Dependent label compilations

[Septic VII sleeve]"Septic VII" (Compilation Album, 2007) !DSO Recommended!


And so the final entry in the Septic sampler series, volume seven, makes its appearance and effectively signals the final stages in the closure of label Dependent. And what a way to go out. It is immensely satisfying to be able to state that Septic VII is easily the best entry since the very first compilation back in 1999, and probably the best of the lot. The net has been cast perhaps more broadly than before and so whilst Dependent artists still feature (Mind.In.A.Box, Edge of Dawn, Controlled Collapse and Seabound) the majority are neither signed to the label and with closure imminent most likely never will be. In putting together this fine collection Stefan Herwig has also drawn on scene stalwarts (Skinny Puppy and KMFDM) and given some new kids their first taste of wide exposure.

Of the stable artists I'm gonna have to say that Mind.In.A.Box with their Stalkers (a preview of a track from their forthcoming third album) do it the most for me with their absolutely spot on selection of warm electronics and trance influenced beats and melody. Austrian Stefan Poiss seems to have really nailed the crossover potential from video game soundtracks to intellectual club music. Skinny Puppy's Politikil (Humble Brothers Remix) sees these industrial legends turn their talents to a more harmonious sound than ever before. This version having been originally released as a DJ only promo spent weeks at the #1 slot in the DAC single chart in Germany. KMFDM are the perfect band to cover DAF's Der Mussolini and their reverential but typically energetic take plays to all their strengths and is a surprise highlight.

Of the less familiar names, Slok's (Club Version) of Lonely Child is a major standout item - combining influences from Italian Alessandro Russo background as a Drum n Bass and breakbeat DJ with a distinctively retro 80s electronic vibe. Sneaker Pimps' Chris Corner's solo project IAMX debuted in 2004 with the album Kiss and Swallow. The title track is featured here in a 2006 Moonbootica remix - firmly pushing the sound barrier at the Dependent camp and prompting further investigation.

It would be a hard task master who demanded any more than Septic VII delivers. It is the broadest and most rewarding overview of alternative electronic music that Dependent has released and a fitting tribute to everything that the label stood for for seven years. 8/10

Rob Dyer (June, 2007)

[Dependence Vol 2 sleeve]"Dependence - Volume 2 " (Compilation Album, 2007)


It's impossible to review this release without acknowledging that it represents a significant point in seven years of the Dependent label. 'Significant' because in an essay included in the 24-page booklet label boss Stefan Herwig announces that from summer 2007, Dependent will close its doors for good. The thrust of his case is although the label is solvent, it is fighting against a seemingly relentless tide of idiots downloading pirated free (or dirt cheap) versions of the label's artists releases thus having a devastating impact on the market for legitimate sales. The full text of the essay can be found here.

Putting aside such depressing thoughts, this second instalment of 'Next Level Electronics' from Germany represents a selection of some of the biggest and best artists at work on the underground electronic scene - oh yeah, and just happen to be signed to the Dependent label. All fourteen tracks are either unreleased tracks, unreleased versions or otherwise rare recordings. Artists included are Seabound, Mindless Faith, Fractured, Rotersand, Edge Of Dawn, Mind.In.A.Box, Dismantled, Flesh Field, Ivory Frequency, Auto Aggression, Insekt, Suicide Commando, Pride & Fall and Stromkern. Pride and Fall's Adored is yet another example of why it's so hard to rule bands out. Having been mostly unimpressed by their second album Elements of Silence, this heads into an altogether more interesting, poppy direction. It's perhaps more than some might prefer, but for me Adored is easily one of the bands best tracks. Guess I'll have to put them back on the radar!

Those (like me) who are excited by the prospect of Mario Schumacher and Frank Spinath's Edge of Dawn project and are eagerly looking forward to their debut album will only have their anticipation ratched up several knots by Damage - another beautifully crafted piece of electronica remixed here by the formidable Forma Tadre. NNN are billed as "featuring Dismantled" when actually NNN (No Not Never) is a new project from Dismantled creator Gary Zon and singer Tonya Pugh. Auto Aggression's Speed is a well-chosen preview from their attention-grabbing Artefact. Insekt's lovely entitled Bambifucker (!) recalls the tongue in cheek of Sneaky Bat Machine and early KMFDM. Second Death is listed as a 'rare' instrumental Suicide Commando track - which is a shame as I only wish Johan Van Roy's long running project sounded like this more often. Finally Stromkern's extended version of Hindsight is the closing track, featuring vocalist Victoria Lloyd (Claire Voyant). Its back-to-basics piano based delivery a great way to bring this worthy collection to a fitting close. 7/10

