I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.
…Unless I decide to skip around the alphabet. In fact, I believe I’ll focus exclusively on netlabel releases for all of April…
Poor Nishi – it seems like this electronic netlabel has gone the way of … other electronic netlabels. Gone. Kaputt. Into the great wide ether. Sadly, they have not updated their web page since May 5, 2007, when they released Nth Synthesis’ Chaptire Premier, Siegmar Fricke’s Orthotic, and Holzkopf’s Epilepsy Circle. This inactivity coincided with a changeover in management. On January 26 of that same year, the entry prior to May 5 and the same day that For the Broken Heart from Collapsed Dreams was released, a guy named Christopher Benuzzi took over “curatorship of the netlabel” from Ed Powley, the man behind the awesome (and now shelved) Colophon project. He left this message the day he took over: “Although things have changed a little behind the scenes, Nishi will continue to operate in the same eclectic spirit you have come to expect since our founding five years ago.” One more release date later, and it looks as though the label was permanently shuttered.
Well, almost. Nishi joined Facebook in the past year. It was last updated with the following statement: “Just a quick post… still alive! … Expect a full netlabel return in the next month or two! It has been far too long.” Hopes up? You bet! Unfortunately, Nishi communicated this to the world on June 21, 2010, and we’re almost ten months beyond that post. Ten months! I’m the only one who commented on that post. I and another guy named Andy “liked” it. As it stands, Nishi still only has two friends, me and presumably Andy. That’s kind of sad, right? Ed Powley, where have you gone? We miss you…
Fortunately, the archive.org links are still active, so you can still get your hands on K.D. Expression’s final album for Nishi – well, it’s more of a mini-album actually at 8 songs and around 30 minutes. But along with Colophon, I include this band as the reason I’ve paid attention to Nishi for as long as I have. It kind of surprised me a little bit (as did Colophon) that something so accessible and intriguing was available from a label noted mainly for its experimental electronic fare. (Yes, there are quite a few unlistenable albums that you can download from the label, but that’s a pitfall afflicting most catalogs.)
K.D. Expression is really Sergey Yakimov, an electronic musician hailing from Yekaterinburg in Central Russia. (So now you know you can kind of ignore the weird preposition choices in the album title.) He also writes music for video games, notably the Russian game series AfterWorld. And that’s really all I have. As usual, it was kind of difficult to get a straight answer about a netlabel artist – I had to translate his last.fm page from Russian to English. Digressions aside, he trades in the ethereal electronic music most associated with goth/industrial crossover acts, or more accurately, runs with the darkwave crowd. (Darkwave. Daaaarkwaaave. What a fun word to say. It’s one of my favorite music descriptors. Oh, right – I just mentioned digressions.) As such, you’ll find that purples and blacks flit across the landscape, contrasted with whites and grays. It’s comedown music for My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult shows. Underground dance clubs throw this on at 3AM. It’s mood music.
For the Broken Heart has a cinematic core, its pathos weighing heavily on its black mesh sleeve. “She’s Not…” tricks you into thinking that you’re going to get an album full of flashback music for Final Fantasy VIII, with its yearning piano and voice-mimicking synthesizer accoutrements, but although that would indeed be an enticing proposition, it’s not to be. “Wanderer” lands more fully in Xorcist territory, but without vocals or samples, as dark passages accompany the lonely title character through blustery, snow-swept mountain passes as he travels to fulfill some great quest. Right, that still sounds like Final Fantasy. Well OK then – try to get past it. “Insulting Relation” sets the album’s tone a little better as a distant cousin to Clint Mansell’s curatorial work on Darren Aronofsky’s excellent conspiracy head-trip film Pi, as does “The Wall” – in fact, the core of this album encompasses all of the following: yearning, searching, and longing for and escaping or running from things in the cool, rainy night. You do that, I do that, Deckard does that. It’s how we live.
The back half of the album is simply beautiful, as shimmering synth-goth tracks that force you inward gently brush up against your eardrums like a cold wind, even though the collar of your coat is turned up and you’ve scrunched your neck down as far as it can go. The compositions are delicate and skillfully crafted, unwilling to bludgeon you with industrial beats or grating noise. There’s a fragility – and yes, I use that word with full intention and awareness of the song titled “Fragile Cell” – that Yakimov works in, and it’s an unusual trait in music of this type. It chills you as it caresses you. It’s mysterious and dangerous and fleeting. It’s worth your time.
RIYL: Clint Mansell, Xorcist, Enigma