Posts Tagged ‘Depeche Mode’

Christopher Nosnibor

Purveyors of aggrotech and dark electro, Against I, take something of a swerve for this new release, a four-track EP led by single ‘You and I’, which features guest vocals (and lyrics) by rising star on the scene, J:dead, who comments that “‘You And I’ is a story about a relationship breaking down, because either person cannot love themselves first. Each person is trying to hold the other up from their own struggles but in turn, is forgetting about themselves and their own needs.”

The cover art is more horror than dark techno, and it’s not entirely representative of the EP’s sonic contents, but you should never judge an EP by its cover of course.

First things first: ‘You and I’ is a richly atmospheric tune, with a so much texture and detail. There are strong leanings towards later Depeche Mode, and I’m most reminded of ‘Little 15’, but there’s a lot going on here, not least of all a thick, chuggy guitar and an insistent bass that’s pure goth vintage. The baritone vocal – rich and crooning – very much invites positive comparisons to Dave Gahan and it broods and cruises the mid-pitch, mid-tempo sonic structures that climb and loom over damaged emotional states. As a single, it’s a sock in the chops.

As an EP, this does feel like a bit of a cobbled-together effort that may have worked better with either the lead track and either the instrumental ‘My Madness’ – a high-octane technoindustrial stomper (a strong contrast) – or the ‘Club’ remix of ‘You And I’ as a B-side. Said remix is pretty decent. I don’t actually know if goth club nights are still a thing, but then this isn’t excessively dancey, and hasn’t been remixed as a dancefloor-packing stormer, but instead accentuates the track’s solid mid-tempo groove.

But then there’s the ‘Mayhem’ remix of ‘OMG’ from the debut EP, courtesy of Guilt Trip, which is so much more overtly metal, and snarls and rages like a rabid beast – save for the mellow Kraftwerkian rip in the mid-section. And if ‘You and I’ was intended to showcase a different aside of ‘Against I’, the inclusion of an older track feels like a slightly awkward fit.

Minor niggles aside, it’s a solid effort led by a cracking single tune.

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11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

When it comes to goth, you might say that the apple never falls far from the tree: there’s a long history of references and recycling, with bands often taking their names from songs or otherwise referencing other bands, and there is, or at least should be, a goth band name generator somewhere on the Internet, with ‘Children’, ‘Sisters’, ‘Grooving’, ‘Dead / Death’ and ‘Ghost’ featuring prominently in the not-so random permutatable word selections. Funerals and marionettes are pretty popular, too, from as far back as 1986, when The Marionettes began life as The Screaming Marionettes.

Taking their name from the Charles Gounod composition of the same name, best known as the theme music for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Funeral March of the Marionettes go back to that mid/late eighties heyday (broadly 84 or 85 to 87 or 88) that saw ‘goth’ solidify from being a nebulous array of post-punk bands (The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend) being lumped under an umbrella by a lethargic press into an actual genre with more defined stylistic boundaries, typically drawing on the aforementioned acts, but with more indie-leanings typical of The Mission and the style of guitar Wayne Hussey introduced to The Sisters on his arrival in 1984

The Funeral March of the Marionettes, from Rockford, Illinois, cite The Cure, Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and others among their influences, and while they describe their latest offering as something of a departure, it’s still dense with latter-day gothic tropes, albeit leaning more towards the atmospheric post-punk/industrial crossover space, whereby you’ve got Depeche Mode covering Joy Division, a brooding atmosphere as cool synths drift in an ocean of reverb while angst oozes from every corner of the dense, gloomy production.

Yet for all its adherence of those tropes, for all its stylistic familiarity (just look at that cover art, that’s The Sisters of Mercy / Merciful Release meets Joy Division via Rosetta Stone), ‘Slow’ hits a spot, because it’s dark, dark, dark, and the execution is spot on, sending a shiver of torment down the spine that entices you to bask in the gloom.

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Pagan synth duo, Esoterik have unveiled their new full-length LP, Alchemy.

The concept of Alchemy has many different forms and interpretations but the analogy holds true for any artist in that we take elements or ingredients, which on their own have a certain character and then take on a transformation into something that didn’t exist before.

Is it magick or is something more tangible? Who’s to say? But there’s no denying that words have power and music in itself has the ability to illicit a variety of emotions that time stamp our journey throughout life.

About the album, Alchemy, the band says the following, "We took a different approach with this album than we have in the past with a clear vision from the start thematically of what we wanted to achieve and then crafted each track around that."

