Inhalt & Dark Day :: Double review (Dark Entries)

Dark Entries continues to dredge the depths of synth obscurity with two recent releases by Inhalt and Dark Day.

Of late the San Fran imprint has taken to EP’s with another just added to the catalogue, this time from some homegrown synth pop talent: Inhalt. The triumvirate consist of Europeans and US music makers. Surprisingly the group are not some forgotten name of the synthesizer scene but a modern day outfit. Dark Entries last graced their catalogue with a contemporary in 2009 with Death Domain. For some Inhalt will already be known, releasing a split EP on London based World Unknown back in 2011. Now they’ve got a full twelve to themselves. The four tracker opens with the title piece. The listener is hit with beats and powerful lyrics, auf Deutsch. The track has a subtle and clever melody, but it is the power of the vocals that drives this track. Fast and clean, throwing up some memories of Kernkrach’s moodier modern synthesizer sounds. “Walking on Glass” follows. The track has an industrial quality, vocals again being guttural and strong. Comparisons with contemporaries like //TENSE// come to mind. Inhalt’s sound is submerged through old tape reels and machine compression, but there is an unmistakable modern aspect to it. “Hart’s Theme” continues on from its predecessor, instrumental with echoed samples. Emotive and mechanical and aching with an EBM intensity. The finale is “Fahrzeug.” Again, an instrumental version. The lack of vocals allow the music to stand alone with synth lines stretching across terse snares. Sublime.

Alongside this recent foray into EP’s, Josh Cheon has keeps up the LP output. For a second time, Dark Entries reignites Robin L. Crutchfield’s Dark Day project. 2012 sees Crutchfield’s first album, Exterminating Angel reborn. The lilting movements of “Raven’s Wing” gets things underway. The track is a strange blend of prog-rock and synth wave. This blending of styles is present across the album. Cold vocals coagulate with warm strings and machine loops to create an unnerving end-product. Crutchfield’s vocals are distanced and forlorn. “Chameleon” takes a downtrodden rift and subjects it to ever more lamentations. The content across the record is dark and distempered. “Trapped” slowly unfolds segments of tear-filled loneliness. Crutchfield used inexpensive synths for the album and this comes through in the shallow electronic sound across the record. But this lack of depth only emphasises the unease and discomfort of Dark Day. The track titles precede the electric gloom of the record; with names such as “Flightless Bird” and “Crib Death.” There is a simplicity to the compostion of the album. Basic synth melodies are buttressed by post punk guitars and a steely edge. Some of the tracks have an absentee Human League feel to them. “Uninvited Guests” has no pop element, but does have an angst ridden synth catchiness to it that brings to mind some of the efforts on Travelogue. The finale, “No, Nothing, Never,” brings together different aspects in a proto Techno-pop stew. Female vocals, almost samples, report the sombre tale whilst machines and strings stalk the backdrop.

It’s interesting to stand Inhalt next to Dark Day. The sound of synth wave in 2012 versus that of 1980. How much has changed? In 1980 Dark Day was groundbreaking stuff. In 2012 Inhalt and Dark Day are pretty groundbreaking. One thing that does hit home is the cleanliness associated with Inhalt. This is not a clinical, disinfectant sound; but in comparison to Dark Day they are much tidier. Likewise, the genre lines of Dark Day are more blurred. Crutchfield was trailblazing an unheard genre, experimenting and using constructs that are now quite alien to the synth ear. It’s fascinating to see the synth wave project continue, that the angst and energy of the new wave is still present. From the birth of the synth to the realisation of a computer age, from the rise and fall of ideologies and the mapping of history, these two records map both in their own special way.

Both release are available on Dark Entries.

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