Electronic body music duo eHpH spent the better part of four years working on its latest full-length, Infrared. It's not exactly all "new" music, in the strictest sense of the term, but the opening track, "Idiot," offers a perfectly timely theme song for the next two months — a two-and-a-half-minute rant against the current occupant of the White House.
"Idiot" includes manipulated audio clips of Donald Trump that have him admitting to what an awful person and leader he is. An audio description of the time he ordered protestors in front of the White House to be tear-gassed so he could mug at a church roots the song in the present. It all unfolds over a decidedly menacing synth line.
"I tend to pick on Trump anywhere I can," says the project's Angelo Atencio. "I do a lot of background video for our shows, so if I can throw in something in video, something in audio to give a big F.U. to him, I try to get it in anywhere I can."
The track is a rarity, particularly in electronic music. Some musicians have taken the orange monster to task, but anti-Trump songs are rare when compared to, say, anti-Reagan songs. That's almost a genre unto itself. Not that there aren't any anti-Trump songs, but many musicians shy away from the topic.
"Oh, yeah, no, no, no, fuck that, man," Atencio says. "I will try to take a stab at him anywhere I can. I'm not afraid. I haven't gotten any Secret Service visits or anything like that. So, apparently, it's gone unnoticed."
Perhaps Trump and his security detail aren't big industrial-music fans. "We are just fake news to him," adds Fernando Altonaga, the duo's other member.
Altonaga says the title of the new album is a nod to his astrological sign, Taurus, and his temperament, the kind that involves a red tint falling over his field of vision whenever he is pissed off. The lyrics he writes address various topics that fill him with rage.
"Angelo and I kind of share the same view when it comes to politics and all the bullshit that's going on in the world right now," he says. "We take that anger and frustration and put it toward the music instead of being an idiot online or some shit."
"Or taking an actual baseball bat or sledgehammer to someone," Atencio adds.
The tracks on Infrared aren't all politics. The final song, "8/13," for example, is about Atencio's mother, who died from brain cancer last year. The music also ranges from the furious to the melancholy, taking on a variety of moods and subjects. Altonaga and Atencio liken each song to the Colorado weather: If you don't like it, just wait a few minutes, and it will change.
"We didn't really want to hit a specific genre," Altonaga says. "We kind of just played from the heart and just started writing songs. … Whatever genre it fell into, it fell into, so by the end of the day, the album almost sounds like a compilation."
EHpH intended to send "Save the Bats" to a bat conservation charity that makes compilation albums of bat-themed tracks. The duo eventually decided against it because the song's dark tone seemed inappropriate for a bat charity. The track does, after all, have lyrics about killing rats, and the charity also likes those little critters. For the record, Altonaga isn't really talking about rats.
"When I say rats, I'm talking about Donald Trump," he says. "I'm talking about Mike Pompeo. I'm talking about all those assholes who are fucking vermin and deserve to die because they are killing American people."
Collectively, the two draw from a variety of influences — a lot of the old Wax Trax! Records catalogue, classic industrial electronic body music, and bands like Sisters of Mercy, Skinny Puppy, Project Pitchfork and Bauhaus. It's the kind of music that likely comes to mind as influential to a group like eHpH. But another influence lurks beneath the surface.
"It doesn't come across too much in the music, but I grew up with disco," Atencio says. "My mom was kind of a disco queen."
"So was my mom," Altonaga says. "Real dark and evil disco, I guess."
Like many other bands, eHpH hasn't played any live shows for several months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The duo has decided to forgo playing live-stream shows because it seems unnecessarily cruel, but they want to make more studio music and videos. A part of the Bleeding Light Music Collective, eHpH also has another project, Plague Garden, that has been active lately.
Altonaga and Atencio have even more ideas that they want to see to fruition, provided everything doesn't go to absolute hell in the next few months.
"We are trying to get as much done as we can before we all die," Altonaga says.
"If double hurricanes don't kill us, I don't know, maybe Yosemite will explode," Atencio says. "Maybe a supervolcano will be next. I mean, who knows? Firenados? I'm thinking November is either going to be earthquakes or supervolcanoes. Oh, no — November is asteroids."
"It's like we're playing real-life Jeopardy," says Altonaga.
"Who's got asteroids for November?" adds Atencio.
Infrared is available at Bandcamp along with eHpH's previous releases. Check out the duo's Denver Underground Radio set every fourth Friday and its Necromantic show. For more information, check out eHpH's Facebook page.