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Grand Mal X – Life EP

Life

Life EP

Swedish label Beläten has carved a strong niche for itself, releasing largely unclassifiable albums that straddle the crossroads of dark pop sensibility and stubborn inaccessibility. In a perverse sort of way, label owner Thomas Martin Ekelund’s death industrial project Trepaneringsritualen may be the most ‘accessible’ on the roster in the sense that it’s the most recognisable, and it’s no wonder Beläten’s T x R x P output has been limited to two tapes and band merch. Clearly, Beläten was never intended to be a vehicle for Ekelund’s personal output; rather, it exists as an opportunity for him to share his diverse tastes with a broad audience.

Grand Mal X is one such act that refuses to be pigeon-holed, and this lovely little six-tracker, Life EP, is outstanding.

There is very little readily available information on the outfit outside of their previous Black Horizons C20, Stealth Minds, and a blog/website. One of ten ‘statements’ listed on the website professes that ‘We are like Village People after the anthrax and the plague’. It’s an apt description: the music is at once danceable and disturbing–funky and putrescent. Another of the statements, this time featured on Life EP‘s artwork, declares ‘enhanced genetics by decoding and refusal’. It’s all something you can’t quite put your finger on.

Grand Mal X

Grand Mal X

‘Late Night Call’ is a case in point, and it’s everything that I love about acid and electro: dark squelch and a cracking sequencer line that hooks into you like a squid jig, but all you can do is sit still to listen and marvel at the strangeness of it all. It’s a track that begs to be listened to at a very high volume. It’s what Coil always did so well: just when you thought you knew what was going on, they slapped you silly out of complacency.

‘Four Chambers’ is like some sort of twisted film noir soundtrack, with a deep pulse drum pattern, a vaguely brass-like motif and delayed female vocals. Album closer ‘A Sudden Portal’ is like New Order coming down from a bad acid trip: twisted drum machines and cheesy synth stabs, barely held together by another one of those rollicking bass sequences.

Vocals feature quite extensively over the album, both male and female, but they’ve been processed and mixed low enough that they merely add to the impressionistic sound palette. They also add a sinister human element to a very synthetic audio makeup.

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Track List:

A1) Units
A2) Tricks of a Trade
A3) Late Night Call
B1) The Crossing
B2) Four Chambers
B3) A Sudden Portal

Rating: 8.5/10
Written by: David Tonkin
Label: Beläten (Sweden) / ᛇ / Cassette
Post-punk / Synthpop / Post-Industrial