When i write reviews one of the common traps I try hard not to get lost in is comparing every new band I review to one of the sacred dark gods of the 80’s and 90’s that the group I am listening to sounds like. It’s a pretty common tactic and lets face it an effective one. It’s easy to associate with what is familiar and in 2019 when it often feels like the world of goth/industrial/darkwave/new wave/ect has pretty much been discovered and artists are searching for more subtle ways to test the boundaries of what is possible and find some new ground, I figured I would take a moment to acknowledge this is a reality for a lot of people.
I am very open about our special relationship with Cold Transmission Records from Frankfurt Germany. I feel like their musical family approach to releasing Post Punk/Dark Wave/Electronic/Goth music is a template for how new labels can grow bands through a personal relationship and passion for distributing the art they are creating for new fans. Andreas Herrman, Suzy Herrman, and Yvonne Kiel have been working to build something wonderful through an emphasis on quality of music and artistic freedom for their artists which through word of mouth is growing into one of the fastest up and coming labels in this scene. This concert was special and represented what is possible when someone has a vision that puts personal gain aside and instead fosters an environment for unity, beauty, and friendship that brought together fans of this music style from all over the world. We came from America to meet friends from Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark, Canada, Sweden, Israel, Turkey and many more all in one club to celebrate without pretense the music we love and what Cold Transmission has accomplished in bringing all these people together. It’s really hard to express in words in the digital age just how special that was and what it felt like to be a part of it. You see that was the secret, anyone could do this. It was one of the most welcoming inclusive environments I’ve ever witnessed at a show, and I have seen a lot. If you loved music there is a place for you here and it made my head spin thinking about the possibilities for how do I make this happen in America. Because everyone needs this. Everyone deserves it.
Lets talk about the epic lineup that was brought together for this show. One of the things that was a cultural shock for me as an American. The show was in Cologne Germany at this wonderful club called the Blue Shell. Doors opened at 7pm (Still quite light out during the summer) 1st band started at 7:30 pm sharp. This was no exaggeration. In America the idea of getting “goth” people to show up before 10:30 pm is laughable. Even when the event says doors at 8pm. So when we showed up at 7:20 pm thinking we will have a long wait before music we saw a packed sold out house that went from the stage to the back wall. People were engaged and clamoring to get to that stage. I was speechless to see this level of passion for new music and the energy and excitement was crackling through the air from the moment the doors opened.
First up was Crying Vessel. I had been extremely excited to see Slade play live for a while and it did not disappoint. Hearing the snapping drive of the live drums Basil was laying down really added an urgency and and fierceness to the melodic beauty of Slade’s singing. The sound system was honed right from the get go and each lyric cut across the distance of a room full of excited fans. Slade reached up with a bit more edge and length on his notes to really lift up the power of his performance. Mixed with those floating effect driving guitars this had even more of the energy and swagger that has been missing in dark wave music.
Setlist: Intro, Empty Glass, Lovers in Paradise, Aftershock, If it all was Real, Killing Time, Kiss the Fire, Dig Deep, Illusions, The Second Sleep
Band number two was IAMTHESHADOW featuring Karl Morten Dahl of Antipole. What an amazing team up. It was at this point I was really struck by how diverse the sounds of the bands on display were. Pedro Code has such a deep rich voice and passionate delivery. The crowded room was drawn in to such a level of intimacy and enveloped in the dark crooning style. Karl’s signature syncopated guitar sound added a unique flavor to Rui and Victors pulsing rhythm section to give this show a one of a kind experience. The rises and falls were so dynamic as Pedro lifted and diminished the power of his voice without much movement. (The stage was tightly packed to give little room for dancing). The beauty of this album which i have reviewed before is powerful and staggering. However I found myself overwhelmed with emotion hearing it raw and exposed this this format and looking out at a captivated audience swaying in time by the dynamic waves of sound washing over us. Then as a surprise the band played two Antipole songs with Pedro providing his resonant artistry to treat the crowd to a performance never heard on stage or album. When they played my favorite Antipole song “Closer” and I heard Pedro’s voice burn forth through the crowd I was overwhelmed. Breathtaking. Hard to image how seamlessly these two bands wove their songs and styles together to make something new.
01. into your eyes 02. Fall apart 03. Everything in this Nothingness 04.the skin 05.october novel(Antipole) 06. Closer( Antipole) 07. This violence 08. Embracing theFall
Playing third was Joy/Disaster from France a band I had limited exposure to before the festival. Having them play after IAMTHESHADOW ended up being a master stroke. All the eloquent subtle beauty was left behind for a blast of pure energy and intensity. It started as a dark foreboding creep with Nicolas Rohr’s echoing rhythmic chanting solemnly floating on top of Soupa Rundstadlers room swelling bass lines. The air crackled with intensity from the contrast. Following a performance like IAMTHESHADOWS was no small feat and Joy/Disaster delivered with a show stopping set full of lashing venom differing from the their album. It was a breakneck march of driven tempo charging up a hill in battle cadence . Because this was the set I had the least expectation for I think it was the one that left me most moved. I was expecting post punk and was assaulted with burning punk aggression played with precision and sweeping melody. The performance was capped by a touching moment where the band presented Andy with a signed guitar for his 50th Birthday present to the ovation of the crowd. Again showing the emotion and sense of family this label has with it’s artists.
KISSES & PAIN
DEALER OF LIFE
Closing the bands for the night was Silent Runners a band I had some knowledge of before the festival. I can tell you the album did not prepare me for the quirky and intense performance they had live on stage. Hailing from the Netherlands singer Dolf Smolenaers oozed with stage presence and connected with the crowd setting up a blistering atmospheric set of laser sharp texture and melodic longing. The off kilter drum beats and and carefully timed guitar and keyboard lines left me in mind of Factory records Happy Mondays. Stanley’s guitar riffs came in varying waves and set the boundaries of the controlled chaos. It surged at you from all over the stage while the crowd swayed and stared in rapture. What a sizzling close to a night of amazing live music
Setlist: Human Capital, Wilderness, Dark Mountain, I Walk Away Again The Knife, Roadkill, Forgotten, Through The Night, Cavemen.
As the bands finished the fun was just beginning. The dance floor flooded and Rule of Three with Christian and Pete started spinning wax with expert hands and discerning ears. Epic set list below
Bad Sector – Negative (edit)M!R!M – Liebe Machen [ Kill Shelter Remix ]The Soft Moon – Black (extended)Neon Electronics – Invisible Man [ Kill Shelter Remix ]Kill Shelter – Get Down ft. The Shyness of StrangersTempers – Strange Harvest *Agent Side Grinder – Doppelgänger (extended):Wumpscut: – Fear In Motion [ Remyl Remix ] (edit)FJERNLYS – Lunar Sphere (edit)Kill Shelter – Bodies ft. Buzz Kull (extended)Soft Kill – Whirl *Nitzer-Ebb.com – I’m Undone *
The night was finished by Cologne Disorder blasting everyone’s favorite retro dance hits until we couldn’t dance anymore.
This was the first Cold Transmission Festival but with it’s resounding success it certainly won’t be the last. I felt something special in the Blue Shell that night. I know everyone around me felt the same. People traveling a great distance to feel a part of the magic they created. We came from many places, spoke many languages, but we were all united in what Suzy, Andy, and Yvonne have built. Bands, Dj’s , Music Writers, and fans. Basking in the connection and glow of the music we love. This was a experience I will hold in my heart and my mind until my dying day. When you get the chance to be a part of something magical like this I can only say grab it and hold on as tight as you can. Moments like this are what make existence worth while and it is never too late for you to be a part of something monumental.
Share on TwitterTweet
Album: The Veils Of Ending
All music written and recorded by Brandon Pybus at Sound Sorcery
It seems like the original goth music concept is becoming a bit of a forgotten relic from times of yore. It’s easy to forget sometimes as goth music is experiencing a resurgence that brought a shattering and synthesis of various styles to create new sub genres that the original fans of Sisters of Mercy (totally not goth just ask Andrew Eldrich), Fields of the Nephilim, Rosetta Stone , in the 80s are all elders at home on a Friday night. Even the generation after (which i am a part of ) are in our 40’s now. That is why when I heard this record from North Virginia doom rockers Sonsombre my heart soared with the idea that the new generation of “goth” is ready to come back to square one. To the place it all begin with some true dark unapologetic goth rock. Risen from the crypt and given shadowy wings to soar once again into our hearts. I am 100% ready for this and I think the world is as well.
Sonsombre means dark and somber and this record surely is. It is cold and menacing. Guitar lines twisting like serpents of smoke flowing with the sound of a fender jazz tube amp with poison fangs aimed for your head. Brandon Pybus voice echos and canters through poetic verses about a sinister world closing in. Up tempo rock beats with crisp sword dance snare beats snap you like a frothing horse running towards a cliff. This album feels more and more like an unearthed and forgotten magic which was always there sleeping but we had forgotten. I want to remember. I want this new generation to hear what goth meant to me, and Brandon has captured that sound in a bottle and spread it back into the world. How can a concept so old feel so fresh?
Ok top tracks, a lot of scorchers here but lets make hard choices 🙂
Night Child – Just listen to that opening guitar line dripping with sensual energy and dark foreboding. The driving baseline straight out of the Floodland playbook. Brandon’s voice is a pleading chant of deep and tortured challenge. “Night Child am I reaching you?” It comes in waves and erodes you as it washes over.
The Future is Black– The opening of the sinister music box tinkling. Building a tension until those slashing guitar sounds come racing towards you in a fury of cuts. The drums for this have a tight fierce pacing making a dance driving attacking feel. Try not to move your body while this washes over you. The future is black and I am hearing this kingdom collapse with fists raised and boots stomping. This song is so familiar , like a club anthem I had forgotten.
Matte Black – Taking the tempo down to a cursed dirge drive. The vocals charge to the front. This song is haunted and full of pageantry. Facing our own demons and acknowledging the romanticism found in a doomed and nihilistic world. Prybus is a true bard and this song is his heart song.
Overall this album was a remembrance I needed. If you were not old enough to feel the first two waves of goth than this record is a masterclass in how those songs inspired a movement. It isn’t a simple retread though, it is a sum of all the best parts of the music that inspired it. Using modern technique and technology to bring and energy and crackling life that I think was sometimes lacking in our ancient sacred fore bearers. The lyrics are poetic and poignant and I am filled with the possibilities that traditional goth rock has in the modern era. Fire this into your veins and sway your arms in burning ruins of future sounds.
Album: Technology Implies Belligerence
Label: Negative Gain
Members: Steven Archer (Ego Likeness)
So here is another album I have had for a while and have played many times fearing the daunting task of trying to describe the intense emotional and musical impact of this record in an effort to do it justice. Steven Archer is a mainstay in the goth/industrial scene from his band Ego Likeness which I have reviewed before. Their credentials in this scene are indisputable with several albums to their credit that have all hit the mark. I have thoroughly enjoyed the previous Stoneburner albums however with “Technology Implies Belligerence” Steven has achieved another plane in his musical expression and I will do my best to capture some of that concept in this review. I’m put in mind of Phillip K Dick when he wrote the Valis trilogy. An artist who had critical and commercial success that had earned the freedom through his labors to produce a piece of magnificent art that tested his own boundaries and redefined the genre. This record was completely un-tethered and unapologetic in it’s scope and daring combining sounds and concepts which pushed the edges of synthesis through technology . It is brave, it is meticulous, and it addresses poignant themes which speak to the struggle of current human existence.
