Mark is a twenty-something guy with a love for virtually things all music, having been brought up with the likes of Deep Purple to Fleetwood Mac, and through the golden era of early 2000s rock. With this in mind, an obsession with finding new and wonderfully cathartic soundscapes has led to looking for what delightfully captivates, while always looking ahead for the next amazing artist.
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I remember the exact moment I realized I had completely fallen in love with moody, beautifully textured indie rock.
Spending a long, bored night tumbling down the endless rabbit hole of the internet, I happened upon (of all places to realize this small epiphany) a Tumblr profile. Completely by chance and with little intention to stay, I took no notice of the actual profile itself and decided it would be best to just move on, Until the webpage’s embedded audio file kicked in, and Daughter’s ‘Human’ started playing. Choppy waves of reversed soundbites briefly appeared, before the track’s raw, organic backbone of acoustic percussion and guitar leapt into the foreground. Within seconds my attention was peaked, but it was the dulcet, lonely delivery of Elena Tonra that completely immortalized the moment: “woken up like an animal, teeth ready for sinking.” As I sat rooted to the spot, the track flowed by in an instant, and I realized I was in complete adoration of the response the track had triggered within me: every little piece and texture was working its way to an emotive core that simply begged to be lost in, and once it had hold it was fully intent on keeping me there until the final lyric – “I think I’m dying here.”
Be it the poignant vocal delivery of Maya Stoner throughout ‘Soft’, or perhaps the absorbing reverb-laden lead guitar of ‘Lie’, if Floating Room’s False Baptism stands for anything, it is to be exactly as ‘Human’ is: to be completely lost in. Opening the album with ‘Dog’, False Baptism wastes absolutely no time in establishing a soundscape of gentle, dreamy indie rock instrumentation, and Maya Stoner’s wistfully romantic vocal delivery. Seemingly intoxicated with the constant vulnerable back and forth of “oh, I love you – but I can’t relate” and “I don’t like how weak I am when I’m with you”, ‘Dog’ sees Floating Room diving completely into their chosen emotive sound and lyricism with ease and conviction, and while it may not be anything significantly new in the realms of moody indie rock, it’s undeniably enchanting regardless.
Continuing False Baptism, ‘Seashell’s introductory clean guitar arpeggios and rippling, twangy bass quickly gives way to a more up-tempo, rock-infused direction, drenching the track in fuzzy guitar riffs and Sonia Weber offering an energetic performance through the percussive side of things. It’s bouncy and infectious at its core, but retains much of the poignancy explored throughout ‘Dog’ with Maya Stoner’s vocal delivery being a sorrowful and lonely centerpiece for the track – that is, until the midsection, where things abruptly shift into a lengthy, almost awkward repetition of the same simple guitar lick. Lasting for several long moments and exploring a distant uneasy dissonance that gradually builds as the section continues, it’s a moment that relishes in the impatience of the listener in not just quickly leaping back into the fray, but in doing so creates a lingering anticipation that proves hugely satisfying when ‘Seashell’ finally returns to its infectious core.
Now, while being “infectious” does certainly come into play within False Baptism, with ‘Acid Queen’ revisiting a similar energy to ‘Seashell’, and the grungy, reverb-soaked distorted riffs of ‘Lie’ sees Floating Room at some of their heaviest, the album truly thrives throughout the likes of ‘Soft’ or ‘Pure’. Completely at the mercy of a haunting ambiance that beautifully swells and builds, while peppered with some strange spoken word sampling, ‘Pure’ is little more than a precursory track that bridges the gap between ‘Lie’ and the fantastic album finale ‘Falling Room’, but its Brian Eno ‘Prophecy Theme’-esque textures which wash over the listener in such a wonderfully absorbing manner that simply cannot be ignored. It’s a stunning moment, simple and yet so effective because of it.
As mentioned before, False Baptism is here to be lost in. There’s an undeniably emotional center that drives much of the material found within the album, and while it’s plenty similar to some familiar names in the indie rock scene of the last decade, this does little to slow Floating Room’s momentum. Just take the gorgeous final few moments of ‘Falling Room’ as a perfect example: embracing a solemn tone and gentle rhythm for much of the track, the album ends with its finale slowly deconstructing piece by piece, a lengthy instrumental section that sways back and forth softly until only a final few distant chimes remain. At its core, False Baptism has heart: it’s bright and shining, yet vulnerable and exposes that vulnerability with little hesitation for the sake of pursuing something that wants to bring you closer and keep hold til the very end.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys electronic rock, industrial metal, or perhaps are simply an avid gaming fan, then the chances are you’ve heard Klayton’s music in the past.
From the widely successful Celldweller project, to the recently resurrected 90s industrial effort Circle of Dust, Klayton’s ever-growing foray into new styles musically has shown the Detroit artist/producer to be fantastically versatile. And, having built the FiXT label from scratch along the way, proven himself to be one of the hardest working individuals in the industry.
Indeed, alongside endlessly producing and releasing new material, working with other artists, and tending to the duties of FiXT, Klayton’s “all or nothing” approach to his craft has resulted in building a hugely dedicated following, not only for his own music, but for all of the FiXT family.
With such little time to spare, we’re very happy to have had the chance to chat with Klayton, who kindly spent some time discussing his music with us, and what may be next in line for his many projects. Read more below!
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Hi Klayton, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! To kick things off, for those perhaps not yet familiar with your extensive career, would you mind first introducing yourself to our readers and tell us a little about the many projects/monikers you’ve come to embrace musically?
Klayton: Thanks for having me! My 4 main musical outlets are Celldweller (electronic-rock) Scandroid (80s new wave, synthwave) Circle of Dust (industrial-metal) & FreqGen (analog, modular). I mostly do my film and game score work, production videos, sample packs and software instruments, etc. all under the banner of Celldweller.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Considering the amount of diversity between what eventually becomes a FreqGen or Scandroid track, compared to a Circle of Dust or Celldweller track, how do you decide on what you want to write for next with so much to choose from?
Klayton: Generally it’s whatever mood I happen to be in at the moment. Sometimes I want to jump into my synth room and work on old analog synthesizers and end up with a Scandroid track. Sometimes I want the energy at 11 so I write some riffs slathered in noise and programming and I end up with a Circle of Dust track.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Throughout the years you’ve been known for an incredibly meticulous approach to your writing, the most infamous probably being the long wait between the debut Celldweller record and Wish Upon a Blackstar. How would you say you remain so disciplined throughout your many endeavors musically?
