Dark Day / Nagamatzu :: Double review (Dark Entries)

Dark Entries continues its stroll down memory lane with two more veterans of the label.

Dark Day (aka Robin Crutchfield) has just been crowned most released artist for Dark Entries. Even after two full length albums Crutchfield’s early material is again being re-examined. Hands in the Dark is an eight track EP that catalogs pieces from 1979—81. The title piece is a work of jarring post-punk synth. Strings are pulled into stretched highs as rumbling chords envelope hushed and understated vocals. Bold chords and wrenched guitars are the foundation of “Invisible Man.” Lyrics are cold, further isolated by the barren nature of machine and staccato string. The flip is dedicated to a number of “Extermination” pieces. Six of these tracks are explored. They are short, whimsical experimentations. Reverb and echo rolling with synthlines and punctured beats. In essence they are tape reel play, Crutchfield bending sounds for roughly one minute at a time. They are curious pieces but being only a handful of minutes long don’t really add much to the record.

Nagamatzu were the twosome of Stephen Jarvis and Andrew Lagowski. The latter went on to release as Lagowski, IDM infused Techno on labels like GPR, and as S.E.T.I. on imprints like Ash International. In 2010 Dark Entries resurrected Nagamatzu’s second album, Sacred Island of the Mad. 2013 sees the reissue of their first full length release, Shatter Days, alongside a number of appearance tracks. “Nikito” is drum machine laden depth. Bass and synth combine over mechanical claps for a track that was thirty years ahead of its time. “Nikito” sets the standard, and the album lives up to it. “Possession” follows. Cold beats drive the track as melodies loop and stark vocals outline a life of drudgery. Arpeggiators bend and fold for “Faith.” The track melds Industrial intent with melodic synths in a superb piece. The album builds with every instalment, “Deliberation” being a wonderfully rich instrumental piece whereas “She Speaks Close” is a much more ashen work. Industrial tinges are toyed with, developing more near the album’s end and coming to a head with the snare peppered “Radio Song,” originally released in ’87.

Hands in the Dark is an interesting outing and with his early pioneering style, but falls flat with the B-Side collection shorts.

In an early interview the band haughtily claimed that no-one sounded like them. Youthful hyperbole, but they were definitely ahead of their time. Nagamatzu come from a time without internet and a time when there were literally only a handful of artists exploring electronics. The compilation is testament to their early creativity, Lagowski’s later work building on these solid grounds. Energetic, angry and powerful; a record I plan to have close to my turntables for some time to come.

Hands in the Dark and Shatter Days are available on Dark Entries.

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