As a taster, they’ve delivered a video for ‘Tria Prima’ which you can watch here:

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Cruel Nature Recordings –11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m not sure if it’s irony or simply appropriate that VHS¥DEATH should have their latest EP released on cassette, but then London-based Natalie Wardle is also a member of industrial/art-punk band Returning Videotapes, so there’s certainly a vintage media theme here. I write that as someone who remembers when the CD was the future which would render both vinyl and cassette formats obsolete at the end of an era where home taping was allegedly killing music. Who could have predicted that not even home downloading would have killed music, but that the instantly would have killed itself by slowly choking itself with greed and sputtering its death throes over streaming platforms raking in millions while paying artists fractions of a penny per hundred streams?

The relevance of this digression is that the six tracks on Corrupted Geisha – the follow up to ‘La Llorona (Love & All The Hate)’ released last year, sees Wardle incorporate – as the Accompanying notes observe – ‘breakbeats and hip-hop / UK garage stylings alongside spoken-word samples and dark synth-laden bass-heavy soundscapes’.

‘Space Bankers See You, the End is Near’ opens the EP in magnificent style, a near-perfect hybrid of hip-hop and experimental, samplist collaging, and there’s a lot of rants against capitalism in the mix here. It’s a layered piece where the samples dominate the musical backdrop that transitions from chunky hip-hop to minimal country. It’s like flicking through TV channels in the mid to late 90s, like stopping by your stoner uni mates’ house to find them whacked and listening to Wu-Tang.

The Dystropian mix of ‘Falsehood of Man’ works without any familiarity with the original mix: samples and rapid-fire drum ‘n’ bass percussion collide in what is ultimately a rather tensely-delivered list of psychological disorders, and ‘666 Pounds of Zedro Gravity’ follows this trajectory, a dark doom drone of synths providing the backdrop to tense samples.

‘Snakes in the Grass’ makes a sharp left turn into the domain of the weird with its rippling vocal effects and thick,, squelchy beats, not to mention downtuned, dolorous guitars. It’s intense and powerful: it’s not pleasant.

The lo-fi indie-goth of ‘What’s Your Worth, Vampire?’ is of such different sound and sound quality that it feels like a different band. It very much highlights the diversity and eclecticism of VHS¥DEATH, but it’s not a quick or easily assimilation in terms of stylistic mode.

The EP closes with a pretty faithful cover of Ministry’s ‘(Every Day Is’) Halloween – their first on Wax Trax!, but at the point they still hadn’t really evolved beyond Depeche Mode-y electropop. But then, faithful doesn’t account for the additional darkness, murk, and ethereal shades this version brings to the party, and it perhaps tells us more about VHS¥DEATH than is immediately apparent.

Corrupted Geisha isn’t an instantly digestible set by any means, and at times, its range is difficult to assimilate. But that shouldn’t be taken as a lack of focus or identity, so much as an indicator of an act whose sound and style is hard to pin down. And that alone deserves applause.

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14th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Passive is the second album from French post-punk band Je T’aime, and is the first of a two-part set, which will be completed with the release of Aggressive in the not-too distant future.

The album continues where its predecessor left off, and marks the development of a theme as part of an extended concept work, where we ‘follow the evolution of the same antihero; a common avatar of the three musicians. The tone hardens, the atmosphere becomes more melancholic, and the lyrics embrace bitterness and anger.’ The liner notes explain that Passive ‘continues the theme about the difficulty of growing up. Our main character is constantly caught up in the past, repeats the same mistakes and ends up not being able to move forward in his life. It is no mystery that the band’s music constantly looks for influences in the past 80’s for that reason’.

So many people do get hung up on the past, and seem to hit a point in their life – usually around their early 30s, in my experience – where they simply stop evolving and reach a stasis, a brick wall where they conclude that no good new music has been released since they were in their early 20s and nothing is as good as it used to be. It’s not all memberberries and memes, but there are many agents at play driving an immense nostalgia industry. And it’s easy money: no development required for new ideas when there’s a near-infinite well of past movies and music to plunder and rehash or at least lean on. Would Stranger Things have been the smash that it was if it was set in the present? However great the script, plots or acting, much of its appeal lies in its referencing and recreation of that intangible ‘golden age’. While that ‘golden age’ may depend on when an individual was born, the acceleration of nostalgic revivals and recycling means that kids who weren’t even born in the 80s or 90s are nostalgic for synth pop and grunge by proxy.

