Shades of Black
Artist: Blackhouse
Label: Blacklight Records

Before Nine Inch Nails, before Ministry, before Circle of Dust...I was in high school. And the local college radio station had a weekly show that featured the strangest "music" this young lad had ever heard--clinks, clanks, sounds of sledgehammers and steam, synthesizers-in-pain, power-drill guitar samples, off-kilter beats, distant and disembodied vocals--in short, real industrial music.  Music imitating the cold, impersonal rhythms and sounds of factories.
 
It's been many years since I've heard "noise" industrial, so this Blackhouse album (their 11th on CD I think) took a little getting used to. I was never really a fan of the style, although I admire the attempt at creativity and nonconformity.  This album didn't win me over, either. Each song just takes a simple rhythmic idea and repeats it ad nauseam. Sure, there are a lot of groovy beats and intriguing sounds found here, from ultra-fuzzed bassbeats to unique guitar samples to German voice samples to plenty of keyboard sound manipulations, but the repetition is just too much.  Many of the songs take on primitive, distorted hip-hop rhythms, and a few more are really inaccessible industrial raps.  It's only the rap songs that have more than one line of lyrics, and they're like these: 

    Cuz when it comes to the world and the way that you feel
    There's only one way and one word that is real
    And when you're feelin' fly, and when you're feelin' real dapper
    Remember clothes don't make the man - ayo - they're just the wrapper
Kinda stupid, huh?  Keep in mind only two songs have these type of lyrics, though, and the vocals are heavily buried in unfriendly industrial noise. The other songs are mostly instrumental, with weird, nebulous one-liners or single words scattered about (like techno).
 
I'm afraid I'm just too used to "fast food industrial," as Blackhouse calls it, because this is barely good for background noise in my book. The excited, thorough, and very human explanations of each song in the liner notes helped a great deal to add personality and make the album cool to listen to a few times while thinking about the themes and emotions behind the music.  Ultimately, though, the repetitive rhythms of machinery  just don't jump my battery, even with the freaky dance and hip-hop overtones.

By Josh Spencer

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