Stress Orphan’s Top 5 List of Power Electronics in 2021

A Comprehensive List of Grande Huevo PE

by Eric Trude

Editor’s note: This was written in March of 2022, so kindly forgive any confusion generated as the good cold month is not gone and is in fact very much ahead.

It’s that time of year again. The good cold month is gone and now the bitter one is in full swing. Last year is over, and so is all the bullshit music that came with it. So let us take a moment, together, to take your mind off the cold with my eagerly-awaited definitive list of the top Power Electronics releases of 2021.

This was a solid year for you if you like PE and have good taste. I’ve tried as hard as I can but I can’t account for a lack of taste on your part. If you disagree with this list at any point I’d encourage you to consult your own shitty taste.

I had to really dig deep and make some hard cuts to get this list down to just 5. One of the things that made this list so hard was that I didn’t include anything that I personally had any involvement with. If I mastered, made, featured, or released it, it’s not here. So while I am not about to recommend anything specific from these labels, I’d certainly recommend you give labels like Breathing Problem Productions, Dead Gods, Hostile 1 and Unrest Productions some credit for their amazing output in 2021. Really just go to my discogs and look at 2021 you’ll see where the heat was.

I want to give two honorable mentions that did not make this year’s list. One is The Great Divide by Control, which I think is suffering from recency bias on my part because of how much I love the LP he just dropped in 2022. The other is Vivikta by Scatmother, which didn’t arrive in the mail until after I had finished writing this, but is absolutely the projects best work to date and an incredibly worthy top 10 of 2021 entry. 

In lieu of me waxing tumescent about myself for the next 1000 words let’s dive in.

#5: Vampyric Seasons – History of the Vampire (Small Mercies)

I’m about to kick this list off with some very uncharacteristic praise of some styles I’m traditionally more than a little critical of. This is a disc with a lot of classic sounds. A total throwback. Some of my favorite shit this year was a new throwback PE album. A twist on a classic. A reverse retro. Maybe I’m just ripening into the right age for pandering band reformations and weaponized nostalgia. But if this is how aging is going to sound then fuck it I’m ready to go grey. This album is a distillation of everything good about Atrax Morgue with buckets of 90s Bloodlust to fill in the vacancies that leaves. What Atrax I do dig, like his contributions to Listen & Die, uses the stripped out nature of so much of his sound to incredible effect to put a vocal first PE delivery right in your face. While History of the Vampire does kick off with more of the Bloodlust side of the equation on the thick and menacing Strigoi, we quickly see the impact of that Italian sonic reservation with two tracks of creepy plodding death industrial with gently flanged lyrics telling us the life and times of one Richard Trenton Chase. That dichotomy of weight giving way to a more floating calm tone keeps the album engaging and unexpected over its admittedly too short 28 minutes. But that’s really my only criticism: that I want more. Which isn’t really a criticism. More of a demand. And I was gifted a 6th song in the Small Mercies end-of-year compilation so I can’t be too sour about it. This one is 100% true crime. There has been a nice resurgence in true crime PE recently. I fucking love it. True crime is the best subject matter for how PE sounds. True crime is so dramatic and disgusting, it perfectly matches the whole stupid charade of the genre. All PE artists are dorks. Bar none. All serial killers, also huge fucking dorks. Jeffrey Dahmer is just a hornier Peter Sotos. But both of them are capable of presenting themselves as something so much less boring than they actually are by either acting like, or being, a fucking lunatic. I hope more people hear shit like this and get inspired to also yell about crime over a synth. Crime is a sick thing to write songs about. If you make a sick true crime PE album this year send it to me I want to hear it. And if you haven’t heard this, go pick it up and think about blood for a while.

#4: Koufar – Minority Report II (Phage Tapes)

I don’t think it’s any surprise to PE fans that this is on year end lists. Mack and Sam are 2 of the biggest dudes going in the states today, and for good reason. Unfortunately for lovers of them as a duo, the last 2 years have seen both of them taking time to develop solo efforts that stand separately from their work in Koufar and Terror Cell Unit. Mack’s departure from PE with God is War has been the most interesting to me. GIW has been such a unique take on some of the more notable tropes of 2000s UK electronic music, something I am very familiar with and very, very fond of. But of course when you see something like that from Mack you are forced to think “well… you gonna do a PE version?” The answer is yes. And it’s exactly as fucking amazing as you knew it would be. Starting with 2015’s Lebanon for Lebanese, an album whose cover inexplicably makes racists as mad as nonracists, Koufar has started down a path from his traditional roots in Midwest PE to one of the most unique and unimitated artists going. What has come in incremental steps up to this point takes a leap down that path on Minority Report II. You could argue this is as much a dubstep album as it is power electronics. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there wasn’t any distortion used on this album. But it’s heavy as fuck. What a traditional pedal smasher might achieve as one fat canon of sound is presented here instead as a sort of sonic Tetris. A collage of intertwining, fast moving synthetic chaos that is at the same time musically perfect and incomprehensible. Its like a collapsing building who’s debris seems to perfectly reassemble itself into the original structure. For the Rest of my Life may be the most musical and competent PE song I’ve ever heard. And all of this is the floodwaters that carry Mack’s signature broken stuttering sci fi radio vocals. Barking the kind of tyrannical madness that needs time to mature before being unleashed. I Am With Terrorism. Come the fuck on.

