Friday, 11 February 2011

ROTATION ZWEI

Band: B-MACHINA
Title:
Rotation Zwei
Format: Professionally packaged CDr on the Valgriind label (Russia), cat ref VG23, released in 2009. Glossy one-sided colour cover housing a plain white CDr disc in a white envelope.
Edition: Unknown - possibly only in the low hundreds?

Track Listing:
01 Donnergott 1.47
02 Iron Stallion 4.18
03 Other Visions 2.20
04 Forgotten 2.22
05 Ganesha 3.06
06 Dieu Du Tonnerre (with Herz Tod) 2.54
07 Aji-Suki-Taka-Hi-Kone (with Kenji Siratori) 7.07
08 Zeus 11.09
09 Prophecy (Part1) 19.39
10 Prophecy (Part 2) 19.37
11 Arena 4.28

A second compilation CDr from the B-Machina project, following the 2088 release "Erste Rotation (Eine Retrospektive Von Krieg Und Zeit)", reviewed in Honour and Darkness on 7 December 2010. Unlike that 2-disc set released through Sabbathid (Japan), this selection comes packaged by Valgriind in a simple wrap-around cover. It's rather a simplistic approach to presenting what is actually a rare and desirable collection of tracks, and one that is prone to crease too as the paper sleeve is protected only by a plastic wrapper (kindly signed by Hugin on Nazgul's copy). Ah well, not to worry, what it lacks in robustness it makes up for in appearance - there's an absolutely classic B-Machina illustration on the cover that merges war imagery with natural and almost Egyptian imagery in a most successful way: it would make a striking t-shirt!

Valgriind themselves describe this release as a "synthesis of acoustic guitar sound and background noise" and that, in a nutshell, sums up the slightly-insane-but-always-interesting mixture of Max's acoustic guitar strumming alongside Hugin's various electronica and industrially percussive effects. It all works extremely well but is actually difficult to convey in a meaningful way until you've heard it. As such, I would strongly urge anyone remotely interested in a musical direction that is both different to the mainstream and original in concept to give this a try: there are always copies of "Rotation Zwei" for sale online, it seems, and it would be a shame for the relatively modest price not to give this a spin. Try the Steinklang Industries webshop or the label directly, and tell 'em that Nazgul sent you!

For your investment, you'll get a disc of two halves: around half of the songs are taken from ultra-limited edition releases from the B-Machina back catalogue, now sold-out and entirely impossible to find for the most part (unless you are willing to spend big money when they do - rarely - appear). Let's quickly review these gems, with the applicable Honour and Darkness review date shown in parenthesis:
  • 'Iron Stallion' - coming from the W.A.R. label in only 25 copies on card-disc format, it's a dead-cert on the racetrack with it's blend of acoustic folk and grim sonic soundscapes and still manages to sound a tad like Bathory's 'Odin's Ride Over Nordland' as it begins [21 November 2009]
  • 'Other Visions' - another card-disc that came packaged in an orange envelope, complete with magnets, stickers and postcards. Top notch presentation, and a short acoustic piece with some extraordinary effects! Only 17 copies of the original pressing were released [20 August 2009]
  • 'Forgotten' - the second track on the "Other Visions" release above, described at the time by Nazgul as sounding like a 'Mexican stand-off in a classic spaghetti western' [20 August 2009]
  • 'Ganesha' - the brilliant track from the split CDr with Rose Rovine E Amanti, produced in a limitation of 44 copies and long since sold-out [23 January 2010]
  • 'Dieu Du Tonnere' - from the insanely limited box-set edition of 5 copies (!) that appeared - briefly - at W.A.R. in 2008, and featured the vocal contributions of Flo of Herz Tod [4 July 2009]
  • 'Prophecy Part 1' - the first part of this epic track, released as a mini-CDr on Smell The Stench and limited to 24 copies only [10 October 2009]
  • 'Prophecy Part 2' - and yes, guess what, the second part of the 'Prophecy' trilogy, again with 24 copies only being produced in 2007. Both Parts 1 and 2 also feature on the "Anti-Genesis" tape, but of course that is equally impossible to find! [25 June 2010]

As hard to find as these original releases are, it's interesting to think that only one of them gets a mention in the 'Top Ten of rare Bonemachine/B-Machina items' when reviewed by Nazgul on 10 July 2010 (excluding "Anti-Genesis"). That gives an impression on the sheer obscurity of this project, and the relative difficulty in trying to put together a significant collection of its output.

Certainly anyone who missed out on the releases above would find this compilation very helpful (check that - a lifesaver) in finally getting to hear this material. As a collector, one of the questions that occasionally buzzes through Nazgul's tiny mind revolves around the age-old subject of 'do I feel cheated' that I (and others) shelled out for the expensive limited editions - with their implicit promise of exclusivity - only to see the tracks emerge within a year or two on a compilation album? The answer to this is a resounding "no" - we still have the original item in their excellent packaging, and can delight in knowing that few others can admire the release in the same way that we can - and the bottom line is surely to elevate and bring Hugin's music to as wide an audience as possible?

And, of course, there are some interesting bonuses on this collection that are to be found nowhere else. This is a singular delight, as all too often compilations can be thrown together without thought for the fan who already has much of the material. In this case, there are four songs on offer that offer us something new and exciting to unveil. It starts immediately, with the instrumental opener 'Donnergott' ('Thunder God'), which lives up to its billing by juxtaposing rumbles of thunder with an electronic noise that sounds marvellously ominous. 'Aji-Suki-Taka-Hi-Kone' features the input of Japanese artist Kenji Siratori and is - pleasantly enough - very much in the style of the "Crypt Child" release in as far as it features largely spoken word vocals (this time with a bit of passion and vim) set to a the background of vague oriental acoustics and discordant industrial background noise that swirl around and keeps the listener alert. And, trivia fans, the deity theme is being continued here as the song title refers to Kami, one of the Japanese gods of thunder.

Mighty 'Zeus' keeps us on the 'gods of thunder' theme, being the Greek god of the heavenly rumbles, and mercifully spares us from a visitation from Gene Simmons of Kiss in his god of thunder persona. From the opening instrumental section featuring a multitude of chimes and bells (or possibly a herd of Austrian cattle falling down an Alp) the song develops into a riveting classic with some really powerful pieces of flamenco guitar - indeed, a couple of minutes in there is a tremendous section from Max, neo-classical in style and underpinned by the sounds of whistling winds, that you could imagine being plucked from a guitar by Zeus himself atop Mount Olympus. The album ends with the last of the new songs, 'Arena', and with more of the traditional Bone-sounds of this pair of Austrian maestros at work.

Of all the various compilation tapes and CD's that have been issued over the years compiling Alex's many and varied bands, Nazgul would stick his neck out and suggest to you that in terms of quality, value for money and overall selection of material "Rotation Zwei" might just edge the rest as the one to go for. Certainly if you are still to venture into the weird and wonderful world of B-Machina this easily available release is a necessary and affordable purchase so why not have yourself another resolution in 2011 and buy a copy of this release: it could just be the best few pennies you invest all year...

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