Culture Kultür

[Spirit sleeve]"Spirit" (Album, 2010)

Out of Line

They’ve been away for five years and after such a period I didn’t expect to hear from this Spanish outfit again. To be honest, I don’t expect there were that many people across the planet waiting with bated breath, marking off on their calendar each passing day in which there was no news on Culture Kultür but, you know what, I’m glad they’re back. They’ve always demonstrated honesty, passion for their music that has sometimes been the audio equivalent of wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve. It’s difficult to be indifferent to someone who so obviously puts all their effort into their work.

Spirit is the familiar CK EBM-lite, futurepopiness combination of hi, mid and low tempo songs, ranging from those aimed at smashing the clubs through to slow ballads (where often their finest moments are to be found). Early entries focus on the club side of their sound - which they pull off effectively enough. There's also a brave, if not entirely successful, trancey cover of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart (yes, that did say 'trancey'). It's on the final quarter of the album (tracks 8-11) where the band and their writing really shine. On Never Again vocalist Salva Maine does a good impression of Covenant’s Eskil Simmonson, which is appropriate as the song’s trancey synths do bear a passing resemblance to the Swedish masters. Irrespective of its striking similarities to VNV Nation, ballad Silence is still a highlight. Meanwhile, the powerful My Voice showcases everything Culture Kultür do best in their own right, and closer I Found You is a heartfelt conclusion. In the past, they’ve never fully delivered on their promise, they were great live and they always had the ability to surprise you – which cannot be said for many of their competitors. These observations all remain true today. Like all their previous long-players, Spirit has a few special moments but for the most part isn't remarkable enough. Nevertheless, it and the return of Culture Kultür are still both welcome. 7/10

Rob Dyer (January 2011)

[Revenge sleeve]"Revenge" (Album, 2001)

Out of Line

You can count the number of Spanish EMB-like outfits on the fingers of one hand, so it's probably fair to say that in their home country, Culture Kultür don't face much competition. Still, even on the international stage, their peculiar brand of EBM/future pop/trance/electro holds up reasonably well against the likes of market leaders Covenant, VNV Nation, Apoptygma Berzerk et al. This is their second album and follows on naturally from its predecessor Reflex.

Culture Kultür's trademark is refusing to stick rigidly to one specific style or sub-genre, the resulting electronic dance although lacking the qualities of some of their competitors stands up pretty well. Curously, the first couple of tracks, Forever and War is Over are probably the weakest. Track four, No Dogma, is the first to really bring the previously underlying trance elements to the fore and the result is head-bobbingly catchy. This approach is also carried through the next track, Promised Land Blues, and is perhaps the song closest to recent Covenant output, complete with sing-a-long chorus lyrics and trance-like synth lines.

There's plenty of dancefloor friendly material included and clubs across the globe are likely to give this album plenty of exposure. Other choice cuts are the instrumental Mientes, the very Nitzer Ebbish Europe, and the frankly just plain brilliant (and almost haujobb-like) Shipwreck. While the final Lost Ideals seems momentarily inspired by early Human League, the voice even recalling Phil Oakey at his best. 7/10

Rob Dyer

See also:
Apoptygma Berzerk
VNV Nation