(Felte, released Fri 14 July)
One of the more nauseating aspects of industrial music is its twisted affinity with fascist symbols, rhetoric, and cults of personality. Generous critics might call it subversive – music for the decline of civilisation, steering the gaze of politician-murderers toward their own infernal creations – but today most see it for what it is: cheap shock aesthetics and morbid fascination, not unlike Sid Vicious’ facile swastika brandishing.
Like most of today’s genre allegiants, California’s Sextile discard toxicity and produce rather presentable industrial rock, replacing “ironic” hatred with American rock sheen, implicit self-mutilation, and shoegaze obscurantism; a Nine Inch Nails without the requisite teen rebellion. Their second release Albeit Living is a much sparser and neater record than their debut A Thousand Hands; the tremolo guitars on opener One of These chatter and fill the gaps left between cinder block synthesizers, but the reverb is dialled down, and percussive electronics stab swiftly rather than bleed into the void. The effect is like the negative of a pop single; the pursuit for instant euphoria is amplified and condensed into three-minute slabs. Each part of Albeit Living sounds like shorthand for debauchery, a coarse representation of gutter life.
But its mere gesturing to degeneracy, exacerbated by a relatively safe sound, is the album’s downfall. Albeit Living neatly emulates industrial tropes de rigueur without leaving room for much individuality. The dancing spanner percussion on AVC briefly nods to the steel mill disco of Einstürzende Neubauten, and, truthfully, each track sounds more or less like some rearranged version of D.A.F’s Der Mussolini. Sequenced synthesizers march with the speed and footfall of soldiers, but it hardly exceeds expectations. While industrial music in the past has repulsed and challenged – often simplistically, occasionally poignantly, as in Einstürzende Neubauten’s case – Sextile don’t seem to do much of either. “My body is contorted” grumbles frontman Brady Keehn on Mental, but unlike the provocateurs of the genre, he’s not all that believable.