Posts Tagged ‘Electropop’

There is more than one way to listen to BEBORN BETON’s ninth album "Darkness Falls Again": it is possible to just dance and enjoy contemporary synth pop hymns that have a solid musical based in the golden 80s with a dash of cool 90s influences. Catchy tunes and mature songwriting combine to form a sonic joyride.

Yet there is another side to BEBORN BETON, which is mostly expressed in their lyrics. On "Darkness Falls Again", the Germans wade right into the political battles and culture wars of our times. BEBORN BETON speak out against the attempts to deny and deprive women of their rights. They take a strong stand against those who try to restrict love, the freedom to choose gender, and sexuality. The trio clearly call out racists, demagogues, preachers of hate and violence, and those who destroy our planet in order to enrich themselves. In short, BEBORN BETON put their finger right on the pulse of our time.

BEBORN BETON were founded by vocalist Stefan Netschio, keyboard player and drummer Stefan Tillmann, and keyboard player Michael Wagner in 1989. The trio set out with the declared aim to keep synth pop relevant and give it meaning. Their first signs of life were three self-released works, ‘Pyre’ (1989), ‘Scythe’ (1991, and ‘Die Stahlbetontour’ (1992) that came out on tape.

Following their first two regular albums "Tybalt" (1993) and "Concrete Ground" (1994), BEBORN BETON found a label-home where they joined renowned acts such as WOLFSHEIM and DE/VISION. Having conquered home, the three electro-musicians rapidly expanded abroad and the 1996 full-length "Nightfall", followed by "Truth" in 1997, and "Fake" (1999) gained the Germans strong acclaim by critics and fans around the globe.

By the time, "Rückkehr zum Eisplaneten" (‘Return to the Ice-Planet’) was released in 2000, BEBORN BETON had firmly positioned themselves as a headlining act within their scene and toured in all the strongholds of electronic music such as Canada and the US, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, Switzerland, Poland, and even Russia among other places. In the North of America, the Germans had scored a veritable club hit with the track ‘Another World’ in 1997. Across the Atlantic, the track’s ever-growing popularity finally led to the exclusive US release of a best-of double-album entitled "Tales from Another World" in 2002, which was followed by extensive touring in North America with APOPTYGMA BERZERK in the same year.

Yet the heavy touring and the creatively highly demanding output of so many excellent albums in quick succession started to take its toll. After the release of "Tales from Another World" (2002) and the associated touring, BEBORN BETON went on an extended hiatus.
It took 13 long years, until BEBORN BETON returned to the delight and surprise of their still huge following with a new album on Dependent Recordings. "A Worthy Compensation" (2015) was showered with accolades from the relevant magazines such as an "album tip of the month" in German Sonic Seducer and Orkus Magazine called the record an "undisputed masterpiece".

Having learned from previous experiences and not to fall back into a relentless production cycle, BEBORN BETON took their time to write another masterpiece. "Darkness Falls Again" has all the ingredients that make synth pop great. Catchy songs that make the legs twitch, a dash of melancholy, a pinch of irony, and a knife-tip of anger. Music with a meaning, welcome back BEBORN BETON!

Watch the video for ‘Dancer in the Dark’ here:

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Photo: Chris Ruiz

Panurus Productions – 2nd December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Panurus Productions are renowned for their favouring of pop and jaunty indie on their catalogue, but as the title suggests, they’ve really excelled with the saccharine-sweet, shimmery Christmas bauble stylings on this December release by Distant Animals, the vehicle for Daniel Alexander Hignell.

The accompanying blurb sets the pitch for ‘A scuzzed out synth/noise/punk affair… straddling a range of genres but never settling on any one of them for long, shifting around with an angry, anxious energy directed at our bleak status quo.’

Granted, this does mean it’s nowhere near as abrasive as recent releases from Trauma Bond or as dark as Carnivorous Plants, this is a hybrid form that coalesces to convey the sound of post-industrial nihilism.

The synths drive and dominate the sound, and they’re layered into thick, foggy swirls pitched against grinding, fuzzy-as-fuck sequenced bass and a drum machine that’s largely submerged beneath the swelling squall. The opener, the eight-and-a-half-minute ‘Greetings from the MET Office’ builds and builds into an immense wall of sound, the guitar adding layers off noise and feedback rather than melody. There is a tune in there, somewhere, and vocals, too, buried in a blitzkrieg that sounds like Depeche Mode covered by My Bloody Valentine and then remixed by Jesu or Dr Mix and the Remix.

‘Phase Down and Sweat to Death’ gets dubby, with samples and snippets cut in and out of the mix, and actually finds a murky, echo-drenched groove in places, before veering off on myriad detours.

