Infect by Satori, released in 1993, is one of the best power electronics albums of that era, and criminally underappreciated. Even though it is not an “album” as such, but a compilation of tracks culled from their cassettes of the mid-to-late eighties, it flows like a malevolent river, pulling the listener along to a bleak ocean. The limitations of technology of the time, the circumstances in which it was made and the shifting centre point of power electronics over the last twenty-three years has not dimmed its dark light.
After Infect, the two-man project of Dave Kirby and Robert Maycock then promptly disappeared for over a decade, surfacing only to contribute one of the four discs of Tesco Disco II, with Cold Spring label head Justin Mitchell replacing Maycock. In 2008, the project was resurrected by Mitchell and Neil Chaney of Pessary, but The Hanging is the first album by the band with Dave Kirby back in control (this time working solo).
So, after such a long break, is it possible that Satori could come back with something as ravishing as Infect? Well, slow down, because to get to the music, you have to go through the packaging and that in itself is an experience. Tesco are known for creating some pretty spectacular delivery vessels for their releases and this one is among their loveliest: the album is housed in a textured cardboard box, about the depth of two standard jewel cases, adorned with hazy black and white imagery. Inside the box are ten printed cards, one for each of the tracks on the album. The imagery is sometimes abstract and always vague, offering something that could be contemplated, like a tarot card, while listening to its corresponding track.
My only worry about the packaging is its fragility, because the cardboard slipcase that contains the disc itself was starting to come unglued and the outer box got a little squished in shipment. So I’d recommend putting the disc in a regular jewel case and building a little trophy case where you can house the box, alongside all the other artistically encased jewels you’ve accumulated over years of being a fan of this type of music.
So after all that, can we finally talk about the music? Of course.
Heard in the cold, jaded light of 2016, Infected is clearly a product of its time. So for his new incarnation of the band, Kirby has wisely ditched the vocal samples (well, a few sneak in, but not prominently) and other hallmarks of early industrial and power electronics in favour of smoother and richer textures. The rawness and immediacy of Infect is replaced with an expansive range that’s more resignation than fury and, yes, it is definitely more mature sounding. There are moments of real beauty to The Hanging, something that isn’t found on their earliest material and the sounds used in the individual pieces are better integrated than they were.
Kirby’s compositional skill has improved over time, which gives the new pieces more complexity, but I find that the organization of tracks on The Hanging doesn’t seem like it was given the same degree of thought. The album seems to rise towards an unseen climax for seven tracks, but then plateaus a little short of the mark. The final three tracks are much calmer and quieter, and while they’re perfectly good, they don’t offer a sense of devolution from a high point. Rather, the album seems in danger of flatlining as it reaches its conclusion.
The other thing working against The Hanging is that, while good production has become easier, the genre has also become far more crowded than ever before. The price of not embracing newness and idiosyncrasy is that there are a lot more artists who are working in the same area, and it is harder to be truly memorable. Satori weren’t operating outside genre circles when they first appeared, but now the circle has a lot more people making a lot more noise (figuratively and literally).
Nonetheless, The Hanging is an example of what happens when a person who’s been around this music (if not always making it) for a long time puts his own interpretation on the modern elements of its sound. It may not be one of the albums that you end up taking to the mythical desert island where we all seem to get sent with a collection of movies, books and music, but it’s something that’s a pleasure to hear and, I hope, a sign that we won’t have to wait another quarter century to hear more.
2) Open Up The Gates Of Hell
3) The Hanging I
4) The Harrowing
5) Firebrands Of Hell
9) Salem Road
10) The Hanging II