Posts Tagged ‘goth’

16th March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I have to eject and check the disc to make sure I’ve not bobbed in New Order’s debut after hitting ‘play’ on this CD. I haven’t, but The Vaulted Skies have that whole c.1980 sound down to a tee, with the clinical rhythms and steely synths shaping the landscape.

The Vaulted Skies – as if the band name wasn’t indication enough – plunder the seam of the dark post punk style that occupied the first half of the 80s, and – while a roll-off touchstones and reference points feels a shade reductive, it’s entirely relevant and appropriate to namecheck The Rose of Avalanche and Rosetta Stone.

The opener, ‘Does Anyone Else Feel(Strange)? culminates in an explosive kaleidoscope of retro synth and thunderous drums that calls to mind ‘Walk Away’ by The Sisters of Mercy and this overtly gothy groove carries through the other three songs on this EP. ‘The Night’ lurches and lunges and bucks over a thick, warping bass groove.

When they slow it down and do the sparse atmospheric thing, as on ‘The Falling Man’, The Cure’s Faith looms large as an influence, with heavy traces of Japan in the mix. Whoever described them as ‘the lovechild of Robert Smith and Boy George’ was at least half right.

And this is where, as a critic, the duel between objectivity and subjectivity sets its markers and gets to tussling. Objectively, it’s derivative and by-numbers. Subjectively, it’s got a gloomy emotional draw and a certain tension. Objectively, it’s well-executed. Subjectively, those nagging guitar parts and basslines hit the spot. So where you do go?

From a purely personal perspective – and if truth be told, and response to music has to be personal – the technicalities and matters of production count for nothing when a work hits and resonates on a personal, emotional level, which is never remotely objective or rational, but always instinctive, gut-driven. And when aspects of my personal life are difficult, I invariably find I’m prone, if not to regression per se, but to a certain tendency toward nostalgia. And all of the acts The Vaulted Skies draw on, intentionally or otherwise, pull me back to being 15-21. My formative years, my musical discovery years, my goth years – years I never fully left.

Do I get a sense of actual nostalgia from this? No. members of The Vaulted Skies probably weren’t born when any of the aforementioned bands were in existence, or even in the early 90s. It’s not their fault they were born too late. They cannot control time or style. But they cannot control their musical output, and it completely does it for me.

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Vaulted Skies

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Let’s skip the preamble: we fucking love Cannibal Animal. Their latest effort, ‘Ellipsisism’, released on 16th March through Warren Records is a snaking goth-tinged swamp-surf garage rattler that calls to mind the spirit of the late 70s and early 80s with haunting, echo-drenched guitars and frenzied vocals. But we don’t need to talk it up. Just listen to this:

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Cannibal Animal

Dependent /Amped – 26th January 2018

It would be easy to criticise Kirlian Camera’s new album for being a genre stereotype, entrenched in darkwave clichés of thumping disco beats propelling shuddering sequenced bass undulations and chilly, inhuman synth sweeps. But having formed in 1980, the Italian act, having mutated from pedalling synth-pop to progress into darker territories as the 8s progressed, are part of the first wave of bands to fore the style.

As maligned and misunderstood as it is, goth and its subcultures and musical substrains have endured, impervious to fashion, and any ebb and flow which has witnessed an upsurge in popularity has seemingly been coincidental.

I’ve no aversion to electronic music, but as a general rule, dark wave / cold wave music leaves me, well, cold. It’s not that synths and carefully produced vocals can’t convey emotional depth and that there is nothing to connect with, but as a style, it tends to lack humanity and consequently resonance. There’s music you hear, and music you feel. The electronic strains of goth all too often tend to be heavily stylised, entrenched in the well-established tropes.

As a listener and critic, I’m in no position to judge or undermine the actual emotional content of the lyrics or to question their sincerity. I am no-one to challenge how strongly any individual feels something, and I’m the last person to deride a so-called goth for being sensitive. It’s a matter of articulation: eternally drawing on a limited bank of metaphorical references and stock-phrase imagery, it feels more like the feelings are pulled tightly into a corset or genre conformity than a true release of pent-up, innermost pain. Moreover, the drama-focused delivery feels to careful, too meticulous in its presentation.

