Posts Tagged ‘New Wave’

22nd April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

This seems to have been a long while coming – and that’s because it has. The New-wave / No-Wave gothy post-punk duo have been kicking out killer EPs for a decade already. Six EPs and a single to be precise, with each EP containing five, six, or even seven tracks. It’s a substantial body of work, however you look at it. And yet it’s only now that they’ve got around to an album proper.

They’ve made the most of the time and the previous releases to realty hone and refine their sound, and having done so, Admire feels like a proper album. It’s ten tracks, solid, packed, back-to-back, arranged with sequence in mind. It’s a sequence that finds things getting slower in the second half, and it would be interesting to hear how this pans over two sides of vinyl. Admire would likely be dissected as having a ‘fast’ and a ‘slow’ side.

As Admire demonstrates, GHXST have remained true to their original sound and ethos – scuzzy, reverb-soaked murkinesss, with a deep psychedelic twist. There’s a lot of twist and a lot of noise on Admire. Comparisons only go so far with these guys, and while The Jesus and Mary Chain is an obvious one, they’re probably closest to A Place to Bury Strangers in their shimmering wall of sound face-melting blast of FX and overdrive. I may have also mentioned Curve before as a comparison: it still stands, and I’m wondering why when people are whittering about various 90s bands

The build on the upward arc is fairly rapid to say the least: it’s just over two minutes into single cut ‘Pls, You Must Be a Dream’ that the extra level of distortion kicks in and blows the roof off everything. And for a time thereafter, you find yourself adrift in a wash of reverb and overloading distortion. Things simply drift: it’s dense, it swashes and coasts along, splashing against the shores as the waves splash the deck, and each song has a certain supple power.

‘Sonores’, the album’s seventh track, marks the first real spot of respite as they pare things back to a swampy synth and bulbous bass notes hang in the dense air, and ‘Nights of Paradise’ slows things to a crawling trudge that threatens to take the album down into a low-tempo slump, as if they’ve run out of steam and simply got stoned to a half-pace stoned sonic swamp. In context, recent single ‘Marry the Night’ is a bit of a crawler, and closer ‘Only Lovers’ is a murky slice of wistful melancholy. Of course, all the best albums conclude with a slow-burning epic, and this is definitive. Don’t ask me why, but this is one of those slow-burning min-epics with piano and a towering wall of rippling overdrive what tugs hard on the emotions and makes me want to cry without even understanding why. But it is, without question, an outstanding finale to what is, also without question, an outstanding album.

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Plotting a rapid follow-up to their acclaimed 2021 debut album, the track arrives as the first insight of what the band confirm will be their upcoming second full studio release.

Whereas much of their debut album, ‘Deathretro’, was thrashed out during the band’s first incarnation almost 15 years ago, “Exit Point” stands as Deathretro’s first completely original composition in over a decade.

A frenzied post/punk thrill, it veers and swerves through surf-carved curvatures and barbed guitar prangs, as the band spout nihilistic lyrics for the end-of-days.

“In the bowels, the people scream. Humanity, it appeals to me. Dirty machine, a wretched beast, We give life to the old devil.” howl Deathretro here.

Touching on the darkest of themes with a white-hot intensity, “Exit Point” rages against religion and propaganda in a dystopian realm of vivid, Dantean imagination.

Having already aired the track live at a smattering of live fixtures, Adrian of Deathretro sums-up the response so far:

“This is the only second album track that we have played live and to great reception…It’s punky, urgent, does it’s job and f**ks off”

Listen to ‘Exit Point’ here:

Around the release Deathretro are lining up a run of Spring headline shows and Summer festival dates (including Bluedot and Kendal Calling) that will offer fans another opportunity to catch the band performing “Exit Point” live. Full dates are as follows:

DEATHRETRO – LIVE DATES

28th April – Oporto, Leeds
(w/ Deathretro / Neeta)

18th June – Gorilla, Manchester
(w/ Sea Fever / Riding the Low / Deathretro

+ DJ sets from Gillian Gilbert & Stephen Mortis (New Order) & Chris Hawkins (BBC6 Music))