Klayton: It’s simple – I love my job. It doesn’t require much poking and prodding for me to work on music. I generally forfeit social events, tv and live entertainment if it buys me more time in my studio. I don’t write simple music so my production takes a long time so it works out perfectly that I love spending my time “working”.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: The fourth Celldweller vocal album, Offworld, definitely saw a rather drastic change compared to the more well-known electronic rock/metal Celldweller sound – did you find that this particular style throughout the album resulted in needing to rethink your approach at all?
Klayton: Offworld was just the sound I was inspired to make. It wasn’t the big electronic – rock epic some were expecting, but nonetheless it still fits under the banner of Celldweller. I did keep specific boundaries on the album to make sure the sound was cohesive, but all in all I just did whatever I wanted, which has always been my approach to music making.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: On the flipside, your latest teasing for new Celldweller material seems to be indicating something of a return to the style explored throughout End of an Empire. Would you mind offering a sneak peek into how the next Celldweller chapter compares to previous releases?
Klayton: I’m not sure yet! As far as I’m concerned, I’m not “back” – I never left. I’m still here doing what I do. I can tell you that I’m in a much heavier mood and the first few tracks I already have in the works for the new Celldweller album will be pretty heavy. I imagine the album as a whole will follow suit.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Also on the subject of new music, from Dreams in Monochrome to the upcoming alt_Machines, FiXT seems rather busy these days with remix albums! How would you say you personally approach having each album remixed? Is there a certain frame of mind when considering how the remixed material may compare to the original release stylistically?
Klayton: What I love about remixes is hearing how another artist reinterprets what I originally created. It’s additionally cool to have artists I like and respect putting their spin on my original ideas. The added benefit is the cross promotion between our relative fanbases.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: While no stranger to covering songs throughout the years, your latest collaboration with Tom Salta, on the iconic ‘Ride of the Valkyries’, certainly stands as one of the most interesting! Would you mind talking a little about how this cover came to be?
Klayton: I had been discussing with my publishing partner about this idea of covering a classical track and modernizing it. I knew I wanted to bring someone who had strengths where I lacked and vice versa. The same time I was planning this, I was also in the middle of scoring Season 3 of Microsoft’s Killer Instinct video game with Tom. I love working with Tom and we’ve got our workflow down. It only took a split second for the obvious answer to my question to be sitting right in front of me… literally. I asked Tom if he would be down and the rest is history.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Having had the chance to work and collaborate with so many amazing artists throughout the years, are there any ‘wish list’ artists that you would especially love to collaborate with in the future?
Klayton: The Cure, Depeche Mode & Slayer. Bonus if I can get them all on the same track.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: You’ve mentioned in the past your love for all things 80s and cyberpunk, from Duran Duran and Tears For Fears, to Blade Runner and Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon. On the flipside, have there been any more recent films/shows that have particularly inspired you? Perhaps the Altered Carbon Netflix series?
Klayton: I really enjoyed the Altered Carbon Netflix show but the deviations from the book had me wishing it was more true to the books. A more intensified version of that would be the Expanse by James S. A. Corey. I LOVE the books and saw the characters and that world so clearly but SyFy’s TV adaptation totally didn’t do it for me. The characters fell flat (for me) and liberties in the storyline (even though the 2 writers of the book were involved) left me kinda checking out of the TV show. I’ve been more excited about season 3 of Better Call Saul.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: I’m sure you’re still getting asked this all the time, but any chance we may be seeing some live Celldweller shows later down the line? Maybe even a show or two under Scandroid or Circle of Dust?
Klayton: With an imminent move on the horizon and 8-week-old twins, life is so crazy. A tour
won’t be happening anytime soon, if ever.
[Editorial Note: A massive congratulations from all of us at AltWire for the recent welcoming of Phoenix and Jericho into the world!]
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: From your earliest beginnings musically, the establishment of Celldweller, to eventually starting FiXT and beyond, it’s been clear that yours is a story of success only through constant perseverance and determination. With your own personal journey in mind, what would you say to those out there struggling to get into the music industry?
Klayton: You’ve already said it perfectly in one word – perseverance! I knew that all I wanted to do was make music and was willing to suffer and starve for that chance. I did a fair amount of both but I was too stubborn or simply too dumb to quit. If you want to “make it” in music and don’t experience discomfort, financial stress and failure, then you’re doing it wrong. Stick through all of the hardships and it will pay off. You have to want it like your lungs want oxygen.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us here at AltWire! On a final note was there anything else you would like to add, either to fans of your music or to our readers?
Klayton: New Celldweller, Scandroid, Circle of Dust & FreqGen are already in the works for 2018. Hit Klayton.info for all of it in one place!
It’s funny, the incredible effect of hearing something that immediately captures your attention from the very first second. There’s a sudden rigidity that holds you in place, an almost primal fear of what caught you, but the deep inhalation of breath and slight tingling down your neck alerts you to your own reaction: you are entranced, eyes closed and allowing it all to wash wonderfully over you.
With ‘Murdering Crows’ soothing, richly layered textures, evoking similarities to the likes of PVRIS’ stunning All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, or perhaps a more electronically infused Dead Sara, Other Americans’ opening track cannot help but immediately capture your attention. With immersive synthesizers, bluesy guitar licks, and the hauntingly soulful vocal performance of Julie Berndsen, Other Americans introduce themselves with the depth and competence of a group intent on making a stellar first impression, and when continuing into the infectious electronics of ‘Make Me Afraid’, this is an impression that seems here to stay.
Indeed, ‘Make Me Afraid’ sees Berndsen seemingly completely in her element vocally, a pleasant surprise when comparing the style of the track to her former efforts: the “sexy lounge rock” of the now disbanded Latenight Callers, but the sharp transition in style seems to have only spurred on the Kansas City vocalist even more. With Berndsen vocally carrying resemblances to the moodier, emotional delivery of Carina Round’s ‘Slow Motion Addict’, while still retaining the more upbeat, soulful belts of the likes of Lights ‘Savage’, ‘Make Me Afraid’s addictive dance-rock sees a second impression offered that captivates just as much as the first.
