I:Scintilla (pronounced just like it looks—eye-sin-til-la) is an industrial rock band from Chicago, Illinois. Formed in 2003 and signed to the pre-eminent industrial record label, Alfa Matrix, they've released three albums, two singles and a number of EPs to date.
Shortly after their formation, incessant rehearsing lead to the composition of about a dozen songs, most of which appeared on The Approach, their debut album. The band released it themselves in 2004. At this point, I:Scintilla consisted of Bethany Whisenhunt on bass guitar, Chad Mines on guitar, Jim Cookas on guitar/synths and Brittany Bindrim on vocals. This lineup persisted up to about 2006, when their second album, Optics, was being made. During that time, founding members Mines and Whisenhunt departed. They were not so much replaced as upgraded; the bass guitar sounds are now programmed by Cookas and fellow guitarist/programmer Brent Leitner, who came onboard in 2009. The drumming was, on the first two albums, done by a drum machine, but in 2008 a live drummer, Vincent Grech, was added to the line-up, which has remained steady since then. Bindrim (lyrics) and Cookas (melodies) are the primary songwriters.
Around the time of the release of Optics in 2007, I:Scintilla hit it big. Or at least, what may be considered "big" by the standards of the industrial music scene, which is to say that they've had multiple singles listed on the Deutsch Alternative Charts Top 20 Singles chart and had both Optics and its successor, 2010's Dying and Falling, appear on the DAC Top 10 Albums list. The DAC is more or less the industrial music scene's equivalent of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for judging a band's success. Many of I:Scintilla's songs have become dancefloor hits in goth/industrial clubs worldwide, thanks in part to each album released on Alfa Matrix (Optics and Dying and Falling) including an additional disc filled with club remixes by the likes of Angelspit, Clan of Xymox, Combichrist, Ego Likeness, Manufactura, Mortiis, En Esch, Iris and Freakangel, among others.
What's the music like? It's guitar-based, primarily. It also includes programmed beats and innovative use of synthesizers. Brittany Bindrim's vocal delivery is outstanding in its uniqueness and unconventionality—lots of word-stretching and using her voice like an instrument, in the sense that it's just as versitile and customizable as any guitar, synthesizer or drum beats. She wails, basically, in a way I've never heard anywhere else. She stretches out her lyrics as she sings them, forcing you to pay utmost attention to every word. Her method of delivery is extraordinarily innovative and I'm quite surprised it hasn't received more acclaim. Listen to "Cursive Eve", the first track on Optics, for an example, and be blown away.
The lyrics mostly involve criticism of religion and original fantasy elements dreamed up by Brittany, the lyricist. At least, they sound like fantasy elements. Reading them off a page makes them sound like the plots of dreams. Good dreams. For example, "The Bells":
The fade-proof lines that define status and meaning are illegible
Too thin to read
I've lost radiance under petals and softer words
The vine bleeds divine screams
Do your wings make a sound?
Sometimes I swear I can hear them
You left poison mercury dreams
Will you reveal what it means?
It reads like the kind of dream I most prefer—one of mystery and wonder.
I would be remiss not to discuss I:Scintilla's image. While they could be considered goth, I have a feeling they'd probably disagree with that assessment. Most of the band just look like regular guys in black clothes, but Brittany looks like a fashion model (big hair optional). This is by no means a bad thing, of course. So many nominally goth bands reject the "goth" label, and while I'm unsure if I:Scintilla does, they certainly look the part. I suspect it's just pigeonholing that most bands object to and not necessarily their goth following. Besides, I'm not sure anyone has seriously rejected the whole goth thing since Andrew Eldritch did in the 1980s and 90s. And we all know where that got him.
I:Scintilla tours pretty often, though I've yet to see them live. Based on their appearance on the Chicago public access institution JBTV, it looks like they put on a really fun show. (That is, if your idea of having fun at a concert involves dancing uncontrollably to energetic music you love, which is certainly my idea of a fun show.) They've played live at the last few Dragon*Cons in Atlanta, and regularly appear at clubs and similar venues, mostly in America. Given that they're signed to a Belgian record label, I expect a European tour sometime soon, and/or appearances at summer festivals like M'era Luna (Hildesham), Wave-Gotik-Treffen (Leipzig), Summer Darkness (Utrecht) and/or Infest (Bradford, UK).
In any case, I can't recommend this band enough. If you like The Birthday Massacre, Helalyn Flowers, VNV Nation, Rotersand, L'Âme Immortelle, Ayria, Apoptygma Berzerk or Psy'Aviah, you'll probably like I:Scintilla, although they aren't really like any of those bands. I find it difficult to compare them to other bands, which is odd, since this sort of thing is most definitely my bag. That speaks of their uniqueness and originality. A++ would buy again.
The band's name, by the way, is apparently meaningless:
"Bands like to say their names have deep meanings, but ours has shallow roots. I used to be subscribed to a word-of-the-day email list and one day scintilla arrived in my inbox. It connected with me, for some reason, and I checked to see if scintilla.com was available. It wasn’t, so I improvised."
-- Jim Cookas in an interview with Stream of Consciousness, 2004
Alfa Matrix: I:Scintilla