We are really excited by the success of our new Sounds and Shadows Facebook group. It has sent a ton of amazing new January releases for me to go through. This last year has given us a lot of great music but also a lot of anxiety. Lets hope 2021 is more focused on the first.
Push Button Press – Black Swan – This is a long awaited album from our friend Jim Walker and Cold Transmission record. The title really sets the tone for an amazing artist which has been a bit misunderstood and on the fringe. Writing music that was visionary and a bit progressive for some audiences. Right from track one The End of Time we are pressing our foot steady on the gas and gaining speed with clarity and purpose. I am feeling a lot of smooth spreading bassline and Jim has a stabbing staccato.That blend calls to mind early Psychedelic Furs. I think the thing that strikes me most in track 2 Trace are the crisp and driving drum beats. It really adds a powerful element of rock to the post punk concept. Title track 6 Black Swan lays open the the heart of the band. For every truth there is a black swan. The transitions here are so abrupt but maintain a silky smoothness that create constant motion. The guitar work here has a lot of early punk elements with heavy rhythm guitars. It feels like jumping across fast moving water from stone to stone. Always a sense of danger and concentration.
Jim’s voice is always just barely above the water of the mix and it lends a clarity to his words and allow the well written lyrics shine. Darkwave/Postpunk music is desperately in need of meaningful lyrics and Black Swan delivers. Although it is early in the year I expect this album will remain in my thoughts when it comes time to write best albums of 2021.
Jay Draper & The Subterraneans – Behind The Night – This album was sent to me courtesy of my friend Ryan Clark in Toronto. It features a slew of talented collaborators like Ian Revell (Double Eyelid), Paul Mercer (The Changelings) and Faith and the Muse. With all that talent what really makes this record jump out is the piercing glam rich voice of Jay Draper. The level of razzmatazz pizzazz is glorious to behold. Jay truly understands the emotional bandwidth of Dave Vanian and Brian Eno with laser lightshow blazing colors issuing forth in a rainbow. Belly of the Beast opens the album with a powerful build of a crooning pied piper leading you through the streets of a broken city. Such an immersive tapestry of expression with both voice and verse. Track 4 Land of Anxiety has this wonderful bouncing bassline and swelling keys while Drapers cadence is breathy and and happens in great leaps until the chorus explodes in a choir of ecstatic beauty. The album closes with You Must Be Mad, the operettic conclusion with a lovely synthwave power of Yaz Upstairs at Eric’s. I fell in love with the expansive growing journey of this album as I felt it sink through my skin into my bones. I think it would be easy for this record to go over the top, but for me, I found myself wanting to leap over that line and trust in Jay to take me to a fantastical place. I highly recommend you do the same. Releases on February 5th but one track is available on bandcamp now for preview.
Antipole – Marble – New EP just dropped from the post punk King of Norway Karl Morton Dahl. Antipole still holds the distinction of being our most reviewed band and it just keeps finding a new space. This album opens with the title track and frequent collaborator Paris Alexander of (Blue Door Productions) Marble and it is an absolute journey of a song. I really feel like I am in a giant glass bubble rolling down a mountain, across a snowy field, along a craggy beach. Karl is a wizard with overlaid texture guitars and does so much imagery with them alone. Paris has a deep resonant voice that leads you through your travels. The song also includes a remix by Molchat Doma that turns this post punk standard into a dance club jam. Song 3 Narcissus is a darker reflection with warm bass tones and Paris singing from deeper in the mix in a wispy haunting plea. I think Rachel told me that it all just sounds pleasant. In a good way, I just feel like these songs would improve almost any experience. Karl is a true master of putting everything in it’s proper place. I do think this is the furthest he has strayed from the older post punk sound and I love the bracing new direction. Another Antipole, another hit.
Wandering Stars – Somnambule – This is a band close to home in Ohio. It includes Joy Thieves member Derek Christopher. I immediately fell in love with with the jazzy trip hop flowing style. This isn’t a club thumping album, it’s a subtler more exclusive bar where you had to go down the back stairs and through a steel door to reach rich wood and velvet curtains. The duet vocals calling back and forth between Christopher and Lydia Brownfield are a perfect blend. He is smooth and resonant. She is sultry and glamourous. It has an amazing range of styles and elements. The album title means sleepwalker and that’s the journey it takes you on. Skipping from dream to dream. Opening with Anamnesis a flow down the 99 steps of deeper dreaming with the duet on full display and a lovely organic piano line. Track 4 Nina Bobok is this beautifully delivered ballad where Derek opens on this exposed and gently delivered plea. The subtle touch of violin really adds texture. Lydia comes in warm and shining. So many twists and turns they create with the always changing cadence. It’s one of those rare examples that you hear the genuine caring between the members. I’m definitely going to continue enjoying this and dig through the back catalog.
Programmable Animal – One Step to Hell – Unmistakable quality and execution from Chicago glam industrial Anthony Wonaitis now on Negative Gain. Sean Beavan (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Slayer, 3TEETH, & No Doubt) has done an expert job mixing these large crashing emotions into a pristine balance. One Step To Hell explodes out of the gate with crashing drums and buzzing electrical texture. Wonaitis has a sensual vocal charisma which croons you towards him and then blasts you with a growling scream. This is the part in the movie where the hero stares out at a dark city from a vacant rooftop. Track 4 Sunset has a furious guitar lead that impacts your chest. Grungy Stabbing Westward/ Machines of Loving Grace vibe. I was really drawn in by the fresh glamourgrunge take on Industrial rock and the piercing clarity of message. The next time I need to drive through a city on my way to make an entrance this is my soundtrack.
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