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Roughhausen – The Agony of the Beat

Roughhausen - The Agony of the Beat

CD, TinderBox Records, 2008

Occasionally, little wonders slip through the cracks and escape the notice of record labels. Roughhausen’s “Agony of the Beat” is such a specimen – varied, dynamic, danceable and eminently listenable, all rolled into one, this release is truly a reviewer’s joy.
The most noticeable aspect of this album is the meticulous attention to detail, specifically where vocal treatments are concerned. In many ways, the sheer variety of effects and filters employed remind one of Frontline Assembly’s technicality – but that’s where that comparison ends. Where FLA can be quite long-winded in their approach, Roughhausen is instantly accessible and in-your-face. The other really impressive facet of this recording is the fullness of sound achieved: many “home recordings” tend to the tinny and artificial, especially in the higher registers, but on “The Agony of the Beat” the mid tones are chunky, the bass reverberates very acceptably and the high end adds a little sparkling flourish on the top. All things considered, the ears receive the aural equivalent of a full cardio workout during this album.
Highlights would include the cleverly constructed, angst-riddled opening track, “The Pinned Man”, the industrial assault of “The Bad Seed” and the semi-ambient (but with surprising drive in the percussion department) “Fornaicus”. But this singling out of a few choice morsels was by no means an easy task – overall, the entire album recommends itself.
If hard-pressed, there are small technical issues present in the album – most notably, how in heavily layered areas the really interesting electronics are sometimes overpowered (like by the guitars on “Control” at times) by other, more prominent elements, where it may have been a better choice to scale the impact of these down somewhat. However, that really is being overly critical of what is one of the freshest approaches to EBM/Industrial I’ve heard for some time.


— David vander Merwe

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