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|Struggling to break free
From life's inequities
The suicide of reason
Becomes the drowning season
-- Assemblage 23
"Assemblage 23 began life in 1988 as an electronic dance/techno-pop project founded by sole member Tom Shear. Owing heavy debts to early New Order, Fad Gadget, Human League, and Depeche Mode, the early material mixed stiff dance beats and limited production values and was in need of a new direction. That new direction came when at a Depeche Mode show that year, a DJ spinning various electro industrial classics introduced the industrial dance sound to Shear. Gradually, industrial elements began working their way into Shear's music until, in 1991, he renamed the project (from the previous "Man on a Stage") to Assemblage 23 and began focusing on the sound exclusively. (...)
In November of 1996, A23 appeared on the 21st Circuitry Record comp, "Newer Wave" on which they covered the legendary A Flock of Seagull's "I Ran" in a harsh EBM style that must've sent Mike Score searching for the earplugs frantically... During 1997, while A23 continued to work on new material, it's cover of the Psychedlic Furs "Love My Way" packed dancefloors and introduced the band to a still wider audience. (...) At the beginning of 1998, Arts Industria's "Silicon Warfare" comp was released. A23's "Purgatory", which kicked off the comp, introduced some of the new elements A23 had introduced to it's sound. Synth-poppy hooks now melded with the heavy beats and overall dark mood.
Finally, early in 1999, Assemblage 23 signed with the Canadian label Gashed!, home to artists such as New Mind, Allied Vision, Aghast View, and others. October 26th, 1999 will see the release of the first ever full length A23 debut, entitled "Contempt". Consisting of brand new tracks, and new rerecordings of older A23 tracks, the album is a mix of plodding, heavy beats and more upbeat dancefloor material. "
" Finally in 1998, the Canadian label, Gashed Records signed Assemblage 23 and in 1999 released their first album, Contempt. Comprised of polished melodies, heavy beats and a mechanical roughness, Contempt won dance floor acclaim with originality and timeliness in a genre dominated at the time by electro and goth bands.
"In line with his debut album Contempt, Tom Shear has put together another fine EBM album, where his savvy in layering keys and electro driving beats is highlighted again. While most of the songs are engaging, the catchy Awake will probably stand out as a dancefloor killer; Disappoint is another track with pounding rythms and darker vocals that reminds me of Purgatory. But the tour de force on this album is the last track King of Insects where Tom ventures into Diary of Dreams territory, by exploring new gothic grounds, skillfully layering melodic piano arrangements to create a slower darker piece. Other notable tracks: Longevity, Tried and Divide.
As a whole, 'Failure' is far from being one! It offers a blend of industrial, EBM and electro-goth influences, similar to VNV Nation's latest efforts. One of the strongest album releases of 2001 so far. Highly recommended!"
-- Said Sukkarieh, musicfolio.com, 3/01
½ 2001: Addendum
Track Listings: 1.) Let Me Be Your Armor 2.) Awake [Imperative Reaction Mix] 3.) Naked [God Module RMX] 4.) Divide [Tidal Mix by cut.rate.box 5.) Surface[Grip Mix by Aghast View] 6.) Breath of Ghosts 7.) Disappoint [Negative Format Remix] 8.) Naked [Clear Vision Remix] 9.) King of Insects [Red Sparrow Remix] 10.) The Drowning Season [Original 1996 Mix] 11.) Silence [Lo-fi Quietude Remix by Converter] 12.) Naked [ Project X Remix] 13.)Away
"(...) basically a remix album, with three new tracks, 'Breath of Ghosts', 'Let Me Be Your Armor', and 'Away'. As far as the remixes, there are mostly from A23's phenomonal album, Failure.
So is it worth it to pick this ablum up? YES! The original tracks alone are worth it. 'Let Me Be Your Armor' is Tom Shear's best track to date, danceable, emotional, and hard-hitting. 'Breath of Ghosts' is loud and heavy, and 'Away' is a sometimes airy, sometimes heavy break beat anthem that is sure to please. If these original tracks are any indication of what's coming next from A23, I'll be there with bells on. (...)
Final Verdict and Bottom Line: The original tracks are worth the price of admission, but the remixes don't quite stand up to the originals. "
-- Jack Frost, prongs.com, 12/01
½ 2002: Defiance
Tom Shear's Assemblage 23 project is lauded for crossing boundaries between industrial and synthpop, using elements of both but belonging exclusively to neither. What also sets A23 apart from the typical are the personal and emotionally charged lyrics. With Defiance, Tom Shear has produced another engaging and interesting work, but it lacks the polish and inspiration of his past recordings. Much was made of A23's previous album, Failure, and for good reason: Tom had lost his father to suicide, and the entire album was soaked with sorrowful longing and stricken questions, creating a powerful, personal connection with the listener. Unfortunately, this connection is all but absent on Defiance, save for a few precious moments. Drive is a masterfully constructed dancefloor track that sports some of Shear's best sequencing work to date, and the lyrics accurately portray not only anguish and confusion, but how they can be dealt with in a positive manner. Tom explores the topic of legacy on Document - both his own and the listener's - and leaves an honest and deep impression, not to mention a killer synth hook. (...) Fans of intelligent synthpop will find a lot to like on Defiance, and the songs are by-the-numbers electro dance numbers that will fill the dancefloors, but if you were hoping for Failure Pt. II, this isn't it by a long shot. Pick up Addendum if you haven't already, and the import single for Document - get your A23 fix that way. Defiance is, overall, simply average work for Tom Shear, and while that's still above and beyond most EBM released these days, you're left with the impression that he could have done much better.
