Posts Tagged ‘goth’

Burn Church Press – 26th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Just because I’ve spent the last decade whittling down my cassette collction from over 500 to fewer than 50 doesn’t mean that I don’t think the tape renaissance isn’t cool. It represents a return to the appreciation of tactile, physical media, as well as a format that has a certain fragility which adds to its appeal: the idea that the cassette was cheap, convenient but also potentially damageable and disposable means that it’s possible to enjoy something of an ambivalent or even conflicted relationship with cassettes, often on a tape-by-tape basis. The return of the cassette suggests bands are haring back to a bygone age when acts – before the advent of the CD-R – would sell tapes at their gigs. These were often bands too new or too skint or too unsigned to have any vinyl releases.

The title of the debut release by Newcastle post-punk band Lost on Me also reminds us of the pre-internet era when bands would cut a demo and send it around gig promoters and record labels the like in the hope of getting gigs and more exposure, or even a recording contract and the chance to record in a proper studio rather than on a beaten-up four-track borrowed from a mate.

‘Protection’ bursts from the speakers in a blizzard of fractal, interlooping guitars, a mass f chorus and delay, and one might be forgiven for an initial thought which incudes Editors by way of a reference point – I’m thinking forst album era, I’m thinking ‘Munich’ in particular. But then Martin Downing’s dense, dark baritone enters the mix, and its heavy timbre has far more ‘gothy’ connotations, calling to mind Chris Reed from Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.

‘Landslide’ is a chiming pop tune at heart with a nagging guitar line, but the throbbing bass and deep, growling vocal casts heavy shade across its sunny surface. Third track ‘Balance’ brings a sinewy tension and a density that, again, is reminiscent of the Lorries.

The stuttering bursts of drums propel the wistful, emotive closer, ‘New Beginnings’ into territories which bring together contrasting dynamics to good effect, and once more indicate that these guys have studied the darker (and often more drum machine driven) side of the early 80s alternative scene. The production also contributes to the effect in a major way, with deep, deep reverb all over everything and a slightly hazy, murky analogue veil hanging over the guitars, in particular the thick bass tones. It’s all in the details, and they’re certainly not lost on me.

 

Lost on Me - Demonstration

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From Chester-based instrumental-electronic artist, Dom Sith, comes this dark goth-inspired tune to soundtrack people’s struggles with themselves.

It’s nothing to do with Allen Ginsberg. Of the inspiration for ‘Howl’, which takes sonic leads from the likes of NIN, The Haxan Cloak, and Burial, Dom comments: “I wanted to create something haunting, something that’d soundtrack those long nights alone, but not in a reassuring way, like how loneliness might sound, and how depression might sound, if it was heard…in the dark.”

We like NIN, The Haxan Cloak, and Burial, and we like this: get your lugs round it here:

Dom Sith

1st December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

With Stranded on the Path, The Clouded Lights showcase a sound that’s very much rooted in the distinctly post-millennium revisioning of the post-punk sound, in the vein of early Interpol, Editors, et al, as well as contemporaries both regional (The Exhibition, for example) and international (New York’s New Politicians come to mind). So, there’s a real precedent, and a sense that The Clouded Lights are part of an expansive zeitgeist. Increasingly, it feels like that zeitgeist exists under the shadow of the apocalypse: the fear of the mushroom which loomed large over the 1980s is in many ways reborn in the 2010s (which still don’t sound like a real decade, but what can you do?) It’s an observation I’ve made previously, but the point is worth restating: the parallels between the early 1980s and the present are astounding – and depressing – and it’s small wonder that so much contemporary music echoes the sound of 30-odd years ago.

One of the key elements in the bands of the original new wave – Joy Division in particular, but listen to any of the darker, gothier bands, like Danse Society, Skeletal Family and you’ll find the same stylistic features – is strong, dominant drumming. The Clouded Lights have nailed the drumming, with a percussion style that’s urgent, tense, and, importantly, tight. The EP’s first track, ‘Borrowed Hearts’, is arguably the strongest and an obvious choice of lead, which balances bounce and bleakness, and is propelled by a busy, bluster-filled bassline that brings energy.

I’m a sucker for songs driven by rolling tom-led drumming, and the slower ‘Barter With the World’ ticks the box nicely. Chiming guitars and a vocal melody which casts melancholy shades define the song, and across the EP’s four tracks, there are some strong harmonies.