Despite a shifting line-up over the years, Elena Fossi has covered vocal duties since the turn of the millennium, and her melodies are excellent, strongly delivered with grace and nuance. So what’s the issue? It’s certainly not technical or compositional. It’s not about lack of range in terms of tone or tempo, either: ‘Helium 3’ goes all swampy, with whiplash snare and a stark, minimal synth chord sequence reminiscent of The Human Leagues ‘Being Boiled’ overlaid with creeping fear chords, atmospherics and samples. ‘Kryostar’ brings robotix vocals and a pounding technoindustrial beat, and a relentless juggernaut groove paired with soaring, choral operatics.

But whether it’s rolling piano and breathy vocals building the drama, as on ‘Traveller’s Dream’, or bombastic synth explosions, Hologram Moon feels very stylised, controlled. And thus we return full circle. It would be easy to criticise Kirlian Camera’s new album for being a genre stereotype, but however well-crafted, well-performed and well-produced, it would be difficult to compliment it for being anything more.

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Kirlian Camera - Moon

Unknown Pleasures Records – 14th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Given the band’s name and that of the label they’re signed to, it’s only fitting that they’re exponents of bleak synth-driven post-punk. Sure enough, as the Italian five-piece’s biography notes, Stefano Bellerba (vocals, guitar), Leonardo Mori (synth), Matteo Luciani (bass), Saverio Paiella (guitar), and Daniele Cruccolini (drums) formed in 2010, and united over their love of Joy Division, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and Depeche Mode. The bio adds that ‘their music is also strongly influenced by Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Japan, The Damned, Interpol, Suicide, CSI, CCCP, and Massimo Volume.’

One of my favourite poems of all time is Philip Larkin’s ‘This be the Verse’, and the fact they put it to music for single release in the summer of 2017 -and made a decent job of it – got me on-side ahead of the new album.

The album in question, Santa Sangre is a lot more guitar-orientated and edgier: while the synths are still very much in the mix, the sound is dominated by brittle, metallic-edged guitars drenched in reverb and flanged hard. It’s the sound of 1982-1985. I’d be hesitant to use the term ‘gothic’ or any variant, despite the snaking atmospherics of tracks like ‘Rejoice’, with its strolling bassline and vocals all but lost in an ocean of echo, which allude to the likes of The Danse Society and acts of similar vintage.

I make no apologies for being an old goth (although I’m not nearly old enough to be a proper old goth, having been born in 1975 and only discovered alternative music in any form in 1986/7). Similarly, I make no apologies for not being a purist, or for my knowledge of second-wave and beyond bands being limited. There’s so much else out there in the musical sphere. Yet, at the tail end of the year, feeling weary and wintery and withdrawn, I find myself here – as I did late last year, and the year before – with a crop of albums which betray gothier leanings which leap out as among the strongest and most compelling releases I’ve received all year.

Lead single, ‘Circle’ was a blast of buzzing bass and squalling guitars, with elements of The Jesus and Mary Chain and A Place to Bury Strangers, pitched with chilly synths and vocals with a grippingly desperate edge. It’s placed up front in the track listing, and serves the purpose of demanding the attention with its urgency and serrated edges.

Snaking basslines, choppy guitars and tribal drumming abound, but there’s a pop edge to a number of the songs: ‘Blown Away’ melds fractal guitars to an insistent flanged bassline that’s as pure Cure as the synths which eddy at a respectful distance in the background. There’s a certain bounce – and even catchiness – to the richly-layered shoegaze-goth of ‘For Every Flaw’.

When they do lugubrious, it’s as sparse and bleak as anything on Faith, and when they do slow-build, they really go for delayed gratification, forging a dense atmosphere along the way.

Santa Sangre is taut, tense and crackles with dark energy.