Rob Dyer (March, 2007)

[Septic VI sleeve]"Septic VI" (Compilation Album, 2006)


Year six of Dependent so it must be time for entry number six in the ongoing Septic compilation series. Looking at the track listing this time around a couple of observations immediately strike you. Covenant is one and Juno Reactor is the other. Neither are signed to Dependent yet both have agreed to provide tracks so that the labels aim of not only promoting their own signed artists but those they also believe worthy of exposure can be met. Of course, Covenant were once signed to Dependent, but then when on to bigger but not necessarily better things (such as Sony and DRM technology that wouldn't let you play your purchase on a PC). The Remix Version of The Men from their latest (Skyshaper) album is more perfunctory than enthralling. Whereas Juno Reactor's Full Length (6.10) Version of Mutant Message is early 64bit computer game soundtrack meets Front 242 and an impressive coup for Dependent.

Even if you were to buy all the albums by each of the thirteen artists featured Septic VI would still offer you alternate versions of around half of the entries here and at a low price entry point too - so continues to represent great value. Sadly, most of those remixes didn't do much for me. Many simply add additional beats rather than choose to take a radical new approach. Mind.In.A.Box's space.mix of Lament For Lost Dreams being a notable exception. Meanwhile, Schwefelgelb's sleazy analog entry My Pornoshow teases us with its electroclash touches and injects some welcome variety to regular Dependent sound. With the total running time just shy of 80 minutes you'd be hard pressed not to find several tracks and artists worthy of closer attention. 6/10

Rob Dyer (March, 2007)

[Septic V sleeve]"Septic V" (Compilation Album, 2005)


Being the fifth entry into German electronic label Dependent's regular series of compilations featuring signed and as yet unsigned artists all infecting the electro, industrial, future pop and related genres. You should know the score by now, the selection includes exclusive and hitherto unreleased mixes and the odd artist crossover. An example of the latter being the impressive opener Sentinal by US outfit Stromkern that sees Seabound's Frank Spinath taking on vocal duties. (Seabound's own contribution is the 'Monozelle Mix' of their current album track Torch.)

Belgium future pop/EMB project Diskonneckted brings unusual (but good) warm vocal style to their equally warm track Atlantis. If it's more dancefloor orientated noise your after then Auto Aggression's Das Nyquist Theorem manages to bring something new to the genre and sees his third appearance on a Septic compilation in a row (Lukas Schneider's efforts being rewarded after Dependent signed him up earlier this year). Mind.In.A.Box, Rotersand and Interlace provided previews of tracks that subsequently appeared on their new albums later in the year.

Fans of hard edged heavy beats and harsh vocals along the lines of Suicide Commando will probably find much of interest in unsigned Canadian band Fractured. Although not entirely original, the quality is high and can easily compete with some of the signed bands out there, so don't expect Fractured to be wandering in the wilderness for too long. This Morn Omina bring their mighty industrial/trance fusion to bare with fp-(52500) an exclusive and impressive piece composed just for this compilation.

Retro electro is the thing with Anthony Rother's Punks - taken from his Popkiller album on Datapunk. The simple analogue sounds and low-fi beats provide a welcome break from more conventional production styling. An approach that, no doubt, comes from his background as a progressive dance producer. Finally, Dismantled's Gary Zon continues to demonstrate the leftfield thinking that he brings to the electro genre with football stadium chants being worked into his otherwise instrumental track Attention. Perhaps even more surprising is that it actually works!

Once more, Dependent label boss Stefan Herwig somehow manages to pull together an impressive and representative overview of not only his great label but the underground scene generally. And credit is worth repeating for the continuing policy to showcase unsigned artists - something few labels are willing to risk these days. One of the best entries in the Septic series. 7/10

Rob Dyer (November, 2005)

[Dependence sleeve]"Dependence" (Compilation Album, 2004)


Dependent are well-known amongst the underground electro cognoscenti and their annual compilation series Septic (see above and below) is a reliably regular sampling of the genre. The purpose of this release, quite clearly outside of the Septic series, may then not be readily apparent. A glimpse inside the sleeve notes tells us that label boss Stefan Herwig simply wanted to give something extra to the fans. So he got all of the contributors to do so free of payment in order that he could release this compilation at a mid-price instead of the usual full album tag. What a guy!

