Posts Tagged ‘New Wave’

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.

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12th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Released digitally last autumn, Para Lia’s Gone With The Flow gets a ‘proper’ physical release this month. The second album from the German duo, consisting of René and Cindy Methner, has already drawn comparisons to Dinosaur Jr, Arcade Fire, and The Mission, as well as referencing in the press release – the hearteningly specific – ‘early Editors’.

It all makes sense with the blistering opener, ‘My Muse’ – a post-punk influenced adrenaline shot that showcases some wild soloing that somehow manages not to sound wanky. See, I’m not one for guitar solos myself, but find that J Mascis’ best efforts are enough to reduce me to tears. ‘Kassandra’ hits that spot: it’s a cutty post-punk revival effort that’s got the pomp of The Mission, complete with the wordless backing vocals Julianne Reagan delivered to absolute perfection on songs like ‘Severina’, and topped with an absolutely melting solo that twists, turns and weeps all over it. I should probably be tired of this by now, but when presented with just the right blend of nostalgia and quality

They don’t always pull it off: ‘Riders on the Dike’ is more ramshackle punk-folk with a ragged vocal delivery reminiscent of Shane Macgowan that simply doesn’t quite sit, and ‘Time and Again’ follows a folksier bent that grates a shade, feeling slightly forces and off-track despite some soaring harmonies from Cindy.

But it’s more hit than miss, as the slow-burning ‘Fools’ brings swathes of mournful strings to the post-rock tempest that swells as the song progresses, and the tense jangle of ‘Fire’ evokes the spirit of 1985, not just instrumentally but with its thick production, where the bass and guitar clump together, cut through by a sharp-topped snare sound.

‘Kaleidoscope’ is every bit as shimmeringly layered as the title suggests, and notes of New Model Army and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry are present as they drive a forward trajectory with an insistent rhythm section and some choppy guitars pinned back in the mix. Last track, ‘No Time for Butterflies’ combines psych-hued 60s pop, folk, and 90s alternative to forge a pleasant and exhilarating finale, and if there’s little about Gone With The Flow that’s overtly ‘new’, it’s a unique combination of older forms rendered with real style and some solid songs.

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Atypeek Muzik

Christopher Nosnibor

Apparently France’s One Arm is a ‘mythical’ band, although the newly unveiled existence of Mysore Pak, their first album which gathers a fill twenty years of work, suggests that’s not entirely true. There’s nothing like a bit of mythology and legend to bolster the status of an obscure cult act – and this particular cult act has managed to score a number of other cult performers to contribute to the recordings here, most notably Little Annie, who adds ‘kosmic vocals’ to ‘Space is the Place’.

Mysore Pak is, it would seem, a collection of recordings made over the last twenty years, but try to delve into the band’s history and details are nigh on impossible to locate or verify. Who said that it was impossible to hide in the age of the Internet? Anyway, Mysore Pak has a truly vintage sound, with touchstones going back far more than two decades, taking grabs from 60s psychedelic, post-punk, and early industrial.

The first song, the vaguely baggy ‘Real’ is dominated by the heavy clatter of two drummers and duelling basses and with its thumping motorik repetition, it calls to mind vintage Fall. ‘ESG’, meanwhile, locks into a slightly psychedelic groove – and with the airy female vocals, I;’m reminded more of the careening drift of Stereolab, as well as the more contemporary Modeerate Rebels who similarly spin classic indie with a Krautrock aesthetic. The slowed down, sedated ‘Space is the Place’ creeps and squirms stealthy around a primitive percussive clatter, and ‘City’ is a standout with it’s locked-in groove and discordant howls of wailing feedback.

Elsewhere, things get murkier and harder edge, as exemplified by the cutty, scrapy, hybrid trudge of jittery noise that is the eight-minute ‘Top Tone’. The guitars are sharp, there’s all the serpentine esotericism and eastern promise you could dream of, making this a dreamy, delirious meandered, and similarly, ‘Step 3’, which comes on like a head-on collision between Suicide and The Jesus and Marty Chain is a deeply compelling mess of noise. Closer ‘Virgule’, too, harks back to Psychocandy while plundering a seem much deeper and darker with its rippling flyaway synths and low-riding bass that meanders as it pleases while vintage snares crack in every whichway.