As titles such as the title track and ‘Panning For Shit In The Shallow End’ intone, this is far from a celebratory collection, with the delicate and brittle-feeling ‘Hegel’s Violin’ sounding like it could have been penned by The Cure circa Seventeen Seconds, and yes, it’s fair to say that there are what some may refer to as ‘gothic’ elements to the brooding sound.

If songs titles like ‘Fondly Remembering When Primark was a Woolworths’ and ‘They Didn’t Have Snowflakes In 76’ might suggest that Hignell’s been gorging on the Memberberries, but on the evidence there is, buried away in trudging industrial sub-zero trudges and stark, oppressive abstraction, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and we can appreciate these compositions as critiques of the multi-billion-pound nostalgia industry and Brexit Britain, where narrow-minded twats get dewy-eyed all over social media reminiscing over false memories of a golden age that never was. ‘They don’t make ‘em like they used to…’ It’s patent bullshit of course, but so many subscribe to this that, well, it must be true that The BBC haven’t screened Monty Python in decades because they’re woke lefties (and nothing to do that after airing it in 2019 for the fiftieth anniversary, the rights were purchased by NetFlix), and Stranger Things is only good because, well, it’s like The Goonies, isn’t it?

‘Panning for Shit’ is sparse, minimal electro that borders on Krautrock, and is the sound of drowning, not waving from our turd-encircled island, and there are many elements of this album which seem to align with the bleak perspectives and sounds of early industrial acts like Throbbing Gristle. But, to be clear, these are simply touchstones, rather than direct comparisons. Everything Is Fucked And We Are All Going To Die may evoke a sense of familiarity and a strange sense of déjà-vu, but ultimately presents a unique view and amalgamation of influences and stylistic references, and herein lies its true strength.

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Singer Liset Alea (known for her long collaboration with Nouvelle Vague) fuses with French darkwave producer Distance H to create ‘Reason To Rush’; an impelling dream pop evocation, navigating the realms of reason and impulsiveness, luminous euphoria and its dark plunge.

Liset Alea sings her ‘Reason To Rush’ in a driving immersive atmosphere where menacing guitars weave beneath the surface.

Distance H gives birth to a musical universe that sources its array of sounds within and beyond the margins of post-punk, dark wave, cold wave, ethereal, and shoegaze, sometimes borrowing some more electronic-driven beats. For his debut EP, Intimacy, he invites an assortment of collaborative singers to express themselves by escaping into and from the vast distances of themselves and their experiences

His first single ‘Bitch 16’ made in collaboration with Ophelia from Saigon Blue Rain was released on the 29th of April 2022 and was noticed by the specialized press, by "its freshness, its mechanical and dramatic resonance".

His second single "Waters Of Woe" featuring Marita Volodina from Stridulum / Burial Fields / Blood Tears After was released on the 30th of September 2022 and was appreciated as a ‘spectacularly intoxicating track, with a captivating melody, dark and enticing’.

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Darkwave band, Stariana has just unveiled their new single, ‘Paradise Is Lost On You’.

‘Paradise Is Lost On You’ is an anthemic rebuttal to the flawed notion that a person loving and living outside the traditional norms of society is somehow immoral or broken.

We will celebrate being alive and live as vibrantly as possible, regardless of what those who won’t understand might think or say.  Paradise is lost on them.  In other words, the song brings the message of not giving up in the face of adversity.

Check the single here:

Stariana is a post punk/darkwave trio based in Eugene, Oregon, heavily influenced by post punk mainstays such as Depeche Mode, New Order, Bauhaus, Jesus And Mary Chain and 90’s era Britpop; Elastica, Blur, The Stone Roses with just a little bit of Blondie and Joan Jett mixed in for flavor. 

Stariana is:
Nikki Brackett & Victor St. Petersburg (of Black Magdalene) and Tethys.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Having showcased ‘Immersive Waves’ recently, my interest was sufficiently piqued to explore the rest of the EP from gothic/occult wave duo Raven Said. With ‘Immersive Waves’ being the last of the EP’s five tracks, it feels like I’m coming to it backwards first, although I so appreciate there is a flaw to this logic.

‘A Flowering and a Flattering’ drills in with some expansive synths wafting over a hi-NRG dance beat and thumping bass, and it falsely points toward pumping trance before going cinematic, darkwave, and then the arrival of the vocals – a heavily-processed, growling monotone baritone that’s quintessential goth – changes the tone again, and with fractal guitars chiming against a pulsing bass and stomping mechanised beat we’re in the domain of 90s second wave goth as characterised by the likes of Suspiria and the Nightbreed label’s output.