To appreciate the full scope it has to be said that Archer is a modern artistic renaissance man. Playing in several projects on a variety of instruments. In addition he is a noted visual artist (I was lucky enough to have him do the cover art of my own album). As a visual engineer he made a series of accompanying videos with practical effects he created himself. This album also broke ground in the access he offered to fans with an interactive discussion group where he shared technique and answered questions on every stage of the creative process. A truly novel and cutting edge idea for the modern digital age. Industrial music often pays homage to the cyberpunk ideology of science fiction and Archer has dug deeply into some of his literary keynotes making the songs a thesis on one of his favorite works from Peter Watt’s “Blindsight” dealing in first contact higher conciseness and personal freedom. This blending of literary theme, visual expression, and musical emotion formed a groundbreaking multimedia art piece in a point and click surface world.
Ok we have gotten this far and I haven’t discussed the music yet. Stoneburner features many of the staples of industrial music. Syncopated distorted guitar sounds. Pounding drumbeats in body blow intensity. With effect laden vocals lashing out in varying cadence. Where Archer pulls back the throttle and rises towards uncharted ground is in the use of world beat percussion sounds layered with pinprick sitar guitar riffs. Listening while watching the sound wave file really gives an appreciation for how much thought went into the purposeful dynamic shifts and emotional crafting. Not known as a vocalist Archer dives in with passion and intensity filtered through a barrage of electronic effect using his voice and samples as an additional driving percussion instrument to unleash a sincerity and terrible beauty with the raw power of his words. Can you take the diverse expressive sounds of Dead Can Dance and force them through the meat grinder of Coil’s chaotic destructive power. I wasn’t sure until i heard it happen.
This is a concept album, you need to hear it all song to song. However I will speak to some standout tracks:
Dry Gun – This song astounded me. The percussion is intensity held at bay with greasy chains. This dancing pinprick guitar lines lending an eastern feel with a guitar effect from Roger Waters. The swooping cello synth pad and jagged leading dynamics create such primal movement that when the unorthodox vocals samples come in you are already dancing with reckless abandon. This song owns your body.
The Angel of Abscess – Brooding and dark intro spreads out with subtlety and danger. I really enjoy the grinding metal effects. Stevens vocals come in with a distant chant while new sounds are added and built. A desolation and fear scrolling through the emptiness of darkness. The repeating melody line has an almost Celtic feel which seems to get faster and faster until you are hurtling towards oblivion in a rapidly decaying vehicle.
Identity by Diagnosis – You can’t travel to the edge without questioning the reality you are seeing. This song brought me back to the questions of my own minds perceptions. Again achieving that frantic sense of speed and motion while maintaining a medium pace without relying on volume to create intensity. I think what amazed me most in this record was the deliberate effort that seemed to go into every decision and every note. If you have ever had to find reason in the modern world of chemical science you find yourself empathizing with this storytellers journey.
Overall this was a staggering emotional journey of a record that found a way to do something so difficult in the modern times. Touch on new and undiscovered ground in music. I honestly feel like this record will be something we look back on as a new beginning of a branch of future sounds to come. Try and really breath in the power of that statement. I hear so many new albums these days and this isn’t something I say lightly. If you are a person that appreciates art for what it is capable of stirring in human emotion. If yours is a mind that quests for a deeper challenge and greater understanding. You owe it to yourself to get this album and play it loud enough for the neighbors to hear.
Band: Palais Ideal
Album: Pressure Points
Label: Cold Transmission
Vocals, Guitars, Synths, Rhythm Programming
Richard van Kruysdijk:
Bass Guitar, Baritone Guitar, Guitar, Synths,
Backing Vocals, Rhythm Programming
I’ve been searching for the right words for this May 25th 2019 release from Palais Ideal. This album had such an profound impact on me. It’s an early runner for my album of the year and we are just getting started. For me when I think of this record I think of the first time I heard The Church and thought, they are doing the same thing as most of the new wave bands. They are just doing it on a level of depth and complexity which touch on a higher step, while somehow maintaining everything in terms of pop sensibility that their contemporaries are achieving. I think the lack of sugar coating could make Palais Ideal easy to look past when in reality they are the ones creating something most profound.
John has such a wonderful and unique voice which i will expand on later but for a moment I want to focus on the message rather than the voice it is given in. You just don’t hear intelligent, challenging lyrical content like this in modern post punk music. A lot of it is expressive and clever but what Pressure Points has done is weave a cohesive tale of vibrant expression about the plight and achievement of modern culture. It’s Issac Asimov set to a tapestry of music. Enormous in scope and precise in vision. I have listened to these songs so many times already but I ordered the LP and put off writing the review partially out of intimidation partially because i needed to absorb the record played front to back as it was made to be heard. I’m not saying they don’t have great singles here. To me, this is a record of the best 12 deep cuts spaced over a bands 10 albums in one place.
Lets talk about what is unique here. Post Punk tends to lend itself to a technically adept style and Palais Ideal features two masters of craft at the height of their instruments. What they have done is take a step beyond the technical proficiency and into the progressive rock style almost more King Crimson than Joy Division. Dramatic shifts in key and tempo. Time syncopation that has the same heavy driving bass but such fluid movement of tone that it transcends the genre. The music is layered like mesh steel on a robots thigh. John has a voice that flickers and strikes with clarity and hovers on a range between Bernard Sumner, Joe Strummer and Mark Burgess yet always finds a way to cut through the complexity of the tempest. The use of guitars and Synths are economical and create a cleanness in spite of how much is going on.
How on earth to pick favorite tracks?
The Programme – What a complete cybernetic device digging into the depths of your skull and rattling around the pleasure zones in your brain. This bass line is everywhere at once. John’s delivery and that winding guitar rift which glances like light through a prism. “The Colony breaks down, we built it up again, we run the program now” A true statement on the loss of reality through technological euphoria. Facing the self shackled slavery of the modern world with glorious synth candy.
Context Collapse – This high energy snare snap building into a smooth cornered transition and that signature delicate guitar light show. “Forever avoiding a moment of disconnection. Improving, engineering a more transparent you.” So much to unpack here, layers upon layers.
Everything Will Be Ok – So much focus is on this dytopian world of the modern struggle this dance beat New Order soother with the strange echo robot effect vocals breaks up the weight and lets everything go green. “There is no such thing as destiny, life gives you everything you need. Everything will be ok?” So tongue and cheek I can almost beleive.
Overall this album is a force of everything that this new renaissance in post punk music is making possible. First you tear it down, then you rebuild it, then you synthesize it to a higher complexity and evolution. Pressure Points is a soundtrack for the modern spy novel of the post digital age. It’s full of adventure, depth, and a calculated empathy that makes me dream of electric sheep. This will be an album I am still peeling apart when I am putting together a list of the most important musical contributions of the year.
I’m very excited about this interview. Kill Shelter “Damage” was one of my top albums of 2018, a truly groundbreaking piece of artistic expression which harnessed the vocal talents of some of the darkest stars in the Post Punk/Darkwave genre. I tried to ask questions which would give a firmer grasp of his process and motivations in creating this monumental and personal offering. The album just became available on vinyl and is a must have for any serious collector who values this style. Link just below
Our review of the album 🙂
(Ken) Pete this latest album “Damage” touched on so many emotions for so many people. What did this title mean and what were you trying to capture in these songs that related to it?
(Pete) Firstly thanks so much for the kind words and for the opportunity to talk about it. “Damage” was written during an exceptionally difficult time for me and there were a lot of dark thoughts and emotions that influenced both my music and my song writing in the nine months that it took to produce the album. “Damage” not only reflected my state of mind but it became a thread that ran through all the tracks – whatever happened I wanted to try and create something with a sense of purpose. Music has become so disposable and ubiquitous that I just wanted to try and make something that had some form of substance, meaning and hopefully resonance.
(Ken) You did such a unique concept of writing these songs but bringing in a who’s who of incredible musicians and singers to bring your words and songs to life. That couldn’t have been easy. How did you come up with this concept and what was your biggest challenge to overcome?
(Pete) I’ve always seen myself as a producer first so working with other artists, especially vocalists, is something that I love to do. I’d been doing a set of remixes and had just started writing material when Pedro from Unknown Pleasures Records approached me asking if I intended to do an album and if so he would be interested in considering it for his label. So that gave me something positive to work towards, of course there was no guarantee that a) it would be good and b) that anyone would like it. At that time UPR were going to only do 100 releases in their catalog so I knew if Damage was to be considered it needed to be special and I wanted to help mark the history of the label in some way. I had a “hit list” of artists that I wanted to work with so I began writing with those people in mind. The mistake I made was writing the song first then approaching the artist rather than gauging interest levels first then going down the writing process. It also takes a lot of time to slot into other people’s schedules too so it can easily become a logistical nightmare. I’m taking a different approach with the follow up…
(Ken) I feel like post punk/darkwave music is going through an incredible Renaissance right now, as someone who has made music in this scene a long time what has changed for you the last few years? What excites you about the future?
(Pete) Yes, there is a lot of chat about renaissance and revival and I think that is a good thing – “a rising tide lifts all boats” as they say. The scene is definitely broader now and influences and genres tend to blur at the edges and that is really exciting. I read recently that we were in the 4th or even 5th wave of post-punk now but that doesn’t mean it’s all good. I tend to gravitate towards the timeless and the innovative and that’s what I look and hope for in music. I’m always excited to hear outstanding new music so I’m forever optimistic that something very special is just around the corner
(Ken) I watched Damage shoot to the top of so many top albums on 2018 lists, including Sound and Shadows. Did that surprise you? What is the ideal future for Kill Shelter?
(Pete) To say I was surprised would definitely be an understatement – yeah, I’ve really been blown away by the response. For an album that was released so late in the year (November 26th) I never thought anyone would care let alone put it on their “best of” lists. I’m very grateful to everyone who has supported the album including Sounds and Shadows of course.
The ideal future for Kill Shelter would be continued interest and support and the chance to release another album (or two) that were equally as surprising as the first. That would be a good start.
(Ken) You worked with so many incredible artists I love on this album. Pedro Code, Ashe Ruppe, Nate Jespersen, Karl Morton Dahl, Hante, many more. If you could bring in any vocalist living or dead to do a song with who would it be?
(Pete) I’m hopeful that the next set of Kill Shelter releases partially answers that question for you. There are so many extremely talented vocalists in and out of the genre it would be difficult to name just one. David Sylvian is still one of may favorite vocalists of all time.
(Ken) These songs have such a person feel, are they about your life? Or more of a narrative about what you are seeing in the human condition? If the first what did you draw on to create them?
(Pete) There are people who write from experience and there are people who write imagined experiences. On Damage the material I wrote draws directly from very personal experiences and emotions. I’ve always found writing music cathartic in that way – even when I was growing up I buried myself in writing as a way to deal with my feelings.
(Ken) It’s so hard for me to choose a favorite track on this record, but In Decay hit a special chord for me. Ashe has told me these are your words he sang. Tell me about the background of this song, what were you feeling in Decay?
