Posts Tagged ‘Electropop’

1st May 2022

James Wells

As a slice of buoyant yet dreamy electropop, it’s hard to fault ‘Dream Curve’, the new single by self-professed ‘witchy goth rock band’ Metamorph. Well, ok, lyrically it may not be quite Leonard Cohen or Richard Butler (both completely piss on the popularly esteemed Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison), but then ultimately, the purpose of pop music isn’t primarily to distil every word into a moment of poetical genius. No, the purpose of pop is to entertain, and, where possible, to stick in your head, and here, Metamorph achieve.

‘Dream Curve’ blurs fragments of image and reflection amidst a swirl of synths pitched against an insistent bear and pulsing sequenced synth bass. It’s pure Europop: it’s fundamentally simple, but it’s effective.

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Temple Invisible have unveiled their arresting new single ‘Over My Feet’, taken from new ‘Chiasm’ EP coming next month.

Fusing chiffon vocals with impending electronic beats, ‘Over My Feet’ comes as the third single plucked from Temple Invisible’s forthcoming ‘Chiasm’ EP, and boasts the breadth of the genre-defying duo.

Showcasing the two-piece’s knack for creating evocative electronic-tinged tracks that are as dark as they are diaphanous, “Over My Feet” feels eerie and overcast yet optimistic and inviting all at once.

Speaking of the inspiration behind the track, vocalist Irina Bucescu explains:

“’Over My Feet’ is like a walk in the forest. It draws its roots from the deep and rich life of the underground — the mycelium. As you progress deeper into the forest, you connect with the life force, inside out, and blend the deeper and more disturbing truths into a multi-layered view of reality. The metamorphosis of death can be a beautiful thing when you walk in the forest.”

With its opening moments unfolding like a silken ballad — gauzy vocals and gentle key taps wind themselves around one another with cushiony ease — the docile ambience is soon underpinned by swirling electro rhythms that steadily threaten to erupt, before overflowing into a meticulous amalgam of rippling instrumentals.

Watch the video here:

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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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Cool Thing Records – 25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Cool Thing isn’t just a name: it’s essentially a manifesto. Established in 2014 as a conduit for Asylums to release their music, the label is truly a beacon of DIY independence, with in-house PR, the lot. One suspects the success they’ve achieved is in no small part to the calibre of the releases they’ve put out, not only for Asylums and side-project BAIT, but also the various acts from their locale of Southend-on-Sea, and occasionally London that they’ve given a home through the years.

The latest is ‘Submission’ by Southend electronic duo A Cause In Distress’, the follow up to the band’s third single, ‘Paraffin’, released just short of a year ago.

The band describe themselves as ‘The lovechild of Nine Inch Nails, Fugazi & Radiohead, if it was fathered by David Lynch’, and on the basis of previous press coverage, they’re everything all at once, which sounds like a tightrope walk that could be spectacularly amazing, or the most disastrous plunge into a catastrophic platter of shit imaginable.

Cool Thing know how to pick ‘em, and this is an outstanding hybrid that packs a throbbing synth that weaves and waves, propelled by an urgent shuffling beat and a vocal reminiscent of Morten Harket: it’s as if Factory Floor had perfected soaring melodic pop instead of running out of steam and ideas after just two EPs. At three minutes, it’s succinct, and it feels like half that. The cyclical groove just sucks you in, and tugs you along, and you’re completely immersed. It’s not music, it’s alchemy. Give in to it.

A Cause In Distress - ‘Submission’ _ Artwork

Lia Hide – Dinner

Conch Town Records – 25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Such a contentious word. Two syllables, it kind of has a satisfying downbeat in the middle before an inflection, and on the face of it, completely innocuous. But ‘dinner’ is a territory of dispute that denotes and divides regions. It’s all about positioning – whether it’s ‘breakfast, dinner, and tea, or breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is essentially an English debate, and personally, I believe cricket has the answer the end all debate, stopping for lunch and tea – afternoon tea. That and the fact that no pubs display a ‘dinner’ menu at lunchtime.

So, while Lia Hide is from Greece, I’m working on the premise that the follow up to the absolutely cracking ‘Proposal’, the first single from her forthcoming fourth album, The Missing Fourth Guest, is about an evening meal, with the lighting low – probably candles – and a long evening in prospect.