It’s the chorus-heavy guitars and theatrical vocals that dominate the broodingly dramatic ‘Transparent Sorrow’ that draws all of its cues from The Sisters of Mercy circa 85 and Ghostdance, Skeletal Family, et al, and dark grooves are the leading element of the murky ‘Except My Love for Her’. The drum machine may be backed off, but the crisp snare echoes into the sonic fog while the bass booms. The rasping vocal sounds more like a menacing threat than pleading, before the frenetic ‘Sredni Vashtar’ goes full electro and sounds like The Sisterhood’s ‘Jihad’ played at 45 instead of 33, or a KMFDM outtake. This level of electronic hyperactivity is perhaps the least successful song on the EP, and it’s not aided by the mix, with the vocals up and the drums and synths backed off. It feels somehow cheap.

But then ‘Immersive Waves’ draws together all of the best elements of the preceding tracks into a rippling mix of vintage goth and electropop steeped in theatre and atmosphere and it’s magnificently moody and leaves you wanting more, and more….

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It’s a wet and blustery and very northern night in York, but this eagerly-anticipated rescheduled show from The Birthday Massacre, which sold out this intimate 150-capacity venue long ago has brought the old goths out of the woodwork like a swarm of woodlice, and with doors advertised as being as an early 7:00, it’s busy on my arrival at 7:20, and despite Witch of the Vale not due on till 7:45, already the front rows are solid.

The synth-heavy, mood heavy Cleopatra Records signings Witch of the Vale deliver a magnificent set of dark brooding ambient with ethereal vocals and combine spacious moody soundscapes and introspective vulnerability. There are strong hints of Zola Jesus, but also so much more. Harder edges and industrial percussion grow in force as the set progresses. They don’t do chat, they don’t do audience connection, but they do very much do moving, haunting atmospherics. Toward the end of their forty-five minute set, they cover Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’ in an industrial shoegaze style, and it’s good. In fact, it’s all good, although instrumentalist Ryan’s denim shorts spoil the look a bit .

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Witch of the Vale

“What’s up Yorrrrrk?” I slump a little inside as Vanilla Sugar struts onto the stage. From the off, there’s lots of posing, hands up cheerleading… Suddenly, maybe three songs in, the urban cybergoth pop karaoke gets dark. That is to say Pretty Hate Machine NIN meets Kelis with direct and fairly juvenile lyrics, and while she’s got an impressive light show, it’s still urban cybergoth karaoke. ‘Listen York I want you to vibe with me now’ toots the skitzy mall goth, and while she may call it horror pop, it’s ultimately r’n’b with dayglo, pink hair, and zips, and the overreliance on backing including backing vocals which make t difficult to determine what’s actually being done live rather undermines the impact of the handful of decent tunes she does actually have, There’s lots of tongue out and Instagram posing – but not a lot else.

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Vanilla Sugar

The Birthday Massacre are as straight up goth as they come in terms of image, and have spent the last twenty-three years mining a seam of technoindustrial / electro / dark pop / goth.

This is a small stage for a big band, and I don’t just mean in terms of dimensions. Back home, they’d just played the 600-capaccity Lexington in Toronto; two nights ago it was the 200-capacity Lexington in London. The 150-capacity Fulford Arms, with its low ceiling and low stage very much epitomises the concept of ‘intimate’. But they absolutely revel in it, as do the crowd.

There’s an overpowering smell of Deep Heat at first, but that’s swiftly replaced by the tang of perspiration. It’s hot, hot, hot! Amazingly crisp, dense sound. Keytar! Instant clapalong to #’Destrpyer’ which lands early.

They repeatedly describe it as cozy, and that’s hardly surprising in context) but seem genuinely enthusiastic to be playing this intimate show with lots of handshaking and high-fiving. As they slam out relentless poppy choruses and phat chunky riffs. The drums are so tight they sound programmed, and despite the apparent chaos onstage, they’re pristine tight. It’s a proper pea-souper of a smoke show, too.

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The Birthday Massacre

I’d be entirely immersed were it not for the fact the bearded ponytail-sporting guy in front of me is an irritating end, extravagantly waving one arm while clenching his girlfriend’s waist tight with the other and dancing and singing along as if to prove he’s an uberfan. Uberfanny, more like.

‘Precious Hearts’ thuds hard, while ‘Crush’ is an anthemic slow burner. ‘Enter’ is lighter and brings giggles in the first verse. Sara does get a bit lost in the songs at times, bit rides it well, and she ventures into the crowd for hugs. It’s a hot a sweaty crowd. Fans are out. My eyeballs are sweating. Recent cut ‘Fascination’ still sounds a bit Paramore to my ears, but ‘Pins and Needles’ brings a thick industrial chug.