(Pete) I’m really glad you called that particular track out although it’s an incredibly personal track to me. Without being too maudlin about it, “In Decay” was written about the death of my mother. I didn’t tell Ashe originally what the real meaning was as I thought it was unfair to put him under that amount of pressure. He sang it just the way I’d imagined it though so I’ll be forever grateful to him for that. The line “at the end of forever – I come undone” just about sums it up.
(Ken) This was a complete album and concept, but music is changing. Is there still a place in the modern scene for 10+ song concepts or is the future, singles and internet hits?
(Pete) Listening behavior has changed dramatically. Anonymous single tracks appearing on semi-curated playlists and individual tracks being recommended by algorithms based on listener preference has definitely changed the way we consume music. “Damage” was written as an album and you can hear that when you listen to it – it’s supposed to be a journey. But the individual nature of the contributing artists makes each track unique and therefore able to stand on its own too. Is there a place for a 10+ song concept album? Probably not, but who wants to be the same as everyone else. I really hope that people will discover the album and put the time aside to listen to it as a whole.
(Ken) If you could go on tour opening for any band currently in the scene who would it be and why?
(Pete) There’s a question. How close to the scene are Depeche Mode these days? I’m sure that would have a positive impact on how many people had heard of Kill Shelter. Gary Numan, She Past Away, The Sisters, The Soft Moon… you get the idea…
(Ken) If you could get in a Delorean and travel back in time to talk to 21 year old you, what would you tell that young man? Would he listen?
(Pete) He’d definitely listen to the advice it’s whether he’d have the self belief to act on it. I’d probably say “you are right to be uncompromising in your music. Enjoy listening to other people’s music and continue to be open minded but the best stuff isn’t about trying too hard, it’s about being natural whether it’s in-vogue or not. This journey is yours so stop thinking about what other people think. Above all else – don’t fuck up the only chance you have. And try to stop hating yourself if you can.”
Band: Sweat Boys
Album: Nervous Prayers
All songs written & performed by Benny Sweat except “Never Be You”, performed by Benny Sweat & Jerry Miller (guitar) & “Endlessly”, written by Dylan Thomas Lambert & Benny Sweat, performed by Benny Sweat & Nicklas Stenemo (guest vocals). Vocal Engineering, Mixing, Additional Production: DEATHDANCE. Mastering: Rob Robinson. Logo Design: Jim Marcus.
Sometimes I fall in love with an album because it is something really on the edge and sometimes because it feels familiar like an old friend you haven’t seen in several decades that showed up and filled you with feelings you had forgotten. The second was how it was for Sweat Boys. This is a beautiful synth driven welcoming EP full of tender hooks and very personal lyrics containing familiar themes. Relationships, longing, loss, acceptance. I kept coming back to one of the most important albums of my youth Yaz “Upstairs at Eric’s”. These songs are beautifully crafted and delivered with piercing emotion while the music is warm and comforting. Much of it is full of blood pumping dance beats and snapping snares.
Benny Sweat has a gorgeous voice that is clear and to the front. He doesn’t hide it behind a lot of effect and slush and the clarity of it really adds to the personal nature of the songs. For a 5 song EP it has a tremendous amount of range movement. You just don’t hear enough music in this genre in the modern era that takes the courageous stance of beautiful pop hooks without hiding behind layer after layer of production. It takes me back to sitting in a room with close friends and really sharing the feeling invoked by an album together. That stumbling youthful searching and awkward energy of finding a truth in each other. I found myself lost in nostalgia but at the same time enamored by the freshness of it because this just isn’t done anymore. I forgot how much I missed that feeling and that is what this album gives you.
I Don’t Love you – Here is that beautiful ringing energy and clarity of Erasure and Yaz. It cooks at a breakneck medium pace but still makes Benny’s vocals the star of the track. We have all felt this moment of realization and it is an intense feeling but the simple beauty of the music keeps the heady concept so light and bright.
You’re Gone – This is a darker tone and beautifully transitioned. Giving it more of a early INXS or Pet Shop Boys feel. The isolated keyboard line here rings out so beautifully and really carries the melody. This is a dance around my living room in my underwear throwing my hands in the air and just feeling a moment.
Endlessly (featuring: Nicklas Stenemo of Kite) – What a gorgeous ballad breakdown that has a soulful Madonna/Cindi Lauper feel. The back and forth discussion like vocal lines are extremely powerful. “lying awake I can’t sleep but still I’m dreaming” It’s mesmerizing and so real. A glimpse into a personal discussion and a stirred emotion.
Overall this was a beautiful and touching album that leaves you feeling someone shared a piece of life with you. It has true blood and soul in it. Maybe dance music has forgotten how to infuse this kind of heart felt power but Sweat Boys are bring that back and I am here for this moment. Get this in your collection right away.
Label: Negative Gain
Vocals/Music: Aedra Oh
So as I listen to so much new music in the “Goth/Industrial/Post Punk” genre I hear a re-occurring trend to reach back to the sacred 80’s and revamp our holy dark forbears with a new twist. I think what immediately struck me in this album was rather than reaching back, FIRES has reached across the isle and pulled inspiration from other genre’s not typically heard in this scene and fired them like a laser through the leans of dark electronic music. Some electronic dance beats, emo, pop punk, and indie prog simmered down into a searing beam of light and fired through the ultraviolet fury of Aedra’s sorrow. The result is positively electric.
This record is such a contrast to the driving and precise darkness currently in vogue. Instead of cold and introspective it is a burning rage of passion and integrity engulfing you without pretense. Aedra was experiencing a physical and emotional awakening during these songs and that message strides forward courageously while being abstract and textural. This is a beautiful woman on a hill holding a fire hose attached to to a gasoline truck spewing forth blazing brilliance to incinerate every ignorant shadow around her. I find it almost more impressive that this chaotic sound weapon is maintained within such clear production and tight hooks of pop glory.
Show Me Life – Crackling energy is crackling off these guitar sounds. Overlapping and building. Her Vocals are a pleading shout to her inner self. It’s big drums and savage attack but it also breaks down in a focused introspection. These songs feel so much like a conversation but not one held polite in company. One shouted with emotion to a true friend in a moment of emergence.
Revive- Give me these glorious drum beats. The wave after wave bleeding synths. Then give me Aedra chanting out boot stomping cadence with her voice. ” Say my name, remember” This song makes me want to destroy a 50s diner with a sledge hammer on fire and scream.
Ever- If this album was all piss and vinegar it couldn’t have taken me so far. However “Ever” is a beautiful Cocateau Twins shoegaze dream slush ballad that wraps you like a blanket after the assault of the first few songs. It’s a memorizing comfort and an acknowledgement of Aedra’s range and the delicate beauty of her voice. The driving Martin Hannett Joshua Tree style bass line is the perfect counterpoint to the elegant beauty of this song.
This album is an experience. It’s personal, and is very unique in it’s delivery. I must have listened to it 20 times in different places and times before writing this (It actually released back on May 10th) but Negative Gain has done it again and stepped out of the comfort zone to support an artist who laid bare her soul in a fiery red aura. You need this.
Band: Black Nail Cabaret
Label : Dichronaut Records
Members: Emese Arvai-Illes // vocals
Krisztian Arvai // keys, production
Mixed and mastered by Krisztian Arvai
Album art: Emese Arvai-Illes
Album art design and editing: Stapel Design
Prepare yourselves for one of Ken’s absolutely gushing reviews. Black Nail Cabaret is so far up my alley as it is a cooler than jagged steel icicles. Featuring a singer with a strong message and pithy lyrics. Unique blending of styles executed with perfect precision, and sensually delicious dance beats that make your heart go thump. I got lost in this album over the weekend and the video for Bete Noire is so glowing razor hot it made me want to run away and join the revolution. Emese Arvai-Illes has the kind of effortless power in her voice that put me in mind of the passion and snark of Siouxsie meeting the class and elegance of Annie Lennox. Listening to her sing in a wide range of styles without any noticeable effect on her voice is like seeing a master fencer in the Olympics snap through forms and striking your eardrums with effect in a way you cannot parry.
Lets talk music because BNC are not a pop star vocalist carrying the work. These songs are beautiful and diverse. Styles ranging from sullen ballads that have hints of a timeless smokey jazz underground , dance club anthems, and advent-garde textural builders. The scope is what sets this timeless work apart . Krisztian Arvai is a synth wizard crafting worlds of dance magic pulling beats and hooks like a puppeteer with strings. Emese would not need much to prop her diamond sharp voice but the music is a beautiful throne for her to ring out from. I think one of the other beautiful aspects is they really know where their strength lies, the focus does not go beyond the sounds they need to create the image. No extra parts for the sake of complexity. Which helps lend a focus to the words and music in a punk rock revolutionary edge. Ok, I’ll try to pick a few tracks but this is a whole album to hear in one go record.
Bete Noire – Ok this is how I first found them and this song is just a total anthem. The vocals are defiant and precise. The Line “I think I want to kill you but I believe in peace bitch” seems a tad tongue and cheek when written out but the delivery is done with passion and reverence. The beats and keys are thundering and make your feet stomp in rhythm. I want to march to the hills and eat the rich with this jam on.
Verge on the Creepy – For starters what an awesome song title. This song really reminded me of the beautiful elegance of an 80s Eurythmics classic pop song. It has such dark blending tone though. It’s full of longing and emotion. It’s one of those pop songs that transcends too deeply to be pop.
90S – Ok this might not be one of the darkest deepest tracks on this album, but it’s just fun. It’s such a different sound for Emese. Krisztian brightens the tone in these water fall keyboards. I can’t help but get lost in the nostalgia of a decade when I was the same age. It captures a moment in time.
Overall this album is exactly what I needed in this moment. It was gorgeous, and nuanced. It ran me through a range of emotions and was just one of those records so accessible and easy to fall in love with. This is both a dance party in your living room at 3am, and a rainy day laying on the couch with a cat and a cup of tea at the same time. So rare and glorious. Get this in your collection right away.
So since we have started doing interviews with bands to add another layer of content to Sound and Shadows it got me thinking about all the other pieces that go into creating a vibrant and exciting music scene. Djs, promoters, and record labels. At the moment the world of music is changing to a focus on global reach and grass roots distribution. No one is doing more to build a base and put out great music for Post Punk/Dark wave/ Cold wave/ Shoegaze genre than Frankfurt Germany based label Cold Transmission Music. Run by Andreas and Suzy Herrmann with Yvonne Kiel as graphic designer, this label is on the forefront of the multimedia movement happening in dark music. They aren’t just a record company, they are music lovers that are looking to lift all ships and find exciting new ways to share the music they love with the world. They have made the idea of musical distribution into a family with a caring touch to foster the people on their label as much as putting out albums and compilations. The Cold Transmission playlists have come to set a standard for support of what is cutting edge. I had the opportunity of getting to know the people behind Cold Transmission a little better and want to share that experience with our readers.
Bands currently on Cold Transmission Music: Elz and the Cult, White Mansion, Push Button Press, Carlo Onda, Rosi, Monographic, La Mécanique, Reconverb, S Y Z Y G Y X, Silent Runners, The Blue Beard’s Castle, Icy Men , Palais Ideal, Bedless Bones, Closed Mouth.
We have reviewed some of these bands and the more I hear from them the more I like, I can’t wait to continue working my way through their catalog.
(Ken) When did you start the label and what was your goal starting out with Cold Transmission?
