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A provocative sonic and narrative apocalyptic journey, “Catalyst” from Recoilprodukt is essential listening for fans of dark electronic music.

Catalyst

Sometimes, being an old industrial hound really doth have its privileges.

Case in point: Morbidly Beautiful recently had the opportunity to get an advance screening of a new, three-part music/narrative experience called Catalyst. Launching on vinyl and Spotify on January 24th, Catalyst is a new EP from Recoilprodukt, a dark electronic record label that’s been in the biz since 1984.

For reference, Depeche Mode’s breakthrough album, Some Great Reward, also came out that same year, right when electronic music was beginning to gain a foothold.

Catalyst (part one), pre-calamity, is the introduction to this dark tale of apocalypse and, as such, is more than just music. It is also a narrative establishing the time right before said apocalypse and consists of a dialogue between a doctor and his psychotic, possibly religiously affected patient.

The song is around four minutes long and sounds like a mashup of industrial and dark ambient music, with the dialogue coming across as if it was lifted from some obscure movie.

As a huge fan of sample-laden industrial, Catalyst (part one) is right up my alley, invoking dark imagery and eerie sonic landscapes. I would say that the album sounds a bit like offerings from Atrium Carceri, Kammarheit, and Dead Melodies.

Dancefloor industrial, this is not; it’s a stripped-down, ruminative experience intended to engage your mind instead of your muscles.

As such, the drums accompanying the track are more of a stuttering heartbeat than a propulsive stomp, underlying the sinuous synths and spooky samplers.

It’s a soundtrack for dark nights, dark roads, or dark intentions.

I have a Spotify playlist of songs I put on while lying in bed, sleepless, and I feel like exploring darker thoughts and faded memories. Needless to say, Catalyst (part one) will slot right in perfectly.

The B-side of Catalyst’s vinyl is where the BPMs are found. Remixed by Blush Response (a mainstay in the industrial/electro scene), this alternate version of Catalyst is aggressive, the kind of track you’ll hear playing in industrial clubs worldwide. Hints of the original track remain, with the dialogue samples still audible underneath the pounding beat and crossfaded noise.

What really sets this track apart from some of its contemporaries is how well it plays with ambiance, sounding truly immersive on respectable headphones.

(Then again, it even sounds three-dimensional on my MacBook’s speakers, and that’s no easy feat.)

I’ve actually heard other Blush Response offerings in the past, including his remixes for Haujobb and Front Line Assembly, and I can honestly say that he has my utmost respect. The dude’s got talent. Learn more about Blush Response and his record label, MEGASTRUCTURE, here.

All in all, Catalyst (part one) is pretty damn awesome, especially considering it’s both an auditory and narrative experience. Coupled with the stellar (and downright creepy) album artwork, this is a unique foray into dark electronic music, and I honestly cannot wait to see how the story wraps up.

Part two will be released in May, while part three is set to drop in the fall. If you want to add something completely distinctive to your record collection, I would HIGHLY recommend picking up one of these collector’s edition vinyls before they’re gone for good!

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 5

Before watching the video below, note that it may not be appropriate for those who are photosensitive or who are at risk of seizures from certain light patterns or flashing lights.

Artist/Label Spotlight

In addition to reviewing the music itself, I wanted to take a moment to throw Riꓘ some questions about Recoilprodukt, the record label releasing the three-part Catalyst EP series. I’m always fascinated to learn how people got their start in the music biz, especially those on the other side of the curtain. Yes, the artists themselves deserve attention, but without a label, a studio, and (quite frequently) a producer, music simply wouldn’t be made. Or not in a way that would generally be successful, at least.

I was also surprised by the fact that Recoilprodukt has been around since the early 80s, which is right when electronic music was coming into its own.

Morbidly Beautiful: While not unheard of (concept albums like The Wall, Operation: Mindcrime, and Tommy all tell a complete story), I still can’t think of another artist who has conceived an overarching narrative across three EP releases. What was the inspiration behind telling the story and releasing the music in a more serialized format?