Passive is anything but. But what it is, is a dark, heavy slab of dark, bleak, brooding, a mix off sinewy guitars and icy synths with rolling bass and tribal drumming that lands in the domain of early Siouxsie, Pornography­era Cure and The Danse Society around the time of Seduction. The instruments blur into a dense sonic mesh. There’s a tripwire guitarline on ‘Another Day in Hell’, which kids off the album with a gloriously dark, stark, intensity that’s Rozz William’s era Christian Death as if played by X-Mal Deutschland. And if I’m wanking nostalgia over this, it’s less because I miss 1983 (I was 8) than the fact they capture the energy and production of that groundbreaking period with a rare authenticity.

‘Lonely Days’ is a bit more electro-poppy, but has a guitarline that trips along nicely and throws angles and shade. ‘Unleashed’ reminds me more of The Bravery and their take on 80s pop, but then again, The Cure’s influence looms large again, and elsewhere, ‘Stupid Songs’ goes altogether more New Order / Depeche Mode, but then again, more contemporaneously, it’s not a million miles off what Editors were doing on In This Light and On This Evening – and album I found disappointing at first because it felt like derivative 80s electro fare, before the quality of the songs seeped through to convince me.

One thing that’s often overlooked about 80s pop is that dark undercurrents ran through even the most buoyant of tunes from the most chart orientated acts; Duran Duran and Aha, even the music of Nick Kershaw, Howard Jones, A Flock of Seagulls, was cast with shadows flitting beneath that veneer of production. So when they go bouncy disco on ‘Givce Me More Kohl’, the parallels with The Cure’s ‘Let’s Go To Bed’ and ‘The Walk’ are apparent, with a lost and lonely aspect to the vocals, and they go full Disintegration on ‘Marble Heroes’. And that’s cool. It’s poignant, sad, wistful, an emotional cocktail. On Passive, Je T’aime revel in all of those elements of influence and pack them in tight, and they do it so well and with such discipline. They really know what they’re doing: the sound and production is class, and the songs and classic, and the sum of the parts is a truly outstanding album.

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Time to Kill Records (TTK) – 15th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

A good slogan or manifesto can say so much more than the words in themselves. And so it is that Vonamor introduce themselves with a bold statement that hints at Dada or perhaps the more arch and ironic Neoism in a way.

Vonamor state that:

VONAMOR is music and movement. VONAMOR is real and virtual.

VONAMOR is the end and the beginning. VONAMOR is from love, of love, for love.

Vonamor are more than simply a band, then, and more an aesthetic, a single-act movement. They exist in the space between simultaneous contradictions, the likes of which have informed poetical works since the Renaissance, with Sir Thomas Wyatt’s ‘I Find No Peace’ sonnet effectively setting a blueprint for modern literature.

Postmodernism, and Neosim in particular positively revelled in those contradictions, taking the avant-garde idea of self-awareness and self-destruction as a means of creating anew, and this, on the strength of Vonamor’s statement, is their primary objective: to be everything, and therefore nothing: to exist, they must cease to exist.

How seriously to we take this? They look pretty serious to me, but that may all be part of the performance. The next, and perhaps most important question is, does the music validate the bravado and high art bombast?

‘Take Your Heart’ is a smart slice of stark, minimal electronica, dark pop with a gothy, post-punk leaning, a collision of Siousxie and Florence and the Machine that’s both spiky and groovy, five minutes of mid-tempo doom-disco with an industrial edge – I’m talking more later Depeche Mode than Nine Inch Nails. It’s daring in the adherence to the adage that less is more: it’s tight and claustrophobic, and this gives the song a particular intensity.

No question this is a low-budget effort on all fronts, but that’s a significant part of the appeal. This isn’t some major-label act masquerading as something cult and underground to score kudos and cool cachet; Vonamor are clearly a fringe act with big, bold ideas and a strong sense of identity, and ‘Take Your Heart’ is understated but strong.

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Blind Mice Productions – 18th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

As the liner notes to Australian electro-industrial band SHIV-R’s fifth full-length album explain, ‘there is a Zen teaching that if you meet God on the road, you must kill him… What the killing of God means to each listener will be a unique and personal revelation. In a world full of gatekeepers and figureheads whose only interest in you is to tell you what to do, illusions will need to be shed and those who profess to have all the answers will need to be confronted’.

The title track launches the album with some harsh metallic guitars pitched against a pounding technoindustrial groove, where beats and synthesized bass are melded together perfectly. And while a lot of bands in this vein – even the likes of KMFDM to an extent – peg the guitars back in favour of pushing the synthesised elements of the instrumentation to the fore, to give a harsh, but ultimately slick, digital vibe overall, SHIV-R to crank up the guitars, and they punch hard, providing a strong counter to the danceable, mechanoid beats and throbbing low-end.