-- Bert Rinderle, via amazon.com, 10/02
¼ 2004: Storm
Track Listing: 1. Human 2. Skin 3. Ground 4. Let the Wind Erase Me 5. Infinite 6. Complacent 7. You Haven't Earned It 8. Regret 9. Apart 10. 30kft.
"With a couple of exceptions, the albums songs are upbeat, rarely dropping below 130bpm. They're all seemingly aimed at club play. The album is also well produced, with a more 'detailed' sound than previous efforts, and confident, accomplished vocals from Tom. And that's essentially it. Stick it in the CD player, and sit back and enjoy the punchy beat, arpeggios and sweeping synths of opening track Human. And then there's the actual song content. 'Forgive Me My Mistakes - I'm Only Human'. Hmmm, REAL innovation there.....
But somehow, despite my indifference to the vast majority of this CD, there is still one track that stands out. It's not unknown for Assemblage 23 albums to end on a slow song, but this one at least tops King of Insects and Lullaby, the closing numbers from the previous two albums. The song in question is 30,000Ft. The vocals are processed to sound like a mobile phone message, sent from a plane plummeting to Earth, the delicate instrumentation finally achieving the feeling of utter resignation that Mr.Shear has been seeking throughout the last 4 albums. As before the message is complete, the call (and hence the song and the album as a whole) comes to an abrupt end. There is no crash, no explosion, just a plaintive squeak, and then silence. End of CD. And quite frankly, I was relieved. There's no doubting the technical merit of this album. Tom Shear has become a very competent synth-meister and future-pop 'name'. But at the end of the day, it isn't really all that exciting a listen. Whilst a couple of songs (Skin and You Haven't Earned It) pack in enough hooks to acquit themselves, the others largely fail to do so. Which gave the usually perfunctory closing number an unprecedented chance to steal the thunder of the whole album. Anyway, if this is the way future pop is going, all I can say is roll on the next Hocico album...."
-- Jonny EOL. eraseronline.com
¾ 2007: Meta
Tracklisting: 1. Decades V2 2. Raw 3. Sorry 4. Ghosts 5. Binary 6. Damaged 7. Madman's Dream 8. Truth 9. Crush 10. Old
"With both exploratory music and lyrics, 'Meta' is a shining example of how modern electro should sound. The album begins with Decades (V2), a pumping, addictive, highly danceable piece that really kicks the album off and allows the listener a glimpse of what to expect with the following tracks. This is one of those sing-a-long tracks that grabs you and pulls you in to the point that you become oblivious to the person is the car next to you is staring at you as you belt out the lyrics. Yes, this has happened to me. Raw is a bit rougher, but still retains that staple A23 sound. Once again, much like Decades, the chorus on Raw will have you singing along and yearning for a dance floor. Damaged is a slower piece where you'll first find that tinge of 80's style programming that is scattered throughout the album. While the sounds are modern, the overall feel of Damaged takes me back to the beginning (the hey-day) of synth-pop. Tom's vocals are so smooth and effortless sounding that they take control of the track, allowing the music to gently flow beneath them. While it is the saddest of tracks on 'Meta', Madman's Dream was easily my instant favorite. Again, the programming on this piece has a slight 80's feel to it, which oddly lends itself to the heartbreaking lyrics. While musically, this is a very peppy track, after grasping the lyrics I hardly feel like dancing. Lyrically and musically, this is one of the best tracks I have ever heard from any band. Musically, Truth follows the same blueprint laid down by Decades and Raw. Lyrically, the captivating chorus pulls you in and refuses to let go. 'Meta' finishes off with Old, a chorus-less, mid-paced track that revolves around sweeping synth lines, subtle vocals, and a galloping beat. From the opening track to the album finale, 'Meta' is an hours worth of crisp and fresh music that doesn't seem to tire even after many listens and, believe me, I've given this disc more play time than probably any other in the past decade.
Tracklisting: 1. Smoke 2. Collapse 3. Impermanence 4. How can I sleep? 5. Spark 6. Leave this all behind 7. Alive 8. Greed 9. Angels & Demons 10. The cruelest Year
"Compass is the uncompromising presentation of Tom Shear's biggest strength, the composition of dreamingly beautiful ballads, relentlessly catchy tunes and club hits that will draw all the party animals to the dance floor. He is a real master of his trade, and on this newest work, he has achieved the feat of sticking to the sound all Assemblage 23 fans love and hope for, while still creating a powerful and exciting new vibe. Listening to this album and discovering 'Compass' in its whole glory is pure fun; it fascinates and electrifies. All this combined makes sure that 'Compass' is not just a treat for Shear's big fan base but will also excite all those who have not yet discovered the fascination of Assemblage 23. The single 'Spark' has already proven a strong and promising harbinger but who would have thought that Tom Shear might surpass this benchmark in such a glorious way. For all those who love straightforward but also sophisticated and substantial electronic music, this album is not to be missed! The very limited deluxe edition comes complete with a bonus CD, including 3 new tracks, and two remixes."
-- press release
Tracklisting: 01. Crosstalk 02. The Last Mistake 03. Over & Out 04. The Noise Inside My Head 05. Outsider 06. Darkflow 07. Automaton 08. The Other Side of the Wall 09. Talk Me Down 10. Otherness
Release date: June 12, 2012
-- press release
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