Information Society | Don't Be Afraid | Cleopatra CLP 0120

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reviewed by Rob

Track Listing: Empty | Closing In | On The Outside | Ending World | Seek300 | The Sky Away | Are 'Friends' Electric? | Ozar Midrashim | The Ridge

The first cool thing about this CD is that you get a bonus data disk, along with the audio disc, all for the price of a plain audio CD. In fact, you'll probably pay less for this album, which is on the small label Cleopatra than you would buying one of the older Tommy Boy releases new.

Old fans of Information Society may be disappointed by this release. The more pop, happy Information Society of the late 80's is gone. In fact, all of the members of InSoc are gone with the exception of Kurt Harland (AKA Kurt Valaquen). Now, Information Society is a one man studio band that seems to be more popular these days. If it were up to me, I would have changed the name of the band, to reflect the new artistic direction (but then again, it's not my band).

I've seen a lot of snippy "this sucks" reviews on the newsgroups which usually reflects the typical reaction of an old fan of Information Society. (There's a newsgroup for Information Society named which Kurt himself frequents). Here's one post that I found kinda funny, and I'm including it here:

From: goldenheart <[email protected]>
Newsgroups: alt.rave
Subject: Information Society's new cd
Date: 17 Oct 1997 01:49:19 GMT
Organization: God Loves You!
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
It seems all but one of the band members of I.S. is left.  He seems like
he's on a downward spiral.  Very sad songs and it seems like he's on the
end of the ropes.  I pray for him.  Do the same, please.  And also do
something nice for someone tonight.

The new information society album may take a couple of listens before you warm up to it -- which for me, is a good thing, since it signifies that the album is something that I'll be listening for a while. Also, the album is listenable as a whole, in contrast to the older Information Society releases.

The overall mood of this album is best described as dark and depressing. It should appeal to that group of people that like to be dark and depressing, you know, the type that wear black, avoid sunlight, used to be into goth, and now are into industrial. However, I'm not attempting classify this album as being either one of these. Being depressed and sad is not necessarily a bad thing, there's a lot of good music that comes from strong emotions like depression and loneliness. According to an interview with Kurt Harland that I recently read, this type of music has always been in him, but you didn't see it because Paul Robb was more the musical leader of the band. If you're uncomfortable with depression, and you would rather not relate with it, then you might want to stay away from this album.

The music itself uses layers of sampled strings, so it sounds symphonic and movie-soundtrackish, along with lots of cool samples, interesting synth sounds, some electric guitar over driving machine-drum dance beats. The highlights on this album are the cover of Gary Numan's "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and the frenetic "Seek300" (which has a really cool Spock sample.) If you need to hear the music to make up your mind, you can go visit the InSoc WebSite and download the MP3 snippets.

The bonus data disc is chock full of all kinds of cool stuff, some of it was contributed by fans, while other stuff was created by InSoc's Kurt Harland. Let me warn you though -- if you don't have a PC with DOS/Windows, then you may not get much out of the data disc. Some of things are packaged in zip files, there's only Windows programs, and the videos are in Video for Windows format. The videos include several short clips of Kurt's monstrous road warrior-type vehicle from the cover of Hack, and a video of "Peace & Love Inc." that never made it to MTV. Some of the more interesting things (at least for me) on there is the list of Kurt's musical influences, and the Information Society FAQ which gives a detailed history of the band.

One really unique and cool thing about this album is the puzzle/treasure hunt for a track called "White Roses" that begins with track 10 on the music disc. Like the last track on Peace & Love, Inc, you'll need to play the track and have a modem decode it. Basically, there's 16 pieces of a .wav file located all over the internet, and you'll need to recover them all before you can hear the track. You'll need a PC, a modem, an internet account, a sound card, a CD drive, an audio editor, IRC software, a web browser, and lots of hacker spirit, and lots of cleverness, to figure this out. (So far, I'm up to 7 pieces). As part of the puzzle, you have to decode the backwards message that in between tracks 7 and 8 -- it had me cracking up pretty hard.

Personally, I really like the new album, and I'm looking forward to the next one. If you like old Information Society, and at the same time like darker stuff like Front 242 and Meat Beat Manifesto, then I bet you will like this album. If you're into the internet and computers, you'll even enjoy this album even more.

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