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Caustic Records was originally started by Manix S. because of the lack of labels releasing Electronic/Industrial music, especially in Spain.  Also a member of Pail, one of these groups in this genre of music, Manix remains active in the scene. After starting the label in 1998, there have been a number of great releases to date, with more always coming.

Like many other labels in this independant music scene, the focus is more on the artists and trying to get this type of music out in front of more and more people.  This isn't always an easy task, finding distribution and record stores that will carry this music.  But each label struggles and finds a way to survive, and over the years this label continues to do so. While focusing their efforts on artists in the country of Spain, they are also always interested in promoting artists from other areas.  Bands and releases include Pail, S.I.C., Tannhauser, Narsilion to name just a few and various compilations.

With a good start, we'll look forward to more good releases from this label.  In the meantime, many releases and artists can be heard on the radio shows here.

My Dear Freaks 2 - Review

After the first stellar release of this compilation series, we're presented with a great follow-up presenting some great bands from Spain and a couple of others that have been adopted into this scene. This album is presented in a nice looking tri-fold digi-pack with minimal information about the bands presented and tracklisting. The music is packed in on fourteen unique and captivating pieces.

With the first release of this series, we were first introduced to a few of these excellent bands that are now a solid part of Gothic Paradise, such as Trobar de Morte and Narsilion. Now we have some others that are new at least to me and others that are still very much recognized in the dark music scene such as Der Blaue Reiter, Kutna Hora and Fayrierie. The disc begins with an "Intro" from my good friends at La Defuncion putting together the sounds and spoken word which provides an excellent segue to the militaristic fantasy music of Der Blaue Reiter with a favorite selection "Eyes of the Lost" from their album Silencis. As unique as this band and their style is, it fits remarkably well with what's presented on the rest of this compilation. There are a couple of somewhat experimental pieces, with many delving into the dark ambient recesses of the genre with selections from Eldar, Silent Love Of Death and The Joy Of Nature providing a trio of dark, dreamy and atmospheric pieces. These are all pieces that fans of the dark, brooding nature of ghost ambient and dark ambient music will love with deep, heavy or whispered vocals.

The rest of the album is fairly cohesive and stays on track with the beautiful ethereal, medieval and fantasy music of Narsilion and Trobar de Morte. This style remains a favorite of mine on this disc with Der Blaue Reiter also included with their somewhat crossover sound. Some of the dark folk styles are a nice addition with Kutna Hora and Fayrierie including pieces in the middle of the disk. These are all favorites, not only on this compilation, but overall in these genres and so the inclusion of each artist named above makes this a great collector's item. There are also two new artists I wasn't previously familiar with that make it into my list of favorites at least from this disc. First off the beautiful compositions and vocals from Persona with their piece "Eyes of the Lost" is another great addition to the somber, but beautiful ethereal genres. And right along with the other previously mentioned artists, I believe La Gueta La Runa also fits well with their dreamy selection "Painfullove".

The only reason why I don't give this a perfect rating is for two things. First, the inclusion of Kuu's piece "Why do I hate you, Finland?" which is not that great to begin with, quite experimental and not structured well, though the music does have potential. But on top of that, the quality of the track submission is fuzzy, as if it were a badly recorded CD-R or corrupt or low-quality mp3, plus the track isn't cut well with the first second of another song included at the end. I think if you got rid of that piece, this would be a perfect compilation, which is extremely rare. To finalize the disc, we get another instrumental ending from Caustic Records that is well composed and is a perfect ending for another real gem for any dark music lover's collection.

Rating: 4.5/5

Electronic Manifesto - Review

This label loves the experimental edge as shown through their previous releases and so now we have this "Dark Electronics Alternative" double-disc compilation with a few of the best and most experimental electro-industrial artists around. The compilation is presented in conjuction with HIV+ and DJ Dogme, each choosing the tracks for each disc of the compilation.  The tracks and artists are chosen in a way to pay tribute to the electro-industrial artists of the 80's and 90's when much of the genre was first being formed by bands like Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy and others.  With the selection they hope to take the listener back to a time, not as a copy of how these artists created the genres, but rather how artists today continue to use many of the same techniques and styles to create their own music, creating something unique while staying true to the original genres.