24th July – Bluedot
30th July – Kendal Calling

Deathretro

11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

When it comes to goth, you might say that the apple never falls far from the tree: there’s a long history of references and recycling, with bands often taking their names from songs or otherwise referencing other bands, and there is, or at least should be, a goth band name generator somewhere on the Internet, with ‘Children’, ‘Sisters’, ‘Grooving’, ‘Dead / Death’ and ‘Ghost’ featuring prominently in the not-so random permutatable word selections. Funerals and marionettes are pretty popular, too, from as far back as 1986, when The Marionettes began life as The Screaming Marionettes.

Taking their name from the Charles Gounod composition of the same name, best known as the theme music for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Funeral March of the Marionettes go back to that mid/late eighties heyday (broadly 84 or 85 to 87 or 88) that saw ‘goth’ solidify from being a nebulous array of post-punk bands (The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend) being lumped under an umbrella by a lethargic press into an actual genre with more defined stylistic boundaries, typically drawing on the aforementioned acts, but with more indie-leanings typical of The Mission and the style of guitar Wayne Hussey introduced to The Sisters on his arrival in 1984

The Funeral March of the Marionettes, from Rockford, Illinois, cite The Cure, Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and others among their influences, and while they describe their latest offering as something of a departure, it’s still dense with latter-day gothic tropes, albeit leaning more towards the atmospheric post-punk/industrial crossover space, whereby you’ve got Depeche Mode covering Joy Division, a brooding atmosphere as cool synths drift in an ocean of reverb while angst oozes from every corner of the dense, gloomy production.

Yet for all its adherence of those tropes, for all its stylistic familiarity (just look at that cover art, that’s The Sisters of Mercy / Merciful Release meets Joy Division via Rosetta Stone), ‘Slow’ hits a spot, because it’s dark, dark, dark, and the execution is spot on, sending a shiver of torment down the spine that entices you to bask in the gloom.

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Space & I Records – 21st January 2022

January is always a shitter. Whether you love Christmas or loathe it, or even if you’re largely indifferent, January is invariably a slump month of epic proportions. Those of us who aren’t mad keen on Christmas tend to cling to the light at the end of the tunnel that is new year, not because of the New Year celebrations, but because of the prospect of things getting back to normal, where everyone isn’t flapping about doing Christmas shopping and your mates aren’t in an endless conveyor-belt of work and other social commitments and might actually have time for just a pint and a chat, and because gigs and regular social activities resume and you can turn on the TV, radio or walk into a shop without hearing wall-to-wall fucking Christmas tunes.

But no, everyone’s skint, the ones who aren’t are doing dry January and not going out, and the days are short and cold and miserable and Christ, it’s bleak. And for the self-employed, the unsalaried, those in the arts, it’s even bleaker, especially during a pandemic. But then, as ‘Happy Birthday payday’ reminds us, staying afloat in the arts is hard at anytime.

It’s ironic that while mainstream chart musicians are lauded and the pop icon is considered aspirational, those who actually commit themselves to the graft of being in a proper band – or pursuing creative activities like writing or visual arts as a means of earning a living are relentlessly knocked back for being dreamers or unrealistic. Granted, it’s only very few who achieve the heights of Coldplay or Radiohead, or JK Rowling or Damien Hirst, but that isn’t to say that an equitable living shouldn’t be out of reach for the many in the lower echelons, and it simply shouldn’t be the case that tends of thousands of streams on Spotify or iTunes translates to less than the price of a pint.

Moses aren’t a band who are willing to compromise to turn that pint into a round: ‘Happy Birthday Payday’ is culled from their second album, Almost Everything Is Bullshit, which is not only a cracking title but a verifiable fact in this time of endless fakery, but one that’s unlikely to see it garner much mainstream radio play. Similarly, while ‘Happy Birthday Payday’ is a strong tune, bursting with energy and hooks, and with a nagging quasi-rockabilly guitar-line and some storming bass runs, it’s hardly zeitgeist. It’s cut from the punkier end of post-punk, and could have been part of the early 90s New Wave of New Wave ‘movement’ hyped by the press. It’s fast, furious, and spirited, and exactly the kind of tunage we need on offer beyond the mainstream – which is why outsider acts need to be viable, because without them, we’re fucked.

