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Shinto Records SIN-TECH -- CD Review

Indie label Shinto Records is a fairly new arrival to the world of dark-themed music, but with a strong web presence and an ever-expanding roster of artists, the outfit stands poised to slug it out with the more established players. Among the recent high-profile additions to the Shinto repertoire are Sin D’rella, vocalist for iconic experimental group Attrition (one of my favorites down here in the catacombs) and founder of her own electronic project Imprint; German dark ambient group Verney 1826; and horror-inspired industrial outfit Flesh Eating Foundation (great name, that one).

Shinto’s first compilation CD – entitled Sin-Tech – brings together sixteen previously unreleased tracks from a diverse range of gothic, electro-industrial, future-pop and experimental artists for an effective cross-section of Shinto’s decidedly diabolical catalog. Contributors include the aforementioned Attrition, California electro-experimental band C/A/T (whose new album is on the way) and The Ludovico Technique (sweet Clockwork Orange reference there), to name only a few. There’s spooky sounds aplenty, and some solid grooves to boot… so click below the break and dig the sounds of sin!

Before spinning this CD, I was of the idea that this would be a largely beat-oriented outing, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover a wide variety of genres, themes and styles collected within. There’s plenty of club-thumpers, to be sure, but much of the compilation’s second half is comprised of moody, experimental ambient pieces that were by turns hypnotic and chilling. I’m going out on a limb here to declare this an excellent decision, and frankly a pretty ballsy move for a label who no doubt generate the bulk of their CD revenue through club-friendly electro-industrial and EBM titles. This compilation shows a well-rounded outlook that embraces some challenging musical styles – and a challenge is what yours truly is always listening for.

Snagging horror fans’ attention right out of the gate is “The Vile (Limbo Remix)” from up-and-coming group Angels On Acid, which features samples of George C. Scott’s unforgettably nihilistic “I Believe” monologue from the climax of Exorcist III (of which yours truly is a lifelong fan, haters be damned). This band’s not the first to sample that particular film (gore-metal act Necrophagia have referenced it many times to excellent effect), but personally I think it’s not used nearly enough (I still think Lily Allen should consider my suggestion instead of sending her lawyers after me). Another sweet groove that riffs on the whole Exorcist theme is XMH’s “Rape Your God,” a beefy aggro-tech number that features some of Regan's more profane demonic rants from the original... I dare you to crank this one up at the office.

These and other beat-based tracks are queued up at the first half of the collection, with other standouts including Kirlian Camera’s live recording of “Blue Room” – a fine example of how a well-orchestrated goth-trance act (with smoky vocals from Elena Alice Fossi) can translate to live performance; and Jason Alacrity’s “Winter Song,” a moody mid-tempo affair reminiscent of Dirty Vegas (remember them?), with smooth male vocals and delicate synth arpeggios. On the more violent side, C/A/T’s “Shoot to Kill” is a bubbling stew of morphing, glitchy vox and effects-heavy samples; and The Ludovico Technique’s cyber-metal mélange “This Life” is oozing with barely-contained fury, complete with demon-screeched lyrics akin to Psyclon Nine's Nero Bellum.

The ambient/experimental artists come into play in the CD’s second half, and it’s here that the more traditional EBM/techno purists may slip away in disinterest… but that would be unfortunate, as there is some real talent brought to bear in this section. Sin D’rella scores major points with the ghostly Imprint track “Eden,” which climaxes in Sin's spooky vocal layering; Cylab & The Breakup's team effort “Dented Halos” is a down-tempo piece driven by a glassy piano pattern, with sweetly angelic female vocals; and Life’s Decay create a somber, MIDI-driven mechanical piano dirge backed with clicking, thumping analog beats for “Extzen,” which grinds down into a strange, sampled cello riff that sounds kinda like the Jaws theme played sideways.

For a real challenge, check out the eccentric entry “Undercurrent” by Nuns of Telekinesis, a Popol Vuh-style instrumental comprised of ethnic percussion, organ and electric guitar; and Phantoms of the SS turn in surreal chiller “The Sheltering Sky,” which is pretty much a tankful of high-octane nightmare fuel. With “Lullaby,” Martin Bowes' Attrition (again with vocals by Sin D'rella) do what they do best – delicate, timeless sounds that manage to set the short hairs on end. The Philip Glass-influenced piano and Mellotron strings of The Hiroshima Project close the album on a somber note with “From a Lonely Place.”

With their open-minded, even fearless approach to the domain of dark sounds, it sounds like Shinto’s got their shit together, and I’m digging into their catalog for more… if you’re not afraid to have your whole idea of music shaken up a bit, I’d say you should check them out for yourself. If you’re expecting the usual bumping analog beats and clubby hooverphonic buzz-bizness, you might be disappointed, because most of the artists gathered on this disc don’t toe the line of typical EBM or electro-industrial, but instead actually revisit the wild frontiers that groundbreaking industrial and experimental bands like Coil or Cabaret Voltaire were compelled to explore in those wide-eyed early days. If your electronic tastes fall more on the less daring side, Shinto’s repertoire has a fair share of up-tempo club fare – some really strong entries in that field, in fact, so you might still find something you like there. Me, I’m down with the folks who tread the path less traveled, and serious hails to Shinto for giving them a boost.