#3: Burnt Feathers – In an Unforgiveness Fog (No Rent Records)

When I was starting out doing noise at basement shows in Virginia, we used to smash empty beer bottles sometimes in lieu of applause. This tape is the ultimate basement show. Burnt Feathers is one of several projects that were new, to me at least, this past year that just knocked me on my ass. I’ll admit to being unfamiliar with their output the past few years, tho I’ve been making up for that when possible. I kind of had to be talked into picking this up at all, which I’m not proud to admit. But holy shit I’m glad I did. Because I am pretty damn obsessed with this tape. It successfully combines so many things I love about American noise in a package that makes its mark like a vast and nearly uncontrollable series of eruptions. This thing is raw. And not raw in the “raw black metal” manufactured shitty-on-purpose aesthetic rawness that that word is usually wasted on. Real fucking raw sound. From the moment you throw this on, you can feel where you’re supposed to be hearing this. You’re in a basement. There’s one light and 12 people all holding cheap beer. There aren’t enough tables so this artist is playing on the floor. You can hear the punch as pedals go on and off, the real piercing shriek under the PA. The cops will be called, the touring act will leave with 30 bucks, a pain killer, and half a pack of pall malls and they’ll be happy about it. The real day 1 noise shit, the things that made me love this music, to be ready to light every paycheck from here to retirement on fire in pursuit of more. Real noisey fucking electronics where you yell because you have to not because you want to or you think you’re supposed to. This is the candlehaus, the cat mansion, places that run on passion and fumes, that let new blood fail and experiment and grow. All rolled up into one stellar package of quality power electronics that is worth its 10th listen just like its first. This album more than any other this year makes me excited for the future of the genre. It proves that there are people out there still having the exact fucking right upbringing in noise, if you ask me, even as I move further and further from those dark basements. Smash your fuckin bottles.

#2: S.T.A.B. Electronics – Sons of Perdition (Unrest Productions)

Keith Stab has been inches from my top 5 list for years now. What started as a project clearly worshipping the foundations of greats like Con-Dom and Bizarre Uproar started to take a form uniquely its own from 2015’s Day of the Male onward, and I’ve loved the evolution to that point and beyond. There has always been something missing. Some kind of X factor that I can’t quantify but know was needed to take albums like Enemy of Pigs and Apotheosis from solid to must-own. Well, that is a thing of the past now. This is THE S.T.A.B. Electronics album. As is always the case with S.T.A.B. there are 2 things at play here: furious vocals and thick fucking noise. I’d be remiss to not start with the vocals. Keith here shifts easily from clear-as-day frothing angry vocals to incredible dalek-voiced madness. With a delivery like that, you gotta have lyrics that hit right. These lyrics are fun and furious like so much of his output, but they have reached a level of maturity where it is always, without fail, sick. Make a screw face, smirk, nod slowly, make a fist, sickness. You know the drill. From the intro ending in “do you fear god?” Keith catapults you into the most digestible and honed violent messaging he’s provided to this point in the S.T.A.B. discography. This would still fall short of the mark if it wasn’t backed up by astoundingly strong electronics. Every song is drowning in sound with no room to breathe. They all feel like they came from the same creative thought, but the songs are distinct. A proper cohesive album, musically and lyrically. This is S.T.A.B. Electronics realized.

#1: Gay Death – Daddy and Father (Doughgirl Tapes)

Unfortunately for everyone else making PE last year you weren’t really in the running for #1. My question hasn’t been “is Gay Death the best PE of 2021?” it’s been “Which Gay Death is the best PE of 2021?” The answer is Daddy and Father. I’ll get to the specifics of this tape in a second. Let’s start with the artist. New projects have been the highlight of my year. Gay Death sent people copies of the first CD just for asking at the start of 2021. The name is fun, the artist seemed to get it, I decided to try it out. I will own every Gay Death release for the rest of my life. This shit is so fucking good. It starts from acknowledging that Power Electronics is funny. It’s really stupid and funny. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if one of the first artists making a genre is called Con-Dom, it is a funny genre. Unfortunately, the people who forget that most often are the ones making Power Electronics. Put end to end the canon of PE can be pretty fucking joyless. Yet the things it seems we gravitate towards as fans, the hallmarks of the genre, sound like they’re made by people enjoying themselves. So why are so many of us making bummer shit? Live a little you goddamn babies. Gay Death is living a lot. And nowhere does he live harder than Daddy and Father. 5 songs, 30 minutes. Vintage PE sound blown out to hell and back. Blown out and reblown again. Like playing a bootleg Intrinsic Action tape through the big crazy pile of amps Sunn carries around. Songs don’t evolve here. The sound starts and stays on each song like its been plucked clean out of the early 90s. The lyrics repeat a hilarious mantra, shifting in delivery each loop to keep the laughs coming. Every song on here is amazing, but Straight is the standout hit. Its quickly become one of my favorite PE songs maybe of all time. Gay Death material goes pretty quickly, don’t miss out on it if you get a chance to grab some. Like I said, I’ll be buying 1 of everything for the rest of my life.