10th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Sense of Scenery first came to my attention way back in 2009 with the release of The Disaster of Imagination which landed with me for review. I fucking loved it, and still love it now: it’s an album that’s stuck with me, and still gets regular play now, although it carries a certain weight of nostalgia now as it comes bearing memories of past, perhaps simpler times, and it also reminds me of people and places, and how things have changed.

But then, it always hit me with a certain level of emotional resonance, there was just something about it.

Sense of Scenery have been slow in their subsequent output: an EP in 2012, a remix EP the following year, and an instrumental single in 2017 has ben the sum of the output prior to the emergence of ‘Through the Walls’ as a single in August as a taster for an upcoming album. And now there’s this, a second single and accompanying B-side.

SOS come out swaggering with bravado about this one, claiming it to be ‘Like a direct injection of Viagra into the flaccid, shriveled wiener of Rock’. Which is pretty fucking bold, however you look at it.

It arrives on a wibbly wave of organ with some warping tape stretches, and a crisp metronomic drum sound, and while it’s immediately apparent that their style is unchanged in its post-punk leanings, it is very much evolved. Sean Douglas’ compositions still revolve around cyclical chord repetitions and choruses that step up the vocals and pack a mean hook, but things are altogether slicker, especially the production.

The drums are bordering on the mechanical, and there’s a tightness and smoothness about the overall sound that brings polish, but more than that, it brings a sense of paranoia and heightened tension. B-side ‘Smokescreen’ really brings this all to the fore, bordering on dance, especially with its blooping synth line, but it sounds like the soundtrack to an 80s car chase sequence, and it’s dynamic and exciting.

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Ahead of the release of their new album, Fascination, released 18th February 2022 on Metropolis Records, The Birthday Massacre have unveiled ‘Dreams of You’.

Listen to ‘Dreams of You’ here:

A Canadian darkwave ensemble who incorporate elements of electronica, goth and new wave into their lush and atmospheric dark pop sound, The Birthday Massacre have enjoyed success over the last decade with albums such as ‘Hide And Seek’ (2012) and ‘Under Your Spell’ (2017), both of which charted at home and abroad. The early spring of 2020 then saw the release of the brooding and mystical ‘Diamonds’, just as the onset of the global pandemic curtailed extensive touring plans to promote it.

The group has released a brand new single entitled ‘Dreams Of You’ today as an opening taster from their upcoming ninth album, ‘Fascination’, which is out on 18th February 2022. Expansive sounding yet intimate feeling, TBM’s signature blend of captivating electronics, aggressive guitars, cinematic melodies and beautifully bewitching vocals are on full display, while the album shows that the magical world they have created with their music has grown ever more captivating.

The Birthday Massacre commence a 30 date US tour the week after album release, with a similarly extensive set of dates in the UK and mainland Europe to follow later in 2022.

The Birthday Massacre formed in 2000 in Ontario and were originally known as Imagica, their name taken from the title of a novel by Clive Barker. Having relocated to Toronto, they renamed themselves The Birthday Massacre just before the release of their debut album, ‘Nothing & Nowhere’, in the summer of 2002. The ‘Violet’ EP was issued in 2004 and then made available in expanded form as a full album via Metropolis Records, a label with whom the group have remained ever since.

The next two TBM albums, ‘Walking with Strangers’ (2007) and ‘Pins and Needles’ (2010), plus the EP ‘Imaginary Monsters’ EP (2011), were followed by 2012’s ‘Hide and Seek’, which enjoyed a warm critical reception and a measure of chart success. The group turned to their fans to help crowdfund their sixth album, ‘Superstition’, which appeared in late 2014 and was supported by major tours in North America, the UK, mainland Europe and Brazil.

