Stuart J Harris started the outfit Section 37 almost two decades ago, releasing stuff under the monikers of Section 37, Sect 37 or S 37. Always in a collaboration with another artist, Stuart writes, records and releases his electronic madness, and a label’s name that returns is that of Aesthetic Death, one of the greatest names, to my personal opinion, when talking about the weirdest dimensions of Doom and Ambient frenzy (and much more). The label, once again to my opinion, has a splendid roster with several hands full of splendid material, but occasionally a disappointment as well. An example of the latter was the album The Kudos Of Serial Killing, released under the Section 37 moniker in early 2015; if interested, you can still read the review I did for that release, which as posted on June 8th 2015 (or enter the band’s name or the album’s title in ‘search’ etc.). more information about this project’s history can be found there as well, by the way.
So, I was not exactly that intensively excited when Stu did send me the full album Ausländer, the fourth release by this project (this time, once again, as Sect 37). But hey, I have been surprised before, so why not giving this material a chance?
Ausländer was created by Stuart (vocals and lyrics, composing and post-production) once again with John Frost instruments, co-song writing, mix and production); the latter being involved with the Sect 37 album Legion as well (also via Aesthetic Death), and mastered, also ‘once again’, at the famous Priory Recording Studios with Greg Chandler himself at the very end of 2015. It’s a sheep digipack (indeed, not a ‘cheap’ one, yet a ‘sheep’ one, haha – just check out the cover picture to discover my fabulous and hilarious sense of humour…) that comes in an edition limited to 300 copies. The album consists of fourteen titles, having a total running time of almost seventy minutes.
In comparison to the past, my first impression was quite comparable. Ausländer is like a collection of bizarre pieces, based on electronic melodies and tens of other elements, from psychedelic to mesmerizing, from danceable to static-gothic, from poppy to harsh. But after a couple of listens I was convinced: the progression compared to the former release is a fact!
Since there are fourteen tracks on this album, I won’t give a description on all of them. But let’s say that variation and cohesion are keywords. For most compositions, the basics are still built around modest EBM-structures or Electro-Pop foundations, sometimes of the truly eclectic up-beat kind, then again rather flirting with the borders of Dark Wave / Goth Rock (cf. the voice-colour of Stuart). Some tracks go with a symbiosis of semi-ritual aspects in melody and expression, others are rather Psybient / Space-Ambient-oriented, then again I do notice a trance-like atmosphere, subtle hints of Industrial Music / Industro-Rock, or even a touch of poppy soundtrack-like stuff. An important aspect once again is the use of different samples, sometimes on the foreground, then again subtly hidden, giving some of the compositions that special attitude, that specific atmosphere. The increased Gothic-alike sound and atmosphere can be considered a positive evolution / surplus (or the contrary to soma?).
For sure there is much, much more coherence this time, despite the diversified execution of the tracks, and that’s a good evolution. The Kudos Of Serial Killing was confusing for its lack of coherence, but this time everything hangs together in a symbiosis that makes sense. Also, the experimental side is less pronounced, and with a bigger focus on the whole package, which does make the result less heavy to digest. Then again, excerpts like Herd Mentality (what a high-levelled textual intelligence???) can’t convince me. But my subjective quality concludes with: still not the best electronic project I know, but for sure permanently evolving upwards…