As she explains in the accompanying notes, “It’s an invitation to dinner , so we can mend things that went wrong. I go from being alone in my own head, in my mess, to reaching out for some communication with someone, anyone, so we can have dinner, discuss and focus on being alright.”

It sounds like a pretty nervy meal in prospect, and the track has an appropriately tense start, which burred whips of electric tension and glitching distortion cutting across the gentle piano and subdued beats. ‘Can we focus on being alright?’ she sings in a low-key, ponderous tone. Beats burst and stutter all around over a rolling piano before, seemingly from out of nowhere, brass bursts and blossoms, introducing an unexpectedly jazz feel to this roiling, multi-faceted electronica.

It’s anything but obvious, but it’s magnificently executed, and makes you hungry for more. Who’s for supper?

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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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Over twenty years and a dozen albums, The Birthday Massacre have become prime exponents of goth synth pop. They describe Fascination as ‘at once the most fully realized album with the bands signature blend of haunting vocals, captivating electronica and aggressive guitars and their most accessible’.

It’s this accessibility that immediately announces itself from the outset. The title, ‘Fascination’, immediately makes my mind leap to the song by The Human League, and this is unquestionably poppy, but this is in a different league instead. It’s the title track that opens the album and it’s a colossal anthem. It’s in the slower mid-pace tempo range, and the production is so immense as to be arena-worthy, the slick synths drifting over big, bombastic guitars. Some may baulk at the notion, but it’s pretty much a power ballad. It paves the way for an album that’s back-to-back bangers.

I mean, make no mistake, this is a pop album in a pure 80s vein, and pushes tendencies that were always in evidence in BM’s work. People often seem to forget just how dark a lot of mainstream pop was in the 80s, but listen to A-Ha, even Howard Jones or Nik Kershaw objectively and the currents of darkness are clearly apparent amidst the clean lines of the clinical synth pop production of the day. It’s perhaps time to re-evaluate what actually constitutes ‘cheesy’ – an adjective so often pinned to the 80s with no real consideration – and cast aside the idea of ‘guilty pleasures’ when it comes to a lot of music of the era.

‘Stars and Satellites’ is bold and brooding, and probably the most overtly ‘goth’ track of the album’s nine, although ‘Like Fear, Like Love’ grabs bits of The Cure and tosses them into a stomping disco tune. But those drums… they’re great, they’re huge, but they really are the epitome of the 80s sound. Elsewhere, the guitar line on ‘One More Time’ actually goes 80s U2 with heavy hints of Strawberry Switchblade (and they weren’t goth either). Step too far? Maybe for some craving the chunky chug of industrial guitars, because this is fundamentally a riff-free zone, but Fascination works if you embrace the spirit of its being easy on the ear and accessible.

It feels fresh for the band, but also feels like a relatively safe step in the direction of commercialism. It’s ok, and the songwriting and performances are solid throughout, that much is undeniable. It’s one of those albums that may take some time to sink in, in the way that Editors’ On This Light and on This Evening and The Twilight Sad’s Nobody Wants to be Here, Nobody Wants to Leave, felt just that bit mainstream initially. Digesting an overtly ‘pop’ album or a change of direction – and while the direction of Fascination is something that’s always been a part of The Birthday Massacre’s sound – hearing it placed front and central inevitably feels like a shift. And it is a shift, of course, just not one of seismic proportions.

‘Is anyone real anymore?’ they ask on ‘Precious Hearts’ before the final cut, ‘The End of All Stories’ goes Cure again, only this time with monster power chords that border on metal to fill out the mix.

Dig it, soak it in, play it a few times. You’ll probably like it, even if not on first listen.

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Darkwave act VVMPYRE begins a new reign in blood in 2022 with a horrific new single ‘Offering’. Inspired by vampire cults and 70’s cult horror films, ‘Offering’ is a track that personifies the leaders of these cults in an alluring anthem. VVMPYRE creates a modernized sound with a rekindled inspiration from artists like The Sisters Of Mercy and Inkubus Sukkubus.

