Exterminating Angel reviewed around the globe

Dark Day’s debut album Exterminating Angel has received much press since it’s release 32 years ago. The accolades keep coming this year due to the reissue we released in May.

From OTHER MUSIC Update July 13, 2012

Hands down one of the strongest US minimal synth records of the early-1980s and a lost classic of the now-infamous downtown NYC scene, Robin Crutchfield’s first full-length under his Dark Day moniker finally gets the proper reissue treatment from Dark Entries. Originally released on the downtown no wave label Lust/Unlust in 1980, Exterminating Angel finds Crutchfield shedding the jagged immediacy of his work as an original member of DNA for a creeping subtly and near-psychedelic wooziness that picks up right where his brilliant “Hands in the Dark” single from 1979 left off. Full of Crutchfield’s hypnotic synth work and yawing, discordant guitars courtesy of Del-Byzanteens guitarist (and Glenn Branca collaborator) Phil Kline, there’s an understated tension here that’s strengthened by the added acoustic instrumentation (toy piano, live drums, cat’s meow) and Crutchfield’s distant, echoing vocal delivery. Anchored by an artful experimentalism and a strong sense of structure and melody, it’s a dark, winding trip down the rabbit’s hole into the surreal that grows all the more special with repeated listens. Exterminating Angel was one of the first minimal synth records I purchased over a decade ago, and its strange, alien beauty drew me deep into the synth underworld of the 1980s; yet, even after all my digging since, Dark Day still holds up as one of the most curiously original bands of the decade. A must hear for fans of the genre, downtown aficionados, and anyone who picked up Dark Entries’ 2010 reissue of Crutchfield’s equally fantastic second LP Window. Top weirdo minimal synth here, folks! [CPa]


Of late the San Fran imprint has taken to EP’s with another just added to the catalogue, this time from some homegrown synth pop talent: Inhalt. The triumvirate consist of Europeans and US music makers. Surprisingly the group are not some forgotten name of the synthesizer scene but a modern day outfit. Dark Entries last graced their catalogue with a contemporary in 2009 with Death Domain. For some Inhalt will already be known, releasing a split EP on London based World Unknown back in 2011. Now they’ve got a full twelve to themselves. The four tracker opens with the title piece. The listener is hit with beats and powerful lyrics, auf Deutsch. The track has a subtle and clever melody, but it is the power of the vocals that drives this track. Fast and clean, throwing up some memories of Kernkrach’s moodier modern synthesizer sounds. “Walking on Glass” follows. The track has an industrial quality, vocals again being guttural and strong. Comparisons with contemporaries like //TENSE// come to mind. Inhalt’s sound is submerged through old tape reels and machine compression, but there is an unmistakable modern aspect to it. “Hart’s Theme” continues on from its predecessor, instrumental with echoed samples. Emotive and mechanical and aching with an EBM intensity. The finale is “Fahrzeug.” Again, an instrumental version. The lack of vocals allow the music to stand alone with synth lines stretching across terse snares. Sublime.

Alongside this recent foray into EP’s, Josh Cheon has keeps up the LP output. For a second time, Dark Entries reignites Robin L. Crutchfield’s Dark Day project. 2012 sees Crutchfield’s first album, Exterminating Angel reborn. The lilting movements of “Raven’s Wing” gets things underway. The track is a strange blend of prog-rock and synth wave. This blending of styles is present across the album. Cold vocals coagulate with warm strings and machine loops to create an unnerving end-product. Crutchfield’s vocals are distanced and forlorn. “Chameleon” takes a downtrodden rift and subjects it to ever more lamentations. The content across the record is dark and distempered. “Trapped” slowly unfolds segments of tear-filled loneliness. Crutchfield used inexpensive synths for the album and this comes through in the shallow electronic sound across the record. But this lack of depth only emphasises the unease and discomfort of Dark Day. The track titles precede the electric gloom of the record; with names such as “Flightless Bird” and “Crib Death.” There is a simplicity to the compostion of the album. Basic synth melodies are buttressed by post punk guitars and a steely edge. Some of the tracks have an absentee Human League feel to them. “Uninvited Guests” has no pop element, but does have an angst ridden synth catchiness to it that brings to mind some of the efforts on Travelogue. The finale, “No, Nothing, Never,” brings together different aspects in a proto Techno-pop stew. Female vocals, almost samples, report the sombre tale whilst machines and strings stalk the backdrop.