(CT) In 2017 Cold Transmission began as a Mixcloud show because we had the burning desire to make more people aware of the new music and bands that were coming up in our scene. The shows were very well received on Mixcloud and the number of followers grew steadily so we created the name „Cold Transmission“ and launched the Facebook page. The next idea was to create a digital compilation, so our ZEITGEIST series was born. Although Andreas always thought about starting a label from the beginning, it was a spontaneous idea that evolved over time, a next logical step. We are still growing into it, learning new things every day about what it takes to be a label and it makes us very happy to support up-and-coming bands and help them grow. So our greatest respect goes out to all other independent labels that are doing this for many years now with enthusiasm and passion. It’s a lot of work especially when doing this next to your normal jobs. The music is our true satisfaction.
(Ken) I feel like goth music has always been a genre focused on the past, in the last couple years this style of music is seeing a huge resurgence with fresh new talent in unprecedented levels since the 80s/90s. What do you think is leading this? What do you see as Cold Transmissions role?
(CT) Yes, we have the same feeling about the scene. You can hardly find a band that is not referencing one of the 80s bands like Joy Division etc. Even our name is inspired by a Joy Division song! Those are all icons we really love but time doesn’t stand still and music is developing further with fresh impulses, techniques and sounds combined with the classic Post-Punk influences. Jason Corbett of ACTORS once called it Post-Punk 2.0 which is an apt description. When you go to parties or festivals a lot such as we have since the 80s we had the feeling of hearing the same music all the time in the last 10 years. We talked to many people from all over the world who had the same experience. Maybe people had gotten a bit fed up with this. We created Cold Transmission to show people from the scene what great new music is out there and what great new bands are surfacing from all parts of the world – through our Mixcloud shows, social media accounts and our label. We’re going to concerts and festivals, sometimes hosting them ourselves. We did a Cold Transmission party, re-invested the money we earned with it to buy new music to support the bands. We also see Cold Transmission not just as a label but as a platform to connect bands and supporters from all over the world. There is a great community of artists, labels, blogs, radio stations, growing up around us and we’re proud to be part of it and support it with all our energy. There also have been great collaborations between the bands already doing remixes of each others songs which is great to see. We created our t-shirts and sent them to supporters, bands and friends around the globe – for us it’s a statement of being part of a wonderful and growing community in our scene.
(Ken)You had a lot of success in 2018, I have watched your support base grow. What are you excited for on the horizon in 2019? What new albums are you looking to release this year?
(CT) In 2019 we’re looking forward to growing our label further – we will release the new albums by La Mécanique, White Mansion, The Blue Beard’s Castle and many more in the future. (Since this interview they had a very exciting release from Palais Ideal currently available) Also we will release four new ZEITGEIST compilations this year. And of course there will be our first little Cold Transmission Festival in Cologne, Germany in July. Still there is no 5-years-plan or anything for Cold Transmission. We love to see things develop organically – we have amazing friends around who are supporting us in so many ways, bands that became friends, interesting people that we are discussing partnerships with to allow us all new opportunities. We have hundreds of ideas in our minds and the day only has 24 hours so let’s see what happens!
(Ken) Recently I interviewed Jim Walker of Push Button Press (amazing new album) and Ashe Ruppe of Delphine Coma. Both are American bands that spoke of how happy they are signing with European labels. What do you think is drawing American bands to think of European labels for the dark music scene?
(CT) Since we are very new to that business we don’t really know about the major differences between European and American labels yet to be honest. We as Cold Transmission try to be as professional and committed as we can when signing bands to our label – a typical German attitude maybe. We are still a small label and the personal contact is very important to us and also to our bands. We want them to feel like they are part of a little family that believes in them and motivates them. A way of working that is maybe difficult when you are a bigger label with many bands. The scene in Europe is very old, still vibrant and much more concentrated simply because of the size of the continent compared to America. Maybe that is also a reason why so many bands are looking to Europe and has nothing to do with the differences between European and American labels in particular.
(Ken) What inspired you to become a part of this music scene? Was there a band in particular that let you know this was your chosen path in life?
(CT) We have to distinguish here between us due to our age difference of nearly ten years. Andreas was more into electronic music since 1980 starting with bands like Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Gary Numan, Cabaret Voltaire etc. In 1986 he was really convinced to be part of the scene through bands like Click Click, The Klinik, Skinny Puppy and Front 242. Suzy was more into guitar music, and a real 90s Dark Wave girl – so was Yvonne. Starting with Depeche Mode, The Smiths and Sisters of Mercy in the late 80’s her first „dark love“ was Deine Lakaien in the early 90’s
(Ken) Talk to me about the Post Punk/Darkwave scene in Germany, what is it like today and how has it changed in the last 20 years?
(CT) The scene was always great in Germany from our point of view. You have so many huge festivals, concerts and parties in nearly every part of Germany. In particular the Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig that has become the largest Gothic festivals in the world. As said before, from a music standpoint you had the feeling that nothing really changed in the last 20 years. Sure there were new bands surfacing all the time but not many people seemed to be really interested. Especially in the last few years there are new artists emerging and we get the feeling that more people are now open to finding new music. There are more small festivals coming up in Germany next to the big ones that give you a more traditional feeling. The Wave Gotik Treffen took notice of a lot of those bands and presented many of the newer acts in 2018. This is a trend we really hope to see continue.
(Ken) Along with putting out music you got your start in creating playlists and sharing music for bands in the genre. You even had Amaranth on a few, so thank you for that. What lead you to this idea and what role do you think it will play in the future of music?
(CT) The Mixcloud shows were the starting point of Cold Transmission. Andreas is a passionate music collector and spends a lot of time searching for interesting new music on the internet. The desire behind the playlists was to make people aware of that new music – Hey guys, listen, there is more to our scene than our beloved classics! A sort of modern mixtapes we did in the 80’s. Many people don’t have the time anymore to spend hours searching for music on the internet or in record stores – they have their music players and mobile phones, listening to playlists on Spotify or other platforms. This form of listening to music will continue to play an important role in the future.
(Ken) You have a festival in Cologne this July featuring some amazing acts. I’m beyond excited that Rachel and I will be going to witness it. Tell me about it, who will be there, and what are you celebrating?
(CT) The festival will be our first Cold Transmission festival. We are celebrating Andreas’s 50th birthday bash. We chose the Blue Shell in Cologne since we have very strong connections to that club and also close friends in Cologne since Suzy lived there for 20 years. The club has a storied history going back to the 80’s so they are quite experienced and passionate. Some really great bands which we also call our friends are playing live that night: Crying Vessel, IAMTHESHADOW, featuring members of Antipole, Joy/Disaster and Silent Runners. The after show party is hosted by our close friends of Disorder Cologne (Holger and Chantal) who have been successfully running that party for nearly 10 years now. We are also very proud and overjoyed to have a special DJ set by Pete Burns and Christian Schaefer of Rule of Three. A music blog that inspired us from the beginning. Pete recently garnered critical acclaim with his project Kill Shelter! Pete has also became very important to us personally at Cold Transmission through his friendship and guidance from our beginning. We have the feeling that this is not only a festival but also a way of connecting people with a common love of darkwave/postpunk music. People from all over the world are planning to come to Cologne to meet with bands and friends. For example Jim Walker from Push Button Press traveling all the way from Florida. It will be a great event and we are really looking forward to that! Glad that Rachel and you will also be part of it. Let’s make this a night to remember!
(Ken) What do you look for in a potential band to sign to Cold Transmission?
(CT) Since we like to call our label our “Cold Transmission family” We are currently signing bands whose music we really like and believe in. People that are as passionate with their music as we are. We have close contacts to all bands signed to our label and support them in any way we can in a variety of ways. Every success the bands have makes us very happy and proud. We want to grow up together with our bands so it’s symbiotic in a sense. We also aim for long-term partnerships to achieve that. Of course we also want to have a good mixture of different music styles from different countries on our label especially in the Post-Punk and Coldwave genre. In nearly every country of the world you can find bands and artists from our scene and we are happy to have some of them on our label to show the variety that is out there.
(Ken) If you could travel back in time and see any show ever in recorded history, what would it be and why?
(CT) That would be shows of today’s Post-Punks icons like Joy Division in the late 70’s and early 80’s. To see such a show in a small club with around 20 people, listening to the music and having the feeling that something great is happening. That would have been awesome.
Since this was our first interview with someone who wasn’t a band I thought it was important to share some perspective of some of the people who surround Cold Transmission. Musicians, artists, producers about what this label means to them. Here are some of those thoughts.
Jim Walker (Push Button Press) “I will let a big secret about the label out of the bag, Suzy is the secret special sauce that makes everything fall into place.”
(SYZYGYX) “Suzy’s and Andy’s passion for music shows in the way they treat their artists, we’ve been lucky to work with such amazing people and label, and look forward to continue working with them. They know the scene, they’re knowledgeable on how to target the audience and promote! Love Cold Transmission”
Pedro Code (IAMTHESHADOW) “They are great enthusiasts of the dark Scene, wonderfull people and my friends. I knew them long before they started Cold Transmission, in WGT, Leipzig, 2017 but now its another level. They are growing and its a great thing for the dark scene in Europe hey are very passionate about the music being made. Its great for all the bands what they are doing, They once told me they had the idea of Cold Transmission, after we meet in WGT, 2017. :)”
Silent Runners “Like many people in the scene we met Andy and Suzy online, enthusiastically spreading our music on forums and groups within the scene. From the start they were the greatest supporters a band can hope for! They really have a personal love for music and the scene and want to spread it so other people can enjoy it as well. Since we met personally on WGT2018 we’ve been in touch weekly. Seems only logical that we recently took the next step and joined their great label family as band. We hope to do great stuff together in the future.”
Monographic “Cold Transmission is not a “normal ” record label! For us, its more a collaboration between friends for the most important thing… music!!! They’re doing a lot for new bands and for the underground scene. You can feel, its not about the money compared to other labels, its more about spreading the love … Suzy and Andreas are doing everything, for the bands to keep moving forward and you can see they are doing it right. We hope to be part of it in the many years to come and we look forward to the bright future of their label”
Pete Burns (Kill Shelter) “Andy and Suzy have been great supporters of both Rule of Three (which I run with my partner in crime Christian Schaefer) and also my personal Kill Shelter project so I can’t thank them enough for that really. They are extremely passionate, kind and energetic people and are always incredibly positive – you need unbridled enthusiasm and optimism to work in this industry and they have that in spades. I’ve been lucky enough to help them with engineering and mastering of some of their releases and that’s just been an absolute joy. I’m hoping we’ll do more of that in 2019. I’ll be heading to Germany in July for the Cold Transmission Festival & Disorder Party where Christian and I will be doing a special audio/visual DJ set and we have some surprises lined up for that. It will be an honor to be part of that event and I really hope they have a magical time – they deserve it.”
Label: Metropolis Records | www.metropolis-records.com
All tracks written, recorded and produced by Hélène de Thoury
The new album Fierce by by Paris France based Helene de Thoury is a bold sensory attack on modern darkwave sensibility. It attacks the concept of pop music in its effortless ability to face concepts and sounds that feel comfortable and easy to accept. It attacks a dark and artistic scene with ear haunting melodies and hook heavy rhythms that appeal to the senses. This album walks a razors edge between counter culture revolution and dance hall destruction. A true dichotomy in every brilliant track that forces the listener to question what is the edge of artistic expression and do I give a shit because this song is straight toe tapping fire. These songs are haughty, they are Paris in an unnamed nightclub at 3am. They are unfiltered cigarettes and dark lit rooms. The songs are full of sex appeal and understated intention. When trying to describe these flowing keyboard lines and subtle drum beats I keep coming back to the word effortless. The details of drum fills, swells, texture are all there in perfect precision. But it has that feeling that is so illusive and hard to capture of trying to sound cutting edge cool without all this fore thought. Like you just showed up and it happened. That is the essence of Hante.