They do the no-departure encore, and respect is due for that. Everyone knows that going off to be clapped back on is nothing more than ego-stroking bollocks, and it’s welcome to see bands acknowledge that.

‘Falling Down’, the second song of the non-encore is a decent pop song, and they finish a high-NRG set with ‘In the Dark’. And it’s a job well done: they sound great and the energy is on fire. Wednesday nights don’t get funner than this.

11th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Yorkshire based Mayshe-Mayshe’s bio references blending ‘dreamy art-pop and electronica with rich storytelling, skittering percussion and infectious melodies’, and how her ‘deceptively simple songwriting – at once universal and deeply personal – incorporates choral vocals, vintage synths and the occasional hairdryer.’

Said hairdryer was observed in a couple of live reviews I’ve penned in recent years, in catching her live in 2016 and 2021, but what always stands out during her performances is just how deftly she combines an array of elements, both stylistic and instrumental. She’s by no means just ‘another’ loop pedal artist, but a musical who judiciously uses the tools available to conjure textured, layered, detailed works which are, at the same time, simple and radiate aa unique sense of – for wont of a better word – naivete. But equally, her capacity for understatement is a defining characteristic. The fact that while playing a number of regional shows to launch Indigo, her second full-length album, her hometown show in York on the release date is in a record shop/café with a capacity of about 30 speaks for itself.

Performing as Mayshe-Mayshe, Alice Rowan presents as not necessarily shy, but introspective, considered, contemplative and as much as immersing her work in reservedness, there’s a certain sparkle of sass and levity in the mix, as titles like ‘You Throw Lemons, We Throw Parties’ from 2019’s Cocoa Smoke indicates.

Indigo is simultaneously simple and complex. As the lyrics to the title track demonstrate, she’s given to exploring emotional depths by balancing the direct and the oblique to create an obfuscating haze. And, in record, the same is true of her compositions.

‘But I Do’ kicks the album off in a style that’s minimal and poppy and kinda urban but at the same time ethereal and shoegazy, with busy fingerdrums and a crystalline distillation of mood that invites solid and favourable comparisons to The XX.

‘Dark Mountain’, released as a single in September, is really rather buoyant, with a bouncy bass and busy lead synth and twitchy urban vocal delivery that’s quite at odds with the tense lyrics and the ‘I’m drowning, downing’ hook which speaks to anxiety and panic. I suppose you might call it a sugar-coated pill, but it showcases Alice’s capacity to pen bleak yet buoyant pop tunes.

In contrast, ‘Moonflood’ is altogether darker yet dreamy, in a Curesque way, while ‘The Colours of Anxiety’, which originally featured on the 2019 Long Division compilation, is looping, lilting, and easy on the ear in a way that brushes over the tension it channels via a stuttering beat akin to a palpating heart. In this way, Mayshe-Mayshe conveys sensation beyond the words, beyond the explicit, and does so beautifully, in the most subtly resonant fashion.

In many ways, ‘Eczema’ speaks for itself, an itch that just won’t go away, sore and raw, uncomfortable and irritating, but presented in a palatable fashion, and ‘How to be Happy’ feels like a conscious attempt to be uplifting – which is it, but there are strong undercurrent which are less joyous. ‘Zachter’ is another previous release, having featured as the lead track on the two-track Zachter EP last year. With its lyrics in German and its instrumentation sparse and gloopy and with a hypnotic minimal dance groove, it’s something of an oddity which sits apart from the rest of the album.

The title track, released as a single only the other week, rounds the album off in a hazy, intricately detailed style. Accessible, and often breezy-sounding and easy on the ear, Indigo is an album that’s rich in depth and complexity. It’s thoughtful and emotive and dark and tense yet still extremely enjoyable. It’s a wonderful thing.

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Shows:

Nov 10

Cobalt Studios

Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

Nov 11

FortyFive Vinyl Cafe

York, UK

Nov 12

Hatch

Sheffield, UK

Nov 14

Dubrek Studios

Derby, UK

Nov 15

The Holy GrAle

Durham, UK

Nov 17

Oporto Bar

Leeds, UK

Nov 18

The Peer Hat

Manchester, UK

Nov 19

The Studio

Hartlepool, UK

Nov 20

The Grayston Unity

Halifax, UK

Nov 26

Blues Night

Richmond (North Yorkshire), UK

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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5th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Lately, I’ve been seeing people on the Internet bemoaning the number of ‘lockdown’ albums, and even the emergence of ‘lockdown’ novels, questioning the need for anything that recreates, recounts, reflects upon or is otherwise set during the most recent of historical events. They all seem to make more or less the same case – that we all went through it, it was bad enough, and there’s no need to harp on or relive it. But artists tend to process and comprehend the world and their experiences of it through the act of creation, and just because we all experienced the pandemic and various lockdowns, no two people will have had the exact same experience or the exact same psychological response. Besides, isn’t more or less all art some form of response or reaction to the human condition, or otherwise a reflection thereof? No-one beefs about an excessive amount of war novels or poems or various genre novels, like crime or sci-fi or fantasy. Perhaps it’s because they prefer escapism to real life.