It’s interesting to stand Inhalt next to Dark Day. The sound of synth wave in 2012 versus that of 1980. How much has changed? In 1980 Dark Day was groundbreaking stuff. In 2012 Inhalt and Dark Day are pretty groundbreaking. One thing that does hit home is the cleanliness associated with Inhalt. This is not a clinical, disinfectant sound; but in comparison to Dark Day they are much tidier. Likewise, the genre lines of Dark Day are more blurred. Crutchfield was trailblazing an unheard genre, experimenting and using constructs that are now quite alien to the synth ear. It’s fascinating to see the synth wave project continue, that the angst and energy of the new wave is still present. From the birth of the synth to the realisation of a computer age, from the rise and fall of ideologies and the mapping of history, these two records map both in their own special way.


Synth punk at its best! Here is the long overdue reissue of Dark Day’s homage to the Luis Bunuel film of the same name. Dark Day was the project spearheaded by R.L. Crutchfield who first worked with Arto Lindsay and Ikue Mori in the earliest incarnation of the seminal No Wave band DNA in the mid ’70s. By 1979, Crutchfield was striking out on his own as Dark Day; and at first, this band was an intentional reversal of roles within the trad-rock band with two women playing guitars and drums and a man behind the keyboards. The ladies for that incarnation were Nancy Arlen of Mars and Nina Canal of Ut; and they managed a few gigs and one hell of a great single – “Hands In The Dark” – which appeared many years later on a Soul Jazz No Wave compilation and has been covered spectacularly by the Chromatics. Canal and Arlen weren’t terribly interested in continuing in the project, leaving Crutchfield to find likeminded folks to work with.
On Exterminating Angel (originally released in 1980 on the Lust/Unlust imprint Infidelity), Crutchfield recruited Phil Kline and Barry Friar to flesh out the Dark Day sound. At the time, Kline was an emerging composer who had worked with Glenn Branca and at least here, he styles himself after Mark Ribot or Arto Lindsay with his expressive shards and bends of guitar melody; and Friar follows the tom-heavy patter that Nancy Arlen brought to Dark Day on the “Hands In The Dark” single. But Dark Day is truly Crutchfield’s vision, with his heavily syncopated synth chords, elliptical repetitions, and spiral staircase ascensions in lieu of the traditional verse-chorus song. Crutchfield preferred to keep a very restrictive use of synth tones and filters, all the while crafting a very claustrophobic, horror-laden atmosphere. The inventiveness of his minimalist melodies and twisted lullaby-like structures are all the more impressive, perhaps only matched by Young Marble Giants or Suicide. Motorik yet stumbling, Dark Day’s songs are stark and bold in their poetry about freaks, suffocating anxiety, and the toxic life of contemporary society circa 1980. “Trapped” was a strange song to be the single for the album, as it’s an epic, spiralling number with those ominous synths and siren-like blurts from a distant saxophone. Many of the other songs on the album were short and condensed, jabbing the grimly simple melodies deep into the ear-canal and then moving on. Like “Trapped” the album’s finale – “No, Never, Nothing” – is another lengthy track, appropriating a Moroder like disco-syncopation to a sinister, nihilistic collage of texts taken from a children’s book about raising unusual pets such as squirrels and chimpanzees. The more the song spins through it’s punchy chords the creepier it becomes.
Exterminating Angel is the high-point of Crutchfield’s recorded works, and stands also as one of lost gems of the No Wave era. This should have been released long ago, so we have to commend Dark Entries once again for their reissue campaign.

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