The first disc, compiled by HIV+ is introduced by the heavy, slow industrial piece "Memento" by Neon Cage Experiment.  In my opinion this track is the epitome of what the compilation is trying to portray with the heavy, slow moving beat and vocals that while deep, are not so distorted that you can't understand them.  As we move on through the compilation we are propelled through elements of experimental power noise by Mauri with "Critical Day" and also through a number of disco, EBM and techno influences from The Hacker & HIV+ and from one of the originals himself Terence Fixmer looping through a piece which is actually a bit annoying titled "Substance".  A few pieces that fall more into the synthpop and industrial genres that you're more likely to hear in the clubs or on the internet radio include selections by Psyche, Pail, Tannhauser and Geistform.  Each of these bands should be well-known amongst Gothic Paradise readers and listeners with their excellent electronic styles.  Each remains true including pieces that the listener can easily recognize as their own.

The second disc, compiled by DJ Dogme delves more into the experimental realms with a number of bands that most people will not be familiar with.  Like the first disc, this one also starts with the very heavy, slow moving industrial music that fans will love, this time from Sprog with deep, whispered vocals coming out through multiple layers of distorted percussion and subtle electronics.  From there we quickly move into some more upbeat pieces with the instrumental selection "You Life Is Mine" from Sensorial Response and the harsher sounding industrial piece "Save Me From Myself" by EmbryoHIV+ appears once again with a HIV+ vs Deadcell piece "Transmutation" with a taste of EBM meets power noise.  As the disc moves on the listener gets a good taste of EBM and synthpop from bands like E.S.R. and Dataraper among others showing how all of these genres have evolved in similar fashion, some growing out of the early New Wave revolution while others grew from the robotic loops and bleeps of electronic experimental artists of the same era.

Overall this is a massive compilation of unique and interesting material that fans of these genres can really enjoy.  It's not your typical makeup of overly remixed material from over-played bands from the past, and a nice cross-sectional collection that there is some great variety through it all.

Rating: 3.5/5

Trajedesaliva & Chaos Condensed - Ciertos Animales de Costumbres Discretas - Review

As this label keeps busy releasing new music they once again team up with La Defuncion for a step into the dark ambient noise genres to release this split album between two prominent Spanish bands in these related styles.  Many may have been first introduced to them through the previously compilation released by these two entities My Dear Freaks.  They each presented something within their experimental nature that help set the precedent for this and future releases.

As a split album each band contributes four original tracks of their own creation providing a contrast in styles among related genres.  Along with these eight unique tracks the groups team up on two pieces, one listing them in the order of Trajedesaliva & Chaos Condensed and the other reversing the order and possibly indicating the prominent artist and composer to be Chaos Condensed & Trajedesaliva.  The CD comes packaged with some minimalistic artwork that matches well with the material contained on the disc and so is a nice plus for the overall item presentation.

Once the listener puts the disc on and begins to listen, that's when the reality of the experimental nature of this project really hits.  With Trajedesaliva being the first presenters they use their over-the-top psychadelic experimental organic noise to assault the listener with tracks like "La Casilla de las Locas" and "Agosto Bajo Tierra".  While the music is probably technically classified as dark ambient noise, they delve mostly into a layer of spoken word, which in itself is quite enjoyable, usually female vocals with that cool Castilian spanish accent (in spanish of course).  These bits of spoken word are provided more as an accent to the music rather than the main thread while an eerie violin screetches throughout accompanied by percussion that is heavily laiden with cymbals that all in all present a psychadelic feeling making me feel like I'm being launched into someone's drug-induced nightmare of the 70's.  All of this has it's pros and cons, I'm not fond of this psychadelic style, but other elements lend itself well to the dark ambient styles.  I quite enjoy the spoken word, especially of "Ya No Soy Quien Solia Ser" with the line that's included in the liner notes of "Soy carne caida y cuerpo comido".