While growly or distorted vocals are common to the genre, it’s often strained-sounding or raspy, whereas Pete Crane has a rich, full-throated metal roar that has real depth and proper guts. That said, on ‘Spark’ and ‘Promises of Armageddon’ where they slip into grinding electrosleaze mode, evoking Pretty Hate Machine era Nine Inch Nails and mid-90s PIG, Crane shows a cleaner tone that’s poppy, but dark – which is a description that fits the slower pace of the Depeche Mode-like minimal electro of ‘Blue Turns to Black’. It’s well-placed at what would conventionally mark the end of side one – and highlights another strength of Kill God Ascend: it feels like an album in the classic sense, with ten tightly-structured and concise tracks that are sequenced in such a way as to drop the tempo, and conversely, slam in with an absolute banger, at just the right time. More than anything, it’s reminiscent of Stabbing Westward’s debut – but at the same time, Kill God Ascend is very much an album with its own identity.

Sixth track, ‘Empire’ is exemplary, kicking off virtual side two with a dark stomper on which Crane snarls, “I’m on my own path. Get the fuck out of my way.” He sounds like he means it, too.

There are some solid hooks, and Kill God Ascend sustains the angst from beginning to end – even when they bring it right down for the brooding penultimate song, ‘Valley of Death’, it’s as a prelude to the epic finale, the dark, slow-burning ‘Turpentine’ that’s gnarly and hefty and brimming with twists, turns, and glitches, a track where the machines finally devour the human components in a mangles mess of rust and dirt, blood and guts. And it’s at this point, you realise that god is indeed dead.

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Human Worth- 26th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This one’s been cropping up in my Facebook feed a fair bit lately, and I’m quite ashamed by how long it took me to get around to playing it, given the great work Human Worth do both in terms of music and charitable donations – plus the fact they’re decent guys who I’m proud to know. Shit happens, even in the midst of Lockdown 2.0 where it’s shit mostly because there’s only shit and nothing happens, and mostly it’s simply that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. In the event, it turns out the greatest loss is mine, because this album really is something else. How was I to know that this was the album I’d been looking for, that I needed in my life the last few months?

Given the pedigree of the performers who make up Cower – namely Wayne Adams (Pet Brick / Big Lad), Gareth Thomas (USA Nails / Silent Front) & Thomas Lacey (Yards / The Ghost of a Thousand) – it would be a reasonable expectation for their debut album to contain a fair bit of noise, but then equally, it would be reasonable to expect it to be a bit experimental, a bit electronic, and a bit weird. How do all of the elements brought by the component parts marry up?

The short answer is remarkably well, and Cower sound like all of the component pats simultaneously, but equally none, as they morph together to forge something truly unique, and also quite unexpected.

It begins in a pretty understated fashion, with ‘Tight Trousers and a Look of Intent’ following the path of a dense, woozy, but accessible dark electro tune. Admittedly, that pulsating bass throb is something you could drown in, but the incidentals and the vocals are quite accessible – although all hell breaks loose just halfway through and it’s wild. Initially, I was inclined to say that as an opening, it was ‘tame’, but that would be unjust: restraint isn’t an indication of weakness, but of controlling the beast. But then, when the beast breaks loose… ‘Proto-Lion-Tamer’, brings the noise, and does it in proper full-on style, a squalling, brawling mess of din – old-school noise merchants like The Jesus Lizard are in the blender with contemporaries like Daughters and Blacklisters to whip up a nasty maelstrom of noise.

Tribal drumming dominates the bleak, eerie soundscape of ‘Arise You Shimmering Nightmare’, while the downtempo mid-album slowie, ‘Saxophones by the Water’ finds them coming on like Violator-era Depeche Mode, and this trickles through into the next song, ‘Midnight Sauce’ that combined a rich, soulful vocal with some chilly synths and blasts of percussion-led noise and cinematic drama that goes fully 3D, to the extent that it gives JG Thirlwell a run for his money.

If BOYS pursues a dark, brooding, electro road as its dominant style, it’s the album’s range and diversity that is its real selling point, and the songs are all far darker than most of the titles suggest. And if much of the album feels pointed, challenging, ‘For the Boys’ is outstanding in its emotional sensitivity. Closer ‘Park Jogger’ in particular sounds like it might be light, even vaguely comedic by its title, but no: it’s a colossal electroindustrial behemoth tat packs some seriously pounding force into its short running time.

