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CD Feature/ Utopia Banished: "Dirtward"

img  Tobias

No, there is nothing “new” about combining rock with electronics. Other artists have come (and gone) with visions of a new kind of music based on broken beats, splintered guitars, metal riffs and a combination of organic and robotoid elements. In fact, one of the major trends of the 90s has almost turned into a four-letter word. You can already see the yawn of a lazy editor handing over this disc to one of his trainees, asking him to be brief about it and to please insert “Nine Inch Nails” (the godfathers of the genre) in the text somewhere. But “dirtward” has nothing to do with spikes and leather jackets.

Even in the first three songs, which enter your living room like a horde of madmen with daggers in their spine and see frontman, singer, mastermind (and possibly only band member) Chris squirming himself through raw, dirty and unpolished structures of punky snare drum attacks, smutty chord schemes and angry tirades, the emphasis lies more in rubbing confrontational textures against each other than in tearing down all structures. Which is why you will find sad piano motives next to distortion and aggression and hymnic gestures beside groaning and heaving percussions. Even the most consequentially brutal piece., “Don’t you” allows itself to take a step back with hiphop scratching and moments of reflection. From then on, the album takes a turn in an unexpected direction and towards highly personal territory – if you listen attentively, you will discover that there is more whispering here than screaming. Suddenly, everything turns inside out and the frenzy folds inwards, what was once explicit is now merely hinted at, the clarity is blurred, leaving room for interpretation and active input by the listener. Interestingly enough, this conscious effort to step one gear back only adds to the tension of “dirtward”. “Trespass” is a relaxed hybrid between funk and electronics, “Kayal” a spontaneous excursion into danceable Synthie-Pop, “Gothic” a poignant experiment in atmospherics, while “Low” starts with an over a minute long bass and drum intro, then simmers for ages with open lines scattered about until floating strings come in and heal the wounds. If the word weren’t such a drag, one could classify this as “progressive” and get away with it.

For sure, the varying scenes lead one into more of a trance than a state of hyperactivity. Which is where the “newness” factor comes in. Utopia:Banished are not your typical fusion act, the consolation of different styles is not their profession. Rather, they want to carve out a niche of their own, between ambient electro and Rock, for which there is as yet no quick category. Whether or not that constitutes a revolution really doesn’t matter. “Dirtward” plants unsettling fever pictures in your mind, from which you awake disturbed, dislocated and excited – not all too many albums can stake a similar claim.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Utopia Banished
Homepage: Aentitainment Records

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