[Best of 2020] EBM/Industrial Round-Up Vol. 1

Cover taken from Crystal Geometry Senestre

Author’s Note: I, for one, hate best-of lists. You can’t make me narrow down the myriad releases of the year into a top ten, a top twenty, or a top one hundred. What I will do, however, is break down a handful of the great EPs and full-lengths that have been released this year, and recommend a handful of them based on their genre. Everybody’s looking for something, as the Annie Lennox line goes, and thus, I bring you these genre round-ups.

As this year ravaged on, the electronic underground kept turning out its substantial output of music, with many producers and DJs taking to Twitch and other streaming services to play their tunes for the masses. Ironic that in a subculture once known for gas masks in an ironic and stylish sense, now masks have an entirely new meaning, and may continue to have one once we’re on the other side of Pandemia. In the meantime, these releases from this cold bastard of a year range from the bleakest of coldwave to the most energetic of dance floor decimators.

Crystal Geometry - Senestre (Sonic Groove Records)

This LP is a concussive assault of percussion with some blistering beats and emphatic rhythms. The album’s title comes from the French concept of the left side of a character, and the idea behind Senestre is revealing what the left is all about: progress and the shunning of arbitrary, outdated, and unspoken rules. “Political Prisoners” and “No Respect for Officials” have some deafening beats, while “Spiritu Superiori” has some ominous, lurking in the shadows vibes that allude to the infamous left-hand path. It was one of the first releases of the year, and as we send 2020 on its merry fucking way, it still holds up, arguably better than it did in the first place.

Funker Vogt - Conspiracy (RepoRecords)

Funker Vogt has been a force of futurepop for some time, and this EP is an excellent snapshot of the band’s danceable, casually dark vibes. Futurepop is best when it sounds upbeat and energetic, even if the lyrical content is less cheery, and the opening “First Contact'' achieves that quickly. Both parts of “CE-3” play off of each other, with the three buffer tracks in between having catchy and infectious grooves. It’s a highly enjoyable release, with a fair share of dance-ready tracks waiting in the wings to kill a dance floor or two.

NeuroWolf - Trinity (Independent)

The mononymous Wulf has three different projects which range from ambient to metal to electronic, with NeuroWulf serving as the latter, blending futurepop and trance. Trinity, this project’s third and latest release, goes all over the electronic spectrum, with the futurepop coming by way of “The Trisagion” and the closer “Amen,” with tracks such as “Within Cells Interlinked” bringing the trance elements. Even on more energetic tracks, there exists this smoothness and ethereal feel to the music, making for music that doesn’t need much thinking or focus to really enjoy. As far as chill-out EBM, this is a solid choice.

Phase Fatale - Scanning Backwards (Ostgut Ton)

This one is for the old school fans, those who yearn for the days of minimalist coldwave and with industrial sans bells and/or whistles. “De-Patterning” sounds like it was cut from the System Shock soundtrack, while numbers like “Velvet Imprints” and “Polystyrene” maintain a classic analog industrial tone. Add in ambient and atmospheric tracks like “During the Freezing Process” and “Proxy Contact,” and it’s a peculiar release with plenty to enjoy.

Starving Insect - Stillborn Euphoria (Zuur)

This is another varied release with plenty to enjoy, no matter what your electronic jam is. From sci-fi soundtrack imitations to dizzying lead synths, the core four tracks have a ton of groove to them. Each track has its own remix, and the retro sci-fi and electro motifs are even more present within those. Between its original version and remix, “Nightmare City” might be my favorite offering here, with the former employing a chilled-out groove, while the latter sounding like an old 8-bit video game in all the right ways.

Human Performance Lab - Impact Situation (X-IMG b/w aufnahme + wiedergabe)

Composed of SARIN and Matt Cangiano, this collaboration is all about the old school. “Terran” and “Glass Shadow” especially bring a classic industrial flavor, with a coldwave vibe on the opener “Beware the Beast.” Across all five tracks, there’s a danceable nature, a healthy amount of groove, with any of these songs possessing a dance floor enchanting ability.