Posts Tagged ‘Depeche Mode’

30th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

This is a proper slap round the chops. It follows many conventional industrial tropes, and you could readily lump it min with the endless catalogue of Nine Inch Nails rip-offs, primarily because NIN set the benchmark and the tone from way back in 1988. Prior to that, it was either mainstream sleaze with soul drawing influence from Depeche Mode, or pulsating electro industrial that was either on or wanted to be on, Wax Trax!

Pretty Hate Machine was actually more Depeche Mode than Ministry, but its use of extraneous noise and the general production was, to use a cliché, a gamechanger. It created a new conduit for simultaneous anger and emotional fragility in ways that had previously been untapped.

Anything post PHM is therefore destined to stand against comparisons to NIN if it’s angry electro and industrial, and ‘SAV@Ge’ is all of that – plus tax.

Luna Blake spits lyrics about blood and bones and shame, pain, and death, against a thumping beat-heavy surge of sleaze-grind that’s strong on the stomach-churning low-end and that classic NIN-style production that’s dense and distortion-thick yet crisply digital. The dynamic range and optimal use of dropouts just before everything powers in at twice the volume achieves maximum impact. ‘SAV@Ge’ is aflame with fury and condenses all the rage into just a fraction over two and a half minutes that absolutely blow your face off.

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The latest single by Swedish post-punk/darkwave act A Projection sees the Stockholm-based quartet maintain their recent move towards a more electronic sound with a new single entitled ‘Anywhere’ that has a distinct mid-80s electro-pop vibe. Out on 30th September, a video for the song has been made available a day ahead of its release.

The group’s upcoming fourth album, In A Different Light, has already had the songs ‘Darwin’s Eden’, ‘No Control’, ‘Careless’ and now ‘Anywhere’ lifted from it as singles. Encompassing both ‘80s post-punk and electronic elements, it will be their second full-length record released on Metropolis Records and follows 2019’s ‘Section’. Further details will follow shortly.

Initially inspired by the dark post-punk/proto-goth of The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy and Joy Division along with the electronica of Depeche Mode, the band are also known for their compelling and dynamic live shows.

The video for ‘Anywhere’ has been made by Ukrainian filmmaker and artist Shorkina Valeri, who also shot the recent promo clip for ‘Careless’.

Watch the video for ‘Anywhere’ here:

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4th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Back in November of last year, I gave ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ by The Vaulted Skies a massive double-thumbs up, having previously raved about their debut EP, No Fate back in 2018. And now ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ has been rereleased, this time as a remix courtesy of Mark Saunders, whose eye-poppingly extensive discography includes work with The Cure, Lloyd Cole, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie and the Banshees… and many others, including some truly huge names like David Bowie, but those I’ve picked out are relevant is they’re illustrative of his longstanding links with post-punk, of which The Vaulted Skies are emerging contemporary exponents. But Saunders also has a long history of wording on radio-friendly and more dance-orientated material, and it’s fair to say that his remix of ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ brings these two threads together very neatly.

The song itself draws on contrasts in its take on a ‘nostalgic tale that is filled with reflection and regret’, inspired by an encounter experienced by vocalist/guitarist, James Scott., who recounts how “In college, I was paired up in an acting assignment with one of the popular girls. She propositioned me and in doing so, verbally and indirectly alluded to a very troubled home life. I wish I’d recognized the cry for help underneath it all. This song captures the desperation I have felt when wondering what became of her.”

Saunders sensitively preserves the stark, haunted angst of the original, but subtly packs some extra oomph and wraps it in a dark disco groove. The chunky gothy bass of the original is smoothed into a more dancefloor-friendly sound, the drumming – the cymbals in particular – is slickened down and given a more buoyant disco twist. If the original sounded in some way tentative, despite its solid assurance, then the remix rolls it all out and effortlessly stretches it past the seven-minute mark in vintage 12” single style.

If the grit and flange of the driving guitar in the chorus is backed off a bit in favour of a more even sound, well, it works, as does the cleaner vocal treatment. In short, this version may lack the ragged punch of the original, but it by no means does The Vaulted Skies a disservice, and will likely be a major step toward connecting the band with the larger audience they so richly deserve.

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A Projection are a post-punk/darkwave act from Stockholm, who signed to Metropolis Records in 2019 for the release of their well received third album, Section. Initially inspired by the dark post-punk/proto-goth of The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy and Joy Division along with the electronica of Depeche Mode, the band are known for their compelling and dynamic live shows.

Following Section, the group released the singles ‘Darwin’s Eden’ and ‘No Control’ that saw them enter a more danceable electronic realm while still embracing their darkwave roots. Their brand new single, ‘Careless’, offers a further example of this sound and provides a taster for a forthcoming album that will be released via Metropolis in late 2022.

Recorded both during and after Covid lockdowns, ‘Careless’ reflects the restlessness and hope of the last two years. Additional recording assistance was provided by fellow musicians that included Henrik Linder of the group Dirty Loops.
The video for ‘Careless’ was made by Ukrainian filmmaker and artist Shorkina Valeri and shot in the band’s home city of Stockholm.

Watch the video here:

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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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