Posts Tagged ‘Brooding’

Christopher Nosnibor

Vampyre is the third album from Washington DC’s The Neuro Farm, following The Descent (2019), and Ghosts (2014). If the album titles suggest dark and haunting, it’s fitting for a band who harvest influence from the field that contains Joy Division, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sigur Ros, Chelsea Wolfe, Portishead, and Rammstein.

Comprising Brian Wolff (guitar, vocal), Rebekah Feng (violin, vocal), DreamrD (drums), and Tim Phillips (synth), the violin and synth contrive to bring rather less standard instrumental elements to the format, particularly with the absence of a live bass. That’s certainly no impedance (the only people who bleat about synth bass ironically seem to be fans of The Sisters of Mercy who haven’t move on from 1985 – because drum machine = cool, synth bass = not cool). Meh. They’re wrong.

Vampyre is a concept album, which they explain as follows: ‘Our titular heroine, lured by the promise of immortality, is given this curse by the egomaniacal leader of a vampyric cult. But within the cult there is a growing sense of disillusion, and she builds her own following. Eventually, she spurns her maker, rebelling against him and his decaying institution. She says a final farewell to her mortal husband, turning away from humanity and embracing her new nature. She slays her former master in the “midnight massacre” and declares herself queen.’

Now, as much as I’m an advocate of albums over random collections of songs, I do sometimes struggle with concept albums, in that following a narrative is often quite a strain. Too much narrative can be tedious; too little, and you’re lost, wondering what the fuck is going on. It’s a thorny territory to navigate under any circumstances.

‘Cain’ makes for a bold, theatrical introduction, the brooding drums that roll and roil providing a stoic backdrop to some theatrical, dramatic vocals. Feng isn‘t just operatic in her delivery, but she’s backed by a full choral arrangement, and then the violin sweeps in and the cinematic scale of the composition truly reveals itself in all its grand enormity.

It’s all going on with ‘Purity, a slow-builder that slithers through Rozz-era Christian Death gothness via trudging stoner rock to crescendo-blasting post-rock over the course of its six-and-a-half minutes.

‘Maker’ brings the bombast, to something on a part with Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, and transitioning through various passages of grandeur. It’s a lot to take in. The spacey prog-rock of ‘Enthralled’, the gloopy electro industrial of single release ‘Confession’, the brass-laden brooding of the metallic ‘Decay’. The piano-led, echo-heavy title track is something of a gothic masterpiece, dark, shadowy, with soaring vocals and it’s brimming with epic qualities that touch the emotional centres as it blooms in a glorious cascading sunburst finish that’s peak goth and post-rock in perfect concordance. It feels like a finale, but the three remaining songs continue to cast forth rich and resonant atmospheres, with ‘Midnight Massacre’ landing a gloom-tinged glam-stomp unexpectedly near the end. This is proper gothic rock, perfectly realised.

More often than not, anything that proclaims to be ‘goth’ or ‘gothic’ and goes down the ‘vampire’ route’ tends to be awkward, corny, and cliché, but for all of its ‘conceptual’ leanings, Vampyre is none of these; instead, it’s like a darker, more gothic dip into the domain of early iLiKETRAiNS. But above all, it’s varied, imaginative, dramatic, and really quite spectacular.

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When negative childhood experiences leave the soul scarred, some angry feelings remain even in adult live and may result in strong words or evoke black-and-white images in the head akin to an old crime thriller. The second single from St. Michael Front’s sophomore full-length Schuld & Sühne (‘Crime and Punishment’) is loosely based on such memories that have been turned into this song’s bold title ‘Knochen & Blut’ (‘bones and blood’), which has been visually cast into a video-clip.

The Hamburgian ‘Chanson Noire’ duo formed by guitarist Bruder Matthias and singer Bruder Sascha will release Schuld & Sühne on Friday, 13th of May.

Watch the video for ‘Knochen und Blut’ here:

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DARKHER are now premiering the bitter-sweet video single ‘Love’s Sudden Death’ taken from the beloved Northern English doom act’s sophomore album The Buried Storm, which has been chalked-up for release on April 15.

The black and white clip ‘Love’s Sudden Death’ was filmed on location at Long Dike Moor, which lies between Hebden Bridge and Haworth in West Yorkshire – and is also very close to Top Withens, the moorland that inspired the Brontë Sisters’ novels and poetry.

