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Issue #29:  Rx – Bedside Toxicology

Issue #29: Rx – Bedside Toxicology

Released:  May 19th, 1998

Recorded:  ?

Genre:  Industrial

Record Label:  Invisible

Duration:  45:25

Producer:  Martin Atkins

Personnel

(Regular band members in bold.)

  • Kevin Ogilvie – (Nivek Ogre) – vocals, performer, writer (tracks 2, 3, 5 – 11)
  • Martin Atkins – producer, performer, writer (tracks 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 – 11)
  • Chris Greene – post-production (tracks 1, 2, 7), mastering, engineer, violin (track 4)
  • Jason McNinch – guitar (track 8), dobro (track 10)
  • Lee Fraser – keyboards, additional programming
  • Scott Ramsayer – engineer
  • Steven R. Gilmore – design
  • Jessika White – photography 

Track Listing

  1. Scarecrow
  2. K Y Re:amin
  3. Reuptake
  4. Downtown
  5. Imago
  6. Crackhead Waltz
  7. The Daze
  8. And When
  9. Idle Contact
  10. Exfoliate
  11. For Dusts and Mists

Singles

None. 

Why Bedside Toxicology is One of My Favorites

I discovered this album completely by accident sometime back around 2000 or 2001.  This was right around the time that internet P2P file sharing was starting to blow up, and nearly everyone had some combination of Napster, Kazaa, WinMX, BearShare, LimeWire, Aimster, or Soulseek to hunt down their favorite music, for absolutely free.  It was also a great period for finding albums weeks or even a couple of months before their official release date.  Being the huge Marilyn Manson fan that I was at the time, I was busily on the look out for his newest album, Holy Wood.  Well, a few supposed “tracks” leaked out that ended up having actual titles from the finished album.  One was labeled “Cruci-Fiction in Space.”  I was never convinced that this was Manson, and I also regularly hung out on Usenet at the time, where its regulars weren’t convinced either.

To make a long story short, the real album came out, the real “Cruci-Fiction in Space” sounded nothing like the track we’d all been dubiously listening to for a couple of months, and then some brilliant scholar popped out of the shadows of alt.music.marilyn-manson and told us that this track was actually called “K Y Re:anim,” and that it was the product of a collaboration between Nivek Ogre and Martin Atkins known as Rx or Ritalin.  I felt vindicated by the revelation, and was ready to throw the track to the side when it dawned on me that I’d actually grown rather attached to this bizarre piece of music over the last couple of months.  And so I hunted down the album, and it’s been an absolute favorite since.

Rx, originally known as Ritalin, was a collaboration between Nivek Ogre and Martin Atkins, just like the guy (or girl) over on Usenet told us.  These industrial guys are notorious for their involvement in various side projects.  Incestuous?  In the figurative sense.  But it also spoke to a degree of community.  Many of these guys had a “real” band that they fronted, but they frequently bounced around to other frontmen’s projects as well.  Nivek Ogre is best known as the frontman of Skinny Puppy, with ties to virtually everyone else in the 80’s and 90’s industrial scene: KMFDM, Ministry, Pigface, and so on.  Martin Atkins may not ring any bells (though he fronted Pigface which featured nearly every industrial musician ever plus guys from grunge (Cornell) and punk (Biafra)), though he’s a behind the scenes sort of guy who’s played with Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Killing Joke, and even enjoyed a short stint with John Lydon’s (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) post-Sex Pistols band, Public Image, Ltd.

So when these 2 industrial titans collided, we got Bedside Toxicology.  It is a supremely weird album, full of noise and well, weirdness.  It’ll probably end up being the most obscure album I cover during this series, and I suppose it never caught the right people’s attention.  Despite its unorthodox sound and almost experimental nature, it is worth a listen and even produces some catchy bits from time to time.

Many tracks have a droning, “drugged up” feel to them, making use of unusual noises.  Others are full of sharp and abrasive synth, and still others develop a haunting quality.  Underneath it all, several awesome melodies and rhythms can be found if one takes a little time to start paying attention to all of the individual components.  Sometimes I do a track-by-track because I have a difficult time making sweeping statements about a record, but in this instance, I think the approach is more than warranted.  Besides, it’s probably as much as anyone’s ever written about the album at one sitting.

“Scarecrow” is a cover of the Pink Floyd song (curiously named “Scarecrow” by Rx although the original title is “The Scarecrow”) done in a fairly sincere style.  It’s soft and acoustic, with Nivek’s voice carrying more of a tune here than anywhere else on the album.  It’s actually a pretty conventional start to a very unconventional album.

“K Y Re:amin” comes up next, mixing electronic percussion with tribal-sounding drums and a strange “dooooo….doo doo da dooo” in the background.  Nivek hits something between a chant and normal speech here, before breaking into a strained, distorted whisper in the chorus while singing “the smell / remains / the same.”  All the while random sounds are being thrown in; they could be pots falling, beating on a window, a maraca, anything.  But it all works.  As jumbled as it sounds, there’s always a coherent underlying beat that speaks to the dancier side of industrial.

“Reuptake” showcases cleaner vocals while slowly building up multiple layers.  Fleeting hums and swooshes are soon joined by high synth notes and eventually some booming drums.  So many subtle beeps blips and clicks worm their way into the mix that it suddenly feels like a completely different track by the time the bass rolls in.  As it evolves, “Reuptake” becomes a wall of overlaid sounds, notably Nivek’s own vocals, creating an eerie yet appealing effect.