Fetishistically packaged in black plastic casing (no mediocre jewel case for this album) the tracks featured are only from Dependent-signed (or once signed in the case of Covenant) acts, whereas the Septic series offers unsigned newcomers the chance for exposure. So scarcity is important if this is going to add value to their catalogue. They are, for the most part, either rare or hitherto unreleased tracks and the title selection is well-chosen and representative. Yet another reason for you not to have any excuse to check out one of the leading electro/EBM/future pop genre labels on the planet. 7/10

Rob Dyer (February, 2006)

[Septic IV sleeve]"Septic IV" (Compilation Album, 2003)


Stefan Herwig and his German Dependent team continue to buck the independent underground label trend by going from strength to strength. This from a label that was once, but is no longer, home to Covenant and VNV Nation - two bands that are now at the top of their field. The loss of such rising stars may seem careless, yet Dependent seems to thrive on unearthing nascent talent and giving it the chance to break into wider international acclaim. It's this philosophy that seems to lie behind their Septic compilations. Always more than just an excuse to push their own artists, these provide a pool into which both Dependent regulars and newcomers can dip - to listen to some favourites and discover something new.

True to form, Septic IV can count a broad spread of unsigned artists among it number. Moreover, these are often just as good or at least promising as their signed up counterparts and deliver just what fans of new industrial, EBM, future pop and electro crave. Familiar names include Fektion Fekler from Texas, whose Take It All (Overload Mix) nicely blends dark vocals and dark but gentle melodies; This Morn Omina who deliver rumbling dark trance industrial with their One eYed Man (kill the daemon); ascendant Dependent stars Seabound deliver the Antiseptic RMX of Transformer a typical entry from their second album Beyond Flatline; and old timers (here at least) Hate Dept, whose contribution California may not be previously unreleased, but emphasises the electronics over their fondness for guitars.

This leaves the majority of the album to relative newcomers and the great unsigned. Standeg is the new project of haujobb founding member Björn Jünemann, who worked on early landmark releases like Homes & Gardens and Freeze Frame Reality and displays a mature style that fans of Daniel Myer less industrial output will readily take to. At the other end of the spectrum, there's Blau by German outfit Auto Aggression, that fuses distorted rhythmic noise with lighter, catchy hooklines - an unusually good combination. Babyland signed to Dependent a while back. Gehry is an unexpectedly original combination of various new wave and contemporary elements. Described as "junk punk" by Herwig, there's a distinctive quality that makes this stand out from everything else here. The vocals are passionate and the music could be likened to Fad Gadget meets The Cure. Of all the entries included here, Babyland is the artist I'll probably do most to follow up (but I think I said that last time too!).

Others worthy of a quick mention are Mind.In.A.Box, Mindless Faith, Pride and Fall, Dismantled and Blame. The standard is high throughout, almost all tracks are exclusive remixes or previously unreleased tracks and the result is a compilation that is stronger than its predecessor. Dependent demonstrate once again that they remain at the heart of global dark electronic music. Comes with the regular, useful 8-page booklet with profiles of each of the acts and contact details. 7/10

Rob Dyer (April, 2004)

[Septic III sleeve]"Septic III" (Compilation Album, 2002)


The third entry in the German Dependent label's sampler albums reflects the label's progression from industrial, via future pop and back to plain old electro. As such this is more of a mixed bag as there is less focus, but this at least gives label maestro Stefan Herwig the opportunity to showcase some otherwise unsigned and lesser-known acts. Current label artists Seabound, Ivory Frequency, Babyland, Suicide Commando and recent signings the UK's very own Sulpher all dutifully appear. Sadly, the 'Alt. Needle Mix' of Sulpher's Fear Me is hardly representative of their forceful sound but it should at least help break them to a wider audience (though perhaps not as much as their recent remix duties for a certain Gary Numan).

Besides the regulars, the other standout tracks include Backlash's mellow Regression Is No Option and true to its title experiments with mixing the mainstream with the underground. Before this album, I'd not heard American outfit Babyland and on the strength of the previously unreleased Nowadays I'll be sure to check them out further. Analogue Brain provide an attractive (if not exactly thrilling) cover of The Normal's seminal Warm Leatherette. Adrian (Click, Click) Smith's Paperhouse project brings this collection to a classy, deep and lush closure. Solid documentary evidence that Dependent remains one of the key electro labels. 7/10

Rob Dyer

[Septic II sleeve]"Septic II" (Compilation Album, 2001)


Sequels to previous hits always have an extremely difficult task to achieve. None more so than this second Dependent compilation as the first Septic was one of the best electro-industrial compilations I'd bought in a long while. The packaging retains the look of the original but opts for a bright orange and black colour combination. The cover tagline adding 'Future Pop' to its list of genres represented. The big name draws this time around include Front Line Assembly (Insolence), :wumpscut: (Ruda), Suicide Commando (Dein Herz, Meine Gier - Short Club v1.0), VNV Nation (Further Remix) and Apoptygma Berzerk (Starsign Extended Version). Continuing the policy to include either rare or otherwise unreleased tracks, of the fourteen here only two are 'regular' versions.