Watch the video here:

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Photo: Catherine Pogue

Postpunk-darkwave-electro trio VONAMOR presents their pulsating and enthralling new single ‘You the People’. Recalling the best dark pop of the ‘80s, this is the second taste of their impending debut VONAMOR album, an 8-track collection produced by Lucio Leoni and being released via Time To Kill Records (TTK).

The hypnotic fast-paced videoclip features dystopian imagery depicting the messed-up and borderline world in which we live. The sound weaves together stories of men, power and protest worldwide to sharp dialogue between male and female, voiced in English and Italian. Colours and pounding images mesh with archive footage of clashes between people and power, men and progress, technology and freedom, as flashes of our modern world strike your retina.

“Through our darkwave music and words, we search for the question, the ambiguity, the multiform influence of a variety of demons. We feel the urgency of questioning ourselves, our fellow human beings and the reality around us," says Giulia Bottaro.

“At first it may seem you are watching the videoclip for ‘You the People’, but the more you go on, you may feel that the video itself is watching you – and you are there, at the very intersection between we and you, between past and present, between desire and fear, between sound and colour.”

‘You The People’ underlines VONAMOR’s dialecticism and style, as well as their will to convey originality and sensuality, even when menacing, with passion and intensity. Eternally playing with words and sounds, they never lose sight of the rhythmic, Dyonisian and captivating soul of their electro dark, post-punk vision.

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This single follows the lead track ‘Take Your Heart’, which has been met with international acclaim, and its intriguing video, directed and edited by Fabio Santomauro. Last year, the trio released the singles ‘Never Betray Us’ and ‘Fast-Forward Girl’.

VONAMOR is made up of sisters Giulia Bottaro, Francesca Bottaro and Luca Guidobaldi, with Francesco Bassoli and Martino Cappelli joining the trio for live performances. The band’s roots date back to 2016 in Rome. Initially focused on communicating images and composing scores for short films, they morphed into the trio we know today with their style, literary echoes, imperious art-pop and enigmatic aesthetics.

“VONAMOR is an escape plan, our treasure island, a thick and savage jungle that gives you the chance to let your prayers and whispers reverberate like a church. We used the music in this album to walk paths that we hadn’t known before, to connect Rome to Paris to Berlin to Beijing, to mix techno music with folk, to let our voices and bodies mingle and dance to an incredibly weird yet familiar beat, and finally to search for a boom of love and light into the dark of our everyday life: yes, VONAMOR is a boom!” says Luca Guidobaldi.

Watch the video here:

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Darkness treads light as a feather. The voice of despair gently wafts through the air. Delicate pain wrapped in radiant beauty pierces the heart slowly yet without hesitation. The sinister yet beguiling images that DARKHER aka Jayn Maiven paints with her ethereal vocals, guitars, and added strings conjure iridescent cinematic scenes in which it becomes hard to tell whether there lies beauty in darkness or if it is the other way around.

With her sophomore full-length "The Buried Storm", the guitarist, composer, lyricist, and producer has clearly succeeded to even improve the beloved alchemic musical formula that was firmly established on DARKHER’s debut album "Realms" in 2016. Her mostly eerie and at times even outright sinister sonic storytelling comes refined on every level and with sharpened contrasts that reflect the ongoing learning-process of their creator. 

DARKHER were conceived as the sole brainchild and solo-project of Northern English singer and guitarist Jayn Maiven in 2012. The dark and melancholic yet also massively heavy sound on the self-titled debut EP "Darkher" (2013) combined with the distinct vocals of the shy pre-Raphaelite beauty caused an audible buzz – particularly in the doom scene and brought DARKHER a quick record deal, which led to the following EP "The Kingdom Field" (2014) appearing via Prophecy Productions.

Despite not even having an album out, DARKHER were invited to prestigious festivals such as Roadburn in Tilburg, The Netherlands and Prophecy Fest in the Cave of Balve, where the English delivered widely celebrated performances. In 2016, the highly anticipated debut full-length "Realms" was finally released to much praise from critics and fans alike. Press compared DARKHER’s music with a wide range of highly individual acts such as CHELSEA WOLFE, ESBEN AND THE WITCH, SÓLSTAFIR, LOREENA MCKENNITT, and PORTISHEAD.

