Posts Tagged ‘goth’

Christopher Nosnibor

13x is less of musical project and more of an experience. As such, the katt13x website, the platform of the proudly transgender antiscene artist is a brain-melting labyrinth of sound and image that has a William Gibson-esque retro-futurist vibe that screams cyberpunk while searing your retinas with wildly oversaturated images that often render what’s being presented barely distinguishable.

The EPK video is, without doubt, a perfect summary of everything, as raw, bleeding primary tones melt and glow radioactively through a selection of appropriated snippets and other spliced scenes that takes Burroughs’ cut-up technique to the height of early noughties simplism to create something disorientating, disturbing.

Remember when the Internet was considered scary, because it contained the worst and more terrifying shit, from images from murder scenes and people being hit by trains (the original traingirl video was a blur, but a sickening one)? Pages like gruesome.com seemed extreme, and the porn explosion that was so concerning to many consisted of just so-many thumbnails and low-res .JPEGS of barely 50K because dialling up on 14K modems at a penny a minute, that kind of prurience was actually a fucking luxury. 13x takes us back to a time before YouTube, when eBay and Amazon were in their nascency, and we had Yahoo! Auctions and most people accessed the Internet and email having installed AOL with a free 3.5” floppy disc passed on to them by a friend who’d bought a magazine from WHS.

I’m reminded of Stewart Home’s original Spacebunny-designed website, which was a primitive-looking affair, neon-green text on a black background, and every word was an internal hyperlink. Not because 13x looks like it, but because it’s a reminder of when the Internet was inventive, was crazy, because there were no riles and there was no corporate involvement. No-one really policed the Internet, but then, kids were safe because the fact was, no-one even had Internet. But it was then future, and those who were present were pulsating to race headlong into cyberspace, whatever that was. And this takes us back to the time when we were on the cusp, and is accompanied with a period soundtrack, of sorts.

That soundtrack is an array of glitching, overdriven technoindustrial noise propelled by harsh, smashing snare crashes and squelching, wet fabric thwacking deadened bass beats define the abrasive, disorientating sound. Abrasive soundclashes, with squalls of noise and shards of feedback flare and blare over woozy undulating basslines and retro blippy 16-bit game mzk.

The sound and visuals in combination are an extreme and intense experience, where everything goes off in your face all at once, and it’s magnificent: dizzying, overwhelming, uncompromising, and one that doesn’t just touch, but assaults the sense from all sides at once.

PNKSLM – 2nd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Following the single release of ‘Not Fit For This’, GHLOW unleash Slash and Burn, the album which spawned it – and brimming with dark energy, it does not disappoint. While clearly operating within a genre field, and a comparatively limited instrumental format, it has range. It also packs so much tension and an emotional force that it’s an instant grab. As what you’d likely describe as an old goth (although nowhere near as old as some), I have a predisposition towards this kind of stuff, but by the same token, I’m immensely picky, in that anything overtly cliché I simply can’t muster any enthusiasm for – but GHLOW have got it all: the songs, the style, and the production. In combination, this is a work that resonates on a level that isn’t necessarily easy to articulate: it’s not simply nostalgia – and drawing on the dense electro shoegaze of Curve as much as early 80s post-punk and its lineal descendants. Anyway., it’s hard to feel nostalgic for a time before your own, and even if some of the aforementioned bands soundtracked my teens it’s not a pining pang for that which I feel on hearing this. No, GHLOW tap into something else altogether with their explosive blend of jagged guitars and simple sequencing plat places power to the fore over musical dexterity.

It’s ‘Not Fit for This’ that slams in by way of an opener, a gloriously spiky hybrid of Siouxsie, X-Mal, Garbage, and Savages, a thunderous bass and stuttering beat hammering away beneath a toppy blasty of guitars that provide the tense, fiery backdrop to Emille de Blanche’s commanding vocal performance. It grabs you by the throat and drags you into the seething morass of darkness that follows. There’s texture and depth, for sure, but this is one of those albums that’s best experienced end-to-end in order to appreciate the highs and lows integral to its sequencing. It’s also big on mood and big on dynamics, and the duo ratchet up the atmosphere to create a work of rare intensity.

The slower ‘Sleep’ is a song that drives right through the gut: the primitive drum machine sound stutters and jolts, the kick sound beating like a palpating heart, the snare a whipcrack that slices through the murk – and alongside is a grating bass sound that churns and growls malevolently. Over it all, Emille gives a powerful, full-lunged vocal performance. The title track is a mid-tempo motoric chugger that hammers away somehow unfurls as it progresses, and the repetition, paired with the soaring vocals and some howling lead guitar, becomes more than the sum of its parts, while ‘Hold It’ is a heavy, repetitive droner that’s claustrophobic in its dark intensity.

