Review

Review

Collide: 'Bent and Broken' – CD Review

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LA-based musical team kaRIN and Statik, better known as Collide, have been FEARnet faves for many years now, and it's no coincidence that their brand of spooky and sensual soundscapes has warmed the hearts and chilled the spines of horror fans through their contributions to films like Resident Evil: Extinction and The Covenant, and darkly-inclined music lovers in general through their collaborations with artists like Skinny Puppy, Tool and The Cure to name just a few. In fact, I recently heard kaRIN's silken voice on a track from Chris Vrenna's excellent new Tweaker album, which just dropped last week (read the review here). With all those irons in the fire, it's amazing they find the time to release new studio material on almost a yearly basis... and this year's record Bent and Broken is one of their most ambitious collaborative projects ever, funded almost entirely from kickstarter contributions and featuring musical assists from Vrenna as well as Skinny Puppy's cEvin Key, dark electro artist Android Lust and over a dozen other musicians, producers and DJs.

 
 
Since their inception in the mid '90s, Collide has evolved from synth-driven gothic dance origins into a finely-woven blend of vast, dreamlike soundscapes incorporating both industrial-strength and acoustic guitars... but their sound has remained distinctive and unmistakable, thanks to a combination of kaRIN's hushed, seductive vocal delivery and Statik's intricate layering of pulsing, exotic beats (often with a Middle Eastern texture) beneath warm, reverb-soaked keyboard washes. With that structure solidly in place, the pair have previously opened up their world to remixes and team-ups, first compiled in the double-album Vortex, to which Bent and Broken serves as a kind of sequel, bridging the gap between the band's earlier sound and the more recent albums Two-Headed Monster and Counting to Zero.
 
The first half Bent kicks off with some of its most impressive tracks, beginning with an ominous, throbbing remix of "Mind Games" from Counting to Zero (which is an excellent single in its original form) by cEvin Key and Skinny Puppy collaborator Ken “HiWatt” Marshall; "Orgy,” an eerie, serpentine cover of a tune originally created by Cure frontman Robert Smith for his side project The Glove, featuring some of kaRIN's best vocal work; and an ultra-cool cosmic cover of Queen's "She Makes Me,” based on a solid foundation of acoustic guitar and now one of my all-time Collide faves. Another standout is the title track, which appears here for the first time, and pulses with the same dark energy of the opening cut, but with a lighter, more inquisitive touch. Bent is rounded out by a wide assortment of remixes from the previous two albums – many re-engineered by Statik himself, as well as by guest artists like Katarrhaktes, Tom Gipson, Alyssa Finnivan, Antigen5, iNGRUO, Matt Gatsos and The Black Sheep Project, most of whom were winners of a band-sponsored online remix contest. Black Sheep's inventive approach to “Pure Bliss” is my personal favorite from this group, flipping the original  song's dreamy sensuality into a creepy sex-magic ritual.
 
The second half Broken ventures down a slightly more freeform path, with highlights including Chris Vrenna's warm symphonic take on “In the Frequency” from Counting to Zero and the trippy, slow-shuffling “Million Stars Mix” of that album's title track by Eric Fisher from gothic industrial icons Tapping the Vein, which contains some creepy robotic vocoder effects and some sweet vocal harmonies in the chorus. Most of the remaining reinventions on this side come from from the same online contest, and include Psych-Nein, DJO2, LgVela, Synkraft, Diffuzion, DJ Forensic and Whitney Kew. Standouts include the harder techno sequences and tribal percussion of “Chaotic” by DJO2 and the delicate take on “Tears Like Rain” by Psych-Nein, but there's not a single weak link to be found among the collection. 
 
Normally when someone asks me to recommend a new band, I wouldn't choose that group's remix albums as a starting point. But in this case, Collide's musical core remains pure and solid enough throughout these 26 tracks that I'd actually make an exception to that rule. Not only have industrial-strength names like Vrenna and Key managed to heighten the dreamlike atmospheres and sensual pulse of the band's more recent records, but the colorful and energetic variety of the new mixers' work demonstrates how well the band's essence filters through a dozen different imaginations... while it can be bent in so many interesting directions, Collide's sound remains unbreakable.
 
Bent and Broken is available directly from the band's official site in both CD and download formats, and will be available soon via iTunes.
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