Programmable Animal - The New Babylon
Released off label 2016
I've been following Programmable Animal's ascension in sound for their past two releases, Drepsea and their self titled EP Programmable Animal. While I have always been one to say that there is a massive amount of talent within the now five-piece outfit, I always felt as if they were missing the mark by a smidge. The biggest blight I saw in their previous productions was the quality of the music. I stated in the review for their self titled EP that some of the songs had so much going on all at once that the overall sound became quite marred. However, 2016 seems to be casting a different spell for Programmable Animal.
The New Babylon is this industrial rock outfit's 2016 output which was released on May 25th. While the overall theme of the album has been explored dozens of times in the past (it focuses on an abusive relationship wherein hope is incoming), I believe the exotic sounds that emerge from The New Babylon sheds a glorious but violent neon light on the subject. However, even before listening to the album, the texture of the cover art can explain the whole album.
A cracked and crooked picture frame lies either on a concrete floor or hung up on a wall. The black and white photo within the frame showcases a picture perfect American home in the background; a nice little, cozy 50's looking house, a white pickett fence, and a meticulously mowed lawn. IN front of the house, however, is a small girl that looks wizened beyond her ears being held by the Programmable Animal logo in a protective manner. It's almost as if the logo is the hope, The New Babylon, for the one being abused bringing her to a new life. Anyway, enough analysis and onto the music.
Easily enough you can decipher the meaning behind 'Trapped' just by referencing back to the theme of the album. As succulent vocals beckon forth from bass guitarist and back up vocalist Kristen Hodges, frontman Anthony Wonaitis then comes in after screaming and yelling. The dueling vocals make it sound as if the two are arguing in the music, telling the exposition of this story as we make our way through. A dirty, dark and sludgy industrial dredge creeps along through the song thanks in large part to Kris Dubenic's drum work.
In between each of the full songs there are little breaks from the chaos and 'Our New Birth' is the first of many. Eerie ambient work which reminds of a space ship descending from the sky plays out over plucked chimes and leads right into the next and title track 'The New Babylon'.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the song yet, it appeared on our first free compilation BRUTAL RESONANCE: PHASE ONE. A very chilled out electronically charged rhythm flows out for the first minute or so until rolling guitars and drums take over the song alongside whisper screams. It's almost like a build up of anger until the nosiey and lawless chorus takes over. Follow that pattern one more time straight to a soft, dreamy lead out and 'The New Babylon' makes one hell of a track.
'Under the Stairs' was a small dark ambient track that played with more of those gorgeous sci-fi sounding synths I described in 'Our New Birth'. I swear this band could probably start a dark ambient side project and easily get signed. Though short in length, I see no tropes, I feel a quasi-spiritualism flowing through the song, and the electronics sound fantastic.
'Alone' is the first song on the album that is softer and quieter, playing out more like a soft rock song. The rhythms and echo on Wonaitis' chords are well done and tinges of electronics come along every now and again. Before, when I mentioned the title track led off on a dreamy note, I think 'Alone' picked up off that and continued. Mentioning Wonaitis' voice once more, he does a swell job at making his persona sound tortured and distraught.
'A Glimpse of Hope' is very uplifting and heavenly in comparison to most of the other tracks on the album. Although is does play fairly well into standards of drone sounds, it wasn't too long and served its purpose as a transition into the final song 'Help is Coming'.
Slowly led in through ambient undertones, chilling nature-sounding noises in the background, and acoustic guitar, the rest of the songs follows as Wonaitis' voice and the drums roll in. The song rolls through a bit of bi-polar disorder as every minute or so the sound changes from soft notes to pounding guitar and drums, to grief and despair.
Programmable Animal put their all into this album and it payed off extremely well. The sound and noise that comes off perfectly reflects what they were trying to achieve with the album. The themes of being trapped in abuse to escaping that horrible reality was expertly reflected in both the song writing and lyrics. But, what more could I say? The only real way to experience this album is by listening to it yourself and that is highly advised.
Currently, The New Babylon is only available in a digital version for a mere $5 with physical copies soon to come. So, stay tuned for more.
Jun 09 2016
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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