Youth Code
A Place To Stand



by ValekHalfHeart USER (2 Reviews)
January 14th, 2015 | 5 replies

Release Date: 2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Youth Code have pulled out all the stops in a furious, defiant follow-up to their debut.

Youth Code's first album teased us with the promise of revitalizing oldschool EBM, but their second release—the appropriately titled “A Place To Stand”--has firmly established that they have no interest in staying locked in the past. Having dropped any semblance of restraint or minimalism, this album is fuelled less by 1980's-esque creeping menace and more by all-out punk rage. What lurked beneath the surface of “Youth Code” is now out in the open and screaming its presence to the world, and it makes for some powerful music. The songs are more charged, both rhythmically and politically, but there is much more going on in APTS than a simple continuation of the themes and styles Youth Code have established thusfar. The band takes its ideas in some interesting directions, directions that some industrial fans may find off-putting, or even blasphemous.

The EP starts up immediately with none of the slow-paced atmosphere-building of that so characterized their previous work. As a huge fan of ambient, atmospheric music, I'm tempted to be disappointed, but it's hard to feel passive during the thundering opener that is “Consuming Guilt.” From the first second, the synths hit like pistons on an assembly line, pushing the song relentlessly forward with a manic energy more reminiscent of Aesthetic Perfection than Front 242. The soundscape varies from deeply layered to fairly sparse over the song's brief 3-minute run, adding some much needed spice to its otherwise straightforward rhythm. The metallic sounds, old-style synths, and unrecognisably strained female vocals are all still there, but they're played so violently that it sounds completely new.

Of the four non-remix tracks on APTS, each is slower and more deliberate than the last. “To Burn Your World” is just as angry as “Consuming Guilt,” but here the anger manifests as a lethal bass theme and caustic vocals over an otherwise relatively sparse song. Around 1 minute in when the drums cut out and Sara proclaims “The fire has been lit! The ritual has begun!” marks the band's most punk moment to date. “For I am Cursed” is actually quite melodic, almost orchestral, although the instrumentation is still very tense. It's more of a bitter lament than an outright display of aggression, and it's theme might even be described as “pretty.” However, the vocals are more strained than anywhere else on the album, and about 3 minutes they temporarily devolve into a bestial breakdown of snarls and hisses—hardly a “pretty” song.

If the melody on “For I Am Cursed” seemed out of place to fans of more hardcore industrial, then the menacing atmosphere and creepy samples in the first few seconds of “A Litany” might seem refreshing. What we hear is Sara Taylor speaking clearly and deliberately over an almost imperceptible layer of droning synthesizers and audio clips. This may sound like Throbbing Gristle's “Hamburger Lady” or any of a hundred other minimalist industrial horror pieces, but she's not talking about serial killers or bodily mutilation (at least not directly). Instead, we're treated to a speech about equality, freedom, bodily autonomy, and ultimately, compassion. Even vegetarianism is implied to be a part of their agenda. This wouldn't be too remarkable if industrial, especially it's more aggressive variants, wasn't better known for songs that exemplify hatred, violence, and sadism. Even calmer artists' catalogues tend to be replete with themes of dehumanization. After all, the genre was founded in the spirit of an “industrial revolution” in music.

Industrial is no stranger to political advocacy, with acts such as Skinny Puppy fuelling many of their classic albums with heartfelt concerns about how our governments and cultures operate. But political Skinny Puppy songs never lost the feeling they were still “hardcore,” as their compassion manifested itself in then-unprecedented displays of horror and anger. But while Skinny Puppy wailed “Just Go Away!” at a culture that did nothing to stop AIDS, Youth Code are instead opting to call upon the people for compassion. This is something new in the world of industrial music, and for some, probably unwanted. Depending on how passionate you are about the issues raised, and how willing you are to accept “humanity” in your industrial, you'll either view the song as a powerful force for cultural change, or an abhorrent cancer of feelings in your otherwise soul-crushing music collection. Either way, it was a gutsy move putting it on the EP, and I respect the band a lot for caring about these issues enough to risk their image as a “hardcore” group-- which they definitely are.

Compared to these four tracks, the four remixes are not nearly as memorable, with one notable exception. “No Animal Escapes” get an interesting drone treatment which helps fill in its minimal structure but otherwise leaves the song much as it was, while “Sick Skinned” and “Let The Sky Burn” both are transformed in upbeat, almost bouncy tracks, again with denser structures. But “Wear The Wounds” is utterly transformed into a murderously threatening industrial hip-hop track courtesy of Clipping, and offers the most variety to be heard on APTS by a long shot. Guest vocals and completely new lyrics almost completely bury the original track. Sara's cries occasionally peak through the new rhythm to offer a backing burst of processed vocals, but a better title might have been “Seein' Right Through You” (one of the only lyrics taken from the original song). It's an absolute triumph of genre-bending collaboration, but one that probably isn't for anyone. If there ever was “Either love it or hate” song in industrial music, it's this one.

“A Place To Stand” shows Youth Code moving away from old-school EBM and more firmly into a new flavor of passionate, punk-inspired electronic music. The sound palate is definitely still industrial, but the approach is not. Some may find the result out of place or weak at times, while others will embrace the fact they're hearing something new, but there's no doubt that they've made something special here.

user ratings (22)

Comments:Add a Comment 
January 15th 2015


Consuming Guilt rules

January 16th 2015


Been meaning to check this band out. Good review.

January 16th 2015


Is this streaming anywhere? Can't seem to find it.

January 18th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

It's on Spotify.

January 18th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

Sorry for all the typos; obviously I need to work on my proofreading. I don't know where those unprintable characters came from...

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