A compilation of early four-track demos entitled ‘Imagica’ (2016) preceded ‘Under Your Spell’, released in 2017 and which made a strong showing on multiple US charts. Three years later, the band celebrated their 20th anniversary with ‘Diamonds’, its release seeing new drummer Phillip Elliot and bassist Brett ‘Bat’ Carruthers join the band’s ranks. The latter is also the frontman of alternative rock band A Primitive Evolution.

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24th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Pink Turns Blue have been around practically forever, having formed in 1985, and while they may not be widely regarded among the first wave of goth acts, they very much emerged from that milieu as a duo with a drum machine, and what they’ve achieved over so many of their peers while lingering on the peripheries is longevity. Having re-emerged in 2003 after an eight-year hiatus, they’ve continued to mine the classic post-punk seam that’s distinctively theirs, due in no small part to Mic Jogwer’s vocals. And of course, what goes around comes around. Their return in the early years of the new millennium was well-timed, coinciding with the point at which the post-punk renaissance bloomed with the likes of Editors and Interpol breaking through. There were of course countless also-rans, and bands who emerged but failed to fulfil their promise, but nevertheless, time has proven that the style has remained current, and the darker the times, the greater the craving for dark tunes, and this is where Pink Turns Blue really prove to be as contemporary and vital as ever.

Their eleventh album was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered during lockdown in their Berlin studio, and the first thing that strikes about Tainted is just how bleak it is. It’s achingly majestic, it’s magnificent, and possesses some wonderful hooks and choruses, but there’s an all-pervading atmosphere of sadness, of melancholy that’s draped over every beat and radiates from every note. Glimmers of positivity are dampened by an air of resignation, optimism doused with defeat. The next thing that soon becomes apparent is just how consistent the album is. It’s not only all killer, but had a remarkable cohesion. It’s true that that for cohesion you might interpret sameness, and they do operate with a fairly limited sonic palette. One suspect this is at least in part the result of the material being the product of three guys in a studio without any external input or interference.

But working within such limitations places the focus on the songwriting, on the tunes, on the delivery, instead of throwing in all sorts of fancy stuff.

The guitar to opener ‘Not Even Trying’ evokes the into to ‘Severina’ by ‘The Mission’, and it’s got that same solid four-four strike on every beat bassline that Craig Adams made his signature back in the early days of The Sisters of Mercy, and which has become something of a defining feature for so many gothy post-punk bands, and it makes the song an instant grab. ‘I’m not even trying’, Jowger admits blankly, as if admitting defeat from the outset, and setting the pessimistic tone that echoes through single cut ‘There Must Be So Much More’. It’s a song of yearning, of questing, and of determinism, and a song Editors would have likely killed to have penned for one of their first two albums.

This isn’t an album of depression, but the sound of downward-facing defeat, of staring at the ground and wondering where it all went wrong. ‘Never Give Up’ encapsulates the conflict, the inner turmoil of staring emptiness and defeat straight in the face and realising there are only two choices. But to never give up is not a positive thing, merely the stubbornness that comes from not knowing what else to do.

The bass and guitar are melded together in a tunnel of chorus and reverb, and tied to a relentless drum track, and it’s gripping and compelling. ‘Why Not Save the World’ has heavy echoes of mid-80s Depeche Mode and would sit comfortably on a She Wants Revenge album, while ‘I’m Gonna Hold You’ comes on like New Order as covered by A Place to Bury Strangers, with a nagging bass and brittle guitar that grips hard.

Just as Robert Smith can make a skippy pop song sound tear-jerkingly sad, so when Jowger sings of the joys of ‘a new day’, it’s with a wistful melancholy that aches deep and you feel something tug in your chest as you swallow it down, that inexplicable sadness. ‘Listen to the bumble bee’ he sings on ‘Summertime’, and it’s carried a way on a chiming jangle of guitars that are so wistful, while the tone is of deep nostalgia. A perfect sunny day can have its joy marred by the realisation that it isn’t quite as perfect as sunny days of a time gone by, happy, carefree times that will forever be trapped in the memory as magical, but now faded and never to be recreated.