In the meantime, Jayn’s long-time drummer Christopher Smith, who already contributed to earlier releases, live shows, and again on "The Buried Storm" has been added as permanent member to the line-up of DARKHER.

"The Buried Storm" gives shape to the darkness lurking at the edge of consciousness, hidden from plain sight but patiently biding its time to strike out at the heart. DARKHER have delivered another frightening masterpiece that easily transcends musical boundaries with its broad appeal to friends of dark sounds regardless of genre. "The Buried Storm" captivates its listeners with deceptive sweetness – only to bind them tightly within a thorn-spiked nocturnal beauty forevermore.

Watch ‘Lowly Weep’ here:

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Image: Kathryn Pogue

23rd July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The new release from Dutch duo Vaselyne, consisting of singer Yvette Winkler and musician and producer Frank Weyzig is sold as a maxi-single, and sure enough, with the track accompanied by instrumental and demo versions, it does replicate the feel of the old 12”, which in time became the CD single.

If I’m habitually ambivalent about versions and remixes, it’s because they often feel like it’s an attempt to eke out a limited amount of material over the most space, and back in the day – the day being the late 80s and through most of the 90s – as a completist collector of a number of bands, I’d feel a bit swizzed over B-sides consisting of acoustic versions etc spanning multiple formats, and much preferred the first half of the 80s when the 12” single often meant no more than an additional B-side not on the 7”, or at most, an extended version, and there as only a 7” and 12” on offer, rather than a 7”, 12”, limited 12” and likely a standard and limited CD, all with different tracks, plus a cassette single that was likely the same as the 7” but well, you couldn’t just leave it, could you? Especially if it was in a nice card slipcase or a cover like a cigarette packet.

I digress, just a little. Firmly rooted in the brooding corners of theatrical gothic rock, the piano-led ‘Waiting to Exhale’ is six minutes of poised, dramatic splendour, a work of melancholic beauty. Yvette’s vocal are rich, bordering on the operatic in places, although never overdone: there’s no bombastic emoting here, just controlled reflection. The production is full, but again, uncluttered, not over the top. In this respect, there isn’t much difference in the song’s evolution from the demo to the final version, other than the fact that the final version is fuller, more polished, but with no loss of resonance.

And if it invites comparisons to Evanescence, this is perhaps the key difference: Vaselyne keep things real and resist the overblown, and in doing so, render the more understated emotional qualities more sincere-sounding. A mournful string scrapes across the layered vocal and carries the listener into a space of aching reflection.

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Kristin Hayter, the classically trained multi-instrumentalist, performance artist, and vocalist known as Lingua Ignota, has a new album on the way, and here is the next song and video from it.  ‘Perpetual Flame of Centralia’ a quiet meditation on one of the major lyrical motifs of the record, the blood of Jesus; that which can “wash and cleanse every stain,” as tearfully expressed by disgraced evangelist Jimmy Swaggart in a televised confession.

The video, shot by Emily Birds, brings an extraordinary and profoundly moving collaboration between Hayter and acclaimed fashion designer and fellow Sargent House artist Ashley Rose Couture who created the looks specifically for this video, inspiring an entire collection. Prompted with “the blood of Jesus,” the designer created a floor-length, red veil studded with pearls and mountains of tulle. Hayter explains, “I asked her to design a piece indebted to 17th-century Dutch costume, and she returned with a gown with a 20-foot train and a magisterial lace collar exploding with pearls.”  The two artists deal with pain through their art: Hayter through past domestic abuse and Rose through the death of her twin brother, whose encouragement led to her starting her own line.

Watch the video here:

The album, Sinner Get Ready is released on August 6th via Sargent House.

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Clothing by Ashley Rose Couture. Photo by Lisa Birds

Emma Ruth Rundle (appearing courtesy of Sargent House) and Thou’s groundbreaking collaborative album, May Our Chambers Be Full sees its release October 30th via Sacred Bones. While their solo material seems on its face to be quite disparate, both prolific groups have spent their lauded careers lurking at the outer boundaries of heavy scenes, each having more in common with DIY punk and its spiritual successor, grunge.