For the primitive production feel and the simplicity of basslines that just loop endlessly, Mysore Pak is so much more than a hipsterish replica of real life that skips along nicely. As accessible as this album is, it’s got more depth and more instant biteback than you would ever imagine. An album that steps out of time and spans infinite time and space, it’s got a lot going for it.

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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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A Projection are a post-punk/darkwave act from Stockholm, who signed to Metropolis Records in 2019 for the release of their well received third album, ‘Section’. Inspired by dark post-punk/proto-goth acts such as The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy and Joy Division along with the electronica of Depeche Mode, the band are known for their compelling and dynamic live shows.

‘Darwin’s Eden’ is a brand new single by the quartet and sees them more fully embracing the electronic realm, placing themselves in the intersection between the ‘80s synth pop and the darkwave hit lists of 2021.

Watch 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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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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4th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

In the ever-expanding world of microgenres based on hybrids and crossovers, Montreal-based trio Boar God may be onto something as close to unique as you could imagine, describing their style as drone-punk. That said, drone takes many forms, ranging from the elongated notes that tend to feature in electronic works, to the dirgy, doom sustain of Sunn O)), with the kind of Psychedelic drone of The Black Angels in between.

Boar God’s sound belongs to none of these areas, and as such, does stand apart as different. The EP’s four tracks all sit around the six-minute mark, and blend driving alt-rock with a dash of shoegaze, and amp it all up with a spiky edge that’s as much post-punk as punk, but then I’d always say it’s the attitude that counts more than the sound in defining what’s punk.

Echoed tremolo tones shimmer like a heat-haze around guitars that scratch like sandpaper on the intro to ‘Life Eternal’. It’s a long, gradual build. The tempo quickens as the bass begins to run, faster and faster, the guitars chiming and swirling before everything breaks into a punchy clamour of everything, with Eric Bent’s vocals adding to the urgency. If it’s reminiscent of anything that immediately springs to mind, it’s Trail of Dead.

‘Azrael in Crisis’ goes all-out for the epic, with atmospheric synths swirling and wafting in the background, but still remains tightly-structured and punchy and dominated by a gritty guitar and booming bass. The energy is tempered by a chill, a bleakness, reminiscent of early Joy Division (think the outtakes that appeared on Still). The production is murky, and this is actually a good thing, as its low-budget, unpolished feel gives it an immediacy as well as replicating the late 70s’ / early 80s 8-track recording sound.

The pace and the angst are amped up on ‘The World Set Free’, a pounding amalgamation of Killing Joke and Red Lorry tallow Lorry, and again, it’s the thick, floor-shaking bass that defines and dominates the sound. Things take a twist for the gothic around two-thirds in, and as the fractal guitars glisten, the song acquires a dream-like quality.

Everything comes together at once on the closer, ‘The Tar Pits’, which locks into a motoric groove and drives it home with a searing guitar break and shrieking strains of feedback.

I know I’m a complete sucker for this kind of new-wave stuff, but as dark, angry, claustrophobic and steely-grey musings on loss go, Boar God bring a rare intensity on Near Extinction.

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Only Lovers Records – 4th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to change the mood of the day, and for me, it’s often the case that the ping of an email containing a release by an act I like that can be that mood-lifter on a barren or otherwise unremarkable day. The arrival of Mayflower Madame’s latest offering was today’s: having been snared by their debut album, 2016’s Observed in Dream, I’ve been on the edge of my seat for more, and while 2018’s Premonition EP was more than welcome, it felt like something of a placeholder ahead of the next event proper.

With album number two, Prepared for a Nightmare around the corner, they’re offering a taste of what’s to come with single ‘Vultures’, a song about ‘desire, gluttony and vanity – both on a personal level and as a general symptom of the excesses of modern society’ which is ‘partly inspired by the art of George Grosz and Hieronymus Bosch’.

‘Vultures’ very much cements the style and sound they’ve showcased previously, with reverby guitars dominating a psych/goth hybrid form that’s got tension and drama by the spade, but also a brooding, doom-laden atmosphere. The pessimism isn’t explicit, but hangs heavy in the air. But while retaining that psychy / dark surf twang, ‘Vultures’ is harder-edged than anything they’ve released to date, pinned down by an insistent beat with the vocals low in the mix and soaked in reverb and angst. The production more muscular, too, and it all stacks up for a belting blast of tense, dark contemporary post-punk that says the album is going to be a corker.

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