In stepping forward into the second act of the six-track EP, this is where things are changed up a little: switching out the all-absorbing layers of synthesizers for a more stripped back, R&B flavored direction on ‘Couple Skate’, it’s a track that takes its time in just enjoying the moment, Berndsen again completely taking the reins, while the contrasting ‘Bhangra Vampires’ explores the twangy guitar licks and upbeat percussion of an indie-pop track. Both easily stand as enjoyable additions to Other Americans repertoire, with finale track ‘Curtis’ also pursuing plenty of ‘Couple Skate’s sound and style, but the sharp contrast in direction can be somewhat jarring when considering the gorgeous, moody aesthetics of the EP’s introductory ‘Murdering Crows’ and ‘Make Me Afraid’. This being said, it can’t be denied that Other Americans have certainly pursued these tracks with the exact same devotion seen on those that began Other Americans, and these at least offer stylistic variety.
Of course, the final track of the EP to touch upon is it’s penultimate, and what lays forth stands as Other Americans most beautiful offering: with stunning opening strings and a sombre piano backing, Berndsen’s croon throughout ‘Pils’ sees the vocalist at her most vulnerable. Gently swaying back and forth, ‘Pils’ displays a perfect example of the group’s ability to evoke raw emotion, exploring more organic instrumentation while Berndsen’s delivery drifts back and forth between being almost sultry, to what seems to be complete heartbroken apathy: “Thank you for your services – I close my eyes, and I’ll be on my way.”
As a whole, Other Americans is an impressive piece of work. At its core, it’s a collection of well-produced material from a talented group of individuals, and as the group’s debut effort, is commendable. While yes, the somewhat jarring shift in stylistic direction throughout the EP can sometimes be more distracting as opposed to drawing the listener in, it’s easily forgivable when considering the group’s crystal-clear determination to create something engaging, something that differs from the norm as much as possible while still being accessible. With ‘Murdering Crows’ and ‘Pils’ being the clear highlights of an EP that delights in holding your attention, Other Americans sets the stage for what eagerly comes next, and whatever that may be, there’s little doubt that it will be extremely interesting.
These days, originality is a hard thing to come by and if there ever was a more guilty genre to display this, modern pop and R&B sits at the very top of the list. Unfortunately, when taking into consideration the sheer oversaturation of the genre combined with the modern music talent show phenomenon that seems content in endlessly manufacturing “new” and “fresh” faces in an already overcrowded industry, being original often seems to be a rather low priority compared instead to how marketable an artist can be. This being said, there are of course those that seek to deviate from the tried-and-tested and aim for something genuinely interesting, and this is where Swedish producer/artist Becky and the Birds starts to come into focus.
Combining sweetly delicate vocal delivery, soaring and soulful backing melodies, and a utilization of gently mellow instrumentation that feels far more organic compared to the digitalized soundscapes of her contemporaries, Becky and the Birds’ focus throughout her debut self-titled EP seems to be very much on the personal. Be it the vulnerabilities explored lyrically throughout ‘Concept Store’, or the delightfully self-aware ‘Becky’ (an introductory skit that sees Becky and the Birds’ awkwardly describing a tame, “adult” lifestyle, even going so far as to mention her clothes being “all combustible”), there’s clearly very little regard for the overly-sexualized attitude of the modern generation to be found here.
Now sure, the upbeat and slightly seductive ‘Die While You Love Me’ could stand comfortably next to the likes of Aaliyah, while the EP’s critically acclaimed ‘Holding On’s sprawling, luscious aesthetics and uplifting chorus could easily make its way into a playlist full of Zara Larsson or Ellie Goulding, but it’s worth acknowledging simply how innocentBecky and the Birds seems by comparison. Take ‘Die While You Love Me (intro)’s sampled spoken admission of wanting “to die while you love me”, and in that knowing someone will “mourn me”, for example. For a generally more upbeat, romantically driven pop/R&B track, having such a sombre introduction brings things into a far more emotional context, focusing less on the thrill of a romantic crusade and more on the raw admission of simply not wanting to die alone – a concept that’s hardly alien to any of us.
If the delicate approach taken by Becky and the Birds wasn’t proven enough with ‘Die While You Love Me’, then you needn’t look much further than the beautiful ambiance of ‘Malaysia’, a short track devoid of any true beat or percussion and instead fuelled nearly entirely by a sweetly layered acapella, with a few little additions of bass and texture to enhance the vocalist’s gorgeous delivery. If not ‘Malaysia’, then take the stand-out ‘Concept Store’: easily the producer/artist’s most enthralling track of the EP and basking in wonderfully mellow basslines and minimalist hip-hop percussion. Lyrically, the track sees Becky and the Birds at her most exposed and benefits fantastically from it.
As a whole, Becky and the Birds offers a shining peek into the mind of someone with a lot of soul to offer, and a lot of emotion to give while approaching her chosen genre with a huge spark of inspiration and creativity. As a debut, it tells all that needs to be told to introduce Becky and the Birds as an artist, flourishing in stunning instrumentation that neither overwhelms nor distracts from the appropriately gentle, songbird qualities of the vocal delivery. Ultimately, the EP easily stands as an assertive, confident statement of exactly who the Swedish producer/artist aims to be musically, and proves itself a promising opening chapter for what comes next.
Known for a wonderfully eclectic approach musically, dabbling heavily in horror media, and having been an active member of the FiXT family for some time now, Blue Stahli and Sunset Neon are the brainchildren of Detroit electronic rock musician Bret Autrey.
Having garnered a widely dedicated following with Blue Stahli’s Blue Stahli, Antisleep series and The Devil, BretAutrey expanded his repertoire even further by creating Sunset Neon, a synth-infused love letter to the 80s, debuting with 2017’s Starlight.
While in the process of gathering remixes for the highly-anticipated The Devil Remixes, Bret kindly spent some time chatting with us here at AltWire about his music and what lies in store for the Detroit producer/musician. Read more below!
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Hi Bret! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! To kick things off, would you mind first introducing yourself to our readers and tell us a little about Blue Stahli and Sunset Neon?
Bret Autrey: Absolutely. I’m Bret who is both Blue Stahli and Sunset Neon. Each project, though wildly different, is just me. With Blue Stahli I do a multi-genre mix of electronic rock, sound designy cinematic weirdness, and full on electronic funkness (and yes, I know how cheesy I just made that sound. I embrace the hell out of being a living b-movie). Sunset Neon is more pop-oriented and is a mix of lo-fi chill 80s VHS beachy vibes, neon-tinted nu disco, and tongue in cheek bombastic power anthems.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews the many tales of how you first came into learning and playing music, from the neighbouring cruise ship pianist to learning B.B King guitar licks, to eventually playing for a burlesque troupe (and your infamous hatred for the early VOXiS project). After so much exposure to such wonderfully diverse influences, would you say this has been a key factor at all in the eclectic nature of much of the Blue Stahli material?
