Every year in Edinburgh, on the last day of April, the normally peaceful Calton Hill is transformed into a turbulent celebration of pagan tradition. The Beltane Fire Festival, held in the tradition of the ancient Celtic ritual of Beltane, is a frenzied, feral display of bonfires, pounding percussion and homages to various pagan traditions. Listening to Beating the Retreat, it's little wonder that it was Test Dept.'s own Angus Farquhar who was instrumental in resurrecting the festival in 1988. The album carries with it a sense of something primal and totemic, yet inherently violent and degraded, at once mechanical and organic, as if it were the musical conclusion to the rise and fall of man, the sound of tribesmen hammering out war rituals in the ruins of Tralfagar Square or Trump Plaza.
Despite the momentous onslaught of noise and fury in Beating the Retreat, there's a certain accessibility to the album, an instant visceral appeal in the infectious aboriginal rhythms of Kick To Kill, Spring Into Action or Total State Machine, juxtaposed against the unquiet, eerie ambiance of closing tracks Inheritance and Cold Witness. For the most part, the music is driven by the percussion, the group clanking and pounding on sheet metal and pipe with savage intensity, backed by apocalyptic machine noises and mutilated samples of classical music that play like a twisted memory of a forgotten era. It is the sound of the return to mankind's most primitive, basic state, but with the knowledge and memory of the horrors that caused civilization to devour itself. In this, the music itself is a statement far more effective than the powerful, yet often indecipherable vocals, which act more as another instrument than a comprehensible verbal statement.
Beating the Retreat is a furious amalgamation of driving tribal rhythms, bellowed vocals, tape loops and industrial machinery that is alternately unsettling, driving, soothing and unsettling again, from the dismal strings and ominous whispers of The Fall from Light until the final clanking crescendo of machinery that closes Cold Witness. This is the kind of music that people of future generations will be hammering out on sheets of scrap metal while their shaman tells tales of the Great Before, back when people weren't dying of radiation poisoning and growing multiple dicks.
Great album, always reminds me of something like Kollaps having sexual intercourse with 灰野敬二. Here's something:
Listening to Beating the Retreat, it's little wonder that it was Test Dept.'s own Angus Farquhar who was instrumental in resurrecting the festival in 1988.
Why? After this you proceed overviewing the album's sound from a tribal perspective (hehe), making comparisons to primitive percussion and such. You, however, forget to expand on why Farquhar was 'instrumental in resurrecting the festival.' See, martial/tribal percussion is both an aesthetic resource and musical element very common within industrial music--so lets say--- you can replace Angus' name with another one without producing any distinct change or impacting the review whatsoever since the statement lacks elaboration, insight. Stay away from blanket statements if they aren't gonna be subsequently expatiated.
Fair enough. This is one of the only Industrial albums with the percussion in this style that I've
heard, barring Einstürzende Neubauten, who from what I've seen have a percussive style that while
similar is a good deal less aggressive than Test Dept. I had a paragraph written comparing the two, I
just couldn't find a good place for it in the review.
Sure man, sorry for the delay, I've been preparing for an upcoming physics/chemistry exam. Definitely get some Dead Can Dance, The Serpent's Egg & Dying Sun are seminal to the development of t. DW. Deine Lakaien's 'Dark Star' is a solid (if not fantastic) release that blends electro-pop with darkwavian nuances, essential Todeskunstler. If you're interested in neoclassical stuff, though, take a look at Ashram or BTFABG; whereas if you're heading for the Ethereal spectrum try Cocteau Twins, Lycia or Theodor Bastard. You're welcome.