As we move on to the joint tracks of the two artists we slowly move out of the psychadelic haze into a dark quandry of mired hopes and lost dreams as Chaos Condensed takes over with their dark ambient styles.  The first we're presented of their work is in the form of the the comic poem "America" by world-renowned poet Allen Ginsberg.  It's amazing how the addition of the dark, haunting ambience and sinister-sounding vocals can take this and turn it into a sinister-sounding anti-american diatribe.  As we move on the experimental nature picks up as well as the tempo as "Humus" includes not only the spoken word vocals layered one on another, but percussion kicks in moving the track along punctuated by somewhat melodic synths.  After another haunting piece in "Kipple" we're brought to the finale of the album titled "El Inevitabled Final Feliz" (the inevitable happy ending) which unlike the title might suggest, continues on with eerie spoken word and somewhat experimental sounds layered one on top of the other.

So there you have it, a definite experimental work that the listener really has to be in the mood for, because to take this lightly would be a mistake as well as to think that it can merely be background noise.  It demands attention and without it could likely drive you mad.

Rating: 3/5

My Dear Freaks - Review

As the seventh release on this label, we're presented with many talented artists on this compilation.  Some of these are established artists with several releases and others are just breaking out onto the musical scene.  However, this release really breaks out of the genres that this label usually focuses on.  They have partnered with the cultural association La Defuncion that focuses on the various aspects of the related dark electronic music culture through their webzine, weekly radio show and concert promotions.

These two entities come together and bring to light this excellent compilation of dark, sometimes beautiful, sometimes disturbing music.  The title of the album is aptly named My Dear Freaks with a sort of travelling circus atmosphere, presenting the unearthly sites and sounds of the freaks of nature.  After a very fitting introduction starting with typical circus music, it fades into a dark ambient soundscape with a circus MC announcing the hideous spectacles of the show.  Then we're presented with the body of this album which is 15 exclusive tracks recorded just for this compilation.

While all artists present very commendable music, I would just touch on some of the real highlights of this album, although each listener will no doubt have their own preferred tracks.  My personal preferences lean toward the Medieval and Ethereal music, and so Narsillion absolutely captivates me with the heavenly beauty of their fascinating soundscapes and heavenly vocals on their track "Mirror of Nature".  The harmonized male and female vocals are stunning as they become the masterpiece on a canvas of ethereal splendor.  Trobar de Morte presents another striking piece with "La Princesa DolÇa De ProvenÇa" which ventures into a mystical medieval world.  The nice neo-classical influences really bring out the beauty in this track coupled with the wonderful angelic vocals.

The listener can take their pick from these enchanting pieces, or they can venture into the dark chanting world of Morpheus in the depths of "Todesfuge".  Later the listener may find themselves in the hypnotic instrumental world of Trajedesaliva as they create a slow moving cadence in "Silencio".  Or perhaps preferences lie with the dark folk atmospheres of Silent Love of Death as the acoustic guitar and percussion strike out the hypnotic rhythm.  As the album progresses it seems we drift off slightly in to the ambient soundscapes with presentations from O Paradis with the slowly droning male vocals on "La Isla de Barro" or the repetative whispers that give way to circus music and tongue-in-cheak announcements of "El Palacio Rosa".  And finally we drift into the deep, dark depths of De Profvndis Clamavi with their Dark Ambient/Noise mixture "Fantasmas Del Pasado".  While there are more tracks in between, the finale is the "Outro" by members of Caustic Records wrapping up the album much like it began.

With this range of excellent music, all from Spanish artists, this is truly a collector's item not to be passed up.  Be sure to check this one out as a piece of Dark Electronic history.

Rating: 4/5

1. La Defuncion - Intro
2. Morpheus - Todesfuge
3. Narsillion - Mirror of Nature
4. Trobar de Morte - La Princesa DolÇa De ProvenÇa
5. Silent Love of Death - Growing Apart
6. Lugburz - Lothlorien, The Realm of the Light
7. Trajedesaliva - Silencio
8. Circe - Sirena
9. O Paradis - La Isla de Barro
10. Chaos Condensed - Claustrafilia
11. De Profvndis Clamavi - Fantasmas del Pasado
12. Rhune - ...Of Magic Dances and Fairies Rings
13. Cromleck - Skallfjord
14. Turnavel - The Dragons Breath
15. Caustic Records - Outro

La Defuncion: http://www.ladefuncion.com

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