Compulsive Shopping Disorder – In The Cube

01/01/2009 § Leave a comment

Artist: Compulsive Shopping Disorder
Title: In The Cube
Label: Rage In Eden / War Office Propaganda
Genre: Industrial / Dark Electro

Track Listing:

01 Dreams
02 In Confidence
03 Trash
04 Mind-Soul
05 Attraction of Pain
06 Fall
07 In the Cube

RecentIy I came across a Jim Henson short entitled “The Cube”. This was a 1969 film about a man who finds himself inside a – you guessed it – cube-shaped white room. People from all areas of life walk in and out of the structure though he finds it hard to leave, always missing an opportunity to exit or being duped by one of his interlocutors. The Cube is a visual metaphor for life and its methods of entrapment: how we can believe we are progressing when in fact we are static, with people only ebbing in, out and around our personal space. Likewise, “In The Cube” by Polish industrial band Compulsive Shopping Disorder takes a very similar look at our existence, though through far more pessimistic eyes without any of the humour and lightheartedness of Henson’s film.

In The Cube is therefore quite a thought-provoking and personal piece of work. It doesn’t want to jar your ears with harsh noises or some of the electronic clatter you’d normally encounter in an industrial record, it’s more subtle than that, even going so far as to advise the listener to play it “at minimum volume” in the CD inlay. The rest of the artwork is understated and modest, depicting the empty interiors of dimly lit rooms with a single bright window leading to outside. Presumably CSD feel – or would like to give the impression – that their existences are bleak, claustrophobic ones and that to reach outside of them is nothing more than a futile hope. Lyrics such as “suffering and pleasure/happiness and despair/they all charm in the depressing room of life” and “pain and blindness wait behind the door of comprehension” further enforce the analogy and idea that this room doesn’t want them to escape from it.

Musically In The Cube is beautifully layered with melody, albeit quite dark. Apparently the band didn’t know anything about creating synth music before they got together, so to put forward something as accomplished as this within such a short time frame is an impressive feat. The music comes across as anything but amateurish and if it weren’t for their biography I’d have thought they were old hands in the industrial scene. Each song has its own feel and depth to it, such as Dreams with its flowing, enveloping synths, In Confidence with its accessible EBM-style melodies and subtle piano refrains, and Fall which features further catchy synth riffs and whispered vocals. The rest of the vocals on In The Cube are distorted, whispered or spoken and at no point do they not fit the music or come across as too much of an affront.

The band are clearly great admirers of artists such as Coil and Kirlian Camera, mentioning the latter in the text of the CD booklet, but there is also a heavy vibe of Velvet Acid Christ. For instance, the piano passages are quite reminiscent of mid 90s era VAC and some of them could have come straight from Fun With Drugs. However, sometimes the constant repetition of the same old riffs does get a little wearing, but then this is music made to create an atmosphere, which it does successfully with some parts even veering off into ambient territory. The song that falls most foul of such repetition is Attraction of Pain whose melody is a little too basic and uninspired but this is really the only weak point of the album, which then picks up fantastically for Fall and the title track. It would have also been good if the numbers each climaxed in some way since they do build beautifully and more than once I was expecting some kind of orgasmic crescendo in the closing staves – but CSD don’t want to produce dance-floor fillers, just dark, multi-layered compositions, and those are here in spades.

In The Cube took two years to put together and was given multiple reworkings until the band came up with something that they were happy with. It’s obvious that the album is a labour of love – of the pained variety maybe – and it comes across as a highly professional and cleverly-crafted piece of work. It may not be too original but it doesn’t need to be: it takes influences from many areas of the electro scene and pulls them into one entrancing aural adventure – albeit in an enclosed space. If the band can come up with this kind of quality so early on I’m intrigued to see what they can come up with next, though with such a high-calibre debut it should certainly be worth the wait.

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