Coldkill, "Distance by Design"

Sunday, 01 October 2017 00:00 Creaig Dunton Reviews - Albums and Singles
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cover imageColdkill is the duo of Rexx Arkana (FGFC820) and Eric Eldredge (Interface), and was created as an attempt to get back to the roots of EBM and 1980s industrial music, an era from which both musicians have drawn influence throughout their careers].  With the use of vintage gear and a more minimalistic aesthetic when it comes to construction and dynamics in these songs, they do an exemplary job of being forward thinking, yet still clearly acknowledging their past.

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Arkana especially has been one of the unsung heroes of the genre.  Working as a promoter and DJ since the 1980s, as well as helming EBM supergroup Bruderschaft, his contributions to both the industrial scene and its antecedents has largely been overlooked.  Which is a significant oversight, because his dedication to the style and his skills in creating it shine through distinctly on Distance by Design.  "In Here" makes this abundantly clear, with his intentionally flat, disconnected vocals capturing the early days of synthpop and new wave perfectly, as a steady 4/4 beat and tight sequenced layers dominate the song.

"Black or White" is another standout from the first moments of metallic synth and analog bassline.  The additional keyboards added and cheap drum machine also go a long way in capturing the 1980s vibe, as do the vocals.  Here Arkana's approach is just the right amount of off-kilter in delivery, sounding not unlike Al Jourgensen during Ministry's transitional period from With Sympathy to Twitch (which is, as far as I am concerned, far and away their best era).  The chintzy drum machine reappears on "Fables", but here in a slower, more depressive context overall.  With strong melodies and nice outbursts in the chorus, there is a great shifting dynamic throughout.

For other songs here, the duo bring out some more modern sounds, while still keeping the nostalgic elements fully in play.  "Angel Unaware" is a mix of classic stiff beats and modern sounding synth melodies, but rounded out nicely with a bit of undeniable FM synthesis sounding bass towards the end of the song.  "I'm Yours" again has more of a contemporary sounding synth lead throughout, but the mix and production is sparse enough to capture that vintage feel the duo embraces throughout.

Some of the other standout moments for me were where Arkana and Eldridge seemed to step furthest out of their comfort zone.  "Memories" is all robotic voice samples and showcases traditional pop sensibilities, made all the more compelling by a Kraftwerky chorus that is extremely memorable.  "Leave It All Behind", on the other hand, is more of a percussive beast, with programmed drums and percussive synth leading the way.  But around this is some Latin/House tinged layers and even a bit of piano at the end, culminating in some very disparate, yet somehow complementary styles.

Two remixes also appear on the album, with stalwarts Assemblage 23 reworking "In Here" and Covenant taking on "I'm Yours".  Thankfully, the approach to remixing is thematically consistent with the rest of the record, because unlike many of today’s modern remixes, both retain most of their original elements.  They are reshaped to be somewhat more club friendly, but neither are significant departures from the source material.  Assemblage 23’s version of "In Here" is particularly the standout, with the chorus expanded even more and the addition of orchestra hit samples really driving the vintage feel home.

As I have stated in other reviews, I tend to not follow the current industrial scene too closely, preferring some of the genre's outliers that are making music more consistent with what I grew up listening.  Which is exactly why Distance by Design worked so well for me, since Rexx Arkana and Eric Eldredge not only channel those early days so well via Coldkill, but also knowing Arkana was an actual participant in the genre during its earliest days.  The album stands strongly on its own, but having that genuine old school credibility is a nice added bonus as well.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 01 October 2017 08:20