Backwater by Testube

To be honest, I took my time reviewing Testube‘s Backwater. With 17 songs, there’s a lot here to digest. Plus, I wanted to make sure I was getting the big picture with every thing that’s going on and fully appreciating where the artist is coming from.

The backstory goes something like this: Jeff Danos sequestered himself to a cabin in the Ozarks for a VERY long time. During this time, he worked on the tracks that would become Backwater. So this is the culmination of over a decade’s worth of work.

In a way, one can tell that this has been an album long in the making. It seems like some of the musical ideas occurred to Danos at different times. Backwater covers a lot of ground. But don’t think of this as willy-nilly and directionless. Instead, consider it a stream-of-consciousness time capsule that shows how an artist can evolve and grow over time.

The songs range from accessible and radio-friendly to abstract instrumental experimentation, and sometimes both in the same song. Spoken word samples and analog synths have their time in the sun as old school industrial meets IDM meets the electronic end of Krautrock. Enjoy the smorgasbord.

In summary, Backwater is a cerebral electronic ride with interesting stops along the way, even if it’s not necessarily for short attention spans.

https://testube.bandcamp.com/album/backwater

Un Jour Virgule by Attention Fête

One of the things I admire most about Attention Fête is their ability to keep me surprised. This time the French sound art band brings us Un jour virgule, a series of recordings that are claimed to be recorded entirely on the guitar. I don’t know how they do it. It takes a very deep dive into the world of effects to create these ambient noise collages that don’t sound droning and repetitive; especially on an album that is 14 songs long, but they pull it off.

Okay, so there’s no beat, per se. This is one of those times that percussion would have gotten in the way of what Attention Fête is trying say, in my opinion. There’s still enough going on here to keep your interest.

Whether you regard it as interesting background noise, the score to an imaginary avant-garde sci-fi film, or just the audible equivalent to an acid trip, fans of experimental music will find Un jour virgule rewarding.

https://attentionfete.bandcamp.com/album/un-jour-virgule

Midnight Wire by A Perfect Error

When Re:Mission Entertainment sent me an advance copy of A Perfect Error‘s Midnight Wire, I was intrigued by what I read in the press release. It touts of a record that bridges the gap between ‘cyberpunk to mainstream pop.’ And sure enough, it does exactly that.

This is the esoteric brainchild of Toronto’s Cory Gorski; his conscious effort to bring dark electronics under a digestible, radio-friendly umbrella. And these ten songs deliver everything you would expect to hear in an electronic pop song, even if – at times – it’s put together differently.

The best way I can describe these songs is to say they have a “layered minimalism” to them. By that I mean that the songs seem composed of simple electronic elements combined with even more simple electronic elements until something more complex evolves. The end results are songs that seem as though any single aspect of them would be interesting but combined are even more compelling.

It seems like there’s as much sonic exploration as there is songwriting on Midnight Wire. Clever elements interplay with one another and sometimes the exploration leads the listener down a rabbit hole of textures and soundscapes.

I recommend listening to the record in its entirety in one sitting. I don’t think any one song gives you a complete picture of the ground Midnight Wire covers. Just kick back and let this record take you where it may. But if you put a gun to my head, I’d say that Hold On, Hang Up stood out in my mind with it’s sexy-yet-creepy saxophone accompaniment. Midnight Wire‘s whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

https://remissionentertainment.bandcamp.com/album/midnight-wire

The Black Rose by Black Angel

Black Angel would have sounded right in place along side such powerhouse English alternative 80s acts as The Cult and The Sisters Of Mercy. Their sound even brings to mind acts from this side of the pond such as Screaming Trees and Mary My Hope. And that’s okay because this is album takes me back to the 80s in the GOOD way.

The Black Rose was released on April Fool’s Day but there’s nothing to laugh at on this record. These rhythm-oriented songs are nice and ballsy and incorporate the darker elements of bar rock. The gothic elements are there present. This record digs deeper to give you something that sounds like a backcountry balladeer set against a wall of guitar riffs. And the bass on songs like All Or Nothing conjure images of the tipsy dancer in the bar who refuses to sit down until her song on the jukebox ends.

Take Me Down is more solemn and the lyrics flow like an old singalong folk song. I caught myself singing along to the chorus. The lyrics on Look Me In The Eye carry the recurring theme throughout the album; as though addressed to a lady of dubious intention who’s done wrong, or maybe about to be done wrong. The same is true for the subsequent track, Sinner. Carnival Man opens with a dark organ and sits you down to tell the tale of a festive killer.

All in all, The Black Rose satisfies. This album works in a goth club, a biker bar, or on your car stereo.

https://blackangelmusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-black-rose

In addition to the review Jaret had a chance to interview Matt of Black Angel 🙂 Please enjoy

Jaret : What inspired ‘The Black Rose’?

Matt: Good question, there wasn’t anything specific, I just have to keep writing, as soon as I finish one album, I get right into the next one. With Black Angel I knew there would be a five album progression for sure and I had all the names of the albums mapped out years ago, so it just felt natural when I finished Prince of Darkness to start on The Black Rose. I always tell myself to give myself a breather for a few months but I can barely get past a few days.

Prince of Darkness | Black Angel (bandcamp.com)

Jaret: Who are your influences and what did you take away from those artists?

