England is – and has always been – inhabited by interesting and active Noise and Power Electronics artists. Apart from the originators of the Power Electronics style, namely the projects affiliated with Come Org and Broken Flag, names like Gaya Donadio of Antichildleague and of course the constantly progressing projects from the UNREST camp, for example the highly acclaimed S.T.A.B. Electronics and SHIFT, instantly come to mind. In the deepest gutters of British PE, one name seems to have been reoccuring for years: Steve Bagman. Since 2008, Bagman has been releasing a variety of mostly highly limited and unrelenting releases, most of which under the eponimous “BAGMAN” moniker, but also as, for example, [Gone Dark] Bleach or one half of the collaborative effort “Sex Factor”. His new sonic offspring is named “STARK” (after the character Jim Stark from “Rebel without a Cause”) and the first release is a self-titled tape limited to only 13 copies.
STARK, in contrast to his previous, more noisy projects, pays homage to its British ancestry and is Power Electronics as hell. Throbbing synths, high pitched distorted frequencies and pulsating rhythmic elements result in a somewhat manic sound whose aggressive, repetitive minimalism appears to be reminiscent of earliest Sutcliffe Jugend or Ramleh. However, STARK does not rip-off the notorious classic style coined by the aforementioned projects, but is a highly personal and unique further development of trademark elements that have made his work stand out since the beginning. Always harsh and menacing, STARK's venomous compositions and distorted frequencies seem well thought-through and carefully assembled, without losing the kind of improvised and free-flowing aspects known from earlier projects. Bagman's insane vocal delivery has also never been more to the point and fitting and proves to be a great addition to the sound.
“Charisma Engine”, for example, shows off the percs of STARK's debut tape perfectly. Claustrophobic, highly flangered synthlines mixed with sporadically disappearing, dark noise frequencies and distant, incomprehensible screams add up to a track full of brutality and claustrophobia. Another great example can be found in the first track “A Cautionary Tale”. Drenched in feedback and distinct throbbing motions, this piece offers an almost dictatorial, hate-filled vocal delivery and pure, blunt brutality, a trait often missing from current Power Electronics projects, sadly. All of the tracks stand out in a way, creating lots of motion and change, however, the entire tape has a homogenous quality to it, which enables the listener to really delve into the mind of the creator. Variation and density are equally high and STARK's 40 minute debut tape remains free of flaws, but never ceases to deliver the goods.
Summary: There is no doubt that STARK's stripped down and brutal approach is Bagman's strongest one up to date. The well-conceived compositions and high pitched feedback are the perfect backup for Steve's frantic vocals, and the overall feeling is somewhere between the strongest moments of the Bagman project, the harsher moments of [Gone Dark] Bleach and the primitive spite of British PE pioneers. Definitely worth picking up for any lover of uncompromising and brutal underground filth!