As the accompanying blurbage explains, ‘This album is a reflection of the dark days the world has seen in recent years. It’s about the tragedies many of us have faced and the effort to find the will to fight on. We remember those we have lost because it is through them that we carry on into tomorrow’.

Strange Days is pitched as ‘a symbolic re-birth for the project, returning with a new zeal to create and perform’, and it’s not short on pumping beats and rippling synths. What sets it apart from so many other industrial / electropop / darkwave hybrids is Voicecoil’s vocal: it’s in that gothy baritone region, but for all of that, and the sense of performance and theatre that comes with those well-established genre tropes, his delivery had a certain emotional depth and sincerity that lifts the songs to another level.

So where ‘Versterbrogade’ comes on like a dance remix of a Depeche Mode in terms of its musical arrangement, and the verses observe the popular style of singing in the throat, a wheezy, grit-edged monotone, the verses unleash the hook and some ‘proper’ singing with heart and soul, and in doing so breathes life into the bleak experience of life where days drift and fade into one another. ‘Speak in Sine’ brings a harder-edged beat and a starker atmosphere, and it sits well with the themes of dislocation and alienation which run through the lyrics. ‘No Easy Reply’ is remarkably sensitive, not to mention accessible, and Strange Days has some great tunes, from the expansive, pulsating yet reflective ‘Why’ to the brooding piano-led curtain-closer of ‘Drift’.

While electronic music – particularly of that dark pop / industrial / goth disco persuasion – can often suffer from feeling sterile, detached, robotic, and impersonal, Strange Days is anything but. It possesses a certain warmth, a humanity, that resonates on numerous levels.

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7th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Well, this is a lot to take in: the pitch alone is a back and forth slap around the face of information overload as I struggle to absorb the idea of a ‘post-punk, synth-pop, new wave concept album that sings of the pleasures and difficulties of life within a haunted house’ which is ‘also multi-lingual’ whereby ‘Daniel will sing to you in Spanish about a werewolf, in English about a Ouija board, in Portuguese about a haunted house and in French about bats at Christmas time’.

Is anyone equipped to deal with this in our tiny-mind, hyper-anxietised, attention-short culture? I don’t really know if I am, and rather suspect I’m not, or even if I want this, and ‘m not sure I do, but there’s really only one way to know for certain, and that isn’t to ask someone who’s heard it.

According to the accompanying notes, ‘The title of the album, El Salón has multiple meanings. In Spanish it can reference a classroom, an art studio, a living room and of course, a salon. Daniel Ouellette says, “The best place I have learned to speak is in living rooms with loved ones who speak Spanish and this the title is in honor of my mates, my loved ones to whom I speak Spanish.”

As such, it’s a polylingual cocktail that draws on pan-cultural sources and a host of genres. This doesn’t make it any easier to assimilate, and the resulting product is a mixed bag to be polite, something I’m not always given to being. What do you get if you throw together Rammstein, Young Marble Giants, and Flying Lizards? The absolute toss of ‘A Planchette’. Pretentious, precocious, corny theatricals… it’s hard to swallow. It has novelty value, and I can accommodate that, but it just feels so painfully self-absorbed.

‘Duérmete’ is more palatable, 80s synth pop with a dash of Cure in the mix, and ‘O Lindo Sonâmbulo’ is a tidy slice of vintage electropop with a crisp and dominant snare. ‘The Kitchen Witch Who Stayed.’ is more bleepy, bouncy, and it’s wincey. It sits somewhere between Erasure and St Michel Front, but has the panache or aplomb of neither. St Michael Front demonstrate a winking knowingness, whereas Daniel Ouellette lacks that same sense of self-awareness, resulting in a clunky, awkward delivery made without a nod or a wank – and Ouellette is no Throbbing Gristle either. As a consequence, El Salon is a mixed bag and a shade patchy: at its best, it’s dark, stark, brooding and theatrical electropop: at its worst, it’s pretty cringy. In favour of El Salon, the best is proportionally better represented than the far from best, which is simply grating and cheesy. With its shifting forms, it’s hard to digest. Or maybe I’m just not ready to take it in all at once.

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