The vocals and Lyrics embody this concept most of all. Helene never reaches, never uses anger or intensity to portray her emotions in these songs. She floats like a phantom in a flowing black dress smoke rolling behind her and she tell the story of strength and heartbreak in these soundscapes and city tales. These are songs I found myself lost in. Shadow puppets that surrounded me and captured me. I have seldom heard an album where the vocals and music found such perfect balance and never overpowered each other. This is a record to become lost in. A labyrinth of sound and mirage.
Are there familiar elements here, sure, it has a giant audio wave tidal wave of Cocteau Twins, a grinding sultry darkness of Anne Lennox. Yet the beats and music have a edge, a sharp razor bite that speaks to the modern sensibility that subtlety is not enough to define her. This is beauty that must be heard and viewed from a distance from fear of steeping to close to the fire.
Waiting for a Hurricane – Driving gentle waves of keyboard and dance hall beat. Builds you in an ebb and flow. Helene’s voice is a whisper and a promise. The chorus is a angelic choir of pop majesty. These drum beats are driving and haunting. Like a lost ghost with a eternal message. I hear you.
No Tenderness – This song features Aetervader’s majestic and heartfelt vocal lines. I found myself in love with the contrast and unyielding echos. It gave such an important change of pace of urgency and effort from Helene’s delicate and gentle emotions. When you hear an artist of this caliber you have to ask how would one add to this? Aetervader found a way without detracting from her glory.
Never Over– A dissonant creeping melody. I loved this song for pulling back everything else and giving the purity of Helene’s vocals a chance to shine in an echo chamber. The clarity and dynamics of the keyboard line made this track stand out. When the drums dropped around 1:47 the song took on a fullness and depth that really made it resonate to me. To feel like rain bouncing off streets on a twilight night.
Overall this album is an album that feels like a painting. An image captured in time and full of stirring emotion. I had never heard Hante’s previous albums and didn’t expect to become so enamored but here I found myself. It’s gorgeous, tragic, striking, it makes you feel something. Something fast, and deep. It is efficient, modern, and grabs you in its arms and rocks you to a place you can both feel gently or dive into. Take this journey. Feel this power.
Label: Negative Gain Productions
Members: Forrest LeMaire
I think I have been putting this review off for a while out of intimidation. I have listened to this album A Ton. It has been my album to put on the headphones when walking into work to psyche myself up to face the day and find my swagger for the last several months. Austin Texas underground electronic star Forrest LeMarie has outdone themselves with such a bold and challenging offering of fiercely laced dance beats and emotionally dangerous themes. I first heard Mr.Kitty in a tragic way, I saw a post by another musician about how his tour van was robbed on the road. I gave a small donation because what a horrible thing to do to a touring artists. I remember being blown away and touched by the level of support and outpouring from other bands in the scene. I think that always says a lot about an artist by who will stand up for them. What is the name they have built and Forrest is truly beloved. Artists don’t give away that level of respect lightly. Then this record dropped in March 2019 and had 30 tracks? 30 tracks, who does that in the modern era…no one. What is more, it isn’t filler, it isn’t fluff. Every song is a story full of crystal clear production, heart wrenching vocals, and powerful themes.
In my formative years I was very flamboyant and it made me a target. Bands like The Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, who took beautiful pop hooks, harmony, and style and mixed it with an undertone of very powerful dark themes that contrasted the prism of color and joy in the music meant so much to me. That’s what this album stirred for me, that fierce defiance and truth of making something fun and beautiful of the fear and pain of feeling outside.
I think what is even more impressive about this record beyond the sheer scope of it is the precision and calculation of every song. Nothing is wasted here. Every tempo change, every keyboard sound, every line of poetry seems to have a place and purpose. As a listener it’s so captivating. As a song writer it is hard not to player hate and think, good gods how did you do this for 30 tracks. It’s truly a staggering feat when you think about it.
Ok, here comes the hard part. How does one choose stand out tracks when you have 30 worth while songs? Sitting here at 12:30 am on a Wed I don’t have a good answer to that question. However if Forrest had the focus of mind to create this amazing piece of work I suppose I can suck it up and narrow down 3 tracks I love the most.
Disconnected Lover – What a beautiful anthem chant dance room burner of a song. “It’s not up to you, it’s up to me, I’ll tell you how to set me free” The distant echo vocal sound creates this awesome displacement. The dance beat burns, it lives inside your head and you can’t shake it free.
Trauma – Oh the creeping build of this song. It’s so accessible but delivered in such an upbeat friendly tone it truly makes me not feel alone whenever I hear it. “With all my rage I’m going to take you down. To which you beg and plead before i put you in the ground. Few songs make me feel so connected in isolation, to capture that feeling in a genuine way is a truly monumental achievement.
Immurement– This album is so dynamic and full of range. It would be impossible to only focus on the upbeat dance gems. This is a full and crushing song hitting you with creeping walls of sound closer to Bach than to dance music. A slow exposed attack of sound and emotion. Striking and retreating. It’s a different story, a different journey and that is the beauty of this album.
Look if you haven’t gotten the picture yet, this is an album you need. It’s vast, courageous, but also full of fun and hope. It’s one of those records I keep coming back to when i don’t know where else to go. Which is one of the highest compliments I can think to give for a person who listens to as much new music as me.
Artist: Curse Mackey
Label: Negative Gain
Other Affiliations: Pigface, Evil Mothers, Amorous, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Grim Faeries, SPASM
So someone much smarter and a better writer than me once told me “If you want to be a better writer, read books written by great writers” I feel like this is advice Curse Mackey has taken to heart. Because here we have an album of a very literary quality with an engineers craft. As I listened to it again and again I kept finding myself drawn to the question, what was he reading when he wrote this?
Going to try a slightly different format for this review because of the artists pedigree. I mean here is a guy David J calls to fill in for Peter Murphy when he is tired. An artist who is appreciated and respected at the highest levels of industrial music. It’s for good reason. He is a wizard of craft bending the ultraviolet light of electronic sounds into a laser focus. This is his first solo offering and is a chance to tell his story strictly from his own perspective.
Right out of the gate the first song “Submerged“ is a subtle and gripping offering. Where the chains slip around behind you and lock in place before you know you are captured. Satirical blasphemous religious allegory in the style of William Blake hints at the greater heresy to come later without going over the top. I was extremely impressed with the rising and falling dynamics to create this sense of slowly sinking beneath the water.
“O’Blasphemy” This is a dance floor burner for the ages. The imagery is sexually charged and delivered in a boot stomp cadence. I love the background keyboard lifts, so much motion feels like dancing in an earthquake. The vocals are razor slices tearing you to shreds while they lull you into acceptance. This sounds like post coital breathing mixed with rebellion.
“Somewhat Processed” This is a Dante’s Inferno quest of the River Styx touring and longing for something lost. “Just part of the show for our bloodstained soul” A need to feel. The triplet snare snap to create that off kilter hurky jerky motion while the dangerous silky vocal is your Charon poling you down the river.
“Concubinary” Sometimes a song strikes me by what i picture myself doing while listening to it. This is a great city-scape street walking burner that jumps on the back of Mackey’s vocals and lets the lyrics carry it across the finish line. That wild and untamed part of the city where the rules don’t apply.
“ Secrets of the Resurrection” Such a delicious pop hook served up in classic ritual form. The song carefully and strategically assembles all the parts until you see the face of the monster. The chorus from Nat King Cole re-imagined in this wicked anthem of hope and clashing counter culture. Beautiful live wire tension shakes your core.
“Dangerous Sleeper” I love this breakdown creep with throwback samples reminiscent of Wax Trax or Evil Mothers days. Not sure where they came from Mackey is known for finding or creating samples from his everyday experience, but i am moved by the slow creeping doom and flowing rhymes. “He’s my arch angel made flesh, he takes the mark, upon his flesh”
This entire album has a cohesion and message that stands out in a current world of blips, clicks, and snippets as a classical work with the quality of literature and study. It really spoke to me for the experience and craft that was the culmination of a career in art and learning leading to this moment. This is a must own album for anyone who values the genre of Industrial Dance Music.
Band: Palais Ideal
Album: No Signal
Label: Dark Vinyl Records – Now on Cold Transmission Records
JOHN EDWARDS: VOCALS, GUITARS, SYNTHESIZERS, PROGRAMMING
RICHARD VAN KRUYSDIJK: BASS, SYNTHESIZERS, BACKING VOCALS, BARITONE GUITAR, PROGRAMMING
Produced, Mixed and Mastered by: Uwe Teichert At Electropolis
Palais Ideal means the Ideal Palace. A concept of building a home or place from the things you find in everyday life. This is an album that achieves something I think is so lost in the modern music scene. Each song is so unique in it’s sound and style. All the ideas tie together but the songs themselves have such an individual sound and aesthetic. This is a intellectual thinking album that has a calculated scientific arc. The songs are poppy and engaging but the words behind each song are a challenge and inspiration. This band from Netherlands attacks themes of politics and technology in the modern world. Lofty ideas that go beyond the standard party themes you could expect from club beats and hook melodies. I found myself lost and found following this story laid out about the hardship and pitfalls which face the modern person. I think the true genius on display was how easy it was to set aside these thoughts and get lost in how fun and energetic the songs sounded.
John Edwards vocals are a master class in range and engagement. From driving chants, beautiful croons, spirited edge, along with playful tongue and cheek. The theme and sound changes within each song and from one to the next. The synths are masterfully sculpted to create a rising falling tide of emotion. Van Kruysdijk’s guitars and bass lines are a driving cacophony of sound and style that build an express train for Edward’s vocals to ride upon. I hear New Order, Joy Division, Information Society, Pet Shop Boys, Japan. All are blending together but the fusion creates something unique that finds it’s own path. From a technical standpoint the music is as precise as the lyrics. No sound is wasted or lost. This is purposeful production that has a journey and a destination. I love when a true professional enhances their vision with craft and that is what Palais Ideal has achieved. I listened to this album 4 times before attempting to review it and I feel like I am just scratching the surface.
trouble choosing standout tracks because the flavor is so different
with each but here goes
Crossfade/Dissolve – Here is that beautiful New Order chanting anthem sound right off the bat. It’s catchy, it’s evolved, the lyrics are delivered with just enough sharp edges to enhance the emotion while having this beautiful calculation of an architect building a better world. I played this track 7 times and regretted none of them.
Deity – Beautiful sped up cut time drums. Textural open voice lyrics delivered with a driving cadence. Again this song has such a science fiction story delivered with a build that opens up with a wonderful guitar line. This is the soundtrack of a future I fear that strikes a logical chord.
A Black Noise – This one gets dark, really dark. A droning Bauhaus drum beat with sinister guitar riffs. Edwards drops his voice to the low register to paint a frightening picture of fear and loss. “Every secret sight and sound, where are they now. A million voices underground, where did they go.” This bassline has a Sisters of Mercy Floodland drive. It’s a fierce and frightening emotion that captures and grasps.