There’s something magnificently unpolished about GHLOW’s sound and for all its electronics, it’s The March Violets that their dirty, immediate sound calls to mind most, although ‘Hollow’ goes all out on the attack, and with the brittle guitar riding wildly over a furious beat, they sound more like Big Black fronted by Jehnny Beth or Anne-Marie Hurst. Slash and Burn has attack, it has edge, as well as repetition and hooks, and really hits the spot.

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PNKSLM Recordings – 2nd February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems like a long, long time ag now, when I’d listen to the top 40 singles chart on a Sunday evening and be enticed to buy an album on the strength of a single. I didn’t even realise it at the time, as a pre-teen, that this was exactly the point: singles sell albums, and in some respects are as much a promo tool as a video or a TV performance or an instore signing. Time was, of course, that album sales made money, or at least made the biggest dents in recouping advances, although a hit single was always, and remains, the route to royalties.

Despite the devaluation of both the album format and the single trailer in the digital age, the practise persists and sometimes is actually pays off, because you’ll hit on a single release that completely poleaxes you with its brilliance – a song that will grab you instantly and compel you to rush out and buy the album or otherwise leave you on the very edge of your seat for its release.

‘Not Fit For This’ is that single – released ahead of Ghlow’s debut album, ‘Slash and Burn’, due out in April – is a sharp, stabby new-wave attack that comes on full-throttle and packs some real adrenaline in its scratchy squall of trebly guitars that blister and buzz all over a drum machine that palpates frantically as it tries to make itself heard and keep up with the explosive sonic blast. It’s got that early 80s vibe absolutely down, and it’s not just about the songwriting, performance, or the hazy production that positively oozes that dank basement 8-track vibe – it’s about the attitude and the intangibles, too.

Emille de Blanche has all the dark energy of Siouxsie Soux, and she brings all the serrated edges in this gothy tour-de-force, and everything coalesces into a distillation of tension-filled gloom that’s pretty damn special.

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Texas goth-rock band IN A DARKENED ROOM has unveiled their new video for the song, ‘Final Vows.’  This is the third single off of their debut album slated for release in 2021. Check the video here:

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11th December 2020 – PNKSLM Recordings

Christopher Nosnibor

Trapped in a box, a loop of ever-diminishing life, it’s not difficult to comprehend why amidst the confusion, the sadness, the frustration, and anxiety, and general bewilderment, nostalgia should grow its presence. Your life sucks, and it probably always has, but it’s easier to cast a hue of fondness over the past than to accept that if the present’s bad, the future is worse. It’s a natural part of the ageing process, too, of course: kids get younger and the music and fashions get worse by the year.

Katja Nielsen, singer and bassist with Swedish punk act Arre! Arre! had been suffering from bipolar disorder a decade before diagnosis. With the outbreak of a global pandemic, band activity curtailed: she found that writing songs helped her process, and so She/Beast was born, with ‘In the Depths of Misery’ being the first of a brace of EP, both of which derive their titles from quotes from Vincent Van Gogh, another bipolar artist.

The liner notes recount how the songs were ‘written and arranged entirely in Nielsen’s living room’ and ‘mark a dramatic departure from the furious pace of Arre! Arre!’s output, instead evincing a lo-fi, pop-rock sound’.

How it translates is as all the dark side of the 80s distilled into a neat package: it’s very much bass-driven, propelled by a drum machine that thumps away mechanically, with economical programming – no fancy fills or extravagant cymbal work – and laced with stark synths. Throw The Cure, X-Mal Deutschland, Skeletal Family, and all the fringe artists from that 1979-83 period who ventured into the darker realms of post-punk, into a blender and you’ve got the sharply piquant flavour of She/Beast.

It’s poppy, but it’s heavy on shade. ‘I don’t know what to do with myself’, she sings lost and aimless on ‘The Sadness Will Last Forever’. The bubbling ‘Born to Fight’ is exemplary of the way Nielsen brings everything together. A looping buoyant synth line that would have sat comfortably on an early Depeche Mode single is welded to a thudding four-four Craig Adams style bassline that dominates the rhythm section, while Nielsen spins a message of self-affirmation in a dreamy style, her voice compressed and floating in reverb.

The loping drums of closer ‘A Fragile State of Mind’ are murky in the mix, but the snare cuts through in the way that’s characteristic of that 80s sound. It’s so, so evocative that it carries almost as much weight and impact as the tune and the lyrical content combined – meaning that in context, this short, five-song EP speaks and resonates on levels far beyond its constituent parts.

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20th of November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Grunge is dead, so the slogan ran on a T-shirt worn by Kurt Cobain back in 93 or thereabouts. And yet, he we are in 2020 and listening to the third single by Leeds power trio Kath & The Kicks, and the evidence says otherwise.

