CD, Dependent/WTII, 2005
Stromkern’s fourth full-length album, four years after the critically acclaimed “Armageddon”, is another demonstration of talent, creativity and accomplished musicianship from this established electro act. Thematically, “Light It Up” is much more politically charged than previous albums, explicitly even. Stromkern’s “crossover” style has been known to cause some confusion among audiences stuck into defined genres, seeing the (seemingly) disparate musical styles and influences incorporated into their music, but they were never an act to let themselves be restricted by any kind of boundaries as this excellent release demonstrates once more.
Keeping in line with their previous work, Stromkern merge elements from electro-industrial, some classical compositions and have Ned Kirby’s characteristic hip-hop vocalizations (which are responsible for a major part of Stromkern’s identity). The addition of new live members (a drummer and live guitars), making Stromkern more of a band in the true sense of the term, clearly had some influence in the evolution of their sound in the past couple of years. The changes observed see Stromkern’s sound shifting to a somewhat more “rock” sound and the compositions becoming more complex and developed.
As mentioned above, “Light It Up” is, for the most part, politically motivated (and explicitly so) with strong lyrics clearly aimed at the current “establishment” responsible for the (dis)government of the USA. These are delivered with Ned Kirby’s distinct deep, hip-hop styled vocals, the intelligent use of well-chosen and placed samples helping in driving lyrical the message home.
With strong production, talented composition and musical performance, all tracks in this release are solid pieces of work but a few stand out. Tracks like “Reminders”, “Delete” and “Ruin”, while not as obvious as the amazing floor-filler “Stand Up”, clearly show Stromkern’s energy and musical talent, as does the instrumental “The Debate”. My only peeve is “Hindsight”, a collaboration with Victoria Lloyd of Claire Voyant; while it is a rather good track , its placement in the album seems a bit disruptive and probably would be more adequate as the closing track.
Overall, this is another great Stromkern album, result of the musical evolution of a talented band that shows plenty of creativity and no signs of stagnation whatsoever. Recommended listening for anyone interested in excellent, genre-defying music.
— Miguel de Sousa