Bret Autrey: 100%. And my hate of the VOXiS stuff is that age old artist thing of thinking everything you’ve made that’s more than two weeks old sucks sour frog ass. MOST of that is true, though some is exaggerated a smidge for comedic effect (like, maybe it doesn’t suck an entire sour frog ass…just 75% of one). Hell, I pulled up the old DarkeworldVOXiS stuff at one point and remembered how much I loved putting it all together in such a different way than I had been doing for previous Blue Stahli stuff. I missed that approach of just doing weirdo tracker stuff and dove headfirst into returning to my original musical creation methods! So even past stumbles (stumbles off a cliff, even) can inspire new exciting directions.
And also 100% to the fact that exposure to such wildly different experiences is a key factor to the multi-genre nature of Blue Stahli (and now Sunset Neon). I credit my mom for fostering that, because when I was a kid, she would introduce me to as much different cultural, musical, and artistic experiences as she was able to.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Also on the subject of influences, you’ve been delightfully notorious at times for your love and inclusion of horror themes in your works, a particular favorite of mine being seeing you playing massive distortion-heavy guitar riffs while you stood in a paddling pool of blood in the ‘ULTRAnumb’ video. Would you mind talking about some of the horror media that plays its part in your creativity and style?
Bret Autrey: Horror, sci-fi, and comedy have always had a hold on me because I value escapism as a way to process bigger, uglier events. My draw to horror stuff is rooted in the fact that elements of those movies and media are freakishly cathartic when times are tough. Something about matching the unpredictable chaos of what life can throw at you, with things that are artistically dark, or even just over the top fun in an almost-parody of those feelings, winds up being extremely therapeutic. Horror, like any other main genre of fiction, has so many different approaches and little sub-categories of how people interpret things. I love that even with that, there’s something for everyone, and a lot of it can be varying approaches to dealing with life, all the way from being filtered through a comedic lens to surrealist or fully bleak. I’d say it’s definitely been some of the most healing stuff for me lately.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: With so much experimentation and so many instruments that play their part in the Blue Stahli/Sunset Neon repertoire, is there a specific point in the writing process (or particular instrument) that you especially love working on?
Bret Autrey: I guess my favorite point is when I’m finding things to warp around and turn into synth-like things or alternate sonic material. There’s so many different textures and sources for sound and I’m mesmerized by what artists can do with just a cheap sampler and abusing fx. For me, it’s been simplifying the approach to make a more complex whole. Reintroducing the humanity and chaos, while still having moments of precision. Making basic synthy things out of single-cycle waveforms or chopped up audio, filling a track with noisy chaos, and just generally not caring if it’s impressive to other producers or not. All I care about is making things that resonate with people emotionally while I’m still here.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: On the flipside, you explained in a recent ‘Ask Blue Stahli’ the dreaded “Car Test”; was there a particular song that you found exceptionally frustrating during the writing process, resulting in numerous dreaded car tests?
Bret Autrey: The car test is absolutely when it’s key to not be driving in a region filled with the aforementioned cliffs that are easy to careen off of. Weirdly, the song that needed the most car test action was ‘Starlight’ from the debut Sunset Neon album of the same name. That track is one that’s lo-fi on purpose, using sounds recorded on a cassette, dirtying things up, the whole nine. Thing is, there was definitely a specific feel of that lo-fi that I wanted to hit that I kept missing by a millimeter. That track wound up having 10 different mix versions before I finally nailed what I was after.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Having had the chance to contribute many remixes for Celldweller and beyond, from the very first Remorse Code ‘Own Little World’ remix, is there one in particular that you hold especially dear for having worked on, and if so – why?
Bret Autrey: ‘Bed of Nails’, because that song had long been a part of my meditative long night drives, and I was trying to remake the feel of how those nights felt. And ‘Humanarchy’ because I put that remix together in a time of personal chaos and it still somehow turned out exactly as I aimed. Still like that one at the moment!
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Also on the subject of remixes, the recent announcement for The Devil Remixes is, indeed, the remix album we have been waiting for! Would you mind telling us a little about the journey that has led to this new spin on the album since the initial 2015 release?
Bret Autrey: It really began with just getting a few remixers to tackle some of these tracks. Then as it went on, the label said “You know…if we just kept going a *little* bit farther, this could turn into an actual full remix album for The Devil.” I had always wanted to have that happen, and the timing worked out amazingly, as I was really not able to record or even be in the studio as much during the time it was coming together. So it fulfilled a dual role of getting some awesome reinterpretations by some really talented people, and help out with the fact that I was only able to be in the studio in sporadic chunks, finishing remixes for other people and getting the next Blue Stahli track done.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: In the wake of The Devil Remixes announcement, and teasing fans with snippets of guitar riffs etc. for new Blue Stahli material, you had previously mentioned aiming for “heavy music” and “melodies that get stuck in your head” as a key sound for The Devil. Would you mind offering a sneak peek into the mindset that has perhaps played into what comes next for Blue Stahli?
Bret Autrey: When I began even thinking about the new Blue Stahli record, there were already enough demos that the entire thing was laid out musically. So those demos were sitting there waiting to be addressed and turned into whatever new mutation. Then I took a few months and made the Sunset Neon album. Immediately after finishing the last Sunset Neon song, I got word that my mother had been taken to the ER and life completely changed from that point on. Rushed to grab the next standby flight, and she began her fight against an aggressive terminal cancer that currently has no cure. Just fighting for a little extra time, and “a little” is what we got. I was taking care of her a lot of the time, and interfacing with the multitude of docs and potential treatments/providers/solutions in any other waking minute. I’d be able to hit a remix or record bits of a track here or there (which had to be done, since it’s the only way I make a living and keep a roof up), but most of my time was in caregiver mode trying to give her the best possible remaining time against an impossible foe. A lot of traveling back and forth across the desert from the state I live in to the state she resided in. Long drives with empty stretches and mountainous expanse gave a lot of time to have vocal lines and lyric shards bounce around in my head. Same for the times that things were so chaotic with zero sleep, that oftentimes, bits of song ideas would float in during the absolute worst of it. Lyrics and vocal melodies for the first new song from this upcoming record were definitely made in the thick of it. Just by the nature of how some of these ideas hit, pushed them forward past the already-made demos and now they’re all swirling around together, so who knows what kind of weird blend this is all going to make. During the long bout of her final fight with this, I’d get back from the hospital late at night and write via the beat up old piano at her house, and an acoustic guitar that a friend loaned me, so I’m sure all of that will wind up represented. Right now, there’s a mix of tracks that are big heavy guitar riffs and glitchy chaotic noisescapes, and strange tracks whose heaviness isn’t in the walls of distortion, but rather the atmosphere and subtle dread. All of this with melodic vocals because there’s a million bands who just scream, and I’m more fascinated by the juxtaposition of melody and noise. This past road through the end of my mother’s life has had some additional tragedies along the way with not a lot of time to process any of it, so I think being able to make some noise with guitars and drum machines is long overdue.