Overall this album is just well done. The highs are high the lows are low. It’s an album you can dance in the club to but take home and really listen for the deeper meaning. I found myself falling into it like a pit that had no bottom. What an experience, what a record. You need this, if you are up for the challenge.
After spending a lot of time with the album I got the chance to talk with John and Richard a bit about what went into the construction and vision of the record. As well as get to know the artists who created it.
(Ken) – I did a bit of research about your name Palais Ideal and found there was a lot more to it then I originally suspected. Why did you choose it and what did it mean to you?
(Palais Ideal) – The Palais Ideal – “Ideal Palace” in French – is a strange and eccentric 19thcentury building that was created by Ferdinand Fernando Cheval, a postman from Southeastern France. He had no formal training as an architect, but collected stones while he delivered letters and built his very odd palace. A perfect metaphor for the desire to create something purely because it ought to be created – which is the foundation of all great art! We love austerity and starkness, but are also heavily into romanticism and bizarre ideas – like building your own private palace!
(Ken) – You have plenty of experience which I feel brought richness and depth to the album. Tell me what you have coming out down the road and what led into it?
(John) – Palais Ideal has only been around for two years, but Richard and I formed our very first band together ages ago, playing a mix of prog rock and goth. Over the years, I’ve been in bands performing everything from latin music to technical death metal. The fact that we both play different instruments and have experience arranging, recording and producing has also helped us to get where we wanted to be. The next big thing for us is the upcoming release of our second album, on which we’ve brought together a wider range of influences than before – from Low-era Bowie and classical music to funk pop and krautrock. We kept pushing each other in interesting new directions and wanted to see how much we could expand, while still staying more or less within the post-punk and new wave genres.
(Richard) – I have been exploring many different musical styles, albeit all of the darker, melancholic variety. Early new wave and post-punk are my roots, and to create something that references this musical era feels very natural to me. We are trying to keep our musical direction and style very clear, and at the same time looking for ways to find our personal ‘signature’ within the genre. A very interesting journey!
(Ken) – Music is usually not all glitz and glamour. You need to pick moments to fuel you into the next. What is the moment you are most proud of in your career?
(John) – For me, touring in Germany with Clan of Xymox was a big occasion – if I’d have known that would happen when I was a teenager listening to their albums, my head would presumably have exploded. We toured the UK last year, which was another wonderful experience. Of course, working with the legendary John Fryer, who produced many of our favorite albums, has been incredible – he’s brought a whole new perspective and has been delightful to work with. We’ve had a lot of great reviews and met some wonderful people through our music, which is highly inspiring. In May, we’re releasing our new album at an event featuring some of our favorite bands – She Past Away, Selofan and Auger – and we’re looking forward to that!
(Richard) – I am fortunate to be able to say that there are so many moments that come to mind! For instance: watching Gitane Demone delivering spine-tingling vocals in the studio on a track by another band that I am involved in: Phallus Dei. To have co-written songs with heroes such as Graham Lewis (Wire), David J (Bauhaus), Winston Tong and Blaine L. Reininger (Tuxedomoon), Peter Christopherson (Coil), Edward Ka-Spel (Legendary Pink Dots) and Larboe (Swans). Also memorable is the tour I did with Daniel Johnston, for whom I arranged three songs for big band. A very special programme! As for Palais Ideal: There have already been so many highlights in our short existence! I’m proud of our videos, our releases, and especially our upcoming album.
(Ken) – So one of the things that enamored me with this record was its eclectic nature. Every song has it’s own flavor. Who was your inspiration and how did you make the styles fit together?
(John) – I’m a big prog rock fan, especially the early 1970s stuff, such as Pink Floyd, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson. On many of the albums from that period, each song would be clearly built around a specific concept, which could be a musical theme or lyric, yet all tracks would be tied together. It made sense to try this approach within a post-punk concept: creating a self-contained little world around the musical and lyrical concept of each song.
(Richard) – Before we started, we defined a very clear sound for our music: what kind of drum sounds, synths, bass and guitars we were going to use. The fact that there is a logical connection between these sound elements, allows us to go to the heart of each song without the album becoming incoherent. We are always looking for clarity in our musical ideas and arrangement. Every track should be a strong statement in itself.
(Ken) – So “Seen Missing” was a song that has been playing over and over on my phone all week. The lyrics has such a mystery of a secret message. Maybe it is the double entendre in the name 🙂 What was going on when you wrote this, tell me the secret?
(John) – Basically, it’s about the fact that, thanks to the internet, we currently have access to a huge amount of art, music, writing and more. We can access all of this at any time, from anywhere. Countless great ideas and creations that might have been forgotten forever are available to us. It’s important that we look back and remember all of the people that came before us, re-evaluate what they’ve created, and share our discoveries. A lot of our lyrics are a bit bleak, kind of techno-paranoia “Black Mirror” stuff, but technology can also have a huge positive influence on our lives.
(Ken) – To me seeing a great band live needs to be a different experience than hearing the record. Tell me what you do live that makes it different?
(John) – Personally, I’d rather see a band like Motorhead playing than watch some dude behind a laptop. We like to get carried away and focus on getting across as much energy as we can and involve the audience. It’s fun to goad each other on a bit on stage. One of the greatest gigs I’ve ever seen was The Fall, who were completely serious and totally entertaining at the same time. Why shouldn’t post-punk be fun?
(Richard) – Whereas in the studio one can zoom in on the details, on stage it’s about the right energy. A live performance is, first and foremost, about communication. To feel connected with the audience is a great sensation that can take you to great heights on stage. Most important thing is to be fully authentic and really go into the feeling of a song. We dive in head first into our shows and people feel that. A live show is about celebrating the moment. We have played quite a lot, hitting the stage just a few months after we started, and we have taken that experience back into the studio and into song writing.
(Ken) – We have talked about something happening lately in dark music. A Renaissance, what do you hear and what does it mean for you?
(John) – There are quite a few contemporary bands that are making music that is strongly inspired by the “golden age” of post-punk, new wave and goth, but with a contemporary spin and new energy. At the same time, a lot of the 80’s generation of musicians are reappearing, or still going strong. I think people are pretty sick of the generally pathetic, bland and whimsical nonsense that the music industry is forcing on them, and looking for something that dares to ask relevant questions and tackle difficult themes. There’s a kind of grassroots movement happening across different countries, with new labels, blogs and bands that are just ignoring the status quo. Something similar has been happening in the Synthwave scene, and it’s great to see how so many people have picked up on that.
(Ken) – If you could play with one band current or gone who would it be and why?
(John) – I think being on the same bill as Killing Joke would be pretty awesome. We have a lot of respect for them, musically, and also because they’ve been doing their own thing for decades. I’d also love to perform with Joy Division, The Sound or one of the Rozz Williams incarnations of Christian Death, although that’ll never happen for obvious reasons. If I could join someone else’s band for a day, it would be early Genesis or Van Der Graaf Generator 😉
(Ken) – This one is for the gear heads. What is one piece of equipment you couldn’t make your sound without?
(John) – I bought some late 90s USA-built PRS guitars last year and couldn’t do without them! My Roland Jazz Chorus 120 amp and my Juno and Oberheim synths are pretty inspirational, too. Although we use a lot of hardware and tube gear, we’re both big fans of the UAD hardware and software platforms. However, I like to think that we’d still sound like us if we were limited to a pair of banjos
(Richard) – My ’62 Fender Jazz bass is totally the sound that I love! As for synths: My Prophet 5 features in every song we make. The most beautiful synth for me.
(Ken) If you could use dark magic to span time and steal one dead musician from history to join your band, who would you summon forth?
(John) Bowie! We’d let him do anything he wanted to, obviously… Johann Sebastian Bach on keys would be quite good, too.
Band: Kill Shelter
Lable: Unknown Pleasures records
Members: Peter Burns
tracks mastered by Eric
Van Wonterghem (Prodam studio/Berlin)
This is an album I can’t stop playing. Edinburgh based Pete Burns has found such a fresh take in a saturated post punk world. He has created such an eclectic mixture of styles both old and new. His beats and production are crisp and haunted. It has a drive and motion that changes drastically from one track to the next which gives the listener such a feeling of taking a journey. It twists and winds through the emotional turmoil of our modern psyche. Part of the effect is achieved by the all star list of guest musicians and singers that he has convinced to come together for this epic undertaking. Some of my favorites are here so hold onto your hat while I do a bit of fan boying at this lineup: Edwin Van der Velde of (Zwart Pozie) , Nathan Jespersen of (Ultra Violence) Karl Morton Dahl of (Antipole) Ashe Ruppe of (Delphine Coma), Helene de Thoury , Vadim Kristopher of (The Shyness of Strangers) , Mariusz /\VOID/\ Łuniewski of (UnderTheSkin) , Marc Dwyer (Buzz Kull) , Pedro Code (IAMTHESHADOW) Alice Sheridan (New Haunts) , Dillion Dominguez (KillJoi). The amount of talent and diversity here is a bit staggering. I think it really speaks to Burns abilities not just as an amazing song writer but as a manager to know exactly where to use all this talent to it’s best effect
Lets talk music a bit. These songs have a driving ferocity that is led on by these Peter Hook-esque baselines that relentlessly drive forward in every song pushing blood through every concept. The guitar work is so varied and precise. In Decay in particular has that signature Karl Antipole sound which is blended seamlessly into a song uniquely it’s own. However the other tracks feature buzzing walls of sonic rapture, prickling fingers on your spine, and lush landscape ballads. The range of sounds and emotion feels like such a dramatic undertaking. The drum beats are unique and give a spice and flavor to all these moving parts that makes each jump off the page in it’s time.
Discussing the lyrics and vocals are so difficult because each artist deserves there own review page just to discuss. However I will say that Burns has chosen masterfully accomplished artists with peak performances which bring everything from Pedro Code’s rich passionate crooning in Hollow, to Helene De Thoury’s dark smokey seduction in Kiss Me Goodbye. Buying this album is like getting 10 records for the price of one.
I need to take a break from writing this just to collect my thoughts enough to pick some favorite tracks, because any of them could be my favorite. This is a complete work without a weak track. I’ll try though. Ok, I think I figured it out, although both are incredible tracks and some of my favorites I will skip over Decay and Hollow because I have written reviews of both Karl and Pedro and my love for them is well known. I know cheating, but I do what I can.
Black String – This song features the amazingly talented Nate Jespersen on this beautiful and subtle track which allows him to show vocal range. The music is creep dance magic. This feeling that gets you nowhere. Its so different from the standard post punk goth vibe but with such pop sensibility in the way that melody latches onto your mind and plays itself over and over. Puts me a bit in the mind of The Cult. Pure gold.
Get Down – This song features one of those bass lines that has a crisp clarity that it makes itself the focus of the track. Vadim Kristopher does this gentle spoken chanting vocals. The guitar riff if a fingertip dance that feels like flickering fire through the whole track. It feels so effortless but hits so hard.
Sever – This song is such a creeping dread. The keyboards have this splashing edge and Alice Sherridan has this Jonette Napolitano grinding edge in an off kilter tempo which adds such emotion to the track. I pictured the part in a terrifying ghost story when the monsteress is crawling towards her unsuspecting victim.