Like punk, post-punk, goth, shoegaze, and so many genres that are intrinsically tied to a specific period in time, the legacy of grunge reverberates and returns in waves, and one of the joy of being alive now as that cross-genre hybrids of all of these are possible and emerge all the time.

‘Underground’ is all about the thick, overdriven grungy guitar. The sound is dense and dirty, and benefits from an unpolished, no-messing production that accentuates the abrasive edges. It’s the vehicle which carries Kath’s bold, powerful vocal, which, stylistically, sits between vintage hard rock and goth – there’s a dash of Siouxsie in there, while at the same time hinting at being the natural successors to sadly departed Leeds favourites Black Moth.

The dark, ever-so-slightly twisted lyrics dig into a subterranean psyche that’s part goth, part agoraphobe, part obsessive psychopath. It’s a pretty potent cocktail.

Kath _ The Kicks Single Cover

16 November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest six-tracker from GHXT goes for the slow-building intro with the low, slow ‘Shimmer’, where the murky, distorted guitar drone and twang cascading out over a retro drum machine stutter that’s backed off in the mix but cuts through sharp as a whip. It’s the Sisters of Mercy’s Reptile House EP slithering into a stranglehold of The Black Angels on ketamine with a dash of Barbed Wire Kisses era Jesus and Mary Chain.

Two years on from the appropriately-titled Gloom EP, the New York duo return with another batch of weighty, dark material which demonstrates their continued evolution, and the fact the EP format is one which suits them particularly well.

While operating from a comparatively limited sonic palette – dense, overdriven guitar that’s got a big, thick valve sound, minimally-programmed drum machine, and reverb-swamped female vocal they manage to do a lot with it: ‘Come Home’ is Curve-y shoegaze, while ‘It Falls Apart,’ released as a single in October, is a big, bollock-swinging swagger of messy blues, boasting a monster lead solo that sprawls over the entire track. Gloom and blues and murk dominate, casting heavy shadows and a hint of goth over the mood, but there’s so much more besides: the rich timbre of the guitar as it spins a slow-unfurling picked riff on closer ‘Die High’ calls to mind recent works by Earth and Dylan Carlson.

As the nights draw in on the approach to winter and the world feels like an increasingly apocalyptic hellhole, there’s something comforting about GHXST’s brand of immersive darkness.

Blaylox Records – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My ignorance of The Wake clearly blows every last one of my goth / post-punk credentials: where have I been all my life? Pitched as for being for fans of all of my favourite bands from my teen goth period – which I never really left – namely The Sisters of Mercy, Peter Murphy, The Mission UK, Tones on Tail, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, the band emerged in the so-called ‘second wave’ of goth appearing on myriad compilations and extensive touring with peers including Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails, The Wake secured their place in goth and roll history.

‘Everything’, the second single lifted from the new album – their first in a quarter of a century – features Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Wolfie providing additional guitar, which further bolsters the release’s heritage credentials.

Not that it needs it: it’s a solid album in its own right. ‘Daisy’ is a daringly bleak, low-tempo opener that may not be quite Reptile House EP barren, but is nevertheless a spectacularly dark, atmospheric trudge through oppressively dark terrain, and at nearly six minutes long, it’s hardly an easy entrance.

Things go very Sisters circa ’85 with ‘Marry Me’, and the guitar work is clearly heavily influenced by Wayne Hussey, as are the vocals: this is their reimagining of the Sisters’ ‘Garden of Delight’ demo and it’s taut and murky, and they’ve got that heavily-chorused / valve sound nailed, and it’s that circa ’85 / ’86 vibe that drifts like a creeping smog of dry ice from every corner of Perfumes and Fripperies, aided by a dense production. While the swirling guitars are most obviously the defining aspect of the sound, the bass is thick and boomy, to the extent that you don’t so much hear the basslines as feel them, and they fill out the sound without being able to specifically separate the bass. Said shuddering bass is welded in a tight 4/4 to the mechanised drum tracks, which are pitched relatively low but are relentless – precisely as they should be.

There’s inevitably an element of comparing the motifs with precursive signatures: the tunnel-like vocal reverb is a Sisters signature that’s become a trope that so many bands have tried to emulate, with varying degrees of success.

The aforementioned ‘Everything’ is a hypnotic mesh of shoegaze that draws together early Lorries and All About Eve’s ‘Phased’, and Troy Payne’s vocals are treated with a steely metallic edge that replicates Chris Reed’s sound. Elsewhere, if the drum sound and overall structure of ‘Emily Closer’ is a Sisters / Rosetta Stone / Suspiria lift, the atmosphere is more Curesque, which the title kind of implies is the aim, and ‘Big Empty’ is hollow, brittle, a blanks pace of flanged bass and claustrophobically intense reverb.

