ALBUM: Artifacts II: 1989-1994
REVIEWER: Matthew J.
A collection of early material, this CD collects the first recorded tracks of what is now the Cracknation collective; this material is the soil from which legendary coldwave act Acumen Nation, not to mention the DJ? Acucrack drum 'n' bass project, would eventually sprout. For fans with only passing familiarity with project founder Jason Novak and friends, these songs will come as something of a surprise. For one thing, there are no guitars, with the exception of some overdriven loops on "Youthinasia," which sounds less like early Acumen Nation than a hybrid of Filter and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. For another, there's very litte of the rhythmic complexity that would characterize Novak's later work; "Wartime" has a snappy electro beat, and "Catastrophic Moon" throws in some chopped up hip-hop samples for a funkier edge, but most of this stuff is four-on-the-floor EBM. It hasn't aged particularly well, either; "Prison Without Walls" is primitive and choppy, and "Momentus" is a pretty standard instrumental dance track with sampled growls and grunts standing in for vocals. Still, if this isn't the best example of the dark electronic scene at the time, it certainly shows promise of what Acumen Nation would eventually become; Novak's nasty snarl is already in evidence on "A Sudden Fever," and though the looping techniques on "Planetary Waste" are simplistic on the surface, they lead to an impressively rich, dark sound, if not one that bears much resemblance to Novak's later work. While it's the very beginning of the Cracknation story, chronologically speaking, it's probably the worst place for newcomers to start, considering how much groundbreaking material the collective has done since then in the drum 'n' bass, industrial, and metal scenes. But for longtime fans, this is a real treat, the aural equivalent of finding a goofy high school yearbook picture of a matinee idol.
Visit Cracknation's home on the Web at www.cracknation.com.
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