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.
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
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.
CRITICAL PLACE PARANOIA FADE AWAY STRANGERS KISSES & PAIN OMEGA EXTINCTION DEALER OF LIFE LOBOTOMY RESURRECTION HUMAN ROBOTS
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.
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.