“Downtown” is another cover, originally from Olivia Newton-John.  It starts off a little rocky as the guys try to slow down the original tempo and add some offbeat flourishes; it’s like an electric guitar and a piano are falling down a very large staircase and the resulting noise is being played back in slow motion.  It remains choppy, though the beat becomes (or either seems) more regular as bursts of drums and static compliment Nivek’s watery vocals.

“Imago” is next and consists mostly of a continuous loop of Nivek singing “down in the back and around the corner.”  A weird echo-y sample is in the background at first, and it almost seems like filler, but it quickly gets interesting as the simple lyric is manipulated in varying rhythmic configurations.  The drums play a harsh but simplistic beat with such precision that I always imagine this track being, “for robots, by robots.”

“Crackhead Waltz” is one of my favorites.  Nivek and Atkins do whatever they can to make Nivek’s voice sound as creepy and ghostly as possible.  It really sounds like something from the other side…and not the “good” other side.  To create the most unsettling, nightmarish vibe imaginable, Nivek sings a very childlike melody, like something from a lullaby or nursery rhyme.  Dissonant chimes are the only background music, like a dying music box, with just a few short backwards drum beats at the end.  The song is about a drug addled mother, which I assume to be the inspiration for its tune.

“The Daze” comes in at number 7, another personal favorite.  The song is marked by a hypnotic, analog bass line that maintains much the same rhythm as a ticking clock.  Nivek does his droning, monotone singing of strange but fascinating lyrics.  Sweeps and swooshes pop in and out of the mix, pushing the boundaries between noise and music.  Hyper-distorted vocals are eventually introduced as well, sounding like the singing of a man in the process of being turned into a machine…definitely one of the album’s more unsettl  ing cuts.

“And When” is much softer in tone and features Nivek singing what at first seems to be a love song, “and when you sleep / then I’ll sleep too / and when you read the book / I’ll read it too,” but quickly degenerates into something quite different: “And if you lie to me / I’ll find you…”  The snyth stays pretty subdued during most of “And When;” the focus here is Nivek’s haunting lyrics.

“Idle Contact” hits the hardest of all songs on the record, with either guitars or something that sounds a lot like guitars grinding away.  Not only is it fast, it’s also frantic with complicated percussion patterns and a constant switch from loud to soft every few seconds.  Nivek puts on his more typical “Skinny Puppy voice” here and “sings” (chants?) quite rapidly.  The chorus grinds and buzzes in noise-filled splendor as our singer muses, “He puts his face on / he puts his face on / love to make up.”  Synth notes that sound like alarms and buzzers and ringing keep finding their way into the track, adding to the frightening, rollercoaster feeling created by this mass of harsh, angry noise.

“Exfoliate” checks in at number 10.  In many ways it embodies the strongest points of the album.  After some mechanical grinding and other assorted noises, a reverbed and delayed Nivek hits the scene sounding appropriately otherworldly.  What follows I can only describe as “robotic barking.”  I’m pretty sure it’s Nivek’s voice (or someone’s voice) at the core, but it’s chopped and distorted in a way to create bursts of noise that truly sound like barking of a robotic nature.  Then there’s the thick bass, metal-on-metal, machinery, and probably percussion of one type or another all bursting in at weird intervals for an uncompromising bulldozer of sound.  And in the middle of it, an excellent melody kicks in via chime-like synth.  All of this tends to repeat and reconfigure throughout the next few minutes.  It’s weird because it is still readily identifiable as music, but just barely.  Most amazing is what these guys are able to accomplish with complex rhythms and how all this noise comes together as something completely new.

Finally we get to “For Dusts and Mists,” an unsettling track mostly consisting of the sound of pills rattling around (I think).  Eventually some low piano notes underscore the oddly rhythmic clacking of pills, and the album goes out in a drug fueled whimper, which I guess is a symbolic gesture of its own.

Beside Toxicology won’t appeal to everyone, but fans of industrial should get a kick out of this infinitely unique collection of “songs.”  I think it’s a little more accessible than work from early Skinny Puppy or Ministry, though the harshness takes some getting used to.  It’s an album I came to love slowly, and somehow, those seem to be the ones that stick with me the longest.  Electronic music has a reputation for being sterile; conversely, organic music is regarded as “warm” with little imperfections peppered around.  I don’t really know how it happened, but Bedside Toxicology is truly an organic electronic album.  It’s got character, it grows, it changes, it writhes and struggles and lashes out.  It’s as if it’s been so carefully calculated as to sound almost random.

Ogre and Atkins wouldn’t get together again until 2006’s Rx/Ritalin album Dubs, limited to a mere 500 pressings.  Unfortunately, I’ve yet to track down this second effort, though it appears to be a remix of the material on Bedside Toxicology; whether or not it involves any new contributions is unknown to me, but I do wish we could get a second dose of Ritalin.

Written by The Cubist

Back to The Cubist’s 90’s Albums

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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One Comment

  1. TestPatient says:

    Great album review/article!
    I found the album eagerly anticipating Holy Wood as well!
    I agree completely. It’s fantastic.
    Dubs was a bit disappointing and Feels like a typical Atkins cash-grab. Low quality (the text on the digipack smudges) small printing with a pretty sweet t-shirt.
    Great to see appreciation for RX(Ritalin)!
    Thanks

     

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