A conflict of interest prevents your DSO editor from reviewing the single - specifically, his involvement in one of the remixes - so he passed it onto me. What you get here is six tracks: three version of new track sacrament, and three remixes of songs from man(i)kin's first LP. We open with the vanilla-flavour sacrament - that's vanilla, as in "unremixed", and it's actually an effective track. Seth's vocals have come on well, and have a strength that goes well with Martin's backing. And any song that starts with the spoken line, "Even now, in heaven, there are angels wielding brutal weapons" is alright by me.
First remix is by J.Montelius of Covenant, and is a little too pedestrian for my tastes, with the first half being sunk beneath a relentless beat which could grace a Steps track. The instrumentation is really overly sparse to work, and it seems as if Montelius too got bored, as the second half swerves off in a different direction. This gives a bit more energy, but is too little, too late. The second variation on the theme comes from Torny Gottberg of Project-X, and is a success. After an atmospheric opening, he racks the BPM up a notch or two, with some nice funky bleeps which seem to have been borrowed from Giorgio Moroder. The vocals seem to be coming down a phone line, which was odd at first, but it works. At a lean, mean, 3'37", it's the shortest of the three versions by some way, and like all good songs, you're left wanting more.
We then move onto the reworkings of songs from the first album, beginning with The Galan Pixs being let loose on deity. There's not much left of the original here, apart from tiny fragments of Seth's vocal - barely more than the title word - over a juddering, Cabaret Voltaire-like rhythm section. However, there was one spell in the middle where I was certain it was going to turn into West End Girls. Fortunately, it didn't. Fifth up are Goteki, taking on skin, with another sparse interpretation, stripping the sound to the bare bones with an almost trancey or acidic feel to it. "No, I've no right to live", goes the remnants of the lyrics, adding a dark undertone to something which otherwise would not seem too out of place on a Happy Hardcore compilation. Welcome to the Third Summer of Love?
Last - and not least - is Wave, a side project of Mr. (DSO) Dyer, who opted to rework faithless. Again, the vocals are almost gone; you'd almost think no-one LIKED Seth's voice! But in this case, there were valid technical reasons why this is almost a Wave song with man(i)kin samples, than anything else. Lots of solid piano chords provide opening depth, before it drifts off towards the borders of ambient territory. This was one of my favourite man(i)kin tracks, so there was plenty of scope for screwing it up, but this is an entirely different song, and on its own merits, stands well. The EP as a whole is a success, even though there is technically only one new song on it. That alone is enough to demonstrate that man(i)kin have come on a long way, and I am certainly looking forward to their next full-length release. 6/10.
I had high hopes for this new UK industrial outfit after being mightily impressed by their live debut at the 1998 Infest Festival. Having seen them steadily improve live over the last twelve months I was beginning to think that I might have been building up expectations of this album beyond man(i)kin's means. After all, their first gig was only 12 months ago and sem(i)nal is their first release. But my concerns were unfounded. sem(i)nal is one of the strongest debuts in the industrial genre I've ever heard. It spans full-on floor-filling high BPM industrial EBM, to superb edgy electronic pop elements that sometimes remind one of Songs of Faith and Devotion period Depeche Mode. This collection of songs and this band must surely be destined for very big things.
Essentially a two-piece in the studio, Martin is the composer and Seth the lyricist and vocalist. The vocals are placed about midway in the mix and treated with some nice effects, making them blend perfectly with the music. There's something very early 80s about the vocals. David Gahan's early efforts (for the above mentioned DM) are a good point of reference, and like him, I'm sure Seth has it within him to provide a still stronger voice. But a distinctive style is already emerging. The music is extremely impressive. A moody and atmospheric alliance of sumptuous digital sounds, industrial sequencers and beats, combined with beautiful string synths and some more emotionally reflective touches. one last love song is an excellent example of how man(i)kin manage to successfully combine several styles, and yet this doesn't undermine their trademark strong structures. There are countless moments of true inspiration throughout sem(i)nal. The glorious opening moments of pilgrim walking, the unexpectedly dub-influenced liberation, the anthemic yet often pop-like faithless, while skin is a full-force technoid dance inducer with bizarre Dalekesque vocals.
The mix of classic industrial and almost big beat/dance fleetingly reminds one of Front Line Assembly's Flavour of the Weak album, and Covenant fans will readily take to the more upbeat tracks here. Only when man(i)kin try to be more in-your-face does their distinctive quality lapse, leaving the last two hardcore-inspired tracks, victim and deaf ears, not only sounding too similar but lacking the clever structural elements that set the remainder of this terrific album apart from its rivals. Fortunately, there are two (unlisted) bonus remix tracks at the end. Club floor-perfect versions of faithless and the driving deity show that man(i)kin can force your feet to move at the same time and still write distinctive, intelligent industrial music. The biggest fault with the album lies not in the songs but the production, particularly the mixing; although I'm sure this is down to the limited budget (assuming there was such a thing!), time available and inexperience. Still, even this cannot detract from the promise sem(i)nal represents. Not since I first heard haujobb has a band excited me so much, not just with some of the infectious songs already presented here, but with the immense potential they hold for the future. man(i)kin are quite simply the best UK industrial band since VNV Nation, and sem(i)nal is a far stronger debut. Herein lies the secret to the future of industrial music. 8/10
DSO Interview with man(i)kin: Interviews
DSO Live Reviews of man(i)kin: Live Reviews