While shaded with heavy hints of darkness and defined by spindly, fractal guitars, Stranded on the Path is by no means a wholly bleak, pessimistic release, and the strong choruses and a leanings toward more uptempo material means it’s a release that’s inspiring, rather than a soundtrack to hang yourself to. It’s also a strong set, which suggests that, with live dates booked for the new year, The Clouded Lights could well be ones to watch in 2017.

 

The Clouded Lights - Stranded on the Path

Having already guaranteed themselves a slot in the AA best albums of 2016 list, Mayflower Madame are offering up a video to accompany the track ‘Upside Down (the death loop)’. The psych/goth act enlisted Norwegian art collective Born For Burning to direct the video: "We wanted to make the impression that the video consists of two different found tapes. Inspired by the gloominess of the song we sought to make the images of the video disturbing and shot with a lo-fi camera. Some key ideas were trafficking and crime scene footage, partly inspired by the movie Lilya 4-ever by Lukas Moodysson."

Watch the video here:

Napalm Records – 27th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The promo write-up is right in observing that it’s ‘hard to imagine something called Krautgaze could be nurtured anywhere other than in Berlin’, describing the city as ‘the perfect breeding ground for a band like Suns Of Thyme: the five-piece lets space rock, shoegaze and psych with a nostalgic twist masterfully collide with death rock and the likes of Velvet Underground on its sophomore album Cascades.’

But to my old ears, as much as Cascades is shoegazey and psychedelic, what’s most striking is that the album’s nostalgia harks back to the goth sound of the mid 80s. It’s not the bleak post-punk sounds of Siouxsie and the Banshees or The Sisters of Mercy which filter into the sound of Cascades, nor the art rock of Bauhaus – the bands that defined goth without actually being goth, because goth didn’t even exist at that point – but the more accessible alternative bands that merged in their wake.

Loping drums drive fractal guitars that bend and shimmer on opener ‘Do Or Die’, a track which combines the gothy indie rock of Rose of Avalanche with the psychedelic grooves of The Black Angels, all under a vaguely Madchster haze.

There’s a undeniable indie rock / pop sensibility in evidence here, and ‘Intuition Unbound’ points straight back to 1986, amalgamating the celtic guitar motifs favoured by bands ranging from Ghost Dance to Balaam and the Angel via later Salvation. In some ways, it evokes a strange nostalgia for a strain of music that’s strangely detached from its origins and somewhat diluted in context of its roots, but it’s clear Suns of Thyme have both sense of thyme and plaice, as well as an aptitude for a certain sense of (melo)drama: ‘Ich Traum Von Dir’, while still evoking the spirit of 80s goth proffers forth credible moping and a disconsolation that’s actually quite affecting. It’s also a decent tune, and above all, tunes are what matter. There’s no shortage of them on Cascades. ‘Schweben’ builds a mellow shoegaze vibe over a lazy, motoric rhythm, with hints of Chapterhouse, but equally shoegaze revivalists like The Early Years.

And so it is that Cascades is an album that crosses a range of styles and periods, and in some ways, it’s difficult to disentangle nostalgia and anti-nostalgic kneejerk (of course, much of this is very much about a personal reaction on the part of one man who just so happens to be the reviewer), It isn’t always east to extrapolate sincere homage from the minefield of dubious dredging of the past. But Suns of Thyme manage to draw together a sufficiently broad range of ‘retro’ elements and combine them with some songwriting that’s savvy enough to give Cascades a life of its own.

 

suns-of-thyme-cascades

Suns of Thyme Online

Neurot Records – 6th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The story goes that Alaric (featuring within its ranks current and former members Of Dead And Gone, Pins Of Light, Noothgrush, Hedersleben and UK Subs) began their journey in 2008 with an eye toward creating a moody and compelling music of a sort not often performed in this time and space. A different concept of doom, beginning with influences from such progenitors as Killing Joke and Christian Death to the darkest, heaviest punk bands and the most epic psychedelia. A good-time, feel-good party band they are not.

