Atropine – Recurring Nightmares | Review by Vox Empirea

The mostly noticeable elements in the music of Norwegian Atropine are three: the dark energy of which are saturated their compositions, the atmospheres electronically oppressive that dominate sounds, and the ability to establish an instantaneous and durable feeling with the listener who is culturally inclined to alternative forms of Electronic Body Music. The power-duo, founded between 1994 and 1995 by Alex Jarlev -aka ALX- (synths/computers/samples/programming) with Tomas Kulberg -alias CTHULBERG- (lyrics/vox/tapes/videos/programming), is the synergistic result of the experiences of the two protagonists lived during past and present times into the various stages of their constructive and multi-articulated career in Norge: in fact, describing the artistic course of Atropine, it initially emerges their biennial militancy as a side project of Anstalt, a band of explicit EBM derivation, as well as the member CTHULBERG, with Miza [R], is an active part of Epilektrician, the IDM/experimental duo-act author in 2014 of the reworking of the song “Cherish 8” included in the “Remix” compilation by the American electro-acoustic/minimal band Ike Yard. Alex is instead a component, with Halvard Djupvik, of the synthpop/coldwave platform Panzerveps and also, with T. Kulberg, of the retro-industrial/powernoise project Pogrom Synod, in addition to collaborations as producer and musician in several releases, among which the single “Storm” published in 2002 by the famous Code 64, the 2011 self-titled debut album of Substaat with their 2012 single “Refused”.

Atropine, in essence, interpret the most combative and impetuous EBM through an alternation of coolly melodic sonorities and other ones darkened with ruthless malevolence, all this planned using highly corrosive lyrics and vocalizations, besides a wide deployment of modern equipments and samplers, together with electronic “vintage” instruments from the ages late 70’s / early 80’s. The discography of the duo began officially in 1996 with the last of three previous publications recorded on cassette, “Angels Pass By Open Sewers”, an album of ten electronic/industrial tracks published by Sutured Music, the same label to which they were entrusted in 2000 the thirteen electro/EBM/industrial songs of the full-length “Feigned Hearing” and the subsequent fifteen ones included in the album “Master Raze”, released on CD-r limited edition in 2001, stylistically similar to those of the antecedent work.

Recurring Nightmares of the year 2014, licensed in digipak format by EK Product, is rather the new album now examined by Vox Empirea. Many songs contained into it are preliminarily and totally reworked, produced and recorded between 1995 and 2002 by the same Atropine: more in detail, of the thirteen listed episodes eight of them are extracted and fully reconstructed from the original tracklist of the album “Master Raze”, one track derived from a participation at the Y2K “Feigned Hearing” festival release, while four titles are taken from the recent repertoire, one of which is a remix version. The full-length, mastered by the German Dirk Steyer – he with Mike Koenigsberger are the members of the famous EBM/industrial/electro duo-act called Accessory – is introduced with slowness by the dark resonances of drum-machine, by the caustic, terrifying phrasing like psicokiller and by the keyboards emissions that obscure “Glass Jaw”, a track followed by the vehement voice incitements, by the bombastic uptempo electro-rhythmic coverage and by the solemn synths of the subsequent “Shears”. In “Remaining Limb”, its introduction consisting of an extended looped dialogue plus misty breaths, anticipating a drumming densely segmented by programming which is transformed into a rigid midtempo march that surrounds the whistle of the vocalist and the fluctuating electronic opacity. “Retch Trigger”, a track conceptually inspired to “Coma Sola” – the song created by the EBM/disco/gothic/synth-punk project called Order Of The Solar Temple, aka the Norwegian Ismael Henriksen – is a danceable sonic-mechanism strongly moved by fast steps of drum sequencing, embittered by acid, cruel vocals and adorned by shadowy keyboards, while the following and capturing “The Second Culling” plans two contrasting sonorities: a first one in which the perfect midtempo linearity of drum-programming geometrically supports the sourness of voice and the Plutonian solemnity of pads, while a second one, infinitely more devastating, angry and hallucinated, devours your hearing arousing moments of pure terror. The EBM diagram of “Coercion” is based on the acrimonious and electronically distorted chant that the singer interposes among samples, percussive midtempo segments and leaden synths, as well as in the subsequent “Reject” the schematic drumming divides the rhythm into cold, automated midtempo beats that drive the vocals gutturally acidified of CTHULBERG, artificial-toxic spunds, alien drones, vocal-samples and obscure symphonies of keyboards. “Black Sludge” maximizes the vox-filterings commuting the human chant into a glacial and atonal monologue rhythmically cadenced by midtempo drumming on which they gravitate heavy pads, while the uptempo percussiveness of “Luminax” frantically runs flanking a compact, grim configuration of voice, keyboards and programming, whose energy and danceability flagellate the sound dragging the listener into a delirious electronic ‘black hole’. Internally the next “Bonesaw” – whose lyrics are inspired to the song “Shogun Assassin” born by the cooperation between Atropine and the project Solar Temple – they co-exist two different phases, the first of which, robotically rhythmed by downtempo bpm’s, is alternated with a second one typically EBM more agile and speeded up, full of perfidious vocals and circumscribed with coldness into a poisonous climax of loops, synths, psychedelic echoes and hypnotic sequencing. “Churn”, totally reconstructed on the basis of more extensive “Churn/Paroxysm” – a song planned by the Norwegian EBM/industrial-cyber band Anstalt – partially enlightens the atmospheres formulating an electropop/EBM in which the pulsing midtempo bass-lines, programmed by Tarjei Krogh E. suggestively sustain the melodic keyboard sections and the singing roughness filtered by the CTHULBERG’s microphone: as final, the same track is remixed by the industrial/EBM/Anhalt Colombian duo Struck 9, which grandly elaborates the arrangements and the globality of the original structures combining ‘old-school Electronic Body Music’ and euphoric dance-minded solutions.

The album “Recurring Nightmares” is dismay, is perdition: its obscure meanings, made even more alienating by upset texts, are perfectly adapted to the the music contests highlighting enormously the states of alteration and the drama that reign on the tracks. In order to make persuasive the concepts and sound environments, each execution of the relase is played with strong engagement and conviction, employing balanced doses of pathos and instrumental force from which is originated a disturbed-electronic/anxiety-inducing substance that spreads unstoppable. In the sonic scheme of the full-lengtt, the sense of menace hangs palpably obsessive, resurfacing in our memory as a ghost to inflict torment even in the daylight, remembering us that the bad dreams artificially generated by Atropine don’t end at dawn.

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