[Editorial Note: We here at AltWire would like to just take a moment to thank Bret for such a beautifully personal response, and offer him our deepest condolences.]
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Your collaboration with Klayton throughout the Celldweller live shows was definitely an easy highlight for a lot of long-time fans, have you thought at all about taking Blue Stahli/Sunset Neon on the road? Perhaps trading places and Klayton playing additional instrumental work while you tackle vocals?
Bret Autrey: That was definitely a highlight for me as well! Playing the songs and putting the work into the production of the show was one thing, but the most amazing is meeting everyone after the show and getting to thank people personally for supporting each of us. It truly means a lot and its heaven for me to be able to perform for the people who dig it. I do have some ideas about taking Blue Stahli live (still working out what Sunset Neon would look like), and would love to. The issue is time to work out and fund the actual show. Especially since I’m now getting back into the studio to work on new Blue Stahli material (and there will be some new Sunset Neon tracks coming along as well). It’s basically that age-old answer of “someday” and I’m looking forward to when that eventually happens in whatever capacity.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: The FiXT family seems to have an amazing time working together – just for fun, are there any particularly fond or entertaining memories that come to mind, having been part of the family for some time now?
Bret Autrey: Truth. The people who work at FiXT are all fantastic and share a common love of giving a shot to music that doesn’t quite fit anywhere else. It’s been a while since we’ve been in the same place, but I would have to say that a simple thing like gathering around for a foul-mouthed BBQ was always a fave. Just breaking out of the day to day for good food and rough jokes is awesome.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us here at AltWire! On a final note was there anything else you would like to add, either to fans of your music or to our readers?
Bret Autrey: And thanks very much for the opportunity! I guess I mainly want to just thank people for being supportive and for being patient while I get some other stuff taken care of and am starting to get back into the studio on the regular. I can’t wait to make more Blue Stahli for your long night drives and more Sunset Neon for your hazy VHS action.
Check out Blue Stahli’s ‘ULTRAnumb’ video here!:
Missed Bret’s newest project? Check out the official lyric video for Sunset Neon’s ‘Got You’ here!:
Voicians is the multi-faceted electronic rock project of German artist/producer Dan Voicians.
Known for producing enthralling electronic rock tracks throughout albums A Matter of Time or the more recent Wasteland and collaborating with the likes of Celldweller, Zardonic and The Quemists, Dan Voicians has been a prominent member of the FiXT team throughout the years, recently contributing a remix to the brand-new Circle of Dust remix album, alt_Machines.
While busy at work preparing for upcoming DJ shows and new material, Dan was kind enough to chat with us here at AltWire about his music and what may be coming next. Read more below!
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Hi Dan, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! To kick things off, for those not yet familiar with your music, would you mind first introducing yourself to our readers and tell us a little about Voicians?
Dan Voicians: I’m Dan and I live in the south of Germany. My music project is everything from Drum & Bass to Electronic-Rock and Soundtrack music. I produce and also sing on tracks of other producers and this year I started playing live DJ sets!
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: You’ve been part of the FiXT family for some time now, would you mind talking about how it all started for Voicians, to eventually joining FiXT?
Dan Voicians: Yes, crazy to know that I’ve been in contact with FiXT for over 10 years now. They’ve basically started my career. Basically, I heard a Celldweller song in a frag movie and was totally amazed by the power of the song (‘The Last Firstborn’). I checked out more tunes and stumbled upon a FiXT remix contest for ‘Frozen’. That’s where I first remixed a song and played with audio files. Before that contest I used the most lame midi sounds I could find and made some weird experimental stuff.
So my first remix was not even close to being any good but it was a great experience so I was really hooked. I got to know many cool people through following FiXT contests of which some I got 3rd and 1st. The contests were great to spread my name a little bit and I start building a fanbase.
From then on I just kept producing and going further into the Electronic-Rock direction. I’ve always been in contact with FiXT manager James Rhodes who is nowadays also my manager. I kept sending him demos that may have caused serious ear problems but he never stopped checking them out. Finally at some point they wanted to sign me and here we are.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: When writing or remixing material, would you mind describing the process you go through, from the initial idea to what eventually becomes a Voicians track?
Dan Voicians: There is always a basic riff at the beginning for my songs. When I remix a track I usually take the vocals or the main riff and write new chords that fit. From there I just take it further and build the song. My production process is always very random. I write some stuff at the beginning, then at the end, change the chorus, program some drums, etc. It really depends.
Also, I usually record some very rough vocal ideas with random words and humming just to know what the final vocal could sound like. Once I’m happy I write lyrics fitting to the demo vocals and record / polish the vocals properly. It’s definitely trial and error 24/7 here in the Voicians studio.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Voicians is a project that often draws from multiple genres and fuses them together. Are there any specific influences musically that come to mind in adding to the direction of Voicians?
Dan Voicians: Definitely! I love so many kinds of music. Pendulum and Celldweller are probably the two that have influenced my music the most, but also movie soundtracks and pop music are a big influence for me. When it comes to genres I really don’t pick only a few. I love all kinds of music.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Aside from musical influences, are there any other examples of media that perhaps play their part in shaping your style?
Dan Voicians: Movies! Every time I watch a movie I get inspired instantly. I watched ‘Arrival’ the other day and as soon as the movie has ended I opened Cubase and started writing some epic orchestral pieces.
There are so many things about movies that can inspire a musician. Not only the soundtrack but also the general message, the plot, the visuals, etc.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: I had a great time hearing your remix of Circle of Dust’s ‘Neurachem’ on the upcoming alt_Machines remix album, how would you say you felt while approaching this particular track?
