Most fans of Alternative Rock will no doubt remember Dwayne Goettel as a central part of the legendary 1990’s incarnation of Skinny Puppy, and his subsequent tragic overdose in August of 1995. What most fans will not remember (or perhaps didn’t even know) was that prior to that, he was a co-founding live member of Canada’s Industrial/Synthpop crossover Psyche. Dwayne played live keyboards in the beginning stages and helped shape Psyche’s sound from more of an Experimental Industrial band to the refined Electronica of today. While Dwayne left Psyche to join Skinny Puppy just prior to the release of Insomnia Theatre in 1985, his influence continues to be felt by the band and its fans today.
On the 15th anniversary of Dwayne’s passing earlier this year, Psyche’s front man Darrin Huss decided to revisit the early days of their musical journey. Culling old, never-before-released demos and early mixes, they have presented us with Re-membering Dwayne on Artoffact Records. More than just a rarities set, this album includes Darrin’s old diary excerpts and tour photos in the liner notes, and an essay on exactly how much Dwayne meant to the early formation of Psyche. While many fans might find this sentimentality a bit indulgent, those of us who happen to like music history certainly get nostalgic for Dwayne’s programming skills. It is readily apparent the man had talent far beyond his short run with Skinny Puppy, and questions linger as to what Psyche would be had he never helped them get noticed by the Canadian press.
The first thing one should notice is the sound layering. Like other Industrial pioneers Psyche have a knack for adding random incongruous sounds together to create beats and measures that challenge what music is. This is amplified by Dwayne’s programming chops that are clearly on display in every handpicked track. The best example of this dichotomy would be “Krieg” which is paradoxically both New Wave and Post-Punk Horror. Even in the beginning Darrin and Dwayne understood experimentalism at its most raw. The other noticeable sonic difference between then and now is the emphasis on the melancholy and even downright disturbing. With the moody synths and odd ambience Psych started off closer to Bauhaus or Vomito Negro and has evolved several times over the years. “Eye Of The Hurricane” and “Screaming Fire” in particular could give the early terror masters like Leather Strip and Wumpscut a run for the money in terms of style.
Sprinkled in are a few modern remixes and a proper tribute song, and this set is well worth the price. Of particular note among the new material are the Dead When I Found Her Remix of “The Crawler” (which has a more Dance/Rock vibe that can be snuck into club nights) and Controlled Collapse’s take on “Torture” (Which adds some new electronic noises not available some 20+ years ago to make the song arguably more ethereal). The album closes out heavy with “Fragility (Tribute To Dwayne)” a heartfelt and altogether upsetting Goth Rock lament for a missing talent.
Besides the remixes and new ending track, this set is 1980’s old school all the way. Along those lines if you are expecting a polished and more ‘new’ sounding album this is definitely not for you. The demo tracks sound like they are lifted directly from the reel-to-reel tapes with no remastering to speak of and even the remixes stay true to this simplistic sonic aesthetic as well. If you had no idea who Dwayne or Darrin are you would think these were some basement tape rejects save for the high quality of the takes. To some listeners this may not appeal at all but to me it heightens the nostalgic feel and emphasizes the fact that Dwayne’s programming stood out even in the early years. I feel like I was hiding in the studio booth every step of the way through a tortured recording session. Re-membering Dwayne should appeal to fans of Canadian Industrial, early sonic experimentalism, and Rock history as well as fans of Psyche and Skinny Puppy. Go take a walk in the past with an ear for the future; you just might learn something.
Must have tracks: “Torture (Original Full Length Mix),” “Krieg,” “Eye Of The Hurricane,” “The Crawler (Dead When I Found Her Remix),” “Krieg Dub,” “Eye Of The Hurricane (Phantom Skies Remix),” “Porno Song,” “Torture (Controlled Collapse Remix),” “Fragility (Tribute To Dwayne).”
For fans of: cEvin Key, Skinny Puppy, Human League, Einsturzende Neubauten, Front Line Assembly, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Vomito Negro, Wynardtage, Assemblage 23.