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Japan Suicide - Santa Sangre (cover)

The French industrial-goth metal group Porn released their third album, The Ogre Inside, in October. The third video from it, for the slow-burning and atmospheric 9-minute title track, now appears on the same day as an EP of remixes of the song by Aura Shred, Heartlay and An Erotic End Of Times, entitled Inside the Ogre Inside.      

Band leader Philippe Deschemin explains : “The video was shot in Los Angeles in October. It follows the duality pattern that was noticeable in our previous video for ‘You Will Be The Death Of Me’, with alternating shots of two people, a male and female. The male is trapped in a sort of prison or factory cell, a small and darkened room, and condemned to work on basic machinery in a laborious routine. In an adjoining cell is the female, doomed to the same fate. The factory cells represent their lack of communication and the machines represent the routine of a relationship. We wanted to create a metaphorical version of a doomed relationship, one without soul and feelings."     

Watch the video here:

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Porn Inside

French industrial-goth metal band Porn have just released their third album, The Ogre Inside, from which the song ‘You Will Be The Death Of Me’ is taken.

Porn leader Philippe Deschemin describes the song as being about "life, death and love and the fact that love is like humans – mortal. I am obsessed by death, which I see everywhere. Everything ends, everything dies. And sometimes, maybe always, being in a relationship means to kill the previous version of yourself. You change, and in a way you die, to be reborn as another you. The new video is a metaphor for death, a ‘mise à mort’, and I wanted to place the female protagonist in the dominant position."

Do people still use ‘NSFW’ these days? If so, this meets the criteria. If you’re not at work, or work in Westminster, you can watch the video here:

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Porn - Ogre

Les Disques Rubicon – 20th October 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

This is pretty high-concept stuff. The album’s framework is based around the sci-fi Contoyen, a novel by the band’s own singer, Philippe Deschemin, and the album’s nine tracks are billed as ‘1st Circle’ through to ‘9th Circle’. Not being available in translation, the connection to the book aids my comprehension and analysis of the album not one iota. However, the bigger picture does, at least a little: eternal masters of intertext and referencing, Porn are in fact named after The Cure’s seminal 1982 album, and are influenced by early 80’s electronic noise exponents such as SPK and Esplendor Geometrico, as well as the 80s/90s dark rock lineage of Bauhaus, Fields Of The Nephilim and Type O Negative.

No two ways about it, we’re in dark, gothy territory here, and The Ogre Inside is a desolate wasteland of an album with an icy core. The album is dominated by spindly lead guitars which are backed by throbbing, tearing, juggernaut rhythm guitars and bass which throb and chug.

Chilly synths and rippling electronics provide texture and atmosphere to the opener, lead single ‘Sunset of Cruelty’, which finds a complex, interweaving lead guitar meshing its way over a thunderous metal-edged rhythm. It’s not short on force.

‘She Holds My Will’ has heavy hints of Rosetta Stone on The Tyranny of Inaction, blending industrial guitars and rhythms with swirling gothic synths and atmosphere, and successfully, landing in the space between early Nine Inch Nails and The Sisters of Mercy circa 1985.

The nine-minute ‘May be the Last Time’ is one of two behemoth compositions which dominate the album. It’s expansive, emotive, and with Deschemin’s gravelly baritone howling through the delicately poised darkness, it’s reminiscent of Fields of the Nephilim.

None of this is to suggest that The Ogre Inside is in any way derivative – more simply to frame it within the tropes of the genres from which it’s clearly emerged. Porn also display some range across the spread of the album: while it’s still centred around chorused guitars juxtaposed with chugging metallic rhythm guitar, there’s a strong hook and keen sense of melody. It’s not flimsy or overtly pop, but it is catchy and accessible and enjoyable.

The album’s penultimate track, ‘You Will be the Death of Me’, is dense, hefty and propelled by rapidfire bass pedalling, and raises things to a high level of tension before the megalithic finale, which stands in the shape of the second nine-minute colossus of a title track.

The Ogre Inside is a well-paced and highly structured album, which stands up without any need for a handle on the work on which it’s based. It’s also an album which is consistent and strong, sustaining both the quality and the rich, dark atmosphere from beginning to end – and that’s no minor achievement.

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Porn - Ogre