Overall this album absolutely blew me away. I’m truly in awe of how all these parts came together with such form and precision. It’s gritty, it’s tender, it’s dark, and it’s dancible all rolled up into one beautiful package that leaves me yearning for the next release. I have found so many albums I loved this year but this is right near the top of the list. Breathtaking.
Band: Creux Lies
Album: The Hearth
Label: Cleopatra Records
Members: Kyle Vorst, David Wright, Topher Snyder, Barry Crider, Ean Clevenger
There is so much beautiful and nostalgic to hear. What if you made The Cure Disintegration but gave it razor sharp teeth? The drums had more snap. The guitar lines had that same entrancing delay but with more motion. Ean Clevenger has an obvious Robert Smith quality to his voice, yet where Smith focused more on a tongue and cheek sass. Clevenger is bringing a piercing intensity and higher range of New Order Movement feelings of being lost. The driving bass , the rising synth phrases, those crisp bark beat snaps. It’s like hearing every album that got me through my formative years but done with the precision production of the modern age. Every song makes me want to fall in love but never find the courage to express it.
Lets talk a bit about what isn’t nostalgic, because there is plenty of fresh takes in this offering. Beautiful guitar leads full of glorious textural slush in a shoegaze slither. This record is bleeds of layered sounds so thick you want to run your fingers through them. Intricate drum beats with a symphony conductors precision control the movement of each track. Just like most albums that touch me deeply it usually comes back to a vocalist that can make me feel something. Who can take me on a journey with words and feelings and this album left me shook. Every phrase drips with tortured honey and sorrow. Sometimes as an older listener who has lived a bit you hear something that makes you feel young again. In the case of Creux Lies it is not with energy and power. It is by reminding you of how deep you used to feel things before the world tempered you. Hearkening back to The Cure again this album is full of pop hooks. Strong ones that grab the lapels and shake you. It’s hard to define when you hear something that is similar to plenty of music I am hearing, but has something extra, has IT. I’m at a loss for words on how to express it but I do know it when I hear it. I heard it.
There really isn’t a weak track on this album, but I’ll pick some favorites.
Portals – This is the obvious single, but it is that way for a reason. The beautiful New Order keyboard melodies are absolutely captivating. The lyrics “Did you fall in love with a killer at your door, while waiting for a lifetime to begin” pure poetry. The vocals in this track are a masterclass in sliding between the cracks in the wall of sound around you. The build on the end is a perfect tension and release. Staggering.
Virginity – This is such a gentle caress of an opening, that effectively smashes you in the face with a giant crashing wave of sound when you least expect it. The slow crawling tempo makes you sway like a leaf on the wind. It feels like the terrifying lack of control at a first love so powerful you don’t yet have a frame of reference for it. Clevenger reaches into some sky splitting notes in this one and laser burns them into your heart. Slow dance with yourself in this moment.
Aine’s Song – Tom fills, give me all these tom fills. Tiny dancing pin prick guitar lines doing a duelist routine with the bass and rhythm, “I saw your face again, I want to take you home” That feeling of being struck. We have all felt it but to blend the music and lyrics so seamlessly to express it. I love the whispered secret in between chorus. I love the world drops out breakdown. You built me up and then pulled it all away. Just so those toms could drive right back into me.
Overall this album is an emotional and powerful offering. It’s also full of energy and fun though. It shows me how the past can pave the way for something new in dark music. I was an instant fan for life and you will be too.
Album: It Will Come to You
Label: Northern Light Records
Corbett – vocals/guitar
Shannon Hemmett – synth/vocals
Jahmeel Russell – bass/vocals
Adam Fink – drums
Ok I have taken a bit of a hiatus from writing reviews prepping for a show but when Jason Corbett calls me out to review what is one of the most important new albums of 2018 I better crack my knuckles and get in front of my keyboard. When I first heard this Vancouver based band I was spell bound. Transported in time and enthralled by the sheer cold razor coolness of this record. It started really blowing up and I suppose I just felt like Actors were so good they didn’t need me to write about them as much as other new bands I was getting into at the time. However to not express what this album meant would be a disservice just because of music love communism. This record just cooks from front to back with throwback sounds, perfect precision and continuity, while lyrically bringing a fresh and modern take that resonates with everyone I play it for. Do you know how Ian McCulloch is a once and a life time sound that no one can really capture ever again? When I hear Jason Corbett I hear a young Ian crooning out effortless expressive lines that wrap you up and transport you. I’ve mentioned many times in reviews being a singer myself I always hone in on vocals first and Corbett delivers a sonic artistry of wide scope and emotion that makes every song feel like an intimate performance just for you. Not to understate his guitar work, when I saw the Actors live in Detroit I was blown away by how he shredded. The guitar lines while fitting in the post punk sound have a jagged edge. He was also wearing a Slayer shirt when he played them.
Musically this album is diverse in a way so missing from “Post Punk” today. It changes so much in tone and scope from song to song. Everything blends together in one story but just like a complex character in a novel it is so full of intricate parts. Hemmett is a maestro of subtle brush stokes in the synth sounds contradicting the sharp moving guitar parts. They build, fall, and create movement. Russell has studied hard at the Martin Hannett school of using the bass as a percussion instrument to drive these songs and feed life. I remember being surprised how large a bass he plays live, but sometimes to get the big sound you need a big instrument. They are dark and bracing and surround you in the motion of a chase scene after a heist in a bright lit city on a cool night. Fink uses a crisp snapping drum sound that builds a foundation for the constant movement and swirling parts. I can’t remember the last time a record felt so much like a beautiful sound track of a film that was never made. You can’t help but conjure images of these songs in your head. It’s a magnificent effect which continues to grow every time I listen to it. Actors are not creating a brand new sound here, but they are playing at a level of quality in their synthesis of glam, post punk, electronic, and new wave that you feel like new ground is being broken. I’m truly awed by what is accomplished here and I am not alone.
So now we have reached the hard part, how do I pick standout tracks on an album that was meant to be absorbed as a single flowing piece. It’s not singles here. Every cut is a deep perfect cut. Ok , self, be professional, I’ll try.
Face Meets Glass – I suppose if there is a “single” this is it. Such a lush and vibrant song in a dark tone. Here you can definitely hear the Echo and the Bunnymen comparison. It’s just slick city streets, black leather jackets, the coolest girl in the room dancing alone. If Ian McCulloch, Peter Hook, Iggy Pop, and Gary Numan were hanging out at a club in Berlin at 1:47am this would be the song they would listen to.
Let it Grow – Here the Post Punk edge is let off the chain. This bassline is as thick as a slow river. An elegant builder full of background guitar and stabbing single note keyboards that just keep getting layered as the song progresses. Flavors of New Order smashing Technique into Movement. Why did no one think of this before?
Slaves – All these days that you fear, there’s no god, only what you had to offer. Holy shit this is a burner. The simple slashing guitar riff, that bassline that just rolls over you like a Mack truck. I could hear this song 200 times on repeat and it would never not be a jam. It drives on the edge but in a medium tempo. This is the song I want to play while doing a jewel heist in a black turtleneck in New York while the revolution begins. (Note:Since writing this review I have definitely listened to this song more than 200 times)
Overall this album is a true modern day classic. It’s ambitious, perfectly executed, and full of homage. Actors are leading the charge in a Neo-Renaissance of dark wave music. If you don’t know about this album yet you need to get it immediately and be in the inside of what is becoming a rising movement in modern music. Find this, love it, hold the vinyl in your hands and spin it many times.
Wait, there is more? Yes our own Rachel Pool got a chance to do this insightful interview with a Jason who we love dearly.
(Rachel) Explain, in ten words or less, the music scene in Vancouver.
(Jason) It’s a thriving hotbed of talent.
(Rachel) What made you choose the name, ACTORS?
(Jason) It felt just interesting enough. All the good names were taken and Duran Duran Duran was too long.
(Rachel) Does that name allow you some security in your songwriting? Was it by intent to create a lyrical fiction? How much of your songs are written from life experience?
(Jason) A name means less and less as time passes. It’s not something I think about. All the songs are written from life experience although it’s not 100% autobiographical. Sometimes you just need a visual and a good rhyme.
(Rachel) Describe the original formation of Actors. How did musicians of your talent level come to together into one singular vision?
(Jason) We are all friends first. It just made sense for us to fall together with ACTORS. We respect each other and everyone has something special to contribute. I couldn’t do this with just anyone.
(Rachel) Bands of brothers and sisters: what do you argue about most, as a band?
(Jason) We don’t really argue. I snore so I’m pretty sure the others members have wrestled with the idea of holding a pillow over my face in the middle of the night.
(Rachel) How do you feel about remixes? Are they necessary to band networking? Is it comfortable to have other bands interpret your music, and how do you deal with what you may feel is an inaccurate rendition of your song, or indeed one which may have captured the spirit/leitmotif better?
(Jason) I’ve recently started doing remixes for other artists again. It’s fun. I haven’t had anyone remix an ACTORS song since the first single Post Traumatic Love. I don’t think they are “necessary” but I do love to hear different interpretations of songs. Sometimes a remix will be better than the original.
(Rachel) If you could have any band/musician remix one of your songs, who would you choose?
(Jason) I would love to see what David Lynch would come up with. Maybe he would just light one of our records on fire and record it burning.
(Rachel) How did you find music? Did you grow up with musicians, or did a certain album or artist inspire you to create music yourself?
(Jason) It was always around. The radio and music videos on tv. Bowie was the first big inspiration for me. Ziggy Stardust > Let’s Dance > Scary Monsters, in that order.
(Rachel) Your album has been considered by many to be one of the most important releases of 2018, does this shock you? What is a best case scenario of what you want to accomplish in 2019?
(Jason) I wanted to believe that if enough people heard these songs that the album would find an audience. I had learned to temper my expectations over the years so the reception this time around was initially hard to believe. Best case scenario is we keep touring and continue to create opportunities to connect with more and more people. We plan on releasing our next full-length album in 2020.
(Rachel) There has to be at least one of you who is a Cat Person™ . Freyja Six Beans(our cat) sat on our computer desk and had to be forcibly removed several times while we were playing your album. How can you explain your animal magnetism?
(Jason) You’re very intuitive. We love cats. I’m sorry you had to forcibly remove Freyja Six Beans on our account. Can animal magnetism be explained?
Album: In2 the Skin
Members: Caitlin Stokes: Singer/Songwriter
Brandon Ashley: DJ/Singer/Songwriter
Confession time, I am a total sucker for 90’s down and dirty female singer dark grunge. I consider Hole’s “Celebrity Skin” one of the top 3 grunge albums of all time. I don’t care how many cool points that costs me. So when I put on this album for the first time and that sordid LA sludge came flowing into my ears lacing over a disco drive early Ministry drum beat I was hooked hard. This record is ripe with the same over the top imagery of hot clubs, leather, glitter, and broken dreams dragging themselves off the floor and forcing you to see that darkness in all it’s glory. It grabs hold of you and wins you over. The songs are wide and varied but have the oily residue in every sensually charged line that ties them together with perfect continuity. Guilty pleasure delicious.
The production levels of these songs are anything but rough and raw. The album has that but it is achieved with Lyrics, concept, and delivery. The mix is done with such needle sharp clarity and humming dissonance. Stokes has a voice rich with hazy dripping desire. She sings with force and malice without losing that cold detached crystal creation of LA and London. They are songs for dancing, but not club bangers. Instead, those other dance songs that happen slow and deliberate in the smoke and darkness and leave you burning like a flickering candle. This scene is longing for the sensual sting of dark music and Corlyx has delivered again.