Dan Voicians: Glad you like the remix! It was a great honor to remix this iconic project of Klayton. I’ve been listening to Circle of Dust since I found out about Celldweller.
The song was definitely a challenge because it is already so sick and powerful. I just wanted to transform it into a Drum & Bass banger and had so much fun producing the remix.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Also on the subject of new material, compared to previous Voicians releases, how did you feel throughout the creation of your newest release, Wasteland? Did you find you approached the writing process any differently to before?
Dan Voicians: Not really. Usually when I work on an album I just collect demos I like and decide which I want to have on there. I then think about a general concept. For Wasteland I wanted to have a dark vibe.
‘Wasteland Coffee Shop’ for example was inspired by the game “Fallout”. I’ve watched some gameplay videos of the game and was really inspired by the general feel the game gives you. I wanted to make a song about a coffee shop within the Wasteland where you get some weird shakes. Don’t take the song too serious, it’s rather a joke to twist it up a little. I liked the contrast of the dark wasteland concept and a happy weird tune.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Congratulations on your first ever DJ set at Liquicity Antwerp! Would you mind talking a little about the set and perhaps where Voicians may be playing next?
Dan Voicians: Thank you! I had a blast. It was really great to DJ. It was also so great to see so many people checking out my set. One dude even took the plane to see me live. Cheers Bob!
My next gig will be on July 20th at Liquicity Festival near Amsterdam. I already have some other gigs lined up, but they have not been announced yet.
I definitely want to hit the road more since I really love DJing. It’s also great to see the world and connect with fans. So if anyone ever sees me at a gig, please say hello! I love meeting the people who listen to my music!
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: So far 2018 has been an exciting new chapter for Voicians, can I ask what may be coming next for the project?
Dan Voicians: I have much lined up and we will make some major announcements regarding new music soon.
I can already tell you that there will be new Electronic-Rock and Drum & Bass music, guest vocals and remixes this year. Also, I have a side project going with my good friend Muzzy.
So stay tuned, it will be a ride!
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us here at AltWire! On a final note was there anything else you would like to add, either to fans of your music or to our readers?
Dan Voicians: Thanks Mark! I just want to thank everyone for supporting my music and if they don’t want to miss any of the new projects, just follow me on Twitter, Spotify or Instagram!
Check out Voicians’ collaboration with Zardonic on ‘Bring Back The Glory’ here!:
Missed Voicians’ recent remix of Circle of Dust’s ‘Neurachem’? Listen here!:
As a creator, your earliest ventures can either be something to be proud of or what eventually cause you to shudder in disapproval in the years to come. It’s natural to feel that your latest achievement should be (at least up to this point) the best representation of your ability in virtually anything – creative or not. You’ve developed, you’ve grown and changed, and you always aim for what comes next to be for the better. After all, your past is to be learned from, not to be dwelled too heavily upon.
In fleshing out the group by recruiting two new members and moving on from the initial folk-rock roots explored as a trio, if it wasn’t already obvious from the group’s debut single as a five-piece, ‘Dirty Footprints’, Falling From Trees have changed. Sure, the soulful vocal delivery of Rebecca White remains as prominent as before, harmonized wonderfully with siblings Adam and Leo to add emotional weight to the likes of ‘Rainfall’ or ‘On and On’, but ‘Dirty Footprints’ is a different breed. While former EP’s On and On and Words generally revolved around exquisite and mellow acoustic performances, ‘Dirty Footprints’ uproots this instantly with raw energy: full of soul and renewed vigor, and hugely helped by the inclusion of newest members Joey Scampion and Sam Ball (on bass and drums, respectively), ‘Dirty Footprints’ twangy guitar riffs and ‘The Chain’-esque bass-heavy breakdown quickly displays the attitude of a band moving on to fresh and new horizons and being very excited to do so.
‘Simple Rules’ continues this attitude. Opening the five-piece’s ‘debut’ EP Sleepless Nights with blues-infected, twangy guitar riffs of Leo and Adam White, the track takes its time in reintroducing the band, stretching out and exploring the newly included energetic percussion and smooth underlying bass riffs, with a slight hint of cocky southern rock in the air which is delightfully attention-grabbing in doing so. If it wasn’t ‘Dirty Footprints’ that re-established Falling From Trees, ‘Simple Rules’ certainly does a damn good job of it while opening Sleepless Nights.
Continuing through the album, ‘The Last Day’s fluttery opening guitar-work and confident drumline immediately feels reminiscent of the likes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s ’20 Hours’, but a fun stop-start chorus and catchy guitar solo launches the track into more upbeat territory, while ‘Shaking Lines’ fully embraces an infectious blues rock attitude, and alongside one of the catchiest choruses on the EP, makes for an extremely fun ride. And yet, while these both offer plenty as equally enjoyable material, where Sleepless Nights truly offers its best is found on ‘Lying Awake’: at just shy of six minutes, the track takes its time in savoring the moody aesthetics of rich bass guitar-work and gently delivered guitar arpeggios that establish a far more solemn mood compared to the energy of ‘Simple Rules’ or ‘Dirty Footprints’, with the chorus being a furious, distortion-heavy outburst of “how do you know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been?” It’s easily the most introspective track lyrically, and while much of Sleepless Nights wants to make you jump, like ‘Rainfall’ of Words, ‘Lying Awake’ is here to make you sway.
As a whole, while there are certainly hints of earlier Falling From Trees material that remains stylistically relevant to the group, Sleepless Nights is easily the ‘debut’ that establishes the band’s true intentions musically. Overall, the tracks are far more fleshed out, aesthetically having far more to offer, exploring instrumental textures and ideas that were otherwise not available on previous EP’s, and the energy of the band’s dynamic is to be applauded. While there’s likely to be further progress made on the road ahead, there has undoubtedly been significant growth here, with the EP acting as an excellent representation of the band’s ability. As an early offering of what will hopefully become a long series of ventures musically, this is a body of work to be proud of in the years to come and as a reintroduction to Falling From Trees, Sleepless Nights is exactly what it needed to be.
Following a restructuring of the project and having recently been signed to independent Detroit label FiXT, electronic rock artist The Anix has been hard at work.
Having released his debut FiXT track ‘Fight The Future’ last April, front man Brandon Smith has since contributed to the likes of the upcoming Circle of Dust remix album alt Machines, announced sixth studio effort Shadow Movement, and recently released his second single – the hard-hitting electronic rock anthem ‘This Machine’ (see link below!).
