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Alex Mathau formed Negative Format in the mid-90's to push the boundaries of electronic music. Beginning with a couple of cassettes released in 1996 and the 1997 release of Pathologic Syndrome, this artist ventured onto the electro-industrial scene. 1998 saw the follow-up album Result of a New Culture released on the Gashed! label, and subsequent releases include Distant Pulses in 2000, Static EP in 2002, Cipher Method just a year later in 2003 and Moving Past The Boundaries in 2005. Keeping up the pace with the next release, the spring of 2008 saw the light of the next trance-laiden EBM work Gradients.

Alex enlists the help of other artists and the current lineup also includes Rashree and Brian Matson in the studio and on stage. The music from this project has always explored and delved into the various electronic music genres of EBM, Industrial, Techno and Trance. Each album presents something new and interesting, pleasing fans worldwide. As a band they manage to get out and perform live all over alongside other great artists.

Along with this excellent project, Alex also formed the collaborative work of The Parallel Project including members from VNV Nation, Culture Kultur, Psyche, The Axoic and many others... This work along with the work of Negative Format portrays the variety and range of themes, talents and philosophies behind the music. All of this comes together so well to create something unique and interesting for electronic music fans to enjoy.



Gradients - Review

This is the latest work from this trance-laiden project. This album is a continuation in the band's legacy of pounding beats and driving synths with a plethora of layered electronic loops. With a dozen tracks that span the genres through instrumental trance and techno sounds to the driving electro-industrial, we have a nice full album of great music.

The album kicks off with "Solid State", starting out with a downtempo, light beat that drifts and flows and then builds to a driving dance-beat after a couple of minutes with a somber harmonic synth layer providing a backdrop for the plethora of electronic loops and percussion that build to a climax and then drop off once again to fade out. This is a recurring theme and style on this album from piece to piece in varying fashions. "Hues of Grey" starts out with a modulating synthline for about 30 second until a hard driving beat kicks in and the loops pick up building one on the other creating a melodic, complex synth structure. The variety is there through the song structure when all of a sudden after nearly six minutes it all drops off to a downtempo and we're introduced to Rashree's beautiful, soft vocals for about 30 seconds and the downtempo interlude continues for another 30 seconds and then it's back to the pounding beats and layered synths over the rest of the eight minutes of the track duration.

This detailed description gives just a taste of the excellent music and diversity this band has to offer. And these are just two of the mostly instrumental pieces, so when we hit those that have more structured vocals, it's even better for fans of more melodic electropop and EBM. "Pathogen" follows up these two introductory pieces in similar fashion but features many more vocals including both the harsh, robotic like male vocals alongside the soft female vox. This has quickly become a favorite from this album and from their full discography and shows the excellent quality that much of this album has.

As the album continues on, it maintains about this ratio of one or two instrumental pieces to one with varying degrees of vocals. The lengths of the different pieces vary also, but stay pretty much on the longer side around six to eight minutes, so there's plenty of great music packed in on this disc. Also present is the variety in tempo within many tracks themselves such as the aforementioned "Hues Of Grey" which is driving and then breaks down for an interlude and vocals. Other variations come in the form of entire pieces maintaining a downtempo and somber pace such as "Foundations" which still has powerful synth lines, though not many layers and a driving, but slow beat providing a backdrop of luscious soft, siren-like vocals. Then after another instrumental piece we're given a different taste of vocal flare in the form of vocoded voice on "Photon Ring" which is another nice, dance-friendly piece. By the time we reach the end of the album and the final pieces we've gone through another favorite "Color Depth" which is entirely dominated by deep male vocals and driving synths and beats. Along with this we're treated with a unique experimental slow piece as the finale in the form of "Granite" which features soft synths, piano and an overall somber mood, coupled with various experimental electronics often heard associated with industrial and power noise projects.

So there you have it, a solid, packed album that fans should really enjoy. We've been featuring tracks from this album on our club mix radio show for months with positive feedback, so if you're a fan of any of these electronic genres of music, this will be a good match for you.

Rating: 4/5



Moving Past The Boundaries - Review

I've enjoyed selections from this band over the years and was extremely pleased to see them continuing to create new music with the release of this latest album. From the minute I put this album on I knew that we had another band that stood out from the plethora of EBM, Synth and Industrial bands there are out there right now. This album pushes past so many cliches and philisophical protests into experimental music and simple, yet thought-provoking lyrics. The combination of instrumental trance tracks, pounding industrial pieces with harsh vocals and smooth female vocals layered over throbbing synth-lines is excellent and captivating whether you're a DJ, on the dance floor or just listening on your personal stereo chilling out at home.

The influences of techno and trance are extremely noticeable on this album, but they don't become overbearing to the point you feel like you're in a dance club in Ibiza or being hypnotized by disco lights, but they add enough ambient and trance-like textures to provide a smooth layer of sound like a cushion against the jagged industrial edge that comes at you through the other harsh elements of the music. The album starts off in this trance-like state through the instrumental "phase in" and mixes perfectly with the equally trancey piece "translucent", yet this latter selection intruduces the slightly industrial-sounding harsh vocals repeating the simple lyrics. This powerful pace continues on through more experimental loops and swooshing synths in "echo chamber" which introduces robotic vocoded vocals for an excellent piece, once again portraying simplicity at it's finest with an 8 line lyrical piece mixed in with layer upon layer of phasing synth loops, moving beats and the cool robotic vocals repeating the message "we deal in mind control".

At this point the album shifts into "sustain" which is a nice down-tempo piece while continuing with many trancey synth patterns, but introducing Rashree Matson with her beautiful vocals which really add a nice touch. This type of interlude is welcome amongst the driving patterns of much of the album, but this ends up being the only one present on this album and within minutes the tempo is back up and we're being driven through "particle shift" which delves into the harsh industrial vocals. As the album continues on it becomes quite homogenous in it's nature as we're driven on through one track after another of with the pounding beats and excellent synth loops. "centralized" becomes another nice piece reducing the tempo and intensity slightly and once again including Rashree's haunting siren-like vocals throughout as backing vocals for the harsh growling tones mixed within. The album moves on through "momentum", and the mid-tempo track "focus" with no-less intensity, just a slower beat and continuing with the futuristic driving piece "spectral analysis".

At this point the listener is taken through another sort of dimensional phase shift through the futuristic instrumental piece "prototype" and right into the "heterodox" which is another masterpiece from this band with the mix of male and backing female vocals of hypnotic synth loops. The album wraps up with two more extremely trancey pieces in "probe v2.4" which is another instrumental and finally the down-tempo, experimental ambient selection "out of phase". As it fades out, the album wraps up and the listener is left wondering what happened as the trance ends and reality comes back into focus. This is a great work, pushing the boundaries, making all of the genres used more appealling again when so many things have grown stale.

Rating: 4/5


Website:
www.negativeformat.com
Label: Metropolis Records

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