Bleach For The Stars is: Benjamin Power
From: Harwich, U.K.
Genre: Avant-garde heavy electronics
Sounds like: Coil, Filthskin, Genocide Organ, In Slaughter Natives, Megaptera, Nurse With Wound, Swans
At one of my lower points, in 2010, I purchased a canister of sodium hypochlorite; headed home; carved myself up a little bit with a selection of extremely blunt medical-grade scalpels, box-cutters and linoleum knives; hammered a box of nails into my wrists and elbows; looped a needle & wire through one of my Achilles’ tendons then yanked the end a couple of times for good measure; crudely bit a couple of chunks of flesh out of my right forearm; lay back on my bed in opaque fatigue, and guzzled a medium-small – yet somewhat effective – measure of the original purchase.
Some time or other later, I was awake and comparatively alive again. It was at that point that I considered it might be time to compose some music; just to offload this sort of thing a little bit more effectively than usual. My universe needed a good polish. I had a couple of instruments lying about, and somewhat of an uniquely creative imagination when it came to visions of utter cold horror. Thus, Bleach For The Stars was dragged out into existence on bloody hooks.
It’s still going now. For the sake of some sweet fucking mercy, things are a little better in my head now. That said, I’ve got quite a lot to cover, all in all.
Admittedly, I tend to convert it into slightly-inaccessible abstract & semi-Surreal experimental poetry most of the time, then fill in the pauses for breath with dripping shanks of unadulterated Hell but still… it’s getting there.
Catharsis: Aristotle had a hard time defining it. I’d like to help him out over that.
1. Mangled Meat – Taste Test
It’s a shame Thom has now discontinued this project. I don’t like many bands in the modern electronic Industrial scene. I see them as weak musically, and beyond that, hackneyed and somehow fake; adolescent. MM was none of those things. A truly gritty, harrowing set of dismayed socio-political howls. The lyrics are brilliant in their wracked minimalism, and the music is hard, raw yet somehow very catchy.
2. Throbberstalk – Lest/We/Forget
My friend Lars’ solo project from the 90s. It’s not well known; I wish it was. Some truly beautiful neo-classical melodies and experimental ambient passages mixed in with a thoroughly macabre Dark Electro sensibility. Then there’s his voice… cold, harsh and grainy. I don’t think any other project encapsulates pain, solitude and sorrow with such melancholy precision, and, dare I say it, warmth.
3. :Wumpscut: – Blutkind
He went wrong after a while and started writing cliché teenage electro-pop with the most wearisome, quick-fix lyrics. His early stuff is really quite fantastic though. The sadness of war, and the expanses of human depravity, captured so expertly, and with delicate baroque grace. The stompy factor isn’t really matched by any other band I know. Another brilliant vocalist too – so harsh and alien. This double compilation is a good one to own if you’re not a fan of spending days hunting down obscure early days records.
4. Depressive Disorder – The Chronicle Of Fear
Monopol Records is gone now, but they had some wonderful bands. A truly imaginative project; upbeat, melodic and dance-able, with passionately written and delivered lyrics. If you like bombastic electro-gothic guitar angst, you could do worse than put this on.
5. Aslan Faction – Blunt Force Trauma
Another band dispersed into the ether (as far as I know). The closest I feel the UK has ever come to having a :Wumpscut: contender. Pretty and dark, but mainly dark. Powerful basslines, and pummeling dance beats keep this electronic horror fresh, even over a decade later.
6. Katscan – Feral Bios
One of the first proper British electropunk records I bought. They did it right, for once in this rare genre. Only released 2 full albums before moving on to other things… but really – nothing matches Katscan for raw, hard, energetic, DIY punk depravity. If you like Sheep on Drugs, Big Black or Cubanate you could well enjoy this. Other bands tried it at the time (and have tried it since) but no one really captured the sheer lunatic grottiness and nonsensical depravity of Britain in the early 2000s like this group did.