I am going for a ‘sheets of electric rain’ guitar sound, says guitarist Russ Kent. This should perhaps give an indication of the fact that End of Mirrors finds Alaric exploring some bleak territory, in which guitar riffs are not the driving aspect of the sound, and whereby the guitars provide texture and density instead of shape or form. Using the guitar in this way is by no means new: from the late 70s and early 80s, bands like Sonic Youth, Swans and Bauhaus shifted the emphasis toward the rhythm section, with the guitar serving not a secondary, but alternative musical function. It’s from this background that Alaric’s sound can be found emerging, and End of Mirrors betrays heavy influence from the no-wave and early goth (before it was called goth and was simply a dark strain of post-punk) scenes, infused with a very metal edge. As such, while it’s very much steeped in a number of 80s styles, it’s an album which incorporates them in unusual and innovative ways.

Eight-minute opener ‘Demon’ sets the tone. A lengthy, atmospheric introduction of trudging percussion and simmering feedback gives way to a crushing riff, from which emerges a big, meandering bass-led groove, part Sabbath, part Neurosis. ‘Wreckage’ builds a bleak scene with squalling, spindly guitars layered over a thunderous drum and heavily flanged bassline reminiscent of Pornography-era Cure. But the throaty vocals are more Al Jurgensen circa The Land of Rape and Honey. Moody and intense, the dark despondency carries through into ‘Mirror’. ‘Don’t look in the mirror,’ Shane Baker growls in a deceptively catchy chorus before the song suddenly explodes into grinding thrash riff that piledrives it to another plane.

It’s unexpected twists like this which break the barren expanses of claustrophobic doubt. And do be clear, it’s very much the Rozz Williams incarnation of Christian Death that manifests in the interloping guitar lines of ‘Adore’, and if ‘The Shrinking World’ sounds like an early JG Ballard novel, the metallic scrape encapsulates a near-future dystopia worthy of the great author. The title track is a Melvins-like blast of grinding thrash, a thunderous tempest of a track that sears in at under three explosive minutes, and marks quite a contrast from the longer goth-orientated pieces which dominate the album.

As a whole, it’s a dark, almost apocalyptic sweep of sound. Sitting alongside the recent releases by Se Delan and Madame Mayflower, 2016 is starting to look like the year goth is reborn. Forget darkwave and all that cal: emerging from a protracted period of social and economic turmoil, uncertainty, unrest, fear and an all-pervading sense of existential trauma, we’re back in the late 70s and early 80s, and this is the real deal.

 

Alaric_EOM_cover copy 72 pixels

 

Alaric Online

Cult Records/Custom Made Music -22nd April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The album’s intro is immense. I mean, it builds and builds and threatens a blast of noise akin to Prurient, before the tide breaks and a sepulchral goth sound breaks out. Echoic guitars snake through a wash of reverb against a hipswaying bass groove as the mid-tempo opening track, ‘Confusion Hill paves the way for album steeped in vintage post-punk, but with more than enough inventiveness to stand up in its own right.

As much as it’s The Sisters of Mercy around the time of First and Last and Always it’s Suspiria. High on theatrical drama, bathed in reverb, ‘Observed in a Dream’ is an album which closely observes some old-school production values and uses them to good effect. The drums are up in the mix, the bass is low-slung and murky, and the guitars are brittle and fuzzy around the edges as they explore Dorian scales.

There are no shortage of highlights. The tetchy ‘Lovesick’ appropriates The Fall’s ‘My New House; and plays with a swampy psych vibe that’s both 80s Matchbox and The Volcanoes, throwing in a few dollops of Lloyd Cole and The Bunnymen into the mess.

‘Upside Down (the death loop’) plunges into deep psychedelic territory with its repetitive guitar motif and motorik drumming swathed in cavernous reverb, while the shadow of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry hangs long over the driving ‘Weightless’, and the title track sounds like a heavy collision between The Black Angles and The Jesus and Mary Chain, all throbbing bass, squalling feedback amidst an ocean of echo.

Whereas so many of the 90s wave off goth-inspired bands conspired to produce music that was arch and soulless, Mayflower Madame push a much more organic sound that’s geared toward psychedelic rock with a dark, smoky delivery that’s cool as fuck, evoking the spirit of The Doors as filtered through The Sisters, as if The Reptile House EP had been played with a live drummer. They keep it tight and keep it taut, but know how to cut loose and wig out when the mood takes.

Goth ain’t dead, it was just waiting for a new messiah. Mayflower Madame have got the life, and Observed in a Dream is one of the most exhilaratingly atmospheric albums I’ve heard in a while. It’s nice to see some guys wearing hats, too.

Mayflower Madame - Observed in a Dream

Mayflower Madame on Bandcamp

Mayflower Madame