In a search for the right voice, VVMPYRE reached out to CORLYX singer Caitlin Stokes. VVMPYRE’s twisted imagination is met with a set of lyrics as if the chant to a ceremony against the backdrop of increasingly massive and infectious melodies.

Together with VVMPYRE’s production, ‘Offering’ is a monstrous mix of classic electrogoth, 70’s horror scores, and modern darkwave to form a bloody anthem that unleashes a barrage of hooks. Brandon Ashley of DTuned Brighton Productions and The Dark adds a gripping guitar to the mix, building the track up further in the chorus and bridge, only equally met by VVMPYRE’s haunting organ melodies.

Check the video here:

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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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Everest Records – 14th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Language is fluid, it evolves. Sometimes I appreciate that, and like the fact. Other times, this is something which can be intensely frustrating, and it seems the meaning of hypernormal has evolved – seems to have been reconfigured, rechannelled – with remarkable rapidity. Initially, it was something of a colloquialism, an on-trend sassy term to describe something that was so normal it was beyond bland.

The connotations of the scarily mundane, the individual who was so lacking individuality that they made clones appear unique, which emerged late in the first decade of the new millennium remained largely stable until Adam Curtis delivered his seismic three-hour documentary in 2016, which espoused the theory that HyperNormalisation is a process whereby a mundane, readily-digested version of life and society has been superimposed over the complex world by those in power. And so according to this, we now live in a ‘fake’ world. And this concept of a constructed reality overlaying the true reality seems unsettlingly feasible. What, and who can you trust or believe? Trust no-one; believe nothing.

Perhaps because I think too much and don’t sleep enough, I’ve wondered ever since I was a child if the world we live in is real, or if we’re all figments of our own imagination, and if reality is a construct. Yes, I experienced existentialism combined with some kind of take on The Matrix at the age of five. But I digress, and there is a point to all of this, and that is that nothing is fixed, nothing is certain. We know so little, we don’t even know ourselves.

Pless’ hybrid sound is absolutely not normal, and it’s certainly not normal beyond normal so as to be the next level of mundane; but nor does it feel entirely like a carefully-constructed fiction which bears the ultimate lie. That said, there is a certain element of deception here: the façade of simplicity, of minimal, semi-ambient electronica belies the detail and complexity of these layered compositions, and as such, it’s something not normal, disguised as something that resembles normal, or at least familiar. Ultimately, it’s something else entirely; something mellow, something layered, something dark and something light. All of this filters into cognisance in the first piece, the slow-paced, semi-abstract ‘Azure’, whereby spectral synths drift around a metronomic drum and ever-moving bass tones.

The drum sound is noteworthy: it’s somehow immediate, up-front, and dry, as well as reverby, landing between Joy Division and Duran Duran.

The synths of ‘La Cienaga’ lean towards A Flock of Seagulls, but the stuttering drums and stammering incidentals contribute to transporting this track to another place entirely, one filled with dark shadows cast by brooding electropop and darkwave. Meanwhile, the six-minute ‘La Grenouille Volante’ has a bass that thrums like an engine throbbing at the dark heart of its soft ambient washes and distant drums. Around two-thirds in, it unexpectedly revs up a gear, and while the same, the additional volume translates to additional intensity, too.

The haunting, spectral organ drone of ‘Ante finem’ is blasted through with hefty tribal percussion, gradually shifting to a slow, deliberate bass-driven trudge, while ‘Fog City’ is every bit as murky and disorientating as you would likely imagine, with vocal samples and reverberated snare cracks echoing through stark synth stabs, and ‘Hot God’ comes on like a collision between Kraftwerk and DAF with a dash of early New Order, mining a deep seam of late 70s/early 80s electronica. The final track, the ten-minute ‘Reodorant’ is a dark-ambient epic in every sense, deep, moody, a little unnerving.

Each of the pieces shifts as it progresses, and evolves over the course of its duration, often subtly, twisting through expansive soundscapes front one plateau to another. Under the cloak of minimalism is shrouded considerable detail, and a quite remarkable focus on texture and movement. Even in the most stagnant of moments, there isn’t an element of stillness here. It may be cold, it may be distanced, but it’s also quite its own work. Normal? What even is that anyway? Stark, sparse, yet so, so rich, with Hypernormal, it becomes clear that Pless is more.

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