OMD latest continues the winning streak they started with HISTORY OF MODERN (2010) and ENGLISH ELECTRIC (2013). THE PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY may be their best and most experimental release since 1983′s commercially undazzling, but artistically nuanced DAZZLE SHIPS, an album that showed that electro pop could manage electricity in new ways while succumbing to song. THE PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY may have lost some of their analog gravitas through digital sheen, but songs like the title track tackle consumerism and isolation in a catchy, thoughtful way. “Robot Man” may be the nadir here, but songs like “What Have we done”, “Isotype” “Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang” more than make up for it (the latter even emoting a hearty fuck you to conformity, etc.). To OMD this is a kind of electro blues, leavening what some my consider cliche with scorn. Thankfully THE PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY proves the forty years on OMD are certainly not an oldies act. Not many could claim that.
Yes, noise can be addictive! The DATA CORRUPTER by EarthQuaker Devices mangles any input signal into the inevitable headache. It’s the mathematical equivalent of wildly uncontrolled multiplication. How this works with guitars is a mystery to me, as I’m using this beast as an adjunct to my modular synths.
Loving my new K-Mix by Keith McMillen Instruments, except for one thing which I’ll mention later. This compact, multi-functional device is both mixer and control surface, and can be used as a stand-alone unit or in unison with your computer. It allows control of several parameters including EQ, trims, VU metering, panning and reverb. The last mentioned is where my problem lies. The K-Mix is advertised as indestructible, yet I can’t get the VERB effects section to work! Hmmmmmmm… start packing this thing up! UPDATE: Evan at Keith McMillen Instruments kindly suggested that my problem might be that the K-Mix was in “surround” mode. He was right. I fixed this problem by holding “shift” and pressing “pan”. Thanks, Evan!
Dwarfcraft Devices HAPPINESS pedal is a resonant filter that not only has the ability to modulate/mangle input signals, but can also self-oscillate with an amazing ferocity (listen to your monitors shrivel and die!). As an added bonus CV patch-points allow integration with your Eurorack system, furthering control/randomness. Depending on your sensibility this may just be your version of aural pleasure.
NEVER MIND THE BULLOCKS, HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS (1977) may indeed be the iconic snarling punk masterpiece, but what followed as Johnny Rotten morphed back to John Lydon may ultimately be where Johnny/John found his teeth. Public Image Ltd. found Lydon, bassist Jah Wobble, and guitarist Keith Levene, especially on their second release METAL BOX (1979, aka SECOND EDITION on CD) functioning on all cylinders. This is where the music became as experimental and fluid as its underlying menace. Bass became the main rhythmic component, and was joined by dub’s cavernous spaces and synthesizer noise. Sound and presentation were optimized by the album being released as four 12″ 45s, while its metal film canister packaging and design were beautiful, unique, and collectible. METAL BOX was followed by FLOWERS OF ROMANCE (1981), an even more extreme take on pop experimentation, losing its bass anchor to a prevailing dissonance of drums, vocals, tape loops, and sound processing. These are the two records that could reasonably termed “death disco”.
Alexander Pedals’ SYNTAX ERROR is a handy little device that will add quite a bit of fuckery to the sounds one feeds into it. For such a small pedal SE packs quite the modulation wallop. As Symbolist poet and all-round bad boy Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) would say, the job of art and the artist is to derange the senses, and this may indeed do the job.