CD Title: Light It Up
Label: WTII Records
Reviewer: Matthew Johnson
The first thing you notice about Stromkern is singer Ned Kirby’s vocal style. Instead of your typical gothic moan or processed bellow, Kirby raps. Not only that, but he raps in a sort of vaguely lower-class English accent, an affectation rendered all the more incongruous by the classical strings and pianos in the mix. It’s off-putting, to say the least, if you’re expecting a typical industrial album, but once you get past the initial shock, it can also be surprisingly addictive. The album’s first single “Light It Up,” for example, is silly, with shouts of “Let me see those hands up” to an imaginary audience, but see if you can get it out of your head after hearing it just once. There’s a lot more to Stromkern than just the vocal gimmick, though. Kirby’s arrangements are subtle but exquisite; intricately-placed instrumental breakdowns contrast with the breathless vocal bursts of “Delete,” while “Forgiven” starts off meek, with gentle pianos and vocal echoes, then gradually adds slow breakbeats and electric guitars, gradually building into an epic crescendo. The presence of guest vocalists also helps highlight Kirby’s skills in the studio. “Sentinel” is perky, pop-flavored electro with Seabound’s Frank Spinath providing melodic vocal hooks, while Victoria Lloyd of Claire Voyant provides some contrast to the rest of the album’s political hip-hop vibe with “Hindsight,” which starts off with mystical spoken word on a background piano before launching into a synthpop love ballad. At first glance, it’s tempting to write Stromkern off as an industrial rap group novelty, but this album’s a lot more diverse than that. Check this one out if you’re ready for something different.
Throw your hands up and go to www.stromkern.com for more information.