[Stand Up sleeve]"Stand Up" (EP, 2005)


The stonkingly chant-tastic Stand Up from the solid Light It Up album is singled out for the EP/remix treatment. Stromkern boast an inventiveness and creativity that sometimes threatens to spill over into needless fiddling, but manages to continually come down on the side of success. There are three mixes of Stand Up: Extended, Radio Edit and the Army of Darkness Mix, of which the latter establishes itself as the leader of the pack in a epic journey worthy of its title. A dream-like, alternate world version of album track Slow Cascade does another good job of taking a song into another direction without losing the essence that makes the original so cool in the first place. Can't Believe is the only entirely new song and though it's unlikely to set anyone's world on fire it does confirm Stromkern as reliably capable songwriters who steadfastly stick to their talent guns. 7/10

Rob Dyer (January, 2008)

[Light It Up sleeve]

"Light It Up" (Album, 2005)


Based out of Chicago, USA, J. Ned Kirby's Stromkern outfit released their first material back in 1997 with the Flicker Like A Candle EP. From the get go Kirby's eclectic set of influences and tastes was readily apparent and, almost a decade later, the unlikely but effective juxtaposition of post industrial rock guitars, European electro, hip hop and Kirby's own classically-trained background continues the refining process.

Much of the songwriting on Light It Up is a response to Kirby's own inability to keep politics out of his music. His recent disbelief in what he describes as the "Fanatical, hyper-religious conservatives" he says are waging a cultural war on the planet became simply too much for him to contain. Both lyrically and musically this gives much of the album its welcome edge. And it's simultaneously heartfelt and affecting too like the lyrics of Delete: "In a police empire your living a lie. You just delete entire fragments inside." Or more overtly on the thematic anthem Ruin "When you've finally had enough, you just gotta light it up, step back, and watch the motherfuckers burn". Thankfully, none of this ever becomes preachy polemic. Quite the opposite. It's an invigorating clarion call. Seabound's Frank Spinath adds his distinctive voice (and lyric writing) to Sentinel, the opening beating drums of which seem inspired by Ministry's Isle Of Man from the mid 80s, and it's impossible to deny that the Seabound sound has somehow managed to seep into its fibre.

But don't get the mistaken impression that this is all bleak or angst-ridden. It isn't all urban anger electronics. A far more relaxed stream is just as convincing in tracks like Slow Cascade and the all-to-brief The Debate where the sequencers neatly fuse with lilting piano melodies. Upon closer scrutiny it isn't perhaps quite as essential as it first appears but with songs as strong as Stand Up (perhaps the finest blend of hip hop and electronics), or the moving Hindsight featuring emotional vocals (and lyrics) by Victoria Lloyd of Claire Voyant it's easy to recommend Stromkern to anyone who hasn't yet had the good fortune to sample their uncommon sound. 7/10

Rob Dyer (March 2007)

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