixth including a stellar remix album), hopefully with a more stable future now they are on WTII Records.
Like a few other bands in this list, I was late to the party with Battles, but I think I joined at the right moment. It turned out they had already made a splash with early EPs EP C and B EP, but they really hit the mark with the quite astonishing single Atlas – where electronic and vocal experimentation, combined with crazily technical musicianship, met with glam rock and resulted in a song that was all over the airwaves and had appeal way beyond the avant garde. Put simply – serious musos like those that made up Battles are simply not meant to make music so fucking joyous. The album that followed (Mirrored) was just as wild and inventive, and even once Tyondai Braxton (who had handled vocals, as such as they were) left, follow-up Gloss Drop was still a hell of a lot of fun.
I never quite understood the “noise rock” tag – particularly as many of the bands wouldn’t understand noise if it was blasted in their ears. One that absolutely did, though, were LA band HEALTH. Their first album was an absolute riot of sound – tumbling, thundering drums, guitars that sounded like high-energy lasers, and vocals buried in the mix. Everything was short, snappy and barely stayed in the same rhythm for too long. And it was awesome – a band playing with the ideas of a rock band setup and tossing in anything else they found of interest. After an equally brilliant remix album, they roared back with a second album that seemed that bit more focussed, and even had a catchy tune in the industrial funk-noise of Die Slow – and all of it sounded utterly scorching live. We’re still waiting on that third album, but it should be interesting all the same when it does arrive.
One of the more striking – and elusive – artists I’ve heard in a long while was Canadian act Urceus Exit. I think I first heard about them thanks to a random link from Storming The Base, but once I’d heard one song from Compensation For The Sound Of Silence, I was slowly hooked in and the album hasn’t left my iPod since (yes, that’s about four years or so). Describing Richard Duggan’s music is a difficult one – a “Canadian Seabound” kinda sells him short in some respects, but it’s in a similar ballpark. So, intricate, elegant electronic pop songs, with complex lyrics and themes…and some utterly heartstopping melodies (glorious peaks being Drifting and My Reward) that stay in my head for days on end. Mystifyingly this never really caught on, and having wondered for a while about this, I can only think that it must have been a “wrong time, wrong place” thing – back when this came out, it was “harsh industrial” that was slaying the dancefloors and ears, not music as intelligent as this. Oh well, their loss. A new album is keenly awaited.
I first heard Chelsea Wolfe, like a number of others, at the tail-end of 2010 when her extraordinary cover of Burzum’s Black Spell of Destruction appeared online. This isn’t quite what you expect as an entry point to a goth-tinged, (neo-)folk singer-songwriter, but it certainly served notice that Wolfe wasn’t going to be, say, like Fiona Apple. Ἀποκάλυψις made this all the more obvious – this was tinder-dry, bleak music, with Wolfe’s ghostly wail (used to most astonishing effect on the terrifying Movie Screen, where the moments of near-silence in between stretch the tension to unbearable levels) the centrepiece of an album that sounded pretty damned unique. Her star has certainly grown since, playing to bigger and bigger venues, and recent album Pain Is Beauty has seen her broaden her sonic palette without losing any of the terror and grandeur. Big things beckon, mark my words.
I very nearly missed this band entirely, were it not for Daisy playing me either Guillotine (It Goes Yah) or Takyon (Death Yon) (I genuinely can’t remember which). It doesn’t matter which, mind – both are astonishing examples of industrial-tinged rap, amazingly sparse constructions that are little more than subtle beats, depth-charge bass, stabbing synth effects and of course MC Ride’s aggressive vocal stylings. I was hooked instantly, and watching their meteoric rise to major-label status (which worked out badly for pretty much everyone involved, aside from the incredible second album The Money Store released during their short stay on Epic) and then a “how to” sabotaging of said major-label deal in quite some style, before returning with yet another album (a fourth in two years!) that keeps their relentless sonic invention going. Fine, they really aren’t going to appeal to everyone, but for restless dynamics, sheer drama and brutal rap kicks, they are right now hard to top. Oh, and Hacker remains of the best tracks of this decade. Fact.
There was something about 2012 that when I was compiling a shortlist for each year in this rundown, that I had five or six choices for bands that I discovered that year. Was it a vintage year, or were my ears open that bit more? Either way, I heard tons of great music, but the most local to me was one of the most treasured. Rebekah Delgado, while London-based, has Spanish roots which show through in her multilingual songs, and occasional latin touches to her elegant songs, which sweep from filthy-minded pop, through bitter, spiteful torch songs and dark lullabies to elegant, heartfelt love songs. And this was all in one album. Her live shows over the year grew in size and scope, culminating in a quite brilliant show at Bush Hall that was well-staged and enormously entertaining (and the first time I can recall having a song dedicated to me, too). Yes, she’s a friend, but one hell of an inspiring one – and after some time out during 2013, she made a tentative return late in the year, with a new song Music Box and the promise of more in 2014.
A long time ago, a friend of mine in the UK seemed to have coined the term “industrial punk” for his band Action Directe, and while they were good, the first band to even approach the musical mainstream from the industrial scene in a while have swiftly redefined what “industrial punk” should sound like. That band are Youth Code, and have done two things – firstly to bitterly divide opinion, and secondly have helped to give industrial a hell of a jolt to the system. They did so in 2013 through a word-of-mouth sensation of a demo tape (actually released late in 2012), some blistering live shows and finally with a debut album that delivered everything they’d promised in just thirty minutes. The base ingredient to their sound is old-school (read: Wax Trax!) industrial, but the force is delivered by a rampaging punk feel to the vocals and the atmosphere. This feels violent, enraged and downright fucking furious. The sound of a disenfranchised youth, perhaps. Their breakthrough was quickly followed by lots of other great industrial bands from different cities, and has given me a ton of new stuff to listen to and excited about. What is great right now is that there is finally a feel of things moving forward again, rather than years of stagnation. Youth Code can’t take all the credit for that, but what they can do is show others that bands don’t have to be voiceless and meek. Roar loud enough and you will be heard.
A final note: here’s to the next ten years of music. Thanks for listening so far.