7. Coil – Scatology
Coil needs little explanation. I listen to this most weeks at some point, and I’ve owned it for over 14 years. Eerie esoteric industrial and noise collages. I’ve never been much of a fan of Throbbing Gristle, but this splinter group certain have the bizarre, psychosexual aesthetic and primal atmospheres off to a tee. It’s almost sublime in place. Elsewhere, it’s sheer Kaos.
8. yelworC – Collection 1988-94
Possibly the grimmest project on the entire list. They re-define the term ‘dark’ for me. Sinister, moody, minimalist dark electronics with a really wracked vocalist. The later albums are insanely complex in orchestration and sequencing, but I still prefer their early works best, for the brutal, flayed quality of the synths, and the fiddly percussive horror. This collection gets played loudly in the car a great deal. I don’t know if the local area’s entirely prepared.
9. KnifeLadder – The Spectacle
Another British band. I don’t know a great deal about these guys other than that their unruly, tribal-industrial noise-blasts enthrall me. It’s thick, sombre, oppressive stuff; like Test Dept. just far, far heavier. There’s some fantastic experimental musique Concrete also, and some works bordering on the electroacoustic end of the avant-garde scene. Would probably appeal to fans of Coil from earlier.
10. Asche – Distorted Disco
I used to go to a club night in North London called Slimelight every weekend as a teenager. This album got played a lot on one of the floors there. I have fond memories of the sheer aural assault of it. Ear splitting frequencies, relentless barrages of glitchy rhythmic electronics and abrasive power noise, and a remarkably unsettling vocal contribution. I think, very occasionally, I miss Slimelight. It’s definitely for Asche.
11. X-Marks The Pedwalk – Freaks
I’ve had this since I was about 13. I didn’t know what to make of it at that age, beyond finding it invariably cool. I even recorded my first cover around then, using their song ‘Zest’. That said, I’m still not entirely sure what his lyrics are about. I’ve read those 100s of times and it’s a hard struggle deciphering too much sense. The music’s held up though. Extremely sparse, primitive, stripped-back ‘oldschool’ EBM and Electro-Industrial. Like Klinik or Nitzer Ebb, just a million times seedier, and patently insane in places. I think later on they went all ethereal and trip-hoppy, if only to appeal to the boring, commerciality-led wimps of the horrendously shallow and fickle goth-industrial scene. As usual, I prefer them in the ‘undiluted hell-noise’ period though.
12. NON – God & Beast
A controversial album, and certainly a controversial founder. I like almost all of Boyd Rice’s material, but this is one his more accessible collections. I won’t delve too deeply into the occult philosophy and politics behind it, but can say that he’s come out with brilliant musical metaphors for his themes. Extremely bleak and windswept sound collages, sunk deep at times into ominous, pitch-black ambient and then pounding back in full on martial industrial carnage. It’s not easy listening (unless you’re that sort of person), but it remains, oddly, one of the more tranquil contributions on this list.
13. Infact – Go Away
I have next to nothing on Infact. I know the project was picked up by Rudy from :Wumpscut: for a while. Perhaps the sounds can speak for themselves. Punchy beats, harsh, misanthropic noise and experimental electronics, and a very peeved vocalist. It does well played loud. This style of unpolished, thoroughly Germanic Industrial has always appealed to me the most. It’s so hard to find though. I often wish I could sound more like this group with my own project, Vore Complex. The brute originality in each song is certainly inspirational.
14. F/A/V – Freude Am Verzweifeln
Germany’s answer to ‘just what the hell is electropunk?’ Thick, blistering walls of static noise, sizzling guitars and, yup, yet more white noise. Somewhere in between there’s a vocalist howling and rasping away. Complex industrial beats too. It remind me a little of Alien Sex Fiend, perhaps being murdered with needles in a wheelie bin somewhere. I’m too ignorant linguistically to know what he’s singing about most of the time, although I have translated a few lyrics sets. Another rather pissed-off individual, it seems. It works though.