The other admirable aim of these compilations is to give new or little-known artists the chance to see their tracks alongside some of the scene's bigger luminaries. Tankt's Elite reminded me slightly of Velvet Acid Christ; Snuff Machinery by :S.I.T.D: not only sounds just like :wumpscut: (and Suicide Commando) but the band even go so far as to steal their hero's trademark colons to bookend their name - subtle huh? The Delta is a side project of the German trance outfit X-dream and their Pop is anything like it title might suggest. Dark industrial trance for dark souls. Los Angeles is the birth place of Mike Larrabee's Drawback and their catchy Undone with its 80s triggering synth line and ethereal vocals by Amanda Jones. Unsigned at the time of release, I'd be surprised if it stayed that way for very long.

Of the recent Dependent signatories, Dismantled do their impressive Front Line Assembly thing on Purity (Vocal), and Seabound up the BPM for their Radical Mix of their debut single Hooked. Last of the newcomers is another German solo project, Jorg Kundinger's The Retrosic and their Death Means Nothing - Staring At The Sea. With other popular relatively new bands in the form of Stromkern and In Strict Confidence also present the line up and resulting album is pretty impressive and whilst not quite the equal of its predecessor, it is a darn good go. 7/10

Rob Dyer

[Septic sleeve]"Septic" (Compilation Album, 1999) !DSO Recommended!


Given that the electro-industrial scene is relatively small, it has far more than its necessary quota of compilation albums, which can make choosing a decent one quite a challenge. Most are easy to ignore, but this limited edition (4,000 copies worldwide) release on the Dependent label is an absolute must. A fourteen track (79 minute) powerhaus that includes exclusive and previously unreleased tracks and mixes from luminaries and unknowns alike. Headline artists include Front Line Assembly, :wumpscut:, Covenant, Velvet Acid Christ, VNV Nation and Mesh (although of all the fourteen artists featured only Covenant, VNV and VAC have actually been signed to Dependent itself).

As an overview of what the term 'industrial' means these days, this CD is hard to fault. Of the heavyweights, Canadian Front Line Assembly's Sado-Masochism (from their 1997 album FLAvour of the Weak) is really a substantial remix courtesy of Velvet Acid Christ, and is as much, if not more, representative of VAC's sound then FLAs. :wumpscut:'s previously unreleased Flucht is typical of the German's harsher side, whilst Sweden's Covenant contribute the so-called 'Test Version' of the seminal Luminal from their 1997 Sequencer: Beta LP. It is an extremely low-tech demo that fans will delight in adding to their collection. Velvet Acid Christ's W.H.T.S.W.H.T.K. 98 is a remix that conveys the poetic anguish of one of the scene's most progressive artists.

Septic was released before VNV Nation's third LP, Empires, so at that stage, Rubicon was an exclusive track. Still, VNV enthusiasts around the globe will want to get their hands on this version as it has since gone onto notoriety after singer Ronan Harris publically apologised for the vocal mix, declaring that something had gone wrong between VNV delivering the track and the final pressing. To the layman's ears, however, the track and vocals are fine and some, like myself, still prefer this over the Empires version. Individual Totem's In Memorial was written just days after the death of vocalist Bernd Madls' father. Its inventive production style and anthemic synths make it one of the best tracks here. Offering some lighter relief ,and seemingly accounting for much of the 'electro' half of the sleeve's 'Electro-Industrial' tag, are the UK's Mesh. Their brand of synth pop has earned them a substantial European following. Regulars to this site will know I'm not their biggest of fans but, People Like Me, here in an alternate Mesh mix, is a strong example of their sound with a memorable chorus.

New Mind and Suicide Commando deliver tracks that are representative of their respective approaches to music. The former a cut-up cover of a Jefferson Airplane song (!), the latter focused, brutal and anchored more firmly in Euro-industrial traditions. Click Click have been around a few years and their sound has shifted somewhat over that time. Their HSD begins with siren-like synths and muted drums and drives over seven minutes into an upbeat and uplifting conclusion. Of the newer artists, Pail make the biggest impact with their excellent combination of dance rhythms, industrial beats and almost dub-like bass on the Suffering Remix of Paver Structure. The single most exciting piece of music I have ever heard come out of Spain.

Dependent's first rate packaging gives the whole enterprise an impressively polished presentation and there's an informative, full-colour, eight-page booklet providing further background to each of the acts included. Septic is one of the best industrial compilations I have ever bought and, trust me, I've got a few. 8/10

Rob Dyer

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