CD, Audiotrauma, 2010
This is, by all accounts, a bloody odd coming-together of minds. I’ve come across Punish Yourself before, an insane French industrial-punk-dayglo soundclash of a band, but not Sonic Area, who appear to be a lot more restrained and experimental on first listen. So, why have they come together? It appears to be related to the theme here about the mass media and the control it has over our lives, apparently – a lofty concept that, if I’m being honest, gets perhaps a little lost amid the music here. Particularly as vocals are sparse, other than the samples (of which more in a moment), and the first, and pretty much only, actual vocals appear in fifth track “Powercut”, a track that conversely sounds like it has been jacked directly into the mains, such is its furious energy.
The sampling sources are fascinating, though. A chaotic collage of TV, radio, speeches, soundtrack-esque orchestration, and I’m sure I even noted some Peter Gabriel at one point. Much of the album works as a continuous whole, sample-laden sections moving seemlessly into stirrings of industrial power, something shown to spectacular effect on “Twisted Thrill Ride” in particular. A monster is unleashed in the form of thunderous beats that are so heavy that they seem to keep advancing and getting louder, before being stripped away to leave an edgy ambience and part sound-collage.
But perhaps a little frustratingly the momentum gained from the first half of the half is almost all squandered by the lengthy and somewhat dull pairing of “The Higher We Fly…” and “Ici Bas”, even if the latter part of “Ici Bas” does move into near-free jazz territory as it fades away. The final tracks overdo the sample collage technique, too – the last three tracks cover well over twenty minutes of ominous rumbling, with samples from media sources filling in the rest. We get the point, folks, we really do.
Mass-media overload and overreach is certainly a concept that needs more attention, but overloading the message only serves my mind at least to tire easily. An album that is perhaps twenty minutes too long, which is a shame as there are some awesome musical and thematic ideas here. All in all, a frustrating release.
[Editor’s Note – Though not one to normally barge into the staff’s reviews, in this case I feel that, despite some valid points, the reviewer may have done an injustice to what I, and a couple of other staff, believe is a pretty good release (though admittedly something of an acquired taste).]
— Adam Williams