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Sistrenatus - Division One

It seems Harlow MacFarlane the Canadian musician behind Sistrenatus takes the term industrial music quite literally. Right from the get-go, Division One is awash with the sound of industrial machinery and disused factories. Steel doors slam shut, metal chains clink and clang, footsteps traverse along industrial shafts and corridors. Amidst the carefully controlled chaos electronics drone and shudder. Voices are distant and muffled, with only the occasional sentence becoming decipherable.

Harlow MacFarlane used to record under the name Funerary Call and while that project was much more in the vein of ritual ambient, with Sistrenatus he switches effortlessly between industrial, noise and dark ambient, often in the course of the same track. Just to confuse the listener even more martial rhythms sporadically surface throughout. Division One foregoes proper song titles in favour of simple indexing ranging from I to IX, with the intention of Division One being played as one in its entirety. Sound and texture appears to be the key to unlocking its secrets.

'III' ranges from harsh industrial rumbling noise to short controlled bursts of power electronics, while 'IV' is dark ambient with droning synths and thumping beats. As it progresses orchestral synths rise and fall to the sound of timpani drum rolls. Unlike the corrosive textures and factory smog of the other tracks on Division One 'IV' is like the soundtrack to a slave ship in the fiery pits of hell. 'VI', meanwhile, opts for throbbing synths and a cut-glass melody obscured by background industrial squeaks'n' creaks and more muffled voices. The following track, 'VII', takes in wartime news reel footage, cut-off by the piercing shriek of a drill accompanied later by martial drum beats and deep bass throb layered with assorted cut-up voices. After that its shuddering electronic tones and military eyewitness sample, over piercing shrieks and passages of industrial noise, The final track combines the electronic hum of harsh industrial noise with martial drum rolls. And throughout it all there remains the clatter of industrial activity and production.

And that's the main problem here: Division One can't decide whether its death industrial, industrial noise, dark ambient or whatever. It seems to have a tick in every box. With 9 tracks in 36 minutes its also a tad short leaving little time for development before the next track is upon you. It's like listening to an industrial effects record; a Radiophonic Workshop release designed for an industrial and noise audience maybe. As mentioned earlier sound and texture appear the key here and Sistrenatus veer between genres with some good sounds and good tracks, but ultimately Division One fails as it tries to be so many things in such a short space of time. Sistrenatus appear to be highly competent at what they do, and I certainly wouldn't write them off, but I'd like to hear them tackle less over longer tracks. Perhaps things will become clearer on Wrought Iron Railings, their new CD due later this year on the French label Hermetique. For more information go to