Posts Tagged ‘New Wave’

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.

AA

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Fierce Panda Records – 20th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Just two months on from the release of ‘Tear Ourselves In Two’, Jekyll follow up with ‘Catherine Wheel’ to cement their reputation as a band with a knack for a bona fide indie pop classic.

This one is particularly relatable on a personal level. I felt as if I was living in a different world from most people during lockdown. While friends, family, and many people on social media were managing by revelling in the masses of free time they sound themselves with on their hands and blasting through books and Nexflix boxset binges and bakery galore, and articles in the media about how people were re-evaluating their lives and work/life balance during ‘the great pause’, I found my anxiety was finding new peaks not because I was scared of the virus or running out of pasta or loo roll, but because with working and home-schooling, and surrounded by the tornado of panic what was engulfing friends and colleagues, I had less than no time, less than no energy, and weeks would evaporate.

In the event, the best part of sixteen months evaporated. Nothing happened, nothing really got achieved, and everyone got older, at least those who made it. I’d been spinning, windmilling at a frantic pace just to stay still, and still am. What is there to show for it?

Lockdown – when it eventually did happen in the UK – hit hard and fast and everyone clenched. Emerging from lockdown has been long and slow, and still feel like a massive adjustment, as if rising to the surface could induce the psychological equivalent of the bends. But here we are.

Singer Joel describes ‘Catherine Wheel’ as being about ‘the disorientation and panic of feeling that your life is passing by faster than you can keep up with, before you’ve even figured out what you want from it or how to use the precious time you’ve got to its full potential.’ Because life is too short, and every day wasted is a day closer to death. Butthole Surfers nailed it with the line ‘it’s better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven’t done’. To do nothing… well, you may as well already be dead. But being forced to do nothing – that’s hard to stomach.

‘Catherine Wheel’ is succinct but explosive, three-and-a-half minutes of pent-up energy finding its release. It starts off with a gentle acoustic guitar that conveys a wistful sort of feeling, and is vaguely reminiscent of early Mansun, then very swiftly piledrives into a soaring guitar melded to a thumping, busy drum beat – loping, rolling, urgent, a beat on every beat and bursting with energy, and there’s a lot going here, and not just deep layers of reverb. It’s got that vaguely psychedelic / goth hue of The Horrors, but Jekyll are very much their own band rather than being in thrall to anyone.

If Muse frustrate with their immense pomp, then on ‘Catherin Wheel’ Jekyll capture the positive elements without being so overblown, distilling the elements down to create something that possesses a palpable intensity and that head-squeezing claustrophobia while at the same time looking outwards to the possibilities. It’s got a dark new wave edge, but it’s a truly killer single and a song for the times.

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End Of The Trail Records – 13th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In a world of intertext, whereby everything references something else, there’s something that goes beyond homage in referencing one’s influences in naming your band. Sure, it’s a nifty short-cut signpost indicating influences and origins, but Australian act Burning Jacobs Ladder – essentially the vehicle for Jake T Johnson – takes its name from a song by Mark Lanegan. This makes it cool practically by default, but it helps that BJL has got the songs to back it up.

With ‘Danger in Me’ he’s brought together a classic post-punk vibe with an early 90s alternative swagger. There are hints of late Psychedelic Furs later Jesus and Mary Chain, delivered with the knowing coolness of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Also in the mix is a gothy element, that makes something of a nod to the bombast of The Mission, but equally worthy of comparisons to the more contemporary Mayflower Madame. If this seems like a lot of touchstones and reference points, it serves to highlight just how strong a handle Johnson has on the style and the sound, and it all comes together perfectly here.

‘Danger In Me’ has a darkness and density, and it’s propelled by a tight, crisp drum track, chugging rhythm guitar, and an insistent four-square bassline of the kind that thrums along at just the right pace to elevate the pulse just that little bit (and reminds me more than just a little bit of ‘More’ by The Sisters of Mercy, who were always the kings of that tight three- or four-chord sequence thudded out with a strike on each beat). And then there’s the reverb, pitched just so, and the lead guitar sizzles around Johnson’s vocals as he wrestles with internal conflict.

