Exciting times my friends. Now 102 is on the horizon, and after decades of success with genre-specific compilations, Disney tie-ins and exercise collections you buy when you want to start jogging, but won’t – Sony and Universal are really branching out.
Now That’s What I Call Angry Robot Music 2019 is quite the swerve. Except it isn’t, because this 15 track compilation of industrial electronic body music comes from Chicago based label Glitch Mode Recordings.
Founded by Cyanotic’s Sean Payne in 2002, GMR is firmly placed to curate some of the most exciting and inspiring music from the fringes. And honestly, for someone as old as me, …Angry Robot Music is a real treat.
True story: I started writing music reviews around ten years ago; for a sadly defunct e-zine called Nocturnal. It was a great proving ground for me, and it solidified my love of dark electronica. Acts like VNV Nation, Apoptygma Berserk and The Crüxshadows released some of their best works around this time. I flourished in this climate.
Vaporwave, retrowave and outrun may dominate the landscape right now; but it’s great to know that labels like GMR are keeping EBM alive. Darker, harder electro-industrial still has representation, and …Angry Robot Music signal boosts the cream of the crop.
15 acts across 15 tracks. This compilation invokes what I’ve always considered the appeal of EBM. Cybergoths finding release and relief in blacklit clubs and warehouses. Sweat, latex, and long nights of liberating strangeness, which brush up against the divine.
Sex isn’t necessarily crucial to this style of music. But it’s hard for me to deny that a lot of these tracks are…stimulating. Cyanotic’s own remix of KANGA’s “Going Red” adds a lot of industrial lines to what was already a pretty hot song. Though it’s worth keeping in mind that, lyrically, “Going Red” is actually kind of pessimistic. KANGA is a slave to the rhythm (‘My body moves in time with yours/Feel my brain go dead/As we move across the floor’) which contrasts with her point that ‘I’m on fire/I don’t belong here anymore.’
Un5ub5ex’s “Bloodlust” (a club anthem I would’ve lived for back in the day) runs in a similar vein. But this is supposed to be a collection of angry robot music. No worries though – we definitely have that. Paralyze’s “Serial Experiment” features ravaging, guttural vocals; running with battering beats and intense synths. Robohop’s “Bout 2 Kill Em” throws some hip hop in there, but it also showcases GMR’s more tongue-in-cheek side. Samples from Robocop throw some levity into a track which, well, kills.
The compilation closes with Moris Blak’s “Strange Eternal.” It’s mellow (by comparison), but it still churns with an undercurrent of brooding menace. There’s a subtle drop around halfway through, followed by a beautiful piano sequence; but these elements don’t detract from the experience overall.
I could write an entire thesis on the impact and pitch black delights Now That’s What I Call Angry Robot Music offers. I’ve come at it from the perspective of someone very old, who got a nostalgic buzz from what I was hearing. But GMR and the artists under their umbrella prove that EBM is alive and well and as powerful as ever.