‘Figurine’ marks a lurch into Fields of the Nephilim, and with the bombastic layers of female backing vocals wafting over some icy synths and a bassline that’s pure Simon Gallup on the last track, ‘Rusted’, it seems like The Wake have got all the goth bases covered. On the one hand, I should be irritated, as these things perpetuate the sameness of goth bands that’s been a bugbear of mine for years, largely because it feels self-limiting, like a genre trapped in time. But when it’s this well executed and the songs and production are this strong… you just can’t knock it.

Perfumes and Fripperies isn’t a great title, but it is a great album.

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30th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas return to follow up on August’s ‘Black’ with ‘You’re The Crash I Needed’, and of this release Ben says, “We wanted the lyrics to reflect an awakening, a coming-to after a period of being insular and unaware of one’s own actions but for that to be entirely forced upon you by someone else. Musically ‘You’re The Crash I Needed’ was composed to mirror that sensation of when you fall asleep in front of the TV and then it seems explosively loud and totally overwhelms the senses when you wake up.”

That jolt… to nab the line penned by Editors, it kicks like a sleep twitch. We’re all guilty of sleepwalking through life at some point or another, oblivious of ourselves and the potential repercussions of our actions, and such somnambulance has become the characteristic behaviour in 2020 as we drift from one day to the next. The kick will happen, and no doubt the jolt will provide a real shock to many.

‘You’re The Crash I Needed’ is an indie-goth gut-punch of a song, with hell-for-leather drumming and interweaving guitars reminiscent of Rosetta Stone and early Mission and it’s got a vibrant energy and a kind of sweeping openness that’s simply not commonplace in contemporary music. Then again, nor is that kind of chorused guitar sound.

Balancing breeziness and shade, this is a tight and tense rack and a clear single choice, and while it’s retro it’s anything but cheesy. I for one am excited.

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31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Matt Vowles is the first to admit that he’s a little out of step with musical trends and ‘late to the party’ in forming a goth band in 2018.

Unlike some of us, he was around the music in clubs in the mis 80s, but spent over 30 ears doing other things, before, as he explains, ‘in 2017 I rediscovered my passion for this genre. I started listening again to those goth bands from the eighties. I was totally reinvigorated. So I put down all of my keyboards, picked up my guitars and started MY goth band, BLACK ANGEL. Now here we are: two albums later. People say BLACK ANGEL captures that sound and feeling from 1985. I love the process which is what is most important. This is what I do now. And as they say, the rest is history…..I guess I was just a little late to the party.’

Kiss of Death does very much capture the essence of the school of goth from the mid-to-late 80s, and the album’s pitch as being for fans of The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, and Bauhaus is pretty much on the money, although to my ear Kiss of Death is more Mission than Bauhaus, favouring as it does that grand arena-filling reverb and a layered but polished sound defined by a sturdy rhythm section and chorus-heavy guitars that spindle and twist their way. Then again, the album’s last song, ‘Black Angel’ lifts its bassline from ‘Bella Lugosi’s Dead’ and features a classic stony-voiced horror narrative segment, so maybe it’s a fair summary after all.

After a grand intro that echoes and swirls, the title track is in with a hard four-square thud of a drum machine, and welded it is a Craig Adams-style bass groove: nothing fancy, just that classic, metronomic strike-on-every-beat low-end. The lead vocals are menacing and low in the mix, and in the choruses it’s the female backing vocals that dominate and carry the melody. Incorporating the Sisters’ rhythm section circa ‘85, the Sisters’ bombast circa ‘87 and the melodical leanings of The Mission, it equally calls to mind contemporaries like Mayflower Madame. It’s quite telling that much of the album’s sound bypasses the 90s ‘second wave’ sound and instead hones in more on the chuggier, rockier side of the first wave – think The Cult’s Sonic Temple and The Sisters’ Vision Thing: and while there are synths present, they’re more augmentation to the guitars than to the fore.

‘Animal’ is Black Angel’s ‘More’, with a megalithic chorus propelled again by a relentless mechanised beat and a rush of layered backing vocals that border on the choral, but the synth elements hint at Depeche Mode, while ‘Alchemy’ comes on like The Sisters’ cover of ‘Ghostrider’ with its nagging bassline and blistering guitars, but laced with chilly synths.

‘Hurricane’ is more a cross between The Cult and Rose of Avalanche, while ‘Put Your Lips…’ is conspicuously ungoth, more a glam-goth rock ‘n’ roll stomp – again, more 90s Mission with a nod to James Ray’s cover of ‘My Coo-Ca-Choo’.

Lyrically, much as it’s an album about love, it’s a goth album about love, and as such all the familiar tropes about demons, goddesses and all the rest are present in abundance: it would be unduly harsh to criticise on this score, and Kiss Of Death is a truly solid contemporary trad-goth album.

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