Matt: My influences are 100% Goth acts from the 80’s – to be specific, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, Bauhaus, Killing Joke, and The Damned, those are my keys influences, they wrote the best Gothic music – and in my eyes that has never been surpassed. Before I start writing I tend to listen to the these guys, in fact I just listen to their music all the time anyway, whether I’m writing or not – and each of them has something a little bit different – for example Billy Duffy from The Cult is my guitar hero, Peter Murphy is a vocal gymnast, Siouxsie has this fantastic intricate song writing ability, The Damned are just all out hundred percent top bollocks and energy and The Sisters of Mercy, especially on Floodland just encapsulated what Gothic Rock really was for me.

Billy Duffy (The Cult)

Jaret: Do you draw inspiration from sources outside of music, per se?

Matt: I guess life…. Most of my songs in someway are about relationships with people – and of course we are always learning, so there is always something new to write about on each new record. When I write it’s always about personal relationships, I have no interest in politics or anything like that it’s always about life experiences, and they say that is the best thing to write about, what do you have experienced yourself.

Jaret: Please describe a typical day in the studio. What is the chemistry like?

Matt: That’s another good question, I found with my writing process that if I set time aside and I sit down and decide ‘this is the time I’m going to write’, I can pretty much guarantee that it is not gonna happen. I am in the fortunate position that I do have a studio on my property so whenever I feel the need I can get something down whether it’s a vocal or a drum idea etc. I also carry around a digital recorder as there’s nothing more frustrating than losing that pearl of wisdom idea that you just came up with just because you couldn’t find a way to capture it. The whole process is fairly solo from the beginning, I normally write about 40 songs and then cull about 30 of those down to a good solid 10, hopefully by that point I’ve got a rough outline of how I want the record to sound if not I keep deleting and I keep writing. It’s not until the music is nearly 100% finished that I send tracks over to Corey for him to do his vocal magic.

Jaret: What’s next for you? How are you forming/adapting your plans in the age of COVID

Matt: Covid isn’t an issue for us, since then and during that time, we’ve managed to put two records out. We did think we were going to embark on a major record label deal in the near future but these things are always hugely complicated and there are a lot of ramifications to think about, so that’s not gonna happen for right now. We are still interested in getting our music out to a wider audience so we will still be seeking a publishing deal with a label somewhere. We would also like to play some festivals, it’s tricky for us to tour right now as with our individual careers there are so many commitments that are difficult to get around – but! – we would like to play, and we are hoping that more people will invite us to do so. It’s defo on the cards and will happen for sure.

Jaret: What is your take on the current state of the dark music “scene”?

Matt: The good thing is that people can easily create and release music, and that is amazing in itself. The other side of that is I do think the music industry, Gothic and Darkwave / Post-punk included, that maybe there is so much music out there – is that good or bad? Only you can decide. If we were to specifically look at Gothic music, well, when I got into it, that started over 30 years ago and everything had a certain sound and a certain flavor, the ‘goth’ umbrella these days seems to have grown a little bit wider, but I’m certainly not a gatekeeper and things do change and develop. I would say that I was a fan of the whole process in the 80s where a band would be groomed and produced and the music that they put out is what we consider as the classic Gothic music of today – and frankly no one has even come close to surpassing that.

Black Angel (blackangelmusic.com)

Jaret: Any final thoughts? (Impressions, opinions, funny thoughts, etc.)

Matt: I surely appreciate you reaching out for this interview and helping to keep the scene alive at Sounds and Shadows, I think this genre of music is really special and anything we can do to keep it going can only be a good thing…Black Angel will continue to do so for sure……

Rough Dimension by VR SEX

(NOTE: This is a follow-up to the VR SEX live review that is already posted and available here: https://soundsandshadows.com/2022/04/01/vr-sex-live-at-the-casbah-san-diego-ca-3-24-22/?fbclid=IwAR3hsseQi621MviCpFXdpH0P6IJS4Ard3cP-M3hHH6Vuo71aMCT1FwVzkic)

Imagine a band that encapsulates everything you love about music; a band that seems like an amalgam of almost every style that caught your ear as a kid when you heard it on the radio for the first time. After a VERY LONG spell of cynical indifference, my faith has been restored courtesy of VR SEX.

Rough Dimension is the band’s second full-length and fourth release overall and it shows no sign of the band slowing down from it’s barrage of cerebral ear-candy. These nine songs will take you down the dark seedy side streets of LA at night, but you may not be sure if you’re the prey or predator.

First of all, Rough Dimension is a rocker. Track one, Victim or Vixen, is evidence of that, followed by Glutton For Love, which really drives the point home. Rocking or not, the synths make strong showing on Glutton For Love and Snake Water. And some experimental noise cleverly sneaks its way in with Cyber Crimes.

Is it wrong that a punk song made a middle-aged cynic like me want to cry? Walk Of Fame, both in its lyrics and overall tone, just really grabbed me in a way that so few songs do. Not since Chris Reed of
Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
have I heard a droning baritone voice convey such emotion.

The guitar progressions throughout Rough Dimension have to be some of the most fresh and original I’ve heard in long time – especially in a genre that I was convinced was past its last gasp. Even the simpler ideas are well-conveyed due to good ol’ fashioned musicianship.

Even if I wasn’t already a fan of VR SEX and biased as Hell, I’d still put Rough Dimension among my top picks of 2022 so far. This would have been a fantastic full-length debut album; the fact that it’s their sophomore effort makes it even more impressive.

https://vrsex.bandcamp.com/album/rough-dimension