The song structures are comparatively simple and straightforward, and built around repetitive chord sequences and guitar motifs, and there’s nothing fancy about any of the playing – which is absolutely key to the success.

Any fan of Interpol or Editors would do well to explore Tainted – but then again, so would any fan of not only post-punk, but anyone with ears and with a heart and soul. It’s a masterful work in music of the mood. The mood is low, the mood is sad, and this is an album of real depth that speaks and resonates beyond the immediate.

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12th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Cyborg Amok’s eponymous debut. Sure, there’s the press release, and no, it’s not lazy journalism to take cribs and pointers from press releases. This one forewarns that Cyborg Amok ‘resides somewhere between the brilliance of twilight and the apocalyptic darkness. Their gothic infused synth-rock sound delivers the listener to a panorama of synthetic waves, twisted organic tones and a slightly pop crust … the language angels speak in the darkness.’

I don’t entirely compute the implications of this, can’t even really unravel them, not least of all because I can’t always grasp what passes for ‘gothic’ these days having lost the thread some time in the mid to late 90s with the emergence of cybergoth, which sounded just like so much bad techno to me, and a million miles from the post-punk origins of the genre, and the subsequent ‘waves’ of goth which coincided with myriad hybrid mutant strains. Perhaps I am something of a pursuit in my personal tastes, but as a critic, I try to be more accommodating. But sometimes, you just have to accept that music is music and it’s either good or bad, because your audience are unlikely to share your prejudicial quirks.

Cyborg Amok is Greg Bullock (formerly the keyboardist with RealEyes and Shamen) and drummer Brydon Bullock (no relation as far as is obvious), and their debut album is in fact bringing together their first two (now deleted) EPs, so, if I’m being picky it’s not really a debut album but a compilation (which is also true of The March Violets’ Natural History among others. Not that it detracts from the force of these seven songs pulled together in one place. Oh no. Cyborg Amok kicks.

‘Burden Away’ brings bulldozing bass and stuttering mechanised drums. The rhythm guitar trudges and grinds, while Greg’s brooding baritone vocals registers in the ribcage – but while it’s so much industrial grind, the lead guitars are warped country, and there’s a twangy inflection in the vocals to match. It’s solid, but if you’re looking for a pigeonhole, you’re going to struggle. Things get even more complicated with ‘Still Too Far Out’, which straddles Nightbreed-flavoured second/third wave goth with its organ synth sounds evoking sepulchral gloom against guitars that fizz in a swathe of chorus and flange… and then there’s a fuck-off keyboard solo that’s B-Movie and Ultravox and it may be incongruous by 2020s standards, but perfectly in place in context of those precursors.

With its space-themed title and snarling, bulbous, electronics, ‘Dancing on the Floor of the Sea of Tranquillity’ provides more of the vibes the moniker and title perhaps evoke, and if it suggests extravagant prog enormity, it’s no criticism to say that after its dark, stark intro, it slips towards 80s electropop in the vein of A-Ha.

There are some Cure-esque moments scattered about the album, too, but then this is an album, that assimilated huge swathes of 80s that’s not exactly band-specific, but the zeitgeist.

There’s some overblown prog guitar that’s Yngwie Malmsteen overdone, but once they’re done with the moments of indulgence (‘Choice Not Taken’ is perhaps the greatest showcase of guilt), they deliver some impressive musical moments, where the ambition is equalled by the ability.

They’re at their best when they keep it minimal, sparse, nailed down: last track ‘Another Turn’ bears solid – and favourable – comparisons to Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, with its steely beats and grey, steely guitars backing a gruff, ragged vocal delivery. It’s a style that works well, and while this compilation must provide a point at which to assess the trajectory of their career, the evidence here is that they’re doing everything right and need to forge ahead and capitalise on their work so far, because this is a strong dark album.

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Blaggers Records – 27th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The Kecks go goth with their new single! Well, perhaps not quite, but ‘Tonight Might Be Different’ is certainly a slide down into darker territory compared to its predecessor, ‘All for Me’. It’s got a slinky bassline and a smooth but stutter lead guitar line that hints of late-night smokiness and even a dash of desperate sleaze. It’s not a radical shift in real terms: ‘All for Me’ made nods toward early Pulp, and this, too, expands on their Fire years death disco indie stylings, the combining the gloom and catchiness of tracks like ‘My Legendary Girlfriend’.