While busy following up fifth studio effort, Ephemeral, Brandon Smith was kind enough to take some time out to chat with us here at AltWire, here’s what he had to say:
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Hi Brandon, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! To kick things off, for those not yet familiar with your music, would you mind first introducing yourself to our readers and tell us a little about The Anix?
Brandon Smith: Hi everyone! The Anix is a big art project I have been working on since around 2001. When I first started, I was doing this Electronic/Rock hybrid thing that was pretty confusing to a lot of people because it was still fairly uncommon at the time. Most of the inspiration behind starting the project was taken from other bands who were fusing those genres such as Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails etc. I grew up in the 90’s so I always had a big grunge influence which comes through in the rock sections of my songs and the electronic portions were inspired largely by The Prodigy and DepecheMode. Nearly 20 years later I am still doing the same type of songs which I am quite proud of because I feel like I have survived the storm of people not getting it and stayed true to the style of music I like the most.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Having been first established in 2001, where would you say it all began for The Anix?
Brandon Smith: It began in garage bands in the 90’s, then once I discovered multi-track recording, I kind of went nuts and started recording hundreds of demos a year in my room. I always needed a creative outlet as I am big into graphic design, art, apparel design, and video/photography so I used The Anix as the main centerpiece for realizing my creative visions. I always had extremely specific ideas for the sounds we used, the visual aesthetic, the colors, the videos and overall world I wanted to create with this brand. Everything was and still is focused on futurism, but not the over the top space ship and lasers type of future, but more of a realistic vision as to what it would be like if I was a musician 100 years from now. How would we dress, what would we sound like, what would the videos look like etc.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: When writing, would you mind describing the process you go through from the initial idea to what eventually becomes a track for The Anix?
Brandon Smith: It always starts with a synthesizer. I prefer sketching out ideas using a synth so I can play a bass part and lead part simultaneously. Once I hear something worth investing in, I will then lay down the rough synth idea, then switch over to the drums to start getting the backbone together. The song will then only progress to the next stage if I hear a chorus vocal for the song and if I don’t, the song gets shelved. If I do, however, I will finalize the music then do the vocals last. I am not a natural vocalist – it’s actually my least favorite of all of the “instruments” I play so I really need to work at it to be good!
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Are there any specific influences musically that you would say possibly played their part in shaping some of The Anix’s music?
Brandon Smith: Tons! The core hidden behind just about every song I do is Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails. There are other influences that come into play for certain elements, for example I might find inspiration for guitars from The Cure, or inspiration for a beat from Moderat or Jon Hopkins, bass from The Prodigy, or vocals from Failure. Really all over the place! My day to day listening mainly consists of techno or darker melodic house from guys like Maceo Plex and Several Definitions as I find this music great for driving and thinking.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: After touring extensively for so long, what would you say first sparked the initial desire to reinvent the project and spend more time in studio?
Brandon Smith: I think I am just a control freak with this project, that’s what it comes down to. This project is a reflection of who I am down to my deepest core, so it’s very important that every single thing is exactly how I envision it. When we toured, you lose so much control over the sound since we never had budgets to have our own sound engineer travel with us. We would play these shows and be at the complete mercy of some house sound engineer who has never heard us and has no understanding of the genre or our sound. It was a complete nightmare just about every time we played – soul destroying! We would spend so much time in the studio rehearsing and getting things perfect, then go play a show and it ends up being a disaster. Nowadays I would rather focus my energy on things I can control such as making as much music as possible. For live shows I still want to do this, but in a new way, like live-streaming from a studio or doing a 360 VR experience. Our fans are spread out around the world so rather than playing a show for 300 fans in one city, I’d rather do an online event for 5000.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Joining the FiXT family must be an exciting new step in The Anix’s journey. How would you say being a part of FiXT has so far contributed to your approach in creating music?
Brandon Smith: FiXT is an incredible step in the right direction for me. We are on the same wavelength on so many things so it makes doing business effortless. FiXT has created an ecosystem of fans and artists in the same or similar genres – all centered around this electronic hybrid which makes it a natural fit. They are also big into the gaming scene, comics, anime etc. so it’s just a pure win all around. I am used to being an outsider so it’s really cool to have a team of people behind you that understand my weirdness and crazy ideas!
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: I really enjoyed your take on Circle of Dust’s ‘Hive Mind’ for the upcoming alt_Machines album. Would you mind talking a little about the journey you went through while remixing the track and possibly what inspired you to take it in the direction you did?
Brandon Smith: Thank you! The original was pretty heavy so I did not see the point in making another heavy version. I took inspiration from a group I love called Moderat from Berlin. I wanted to do something that would reach a new audience for them and not just cater to the current listeners. I thought it was interesting to take a heavy song and vocal and try to transform it through different instrument and sound choices. I also used a different time signature than the swing 3/4 it was in the original which definitely makes it sound different.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Both ‘Fight The Future’ and the upcoming ‘This Machine’ have both been really great new examples of The Anix’s atmospheric electronic rock style. How would you say your newest material differs from the likes of former releases, such as Ephemeral?
Brandon Smith: Ephemeral was a much needed departure from the Sleepwalker album as I wanted to show everyone that I can do other styles of music while still staying within the “Electronic” genre. Some of it was very well received but I did get a fair amount of hate mail for going so hard on the electronic side. Still, I would not change a single thing on that album. The new album set to release later this year will be a full melting pot of all of the sub-genres I admire. Some of the songs will be heavier with our classic formula of electronic verse, and anthemic rock chorus, and some will be closer in line with the song ‘Mask’ from the Ephemeral album. Now that rock seems to be fading away in favor of this electro pop stuff, I wanted to bring it back and pull influence from where I started which was in the 90’s grunge world. Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Bush, Failure, Sonic Youth, Sound Garden etc.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Your newest material with FiXT has so far been an exciting new chapter for The Anix, can I ask what may be coming next for the project?
Brandon Smith: So far I have 6 finished songs for the album, all with their own personality and style. My goal is to not fall into a stereotype but for each song to have its own unique thing going on. I am really trying to focus on excellent lyrics and extremely high quality productions this time around vs. the raw and rough style of Sleepwalker. The songs are designed to maximize the range of a speaker, so I am mixing the songs more like how a producer would mix a techno track. I want the full frequency spectrum to be tapped into so the songs really hit hard.
