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Various Artists - Swarm, A Cold Spring Records Sampler

Since its inception in 1988 Cold Spring has established itself as a record label of distinction, and indeed it is the UK's leading label for all sorts of dark music. Originally conceived as a fundraiser for a TOPY access point, following the vinyl compilation ...And the Wolf Shall Lick The Jewels From Your Belly the label took on a life of its own with a catalogue spanning some 60 titles. Besides operating a highly efficient mail order service - a vital source for industrial / noise / ambient musics - the CEO Justin Mitchell has navigated the fortunes of the label through attracting an impressive array of worldwide talent. A highly developed philosophical viewpoint is almost a pre-requisite for inclusion in the Cold Spring catalog, it certainly applies to the martial acts such as HERR, Kriegsfall-U and the "controversial" Von Thronstahl. And for a label synonymous with dark ambient / martial industrial there's been forays into Japanese noise (Merzbow, Masonna, C.C.C.C.), noise based electronics (Novatron) and Justin Mitchell's rearing in old school industrial has ensured a steady supply of reissued material (and retrospectives) from Psychic TV. Laibach, Crash Worship ADRV, Sutcliffe Jügend, Streicher, The Grey Wolves amongst others. Even if all releases haven't been to my tastes the packaging is impecable and they don't bother with art or ultra limited editions. No sir, Cold Spring titles retail at affordable prices.

Swarm is a taster from their current roster with 22 acts contributing exclusive tracks. It's a mixture of the old and the new covering martial industrial, dark ambient, noise, neo-folk, drones, orchestral filmic to experimental. Kreuzweg OST, Kriegsfall-U and A Challenge of Honour all provide variations on the martial industrial theme, Necropolis and Schloss Tegal offer dark ambient, Andrew Liles, Tenhornedbeast and Band of Pain offer drone based works of sorts, Shinjuku Thief and Fredrik Klingwall operate in orchestral film score styled music, while Deadwood, Sistrenatus, Goatvargr, Merzbow / Nordvargr bring the noise. HERR, Werkraum and Von Thronstahl offer the neo-folk stylings with the latter two acts collaborating under the name of Bleiburg. Sleep Research Facility and John Watermann offer the more experimental pieces while Clear Stream Temple indulge in political industrial electronics and ZosKia offer primitive industrial culled from the mid-eighties.

It would be an ardous task to cover all the aforementioned but I can confirm that the martial industrial tracks are solid representations of the genre. It's interesting that both HERR and Von Thronstahl offer more guitar based tracks. Von Thronstahl provide an acoustic reading of 'Adoration To Europa', while HERR offer a neo-classical folksong enititled 'Stalingrad'. Christopher Walton (formerly of Endura) resurfaces with the deep menacing drones of Tenhornedbeast. Andrew Liles's 'Sea Man Or Giordano Giosus The Unsuspecting Landlord' is effectively chilling, as is 'Swelled and Spent' by Band of Pain where electronics blur and voices emerge over sustained droning. The late John Watermann is represented by a glitchy piece of cold electronics remixed by SI_Comm. John Gosling's ZosKia project has an alternative version of 'Ten Miles High', the flip to their 'Be Like Me' 12-inch on Temple Records. This is the first of the ZosKia material to be aired on Cold Spring ahead of the retrospective double CD set from the former Psychic TV member, who now records as Mekon on the Wall of Sound label.

As a primer for the label it's necessary, and a mandatory purchase for those already familiar with the label but hopefully the inclusion of Andrew Liles, Merzbow, Band of Pain and ZosKia can attract the attention of the casual buyer as there's a lot of worthwhile material to be found on Swarm. Swarm is a double CD set available for the price of a single CD. For more information go to www.coldspring.co.uk