Lyrically, it’s an interesting one, veering between paranoia and frustration that are both relevant and relatable to many as Lennart Uschmann reflects ‘I’m so busy giving everybody else attention / My friendship starts to feel more like a disease’. But then again, these thoughts emerge from a jumble of confusion, a state which finds him ‘coming home too late and messing up the place by being way too stoned.’

Meanwhile, outside, ‘They’re kicking down the doors and making lots of noise’, and it’s all very visual, even if it is cut-up and fragmentary. It could, and probably should, all be a horrible and incoherent mess, but the end result is far from it, and it’s all in the execution.

Switching from a sinewy lead guitar to a chorus-coated echo-heavy picked rhythm that’s got that circa 1984 post-punk sound, the punchy drumming and solid bass bring a real rock swagger, and it all comes together to make for their strongest single cut yet.

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Cold Transmission Music – 6th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, an album grabs you in just a matter of bars: The Cold Field’s Hollows is one of those rare records. Instinctively, the swathes of glacial synth draped over insistent, crisp and dominant drumming and paired with brittle, fractal guitars are pure Disintegration. So then it all cam down to the question of the vocals: would they spoil it? It’s a common thing, especially with goth bands. Musically, it’s on-point, but then there’s some bozo who can’t carry a tune in a bucket comes on like a cross between a baritone Morrissey and Kermit and ruins it. Not so here: Cold Field’s vocals are low in the mix and heavily processed, adding to the atmosphere and the mood, and it’s more Seventeen Seconds in terms of mix and it works so well.

As the press release details, ‘Conceived when hospitalized, songwriter and producer Ian Messenger wrote and produced a prolific forty-odd dark-minded songs the following year, of which ten were chosen for Hollows… Depressive themes of gloom and emptiness pervade the album but there is also a triumph against the darkness, a fist-waving into the void, and intimacy along with detachment.’

Drum machines and reverb are, I’ve found, the most precise routes to articulating darkness and detachment. It’s all in the way the drum machine strips away the human heart from the sound and the process, and reverb creates distance and separation. While most rock / metal-leaning genres shun drum machines (with notable exceptions including Big Black, Metal Urbain, Pitch Shifter and Godflesh, who harnessed the potential for immense power and relentless drive through sequenced beats), goth has embraced and run with it thanks largely to the way The Sisters of Mercy and The March Violets really took a grasp on how a tight bass welded to a mechanical rhythm has an effect that’s more or less hardwired. You don’t choose to dig this – it hooks you and becomes your life.

Hollows is faultless not only in its absorption and assimilation, but in its quality of songcrafting and performance.

‘Endless Ending’ ratchets up the mechanized bleakness, a full-on gonzoid goth groove, the guitars and synths blur together in an FX-laden wash while the bass drives hard against that non-stop, full-free rhythm that just thumps away hard. ‘Beauty—Expired’ is a bleak barnstormer, melding The Jesus and Mary Chain’s overloading guitars with the rockist tendencies of James Ray’s Gangwar with the psychedelia of A Place to Bury Strangers.

‘You Walk Away’ is more overtly electro, more New Order, but then again, with the heavy twang of a reverby guitar and blank monotone vocal, it’s Movement that it references above anything else, meaning it’s stark, bleak, and strangely affecting. It’s perhaps hard to explain without some sort of context or background, or a priori knowledge. You’re either in the headspace, or you’re not, but if you are, the you’ll know. And this speaks to that space, whether it’s comfortable or not.

The final track, ‘Into the Light’ stands out for its buoyancy, and the nagging guitar break again leans heavily on New Order – specifically ‘Ceremony’. But when executed with such panache, there’s no way to criticise this or any aspect of Hollows. It may be 2021, but this is an album that belongs to the early 80s. and in its mood, its atmosphere, its production, Hollows absolutely nails it.

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