Disclosure: I’m an absolute sucker for this strain of groove-orientated post-punk – but this is one of the best examples I’ve heard in a while: truly top drawer.

Iconic post-punk band Pink Turns Blue has announced that their new album ‘Tainted’ will be released in autumn on limited edition vinyl, CD and digitally via Orden Records.

Ahead of that, they present their new single ‘You Still Mean Too Much To Me’, following up lead singles ‘There Must Be So Much More’ and ‘So Why Not Save The World’.

Pink Turns Blue is Mic Jogwer (vocals, guitar), Reubi Walter (bass, keyboards) and Paul Richter (drums). Inspired by Joy Division, The Sound and The Chameleons, Pink Turns Blue plays alternative rock heavily influenced by 80s post-punk and new wave.

This album is the result of time well spent this past lockdown year writing, recording, mixing and mastering the new album in their Berlin recording studio. On ‘Tainted’, the band added an electronic element to their classical vocals, guitar, bass and drums. The album title itself relates to the state of our world: climate change, its effects, the reaction to it, the split within society, isolation, health risks and financial uncertainty.

"How to overcome the grief / pain of lost love, torn between hate, very bad feelings and, at the same time, not being able to let go at all. As there is no understanding why you fall in love with someone in the first place, there is also no reason / understanding  why love does end or your love of life starts to feel attracted to someone else. It all dissolves into nothingness," says Mic Jogwer.

"Some melodies and moods just call for certain sad themes and touch old wounds that never seem to heal. Normally love stories don’t seem to have a connection to me and my life. But then, when I find a sad melody with some sad chords it all gets stirred up and comes to life. Maybe love really never ends."

Lusten here:

26th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a whole month since we heard from lo-fi bedroom duo Videostore, and their latest effort continues the narrative trajectory that’s been running through so many of their releases.

The pair describe ‘Bounce Back’ as some ‘Cathartic song writing after they closed down the Videostore and everyone lost their jobs… Channelling some New York new wave/ no wave with special thanks to Blondie and Sonic Youth!’

This one starts of slow, stripped back and sedate, but as it builds, it balances lugubrious wallowing with some clean, poppy backing vocals. It’s one of their longer songs, and it’s a slow-burner that simmers before finally going off toward the four-minute mark – and when it does go off, it blazes hard.

AA

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30th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Ten months on from last year’s ‘Summer ‘ EP, headed by lead track Recovery, Sleep Kicks return with ‘My Own Demon’, and it’s a solid second single to say the least, putting meat on the bones of the live acoustic version that featured on the EP.

The comparisons I drew to A-Ha and Editors in reference to its predecessor are again applicable here, as the Norwegian foursome spin a hypnotic atmosphere through the medium of strolling bass and chiming, reverby guitar to carve a song that’s a balance of taut 80s pop and brooding new wave, and anthemic is the only word to describe its epic finish. With a wash of guitars and a powerful, uplifting ‘wo-ah-hoh’, you could easily picture this being played in front of a packed arena with several thousand hands waving aloft in time.

Yet, at the same time, the delivery of this big, soaring chorus, is quite a contrast to the lyrical content, which are so striking in their intimacy:

Always feels like someone’s coming after me

Never seem to find a cure for this anxiety

Every day it stays the same, I fear tomorrow’s call

Would be better if it never came at all

We all have our demons and our anxieties, but tend not to talk about them, despite the fact we probably ought: free and open discussion is the only way we will change attitudes to these things, and normalise the topic of mental health, and how it feels to wake up wishing you hadn’t. But we’ve all – or nearly all – been there at some point. It takes real strength to not only commit such lines to paper, but also actually sing them out loud, but it’s that investment of emotion that resonates, and – as I often say – in the personal lies the universal. And this, this reaches out and touches the soul in a special way.

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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.

AA

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