Over the past three months, the Los Angeles-based label Errorgrid has released over three hours of music: albums from Malarki, Dfaniks and Riccardo Bazzoni, bracketed by two volumes of Darker Sounds of a Present Future. The title is also the label’s subtitle, and is a perfect summary of the music. Over the past two years, we’ve enjoyed watching their roster grow, as they’ve continued to stake a claim to become the driving force for 21st century instrumental industrial music. Their advantage is a will to stretch boundaries into dark ambient, IDM and beyond, as evidenced by the 27 releases they’ve unveiled to date.
If one intuits a flow to these compilation tracks, a connecting sinew, it’s more than a feeling: the tracks were farmed from the same source, a library of 54 sounds that are made available royalty free to anyone who makes the purchase. This generosity was enhanced by a contest in Vol. 1 for listeners to submit their own tracks using the library, the prize being inclusion on Vol. 2.
Nundale sets the tone on both volumes. The artist is not only in tune with “classic” industrial, but is the founder of the label. In this reviewer’s ears, he’s also the flagship artist, although others are nipping at his sonic toes. “Collapsing Inwards” and “Cloaked in Wrath” are dark percussive gems, tailor-made for the dark club scene. Six other artists also appear on both volumes, beginning with Blakmoth, already three releases deep on the label. The artist labels his style “doombient,” which makes sense as these tracks are awash in shuttered tones, like walking the halls of a deserted castle. In contrast, Broken Circuits has a harder, guitar-driven style, seemingly descended from the old COP International roster. The Broken Circuits tracks expose the connection between industrial and metal, yet another branch of an ever-growing tree. And Exan follows last year’s debut album with two new tracks, underlining his love for blending the electro and the electromagnetic. On the surface level, his beats are hypnotic and head-nodding; beneath the surface, ham radio operators seem to be dueling with static transmissions from space. “VH Sevn” in particular bears the DNA of Aphex Twin.
Johno Wells has two releases on the label to date, and the new tracks lurk in the shadows, waiting for their chance to strike ~ a template established way back on Adjust Index. “MalNor” is darker than “Gelded,” as befits the title. Sleep Clinic makes fine use of the stereo field on “HDD4,” whose title refers to a hard drive, a reminder of the connection between industrial dance and computer tech. “HDD6” continues the theme of seemingly disjointed beats, held in place only by tempo, and please don’t ask where “HDD5 is,” we don’t know!
Malarki‘s “Infection Collapse” concludes Vol. 1, and leads directly to the artist’s own Emergence, released a month later. The track is more restrained than what we’re used to hearing from the artist, but as soon as “Aberrant Arrival” begins, we’re back in familiar territory. Sparseness turns to layers, the low end drops lower and the abrasion increases. The music flutters and turns, tumbles and falls. Even when the bass is slow, other elements are fast, a reflection of what the artist terms his “rapid fire” style. Closer “Inevitable” is the thickest and darkest, a possible nod to Thanos; reemerging on Vol. 2, the artist seems to have survived the snap, although “Not Unforeseen” remains mysterious, synth and drums wrapped in a cloak of distortion.
Dfaniks‘s third Errorgrid album, appropriately titled L3, is another dark beauty, beginning with the eight-minute “Dyson,” a descent into the underworld. But the tone doesn’t stay dark for long, as “Rosat” launches with chime tones and inviting beats, while the IDM workout “Cephalic” even receives its own computerized video, viewable on the release page (click through below to view). This piece is one of the highlights of the label’s season, channeling the spirit of classic Speedy J. By now it has become obvious that Errorgrid is interested not only in solid music, but in artist development; they continue to support their roster, increasing artist visibility through individual releases and frequent exclusive-track compilations. In short, they believe in what they release.
Ricardo Bazzoni is new to the label, and Chrysalis is the first installment of Errorgrid’s Guest Artist series. Psychologist Elena Tsoutsis contributes text to the 16-page booklet, telling a tale of “metamorphosis through sensations.” A slight chill is produced at the opening words, “The war arrives at the strength’s limits,” an unintentional timeliness, but the treatise concludes with the thoughtful saying, Today is one of life’s most beautiful and most fragile days. Bazzoni’s music is indeed that of transformation: mutated bodies of sound, scrabbling for purchase, seeking to coalesce. The artist displays a fascination with texture and architecture, eschewing accessibility for mood. The album deserves to be heard as a whole, although we highlight “Loneliness,” a study of signals trying to break through, and the title track, when they do.
This brings us back to Vol. 2, where three tracks still remain. TL3SS and Snakes of Russia each contribute a track, following on the success of prior albums on the label. “Something Is Not Right” may have the compilation’s finest synth line, which begins clearly and grows distorted, the tone reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder and Sisters of Mercy, two artists seldom mentioned in the same sentence. And “(Real) Real Worry” is not only a timely title, but a fittingly foreboding piece, the sonic version of a mirror darkly, underlining the timely nature of Errorgrid’s music.
Remember that contest? Austin’s Modekt is the winner, “Motion Revolving” evidence that the possibilities of the sound bank have not been exhausted. In fact, these percussive patterns are a further progression of the artist’s sound, as heard on two modest releases over the past two years. Errorgrid has influenced a new direction, a solid path. We’re looking forward to hearing more, not only from the artists represented here, but from Errorgrid’s ever-expanding roster, a sonic mirror of the world’s mood: darker sounds of a present future. (Richard Allen)