AltWire [Mark Stoneman]: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us here at AltWire! On a final note, was there anything else you would like to add, either to fans of The Anix or to our readers?
Brandon Smith: Thank you, Mark. Just wanted to say that I am extremely grateful to have you guys at AltWire take an interest in small artists such as myself. I can’t thank you enough for that! I am also very interested in what fans have to say about the new songs as they release. I am constantly posting new stuff and clips of demos on Instagram @theanix so please follow and hit me up with any ideas you have – I will always listen!
Check out The Anix’s latest single, ‘This Machine’!:
While Klayton’s most playful persona was recently revisited with Scandroid’s latest remix album, Dreams in Monochrome, Circle of Dust easily represents the most aggressive side of things for the Detroit producer/musician. Following almost two decades of inactivity, seeing the project resurrected in 2016 with newly remastered versions of the original material was certainly surprising. With label issues being cited as a primary reason for the project’s abandonment and Klayton himself having moved on to release material under the far more successful Celldweller moniker, Circle of Dust seemed well and truly finished. But seeing Circle of Dust revisited was something fans never seemed to truly let go of throughout the years; there was something about the slamming industrial beats of ‘Demoralize’ or the pulsing electronics and moody guitar riffage of ‘Chasm’ that fans kept hold of, and seeing the project finally returning to the point of even a brand new album coming to light, with Machines of Our Disgrace, proved that Klayton himself still had plenty to offer under a musical identity long since assumed discontinued.
With Machines of Our Disgrace’s re-energized offering of blistering, aggressive instrumentation, absolutely stellar production quality, and some of the heaviest vocals of Klayton’s career, it honestly comes as no surprise that the project’s newest effort is a remix album; considering the producer’s general track record in welcoming other artists to ‘Take & Break’ his material, alt_Machines is primarily rooted in remixed versions of Machines of Our Disgrace tracks, and while far heavier compared to the likes of Scandroid, it’s easily just as fun to see these tracks completely ripped apart and pieced together again. If there were any doubts of this perhaps not being the case, Bret Autrey’s ‘Humanarchy’ remix opens things with exactly the kind of infectious energy to be expected of a Blue Stahli track; in what essentially acts as a massive sledgehammer through the mix, Blue Stahli’s groovy bounce of popping electronics and reworked guitar riffs add a hugely entertaining vibe to one of the most aggressive tracks found on Machines of Our Disgrace. If you weren’t paying attention before, you are now.
Continuing Blue Stahli’s opening momentum, FiXT veteran Voicians swaps out the far heavier, glitchy instrumentation of ‘Neurachem’ for a far more synthesizer driven offering, coming that much closer to the likes of Scandroid, while Sebastian Komor’s ‘Contagion’ remix stays relatively true to the feel of the original, albeit shifting away from the thrashy metal guitar leads to instead focus on huge, abrasive bass electronics that drive the track forward. Slowing things down a little, newest addition to the FiXT roster, The Anix, follows things up by adding a far moodier spin to ‘Hive Mind’, alternating between gorgeous electronic atmospherics throughout the verses and implementing The Anix’s established electronic rock style throughout the choruses;it stands as one of the most refreshing remixes of the album, staying faithful to the original while also standing comfortably apart from it. As previously observed throughout Dreams in Monochrome, it would appear that once again Klayton’s compiled team of artists are completely on board in giving the alt_Machines remixes the love and attention they deserve, and as soon as the huge guitar riffage and blasting percussion of The Plague’s ‘Embracing Entropy’ remix enters the fray, it’s incredibly difficult not to find yourself having a hell of a good time.
And indeed, having a good time certainly seems to be the focus for much of alt_Machines, with drum and bass orientated ‘Outside In’ remix seeing Eastern European group Raizer upping the tempo of its far more mellow original counterpart, to include much of the quartet’s established style seen throughout the group’s debut studio effort, We Are The Future, while 3FORCE’s ‘alt_Human’ remix keeps in line with much of the original, albeit giving the track a boost into far heavier, metal territory. At 15 tracks, the album once again displays a similar attitude to Dreams in Monochrome, having plenty of material to enjoy and as a result catering to virtually all styles while staying faithful to the spirit of Machines of Our Disgrace; DJ Hidden and Zeromancer both enjoy exploring the more electronic side of things with reimagining’s of ‘Machines of Our Disgrace’ and ‘Neophyte’, while Zardonic’s signature combination of aggressive drum and bass electronics with underlying guitar riffage leads to an extremely chaotic, intense incarnation of Circle of Dust’s newest single, ‘Dust to Dust’. Rounding things off before the album’s final act, Klayton himself steps in to offer his own original Circle of Dust mash-up track, ‘Drum Machine of Our Disgrace’, an eclectic endeavor that leaps happily back and forth between the likes of ‘Machines of Our Disgrace’, ‘Contagion’ and ‘Humanarchy’.
Now, while it can be considered the final ‘bonus’ section of the album, with the four remix tracks already having been seen throughout previous re-releases of Circle of Dust material, it’s incredibly difficult not to recognize the efforts of the album’s most prolific contributor: Blue Stahli. Featuring on remixes of Circle of Dust tracks ‘Nothing Sacred’ and ‘Bed of Nails’, Brainchild’s ‘Deviate’, and Disengage’s ‘Yurasuka’, Bret Autrey is clearly completely at home here and adoring each and every moment of it. The remixes of ‘Deviate’, ‘Nothing Sacred’ and ‘Yurasuka’ all bounce with a similar groove to the introductory ‘Humanarchy’ remix, and yet still retain enough personality to keep things from being repetitive, while the ‘Bed of Nails’ remix sees the electronic rock artist taking a far more reserved approach, embellishing the haunting, dreamlike vocals with tinges of Eastern instrumentation and wonderfully absorbing atmospherics. As the final act for the album, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to also proclaim it as the strongest – it’s a fantastic finishing chapter for alt_Machines and displays Blue Stahli’s versatility perfectly.
Ultimately, alt_Machines easily stands as an immensely enjoyable follow up to both Machines of Our Disgrace and Dreams in Monochrome; completely deconstructing the original material and including their own style rebuilding it, while retaining much of the heavier direction of the newly resurrected Circle of Dust, there’s enough variety to be found throughout alt_Machines that, similar to Dreams in Monochrome, ensures there’s going to be something here for everybody. All in all, as a compilation of reworked material, it’s loud, aggressive, and a damn good time once again.