Recoil Produkt: Yeah, that’s true, and it made sense to have Catalyst split over three discs as the story covers three distinct periods: pre-, mid, and post-apocalypse. Each disc depicts one specific period. We designed it so each release could stand on its own and also as part of a full set.

I love the unusual and obscure — I felt having the three discs added some allure for those craving those things, too. I like collecting these types of gems once I’ve stumbled across them.…

MB: Do you find that music and storytelling go hand in hand?

RP: Very much so. We take a lot of influences from movies, books, and audio recordings… I like creations that conjure interesting imagery.

I’m also very interested in how things were done “back in the day” — not everything needed to be revealed in a thirty-second trailer. Old-school was slower, cool, and mysterious; it could leave you guessing. We’re taking cues from that approach. I’d like to leave something to the imagination, bringing back the thrill of being curious, wide-eyed, and ready for surprises.

MB: I’ve been a fan of electronic music (especially heavier, industrial-related projects) since around 1992. Recoilprodukt was established eight long years prior when electronic music was still in its infancy (at least commercially). What was it like being at the forefront of something so new?

RP: We kicked off the first studio recordings in 84 after learning to build and wire a studio from scratch; there was no Google back then, so you had to figure things out on your own with limited info. Most producers didn’t share how they did things like people do today. It was way more closed off and protected. It was also an incredibly exciting time to discover and create something new. Once we got our hands on one of the first affordable samplers and synths, we were hooked.

I loved the fast and gritty approach of recording — we’d do tracks in one take and throw the vocal mix through a tube screamer a couple of times, and that was that. It’s all old news now, but back then, it was all very energizing to hear those new sounds smashed together.

One of the recordings we did back then even had an effect on the more visible bands of that time. For example, a cassette handed to Ministry ended up influencing their sound on subsequent releases.

MB: What is your favorite aspect of today’s electronic music scene? Conversely, what is still a struggle or frustration?

RP: It’s a bit of a paradox now. Recording tools and software we have access to now are things we could never have dreamed of back then. There’s also so much music being released every day now – I read somewhere that Spotify gets something like 80,000 new submissions every day, and it’s mostly all so good. That can be incredibly overwhelming… how do you make anything that’s new? It’s all been done!

On another note, these days, I’ve been messing around with AI voice at eleven labs. Instead of randomly capturing things like I used to, with AI I can script exactly what sound bites I want.

Take Catalyst, for example. All the voices are AI… the outcries of pain and anguish are also AI. For the third and final installment to the Catalyst trilogy, I’ve even made a new language using that same AI — it’s very strange but authentic sounding, which adds a desired unsettling vibe that fits the whole dark theme of that set of recordings.

MB: What lies ahead for Recoilprodukt in the future after the three Catalyst releases are firmly behind you?

RP: We have half a dozen releases slated for 2024. We’re also contemplating going strictly physical release — not streaming any future recordings except as teaser snippets. I feel like maybe a change is needed from how we take in media. The way it’s deluging us now makes “everything everywhere all at once” feel like the norm; our dopamine-jacked brains need that fix… but damn!

Maybe we need to unhitch that feed bag and unplug the mainlining IV tubes! Maybe we need to slow things down, really think and feel!

We strive to make music intended to be listened to by sitting and paying attention for a length of time rather than on Spotify while doing something else. Music shouldn’t be audio wallpaper hovering in the background.

Reviewer note – I agree wholeheartedly with that last statement!

2 Comments

2 Records

  1. on January 24, 2024 at 11:39 am
    recoilprodukt wrote:
    Catalyst review thx🖤 Beautiful review. Thanks Jack and the whole MB team🖤
    Reply
    • on January 24, 2024 at 10:54 pm
      Jack Wells wrote:

      It was an absolute pleasure to work with you, and we surely hope to continue collaborating in the future!

      Reply

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