15. Dive – Compiled
This is a really classic collection. Dive inspired pretty much everyone in the European Industrial scene at one point. It’s harsh, in-your-face and dissonant, and often quite hard on the ears (and indeed sound system) but he has a real knack for cracking out catchy songs nonetheless. One of the ‘pure’ Industrial bands on my list, if that makes any sense. No real comparison. It was this, or include Fad Gadget, and though the other fellow is also brilliant in his originality and quirky, sardonic horror, I felt the sheer stone-cold grittiness and fetishy groove of this project won it over for me.
16. Einsturzende Neubauten – Kollaps
Another one that needs little explaining. The later works are certainly more accessible in all their hugely experimental, pleasantly melodic glory, but it’s these early clanging & hollering nightmares that really catch me. Rarely has improvised instrumentation been coaxed into making such a horrendous rhythmic assault. They’re a major inspiration on the attitude I take with BFTS when it comes to just what can be considered an instrument. I think I’ve gone one up on Blixa and co. though, in my own way. As far as I know they have yet to record themselves wrenching their own back teeth out with a screwdriver whist smashing their adjacent keyboard frenetically with a blood-filled beer bottle. That said, they’re professional musicians. I’m just, well…
17. Worms Of The Earth – Tides Of Dream And Madness
I think they went on to record dark, ritual electronic atmospheres traipsed out in the key of Typhonian Thelema, but, for a little while, they played this. It’s criminal, but, as usual, I like this offering slightly more. Grotesque, lo-fi Lovecraftian dark electro. I thought it was a hidden :Wumpscut: release at first. Somehow, it’s darker though; more otherworldly. Screamed rhythmic vocal contributions, and thick, sinister electronic dismay. Simple beats, but the atmosphere is resoundingly well implemented. I listened to this almost non-stop for a good 2 years through my time at university in my early 20s, carrying the songs on to other places for years. It will always remind me of London though. The rest, I’m quite happy to (unsuccessfully) forget.
18. Rauppwar – Cities In War
There’s always a special place in my mind for Rauppwar. I chat to him online quite regularly. A really positive, upbeat individual, with – you get the idea – quite a busy, fraught life. He’s also one of, if not *the*, most prolific composers I know of. Hundreds of albums out, all of which deserve to do a lot better. We’ve collaborated on numerous mutual remixes. It was so hard to choose, given the canon, but this is probably my favourite release by him. Utterly unapologetic experimental power electronics with an orchestral precision. Crisp, clean, harsh and thoroughly heavy. It’s brutal stuff, but complicated and well thought out. I envy his production skills, and the real, true originality he shows in quite an overwrought genre. I keep promising him that I’ll find a way for us to set up a record label together. I think, to be just, that that’s well needed – especially for his talented pieces. It would also kick serious arse.
19. Theodor Bastard – Pustota
I jam along to this album quite often on my various jawharps. I almost feel cool in doing so, which is a rare accomplishment in my life. It’s a vast, multi-layered epic and has really captured that exotic Northern and Eastern blackness. Track after track of moody, ethereal misery complemented by traditional percussion and cinematic beats. Immersive, and mysterious, but with real wit, and passion. Their other albums are all brilliant also. A nice counterpoint to the hideous scream through Gehenna of my other choices.
20. Leechwoman – Three3Zero
I’ve seen them live. I’m quite glad of that fact. Only once though, something for which I am significantly less glad. They were hyped on the 2000s London scene as ‘the loudest band in the UK’. I don’t think that’s utterly true, although I can certainly see what encouraged reviewers to say that. A grueling, caustic sludge of bassists and drummers (I can’t remember how many of each, but it was multiple) pummeling out an absolutely atrocious din, complemented by extreme electronics and harsh noise, and perhaps the angriest vocalist I’d ever seen. It was like one of the road gangs from Mad Max had been spiked with whatever they gave the fucking chimps in ’28 Days Later’. The lyrics were both chilling and also quite, quite depraved. Oh yes, and they used utterly unnerving samples too – I’ve never heard Ray Winstone in ‘Scum’ implemented so well. It’s a shame they didn’t last so very long. At least this album serves as a good introduction. The remixed version of it is diabolically over the top.