The debut straddles a similar, very fine line both musically and thematically. While Emma’s standard fare is a blend of post-rock-infused folk music, and Thou is typically known for its downtuned, doomy sludge, the conjoining of the two artists has created a record more in the vein of the early ’90s Seattle sound and later ’90s episodes of Alternative Nation, while still retaining much of the artists’ core identities.

The visual art accompanying this work was created in collaboration with preeminent New Orleans photographer Craig Mulcahy. The faceless, genderless models are meant to emphasize this pervasive state of ambiguity and emotional vacillation, the images falling somewhere between modern high fashion and classical Renaissance.

Check the single here:

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Album Artwork | Photo By Craig Mulcahy

Santa Rosa-based alternative pop artist Darwin presents his new single ‘Unkind Lover’, which features David J (Love and Rockets, Bauhaus) on harmonica, Dustin Heald on guitar noise and ambience, and producer/collaborator Julian Shah-Tayler (a.k.a. The Singularity). 

Darwin (full name Darwin Meiners) makes alternative pop with a dark, electronic feel. While rooted in the 80s, his music straddles several genres simultaneously, assimilating new ideas, processes and instrumentation into his work.

A beautifully eerie tune, this was inspired by the writing of Dani Burlison (particularly ‘Shark Week’, which is included in her book of short stories ‘Some Places Worth Leaving’).  
‘I was asked to make the music for a spoken word video written by my friend, Dani Burlison.  She had recently released a book of short stories called ‘Some Places Worth Leaving’.  I love adding music to film and was especially moved given Dani’s talent.  The short story is called ‘Shark Week’ and features a character known only as the Unkind Lover.  When I saw the final video, it struck me that it would be exciting to develop the music into a song," says Darwin. 

After getting Dani’s permission, the first person I contacted was Julian Shah-Tayler and told him the plan.  It was an inspiring song to work on sonically, but also writing in character – which I’ve grown to love.  My friend Dustin Heald is a master at getting his guitar to make wonderful noise.  He was enlisted to do just that.  The final piece was the addition of David J (Bauhaus, Love & Rockets) on harmonica.  Having been in a band with him for many years (David J & The Gentleman Thieves), I had gotten used to the sound of that instrument and I knew he would be perfect to put that final touch on it."
This new offering follows Darwin’s latest single ‘Dance Alone’, a synthtastic explosion of energy attesting to the strength of human spirit with a fun self-isolation-inspired video directed by Linda Strawberry, featuring dance clips sent in by people sheltering in place. 

Watch the video here:

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Darwin - Unkind Lover (cover artwork)

Gizeh Records – 3rd July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Presumably, Black Rain (I) is the first in a series, and contains three extended pieces – each of around a quarter of an hour – which were written and recorded by Richard Knox during the early months of 2020. Focusing on a more ambient and cinematic approach, Black Rain offers another texture to the A-Sun Amissa palette.

The blurb explains its relatively swift assembly, whereby ‘the record was written over a three month period where Knox had a self-imposed deadline of completing one piece of music per month to then be released digitally with immediate effect at the beginning of the following month. A deliberate move to be more impulsive and instinctive during the writing process and, for him, a new way of looking at releasing a record.’

For all that, nothing about the music here feels remotely rushed. The mood, meanwhile, is in some senses difficult to gauge: it’s not overtly melancholy, but there’s a wistful air to the delicately-arranged compositions.

The first of the three compositions, ‘The Sea’s Collapse’, isn’t a heavy, dramatic piece, but a deep, slow-turning ambient work that possesses a sense of grandeur in its gradual pulls back and forth, tapering down to a muted piano and the softest of washing drones that form a barely-present aural mist. It takes an eerier turn in the dying minutes, a combination of scrapes and extraneous wind-like howls whistling in the distance

The rhythmically-paced piano gives ‘Out Past the Dark’ a clearer sense of structure, as the trailing ambient notes hover in the background. While shifting and evolving over the course of the track, the cyclical chord motifs that surface and subsequently fade create a sense of movement.

‘Pulling Feathers from a Swan Song’ is sparser, and also darker in tone than the others. Long, brooding notes emerge from a slow-swirling murk, and while it’s graceful in its epically-proportioned brooding, there’s a sense of finality in the air that passes between the notes. And yet that finality does not intimate gloom or despair, but sad, weary acceptance of passing.

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