Album Reviews

Mad Capsule Markets – 1997-2004

(Gut) UK release date: 27 June 2005

Freaky Japanese industrial outfit The Mad Capsule Markets are making quite a few demands on listeners’ wallets at the moment, with a live album, DVD and this Greatest Hits part two (following December’s 1990-1996). If you’re trying to think of a place to start with this lot, you could easily get confused right now – this wouldn’t be a bad choice though, as it captures all the power and retro-industrial eccentricity that make this band what they are.

The CD opens like a beast too. Crash Pow is like Ministry at their bruising best, with a fantastic descending riff that hits you in the gut so you feel like you’re falling off a cliff. Systematic launches off at an absurd bpm threatening to drive into mid-’90s gabbacore before settling into a similar groove to its predecessor. These two tracks also opened 1997’s Japan-only album Digidogheadlock, which is such a pig to get hold of that the 5 tracks here are something of a godsend and a torture in equal measure.

As we move on towards the millennium, the influence of mid-’90s German hard-core and gabbacore, industrial drum ‘n’ bass and low-fi bleepy noises start taking centre stage. It’s almost a shame, actually, as time hasn’t been that kind to some of the squealy synth sounds and drum breaks of the last ten years, meaning that the earliest stuff on this compilation actually sounds the freshest. Nevertheless it’s still frantic, energetic and powerful stuff that any Alec Empire fans would be well advised to investigate.

Alongside all the aggression, there’s an almost inevitable hint of Japanese bubblegum pop that appears every now and then. The intro to Island evokes the possibility of an industrial version of Summer Nights from Grease, whilst Gaga Life owes as much to Dutch happy-gabba as it does to the aforementioned (Atari) teenage rioter. There’s a change of pace, and a rare moment of beauty and tranquillity, to be found on the more ambient-tinged Kumo.

Weirder, but still fun, is Scary – Delete Streamin’ Freq. From the Fear Side from 2004’s Cistm Konfliqt LP. All of a sudden, I feel I know what an industrial hardcore version of Paul Simon‘s You Can Call Me Al might sound like.

This is a good place to start with the Mad Capsule Markets, especially as so much of their back catalogue is between expensive and impossible to get hold of. Album closer Loud Up brings the sound closer to the opening tracks, which bodes well for future form too. They’ve been around for a long time, but they’re only just hitting their international stride, and they show no signs of slowing down. Buy their records and they might even release Digidogheadlock in the UK, which has got to be worth a shot, hasn’t it?

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Mad Capsule Markets – 1997-2004