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Continuing along the path carved by the excellent EP "Seven Lives", the electro/industrial juggernaut known as In Strict Confidence has released yet another phenomenal mini-album upon the unsuspecting masses. In keeping with established tradition, the "Where Sun & Moon Unite" EP is housed in premium packaging, with excellent album art, foil stamping on the digipack (import version), and 10 songs clocking in at 54 minutes. Like "Seven Lives" before it, there are both remixes and exclusive tracks on this disc, providing plenty of ear candy to ISC fans both old and new. In Strict Confidence is a band that continues to eclipse the competition with their awesome sound production, meaningful lyrics, and excellent song writing.
Promised Land (Extended Version) - The first single lifted off of the forthcoming album "Exile Paradise" finds ISC in familiar, but welcome, territory. Starting simply with a looped drum track, then adding layers of additional percussion and sequencing loops, the track lifts off on the first verse, with Dennis's double tracked vocals weaving along the pulsing synths. Antje sings the chorus, and like on their previous duet track Open Skies, the alternating male/female vocals do wonders for the song. Orchestral strings make an appearance almost halfway through, before the track drops back to the chorus and verse segments again. We can expect a similar, though shorter, version on the album itself.
Paradise Regained - The first of 3 non-album tracks, Paradise Regained dabbles in channel to channel crossfades in the opening moments, with understated percussion giving the intro a slow, steady pulse. The treated synths follow, with Dennis' distorted vocals following, reminiscent of older ISC releases. In fact, this song could easily have been found on "Mistrust The Angels". The angels/demons theme from the previous three albums is strong here, with the lyrics discussing fallen angels and their longing to return to their former celestial home.
Pearl - The second of the 3 bonus tracks, Pearl finds Dennis & Co. treading into somewhat new territory as far as delivery is concerned. While the track certainly contains all the highlights of a great ISC song, there's something about it that sets itself apart from the rest of the entries on this EP. The vocals are double tracked to perfection, and the ambient, ethereal synths almost hidden behind the sequencing add a layer of beauty to this beast. For lack of a better word, this track soars. It's not the heaviest ISC song, nor does it contain the usual lyrical and musical hooks, but it's captivating nonetheless.
Promised Land (Clubmix) - Yep. That's what it is. The majority of the synths are either omitted or subdued, leaving mostly the driving beat, stripped vocals, and reworked sequencing to carry the song along. The overall structure is the same, with this version very rarely lapsing into calm for more than a few seconds. Not great, but not bad either.
Wintermoon (Samsas Traum Remix) - Ahhh yes, the only other track to be lifted from the standard release of "Exile Paradise". And what a fine track it is. Of course, this being a remix, we won't know how closely it resembles the original album version until the actual album is released, but, honestly, who cares? This is a great track, remix notwithstanding. A little German movie or TV snippet starts the song off, and then we get right into the marching beats, punctuated by short heavy guitar samples and treated hi-hats. A great kick and snare drum beat adds a little weight, as do the effect and reverb heavy vocals. And then Antje's voice is heard, singing "wintermoon, what secrets do you hide?", and my spine tingles. I'm almost sad, however, as I fear that the album version may not reach the same heights that this remix achieves. For me, this is the highlight of the entire EP.
Diamond - The third and final non-album track, Diamond drops the fervent energy of the previous heavy-hitters in favor of a slow, melodic, ambient mix. It does not have the ethnic flair of Slowmotion from "Seven Lives" nor the sinister air of Alpha Centauri from "Holy". As an instrumental, it more than holds its own however, with acoustic guitar and spacey samples giving it a more organic feel. Diamond is a great song for sleepless nights or lazy days.
Emergency (Blind Faith & Envy Version) - A blast from the past, the original Emergency appears on "Holy", but this remix fits well with the bevy of new material. Very beat driven, the remix strips away quite a bit of the looped sequencing, in favor of a more lurching, aggressive sound. This actually serves the song well, as it gives it a new vibe, steering a little left of the relaxed nature of the original. Antje's vocals lazily cross-fade (really cool on good headphones) and muddled guitars give the song some chops. A great remix of a great song.
Paradise Regained (Patenbrigade:Wolff:Remix) - Starts off much slower than the original, with ambient textures floating along over the subdued and distorted vocals. Even when the drum track kicks in, the track maintains its downtempo vibe. This song almost has a synthpop feel too it, with the synth strings more poppy and happy than typical ISC fare. This track is nothing phenomenal, but definitely worthy of its spot on this disc.
Promised Land (Blutengel Remix) - A very sequencer driven remix, with Blutengel's trademark synth lines contrasting nicely to the vocals. This remix loses some of the power of the original song, but more than makes up for it with the dark beauty it conjures. Antje's voice with Chris Pohl's programming just sound...right, and maybe one day she'll be featured on one of his songs. Either way, this is the best of the final three remixes.
Samael (Lucas Boysen Remix) - Do you like long, repetitive intros? If so, have I got the track for you! Analogue sequencing with very minimal accompaniment make up the first 3 minutes of this 7 minute long track. One point of note; Samael only appears on the 2 disc and 3 disc versions of "Exile Paradise". If you get the single disc version, you won't get to hear the original version of this track, which is actually pretty good. Treated vocals and no percussion await those with the patience to sit through all of this remix.
A great teaser for the new album "Exile Paradise" (which just arrived in its 3 disc limited edition glory in my mailbox yesterday), this EP definitely does almost everything right. Almost every track has something to offer, and the bonus tracks are all excellent in their own right. In fact, having given the new album a few listens last night, some of these bonus tracks should have been on it! But I digress. Fans who have enjoyed the evolution of ISC over the past 5 years should like this EP immensely, and newcomers can get a sample of pretty much every facet of this talented act. If you are into dark music with great lyrics and excellent programming, pick this CD up. You won't be disappointed!