Category: Industrial / Electro
Album: Artifacts III: 1988-1993
Blurb: While geared more toward the hardcore fans, this collection offers an excellent history lesson on the Chicago underground industrial scene, as well as offering a snapshot into this eminent band’s formative years.
Years before the release of the band’s debut album, Transmissions from Eville, the Chicago coldwave sensation known as Acumen Nation existed by way of numerous demo albums. These self-released oddities from the pre-MP3 days of cassettes showcase not only the budding talents of Jason Novak and indicate the heavy influence of the WaxTrax! era, but act as a time capsule of the mid-to-late ‘80s and the early ‘90s industrial scene. Artifacts III brings us even more from the Cracknation vaults, offering the slightest glimpse into the creative process that would eventually produce one of the heaviest and hardest hitting industrial rock acts to emerge from the Chicago underground scene.
Even from the opening track of “Nocturnia,” many of the hallmarks of the early Acumen sound can be heard, primarily in the buildup of atmosphere by way of a booming beat, throbbing bass, and numerous samples interwoven to create a tapestry of sound. The same can also be certainly said of the original 1991 demo of “Candy Prowled,” a song that would later appear on the band’s much revered second album, Territory=Universe. Stripped of the guitars, the song’s blistering industrialized dance qualities come to the fore, although even in this primitive form can the song’s visceral and venomus charm still be heard. Naturally, much of Artifacts III follows in the similar vein of stemming directly from the influence of the Chicago underground of the ‘80s, with tracks like “Leave This Soul,” “Lizardskin,” and “End of Line” being prime examples with their infectious four-on-the-floor beats, simple yet enticing bass lines, and sample-laden collages of sound immediately recalling the likes of early Front 242. However, it is on tracks like “Construction Time” with its slap bass synth and reverberating pianos evoking a cold ambience and “Imago Dei” with its steady mix of distorted synth and guitar swelling to a lushly melodic concoction that Novak’s musical versatility even at these early stages become apparent, with the latter track foreshadowing his later work in Fawn.
Complete with a caustic cover of Depeche Mode’s “New Dress” from a live performance in 1993 and MINISTRY’s “Everyday is Halloween,” Artifacts III pays a delightful homage to the early days of the Chicago industrial underground while also serving as a reminder that even an act as revered and accomplished as Acumen Nation began by emulating its influences. While this collection is geared more toward hardcore Crackwhores, it’s definitely an interesting history lesson that is a worthwhile listen for any fan of old school industrial dance music.
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)