With BOYS, Cower surprise and excel: the quality of the songs is remarkable: there’s a real sense of everything having been carefully crafted for accessibility, to the extent that this is actually a pop album – making for the darkest, heaviest pop album you’re likely to hear in a long time.

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Buzzhowl Records – 12th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Dingy’ as a descriptor isn’t to be taken as a negative here: and it’s a dingy mess or murk that opens Damn Teeth’s second album, with the intro to the first track, ‘You’ll Only Make It Worse’ manifesting as extraneous noise before the beats and the bass kick in to drive a snaking electrogoth behemoth. It’s Depeche Mode with the pained twist of Nine Inch Nails and the abrasion and detachment of the classic Wax Trax! sound. It’s a development from their 2016 debut, but make no mistake, they’ve not mellowed any, instead utilising the same elements to present something more focused and harder-edged.

And so Real Men pounds and grinds, at times bordering on the psychotic, as grinding Suicide-inspired synths provide the backdrop to vocals that veer wildly from snarling angst to clinical robotix. I could sling all the quintessential electro-based industrial acts in here by way of touchstones, but I’d only be filling space, because the chances are you already get the gist. Bu it’s also way, way more than that: the helium-falsetto on ‘MRA Soundsystem’ is unexpectedly more reminiscent of the late Billy MacKenzie of fellow Scots act The Associates (who also had tendency for ‘busy’ arrangements).

‘Dominant Muscle’ may be manic, even shrill and frenzied, but musically, it’s pretty lightweight and calls to mind Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s ‘Love Missile F1-11’ crossed with the first Foetus album, in that it combines a relentlessly driving synth rhythm backing track with extraneous noise and deranged vocals. And this is really the shape of things: jolting, jarring, jerking all over, Real Men is an album that doesn’t sit comfortably, instead revelling in layers of anguish, pain, discomfort, with a substantial dose of self-loathing in the mix. But as much as it’s got masochism in its soul, so the sonic pain inflicted on the listener is a wilful act of Sadism.

‘Deserving Pest’ comes on like NIN on ‘Reptile’ – all the sleaze, all the S&M, and I can’t help but be reminded of Marc Almond’s early output: it’s groove, but it’s also got a strong current of self-punishment. ‘Pink Pitbull’ pursues new levels of annihilistic torture, a hybrid between Dead Kennedys and a Swans album played at 45rpm. It’s fucking horrible, and so, so, disorientating, but simultaneously so magnificently punishing it’s positively addictive.

‘The People vs The Real Men’ feels kind flimsy with its throwaway synth groove that’s equally retro and low-budget, but it’s redeemed by the distorted vocal barks that provide a grit that cuts against the mechanoid backdrop, and it culminates in crescendous multitude of screaming, maniacal vocals that penetrate and remind us that lo-fi electronica doesn’t correspond with tame.

Closer ‘Coasting on Genetics’ feels a shade derivative, but that’s by technoindustrial standards, and even then, it packs a punch as it whips extraneous noise into a whorl of noise.

Real Men is a challenge, and it’s unquestionably niche. But it’s a work of twisted genius that will repel the majority, while those who dig it are going to go absolutely nuts for it. and yes I’m going completely nuts.

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Pretty Ugly Records – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The London synth duo follow up on last year’s debut double A-side ‘Are You Ready’ / ‘Hell Is Where the Heart Is’ with ‘Modern Witchcraft’, which according to the press release ‘sees the band explore Britain’s lost highways in their darkly psychedelic animation’.

Having spent the last few months holed up with Dave M. Allen (The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy, Yassasin), Matt Kilda and Willow Vincent have been experimenting hard, and this singe is the first fruits to be revealed from the forthcoming ‘Cheer Up The Apocalypse Is Here’ EP.

Instead of lamenting the absent comma, I shall instead concentrate on focusing my energies on celebrating the taut goth-hued electropop of ‘Modern Witchcraft’. It mines a supremely retro seam of 80s bleakness, pulling together Gary Numan, The Human League, and Depeche Mode, with the warmth of analogue condensing against a chilly atmosphere and brittle, stripped-back production to evoke a sense of desolation, of isolation.

Whichever fan review suggested Sex Cells are ‘helping define the anxiety and utter dread of late-stage Capitalism’ was on the money: if it’s the sound of the 80s intensified for the post-millennial world, it’s fitting, given that the parallels between then and ow are clear – only then, we only had one clear enemy and cause of social division, and less CCTV.

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