There is a wide span of territory to navigate in electronic music. If darkwave equals coldwave, then what are EBM and electro? Industrial, by contrast, seems easier to categorize because of clear-cut differences between industrial pop and industrial dance (i.e., you can't dance to Nine Inch Nails), but what about industrial hybrids? If there is a band that would typify the category goth-industrial, it would be Houston's Bamboo Crisis.
Without a doubt, the band's latest album, Konspirosphere, is industrial. It is low on guitars, high on programming and samples. All of Ken Gerhard's vocals are distorted, but the tracks do not all sound the same. Mostly, Gerhard, Kirk Graham, Alexei Zaitsev, Chris O and reverend TiG have fashioned a very danceable release that also reveals a slight foreboding of doom.
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About ten years ago Gerhard and company picked their band's eco-conscious name from an article on pandas and the impending "bamboo crisis." As might be expected, a lot of Konspirosphere sounds like a sarcastic rant against technology. On "DNA," Gerhard speaks: "They fuse the genes but at what cost." And just in case the point had not been driven home yet, the lyrics in the chorus of "Let's Play God" lead with "We don't need religion to bring us to our knees / We just need some atom bombs and chemicals that make disease." The message continues on tracks such as "Transmission," in which a robotic voice, sounding a lot like a Dalek from Dr. Who, speaks of a superior intelligence, until its batteries run down. Coming from a band that makes its music with electronic instruments, the band's antitechnology irony is ironic.
There is also reason to believe Bamboo Crisis has not found its signature style yet. Disparate tracks sound mightily like the work of Christian Death or Electric Hellfire Club or some other band. "Atlantis" sounds like it was written by a dark synthpop band from the '80s that has escaped memory. That is not to say that Bamboo Crisis's music is not executed well, because it is. It's simply hard to think of the group as distinctive on this project. Granted, Gitane DeMone, who sings backing vocals on "Sentinel," has such an identifiable style that it's hard not to recall her former band, Christian Death. Nevertheless, she is supposed to be there to complement Bamboo Crisis. Not the other way around.
Mike Jensen, formerly of KMFDM, plays guitars on "Armageddon," easily the best track on the album, and fits well in the band's context. The dancey "Armageddon" seems a likely choice for a single and has already received airplay on college radio and in clubs.
The songs with faster bpm's, like "DNA" and "Violate," are better as dance tracks, while the slower numbers such as "Utopia" and "Outpost" are just fun. Overall, the album is a great pick-me-up, despite its dark posturing. -- Sande Chen