Lets talk about favorite tracks a bit because this record is full of sinful singles
Twist like an Animal – Let’s start off with the first single and video track. Opening to a pig squealing! Vibrating drive guitar straight out of Prick. Crisp snapping snare slaps. Then Caitlin starts unleashing that smolder and I start crawling along the ceiling while the keyboards start popping. I love every aspect of this song and it belongs on your dance floor now.
Guys Like You – Powerful imagery with that repeating keyboard hook line. At 52 seconds everything jumps up and Caitlin’s cadence intensifies. This record has huge pop appeal but these is a lot of depth happening here. The quick but drastic transitions of this song really keep a frantic motion that makes it sear both your sides. “Guys like you, they always get what they want. Ladies don’t come to me when it happens”
One of the Used – Good gods the Courtney Love floor of a hotel in smeared make up feels are so real on this song. It’s shattered and understated and worms it’s way in your ear. That slushy 90’s shoegaze guitar is the perfect contrast to the other sounds on the album. “You’re just one of the used, broke up, battered and bruised” Sample sounds at 2:30 are a great breaker to let the vocals whisper back in. A good ballad makes you spin and that is what this song achieves.
Overall I have been rocking this album non stop the last two weeks. I love the filth, i love the hooks, I love her voice. Dj’s get this record on your dance floor immediately.
Band: Golden Apes
Hometown: Berlin Germany
Label: AF Music
So after returning from Germany it’s time to get back to writing reviews. This one is crucial to me as this album was my constant companion while i walked the streets of Berlin. It’s one of those records that has become perfectly ingrained in my mind with a beautiful moment in time. It takes a lot to surprise me at 41, hearing everything I have heard, seeing the bands I have seen. Every so often you stumble on a band like Golden Apes and stand jaw agape thinking how has no one ever thought to do this? Because this album is something different. It comes at you in subtle ways, familiar ways, until that moment you look around and realize you are somewhere else you haven’t been before.
This record is so full of tiny changes in instrument and sound, but they don’t build all at once. For each new voice added another falls away and it creates this brilliant sense of movement and variance. What stood out so effectively was how many elements were added but instead of the modern trend of letting them pile on top of each other until it becomes mud, instead something was subtracted each time. It kept the songs so crisp, clear, and efficient. This has a great deal to do with the drums which are doing things so far out of the box for modern post punk music that it makes me both think this band has left the genre and at other times that they are blazing the path for it’s future. KASBEK is a mountain in the heart of the Caucasus. A place where Prometheus gave fire to man and earned a lifetime of torture for his trouble. That theme of sacrifice for knowledge keeps coming back the more I spin these songs and goes a long way towards framing the lens of these stories. Because that is what this album is, a series of stories told around a fire that tell a history leading towards this moment.
Lets talk vocals a moment. Peer has a voice full of power and soul which fills the bursting chaos of this music and gives it a human face. It is rich and forceful without charging to the front. these songs don’t need an impressive vocalists to show their quality, but they have one. It really completes the effect and bring a uniqueness that allows you to focus on all the gentle notes happening and still hold your ear with a memorable power.
Christian’s playing is inspired and has such varied style. It’s the type of song writing that plays with familiar themes and keeps finding new places to reach within the cracks. This is not a new band, they have been making quality albums since 1998 and I am mad at myself for just finding it. However there is something wonderful in discovering a band that has several strong albums later in their career after an evolution where you get to work backwards through their progression and take the journey in reverse.
This album covers so much ground in terms of emotional evocation and stylistic movement that choosing best tracks is a chore. I have had moments where i fell deeply in love with every song on this record for different reasons. To me that says this is a record to have an in depth relationship with. That is a magnificent feat in the modern era.
Oblivion – A 6 minute single, in 2019. Who does that? This band and it works beautifully. This song is the optima of what i described. Adding pieces, taking them away. Creating motion. These drums have a beautiful tribal intensity with a Martin Hannett clarity of production. Peer drives through the build with a dense sustained baritone that paints a scene of hopeless abandon. I can’t stop listening, it’s a modern classic.
Deliverance – Ok of course I love a song called Deliverance for anyone who knows Amaranth. This song is gentle and beautiful with a Chameleons riff and flow with a building tension that culminates in a beautiful chorus tat contains the power of Joy Division “Atmosphere”. Understand the power of that statement. Bands can’t just achieve something of that power in the modern era but this song has done just that.
Clouds Silver Lining – Holy shit this song has the swelling power of a minimalist Bach chamber song. “I cut my tongue with your silver lies, suddenly i feel all the love, and so i see you” To reach this level of emotion and beauty at such a reserved tempo is the true calling of dark music and this song builds to a sky shattering crescendo that opens minds and ears. Breathtaking and brilliant by the sum of it’s parts.
Berlin left me changed. The power of artistic expression and the blood in the stones of this city are present in the people here. Hearing Golden Apes it is impossible to not feel that connection and this album is a true modern day opus. I am at a loss to express how important it is you discover this record and understand the connection Berlin has with this style of music. Golden Apes can make that real for you from whatever place in the world you are sitting. Take this journey with me from this new album all the way back through 20 years of great music.
Dear bands and other independent artists/ business folkin, there are two types of you out there.
Type one: You do the thing because you enjoy the thing, it’s a hobby. But you don’t feel a pressing need to bring it into the world at large. If it happens, cool, but you aren’t concerned either way.
Type two: You make beautiful horrible things because it is what you do. You have total faith in not just the quality of what you make but the content. You have things to say, and you want the world to hear those things. You recognize that you’re not gonna get rich in the industry so let’s assume you’re in on that particular joke.
All you type ones can read the following if you want but it doesn’t apply to you. Now for the rest of you type two vampires…
As I have said before, this new record is the one for me. The one I’ve been promising myself I would make for years. Consequently I’ve taken everything I’ve picked up over the last 20 years in the industry and gone full force with it. Unfortunately almost everything I learned prior to a few years ago is no longer relevant. A few ideas still apply.
Rule One: If you think that you can just sit back and let your label, publisher or other infrastructure do all the work for you, you deserve your lack of sales.
Rule the Second: WORD OF MOUTH IS ESSENTIAL, and cannot be purchased.
Rule the Third: People pay for what they respect. And they respect things when they understand the work and ideas involved in it. Pulling the curtain aside to whatever degree helps build that relationship. People steal (download) things they don’t have a personal stake in. Getting a glimpse behind that mask at the actual person who made them makes a huge difference. I dealt with two and three by creating a special “support the artist” package. Where people would get access to a special Facebook group to that I uploaded demo files of the songs, broke down process stuff showed early versions of the videos, and they got copies as soon as I got the masters back.
“But Steven aren’t you worried that one of them will upload the files somewhere?”
No, I know my fans, and just to be safe, the versions of the files I gave them are slightly different than the final release. Nothing anyone will notice. I changed the length of the space between the songs, and customized the ide tags so that I could track them if they ever popped up. In addition to creating the eternally needed income, it also helped develop a rabid and vocal set of fans for the record. People who were invested in the record as well as building a personal relationship between myself and the fans (which is awesome!) Which was essential when it first dropped.
Rule Four: The world is a distracting place. You need to go to your customers. Be the squeakiest of wheels. Don’t want to be annoying? Too bad. You love the thing, you believe in the thing, if it’s really that good people you know will understand or at least tolerate it and everyone else is just a potential customer.
Rule Five: NO ONE WILL JUST “come to you,” because you are good. I’ve known a few people over the years who said shit like “I don’t need to book shows, if they want me they will come to me.” It’s a buyers market, galleries/performance venues, THEY DON’T NEED YOU. There are thousands of artists and bands coming to them. You are not special, and in fact if you adopt this attitude you will not just not be special, you will be seen as a problem.
Rule VI: Go to the DJs. Sure your label has a DJ pool. And those DJs get shit from them every month. And by shit I mean a bunch of files and rows of text. That’s all you are to them visually, they have no attachment to those words, those ones and zeros. Go to the DJs directly. Ask them if they want copies and send those files personally. That’s the kinda shit people remember. And it helps build and maintain those relationships. Are you still just a line of data? Sure, but at least they have a more personal connection with you.
Rule Seven: Talk to blogs, talk to Facebook groups, do giveaways. Go to club nights, have cd release parties. Do online listening parties. “But Steven people will download my music for free from those.” So what? Does it get them to the shows? We have people come up to us all the time at shows and say “I downloaded you’re entire catalog and now I’m going to buy them.”
Rule Eight: Put real effort into promotion. We live in the future, this year alone I’ve made seven music videos. Not clips of footage pulled from YouTube. Videos with sets built, homemade green screens, that I shot by myself on my iPad, and edited in premiere. You don’t have to know a ton of tech stuff. If you can use a DAW, you can use premiere. If you don’t have a visual eye, work with someone you know to help plan the shots.
(Free Pro Tip: set up the video as a series of static shots. This allows you to control the lighting and you only have to worry about shooting from one place. )
You don’t have to spend a ton of time. The most involved video I did for the Stoneburner record involved four days of set building in the garage and one of shooting. The one I did right after that took three hours to build the set and two hours of shooting. Minor Monsters I did in the living room in maybe five hours. Stick to good solid concepts and keep everything as simple as possible. Because….
Rule Nine : FACES MATTER. Sure you can be artsy if you want on your cover and other promo material, but the simple fact is our brains are wired to respond to faces. Seeing them creates empathy with the person they are looking at. It creates the perception of a relationship or at least an understanding of the other. That’s part of why the videos are so important. The other reason is because it gives you an easily digestible (and not so easily downloadable) way of sharing your music. People don’t like just sitting and listening to some random song. But if you give em something to watch it’s much easier to hold them.
Rule X: Put your fuckin money where you’re fuckin mouth is. We are not even close to stable when it comes to our finances. But Facebook advertising is really inexpensive and it’s worth it. In the last month my least viewed video had been seen 6k times and the most viewed, over twice that number. Each video was boosted once for $30.
Rule XI: No one will love your child as much as you do. Not your friends, not your label (they have a whole nursery to worry about, work with them, but do your own as well) not even your biggest fans. And more importantly it’s not their job. It’s your child to raise, it’s your brand to make, it’s your art to let drown in an ocean of lists of file names and distracting media.
Rule 12: Think outside the box. For instance, write “how to” articles for webzeins….And finally, merchandising is your friend. You can print on demand pretty much anything these days. Shirts, mugs, bags, towels, prints. Portals are easy to set up and once they are up and running you don’t have to do anything. The orders come in, the jank is shipped directly from the manufacturer. Is it more expensive than the traditional way? Sure, but you don’t have a room full of stock rapidly losing value as time passes. Obviously for situations where you need to have the merchandise on hand you will have to go through printers. But for day to day sales, it’s a great way to go.
Steven Archer is an award winning artist, author, a founding member of Ego Likeness (along with his wife Donna), and Stoneburner, as well as a few other projects. He’s a hired gun drummer for various industrial bands including Velvet Acid Christ, Mindless Faith and others. His has written music for NASA and film. Donna and his most recent book “witches,” was nominated for a Stoker award