When it comes to attempts to succinctly convey the tone of Android Lust‘s particular brand of electro-industrial music, there are a few common ones; like Female NIN, gothic, dark, aggressive, moody, seething, raw… HR Giger even gets the odd mention, more than likely owing to the erotic overtones of the mechanical/android/alien aesthetic that’s prevalent in both the imagery and sound. I make no arguments to any of those (I’ve used them myself), but they don’t really do full justice to music that can sometimes be really quite haunting and beautiful.
Shikhee, the woman behind the moniker, has a fantastic knack for combining incisive lyrics that highlight some of the darker recesses of human nature – the ones a lot of us think or feel but would rarely, if ever, openly admit to – with music that somehow makes it not only ok to sing along with them, but to agree wholeheartedly with them as well. Stained, for example, from 2002’s The Dividing, takes a look at some fairly hateful thoughts – “I know not how to cease this feeling of hate in me / I just want to see you bleed / I know what I want / I want to stop seeing red / I know what I want / I just want to see you dead“. Whether you interpret those words as being directed inward or outward, the purity of loathing is made pretty simple, yet the song itself is almost ghostly. The main vocals are strong and smooth, delivered with a sense of mild disdain, but there is no venom in them and ultimately the prespective takes on shades of a fragile hurt. The implication is made that the protagonist has simply become resolved to the desire, but it also seems to make clear that the anger is coming from a deeper, less accessable pain.
Fair warning: This video contains images not recommended for the squeamish
Of course, there are times when subject matter and music are more closely related and forthright. Sex and Mutilation, also from The Dividing, is a manic, glitchy and hyper-kinetic track where the title words are half-screamed with an edge of desperation, while Kingdom of One (and in particular, the remix from 2004’s Stripped & Stitched) is probably the only song I’ve ever heard that uses the normally preternatural sounding and “offensive” C-word in a pointed and derisive manner and yet keep it from actually feeling crude – i.e., it completely avoids the “shock factor”. It certainly puts it beyond merely interesting listening and right into intriguing.
One of the words I neglected to mention in those common descriptors is cold. There’s a couple of reasons for that – firstly, it happens to be one I don’t really agree with. Yes, electronica is rarely ‘organic’, and yes industrial elements tend to lend themselves well to the ‘coldness’ inherent in the mechanical; two things that can often see music of the genre feel cold. The other reason I point that out is that even if there are some older AL tracks that can earn that tag, there is no way possible I would apply it to The Human Animal.
The latest album arrives four years after previous album, Devour, Rise and Take Flight – those four years seem to have been quite well spent. According to the Android Lust website, The Human Animal is “a journey through the psyche of man, as man realizes the futility of living in the grips of ego and surrenders to seek answers within.” Even if you don’t get a good grasp on that concept, you’re unlikely to feel like the album is over your head – in a nutshell, The Human Animal is a very well executed, consistent and accessable album.
Taking a slightly different approach this time around, Shikhee spent some time on the streets and subways of New York, recording sounds that have been incorporated as “rhythmic and melodic elements“. More importantly, though, is the inclusion of live musicians during the recording process for the first time. Losing none of the trademark hard metallic edge, the entire album feels like a deeper, richer experience than much of what has come before it.
From the first few moments of the opening track, Intimate Stranger, you know you’re listening to an Android Lust album – Shikhee’s voice is unmistakable – but the sound has taken on some dirtier, grungier blues tones, which maintains the aforementioned gothic moodiness but also gives it a more prominent and wickedly seductive edge. (You know you’re hooked if you feel the urge to to sing a song like Rub Me Raw when out and about – it would be an interesting experiment to see how well other bus passengers would take to my vocal renditions of “Won’t you smother me ’til I’m sick of you / Crush me ’til I scream for you / Rub me ’til I bleed for you / Rub me raw“. I’m sticking to humming it for now).
There really isn’t a song on here that won’t get under your skin in a similar fashion. At times a little sinister (The Return), other times darkly bluesy with a cat-like fluidity (A New Heaven), and there is yet still moments that are murky and haunting (Flow (of Impermanence)). Android Lust really knows how to get into your head and seduce your darker side out to play, and The Human Animal will stalk you with every track in such a way as to make it impossible to resist.
But of course, why would you resist? In the words of Android Lust herself, it’s a sin not to want things.