Searching For My Center, The Music That Is Making Me Write Again

So this has been a tough two weeks. It lead to a lot of introspection and will hopefully turn into growth. Just like all the toughest times for me, music has been that companion that is always there when I need it. This last few weeks saw many amazing releases and I will talk about some of them now. Please check out the bands, leave comments of what you liked. Send me things you are listening to you think I might not know.

Helevete IncThe Inevitability Ov Nothing – This is a new rerelease from Helevete Inc. We recently had the opportunity to interview them, so keep an eye out. I feel in love with the hard old school style of this band. This album was such a drastic departure and really shows the range they have. A rich and meaning drenched darkwave goth sound. TION shows a gripping and introspective melodic aspect of their voice. These songs have such a powerful authenticity of someone stepping outside of their wheelhouse, uncertain where the music would take them. Confronting the fear and darkness of that reality. I feel so deeply in entranced by this record. It showed me something, it had glorious imperfections which revealed the artists and left you gripped by the connection. The album also has fierce and snarling beauty in the form of guest vocals from Jenny Rae Mettee. This is one of the most underrated finds of the year.

Favorite Tracks: Fades to White and On The Other Side

Overall Appeal: Enormous, I really enjoy Helevete but it hasn’t set out to be accessible. Most of the albums are very aggressive and challenging. This album really laid out connectable songs with the same level of emotion. The music was smooth, dark, and expertly crafted. This is an important modern artist making music for the sake of art. I really can’t recommend the impact of this album enough.

https://hymnsovgolgotha.bandcamp.com/album/the-inevitability-ov-nothing

Cliff and Ivy: Alaska’s goth duoBring us the Night – Brand new single from my favorite goth couple in Alaska. They often straddle the line between Goth and Punk and this time they are leaning very punk. This is a furious tempo cursing the daylight and celebrating the night. Bang you head and paint up your eyes. Ivy’s machinegun fire poetry assaults you in waves and has an anthem cadence. I think the extra layer of cheese and fun really puts me over the top for this scorched earth hot single.

https://cliffandivy.bandcamp.com/track/bring-us-the-night

Gloom WizardThe Beast Of Victor – Unnerving and ferocious single from Anibal our Sounds and Shadows moderator. This throwback sizzler has the tension and emotional recklessness of NIN Broken. Yet maintains a lo fi analog dissonance. It’s brings you to the brink of aggressive explosion then drops the floor out with horror movie effects and video game synth feel. The chaos and tempest are tempered by Anibal’s powerful vocal performance which carries you through this terrifying journey of reflection. This song fills me with anticipation for future releases.

https://gloomwizard.bandcamp.com/track/the-beast-of-victor

DIAFWeida – So this review comes with a great story. The recommendation was from Elitist Joe. If you doth travel in thine goth circles you know we have now always seen eye to eye. One of the best parts of the last two weeks has been finding our common ground. So DIAF was a spot on recommendation. It is unique and intense. The vocals have that I have not heard this a million times entrancing flavor. It definitely holds a distinctly 90’s goth flavor, but with dance beat electronic boot stomping power. The melodies are captivating even where the language escaped me. In a world of remakes this album truly took me somewhere new.

Favorite Tracks: Erbsundt and Splitter – Two tracks that could not be more stylistically different bit both resonated with a truth and impact.

Overall Appeal : Strong, this is extremely varied, but the unique flavor of each track only increased the appeal. Everything is expertly played and mixed. An outstanding recommendation which also holds the meaning of a new friendship.

https://diaf.bandcamp.com/album/weida

Blood DanceChild of Fear – So this was a band I found on the compilation Escena Oscura Mexicana Vol. 1. I have been really digging into Mexican Goth/Industrial lately and this band grabbed me hard. Ultra deep Peter Steele vocals that creep like an onyx tank rolling over stone. Sultry post punk guitar lines and expressive synths. The vocals bounce up and down in range but never waiver in effect. This was another find that I fell hard for and will be looking for all future releases.

https://blooddance.bandcamp.com/album/child-of-fear

Black Rose BurningShout – Sometimes you just get a banger. This is one of those times. George of Black Rose Burning has assembled an all star cast of Brian Vigilone (Dresden Dolls) Anka McGowen (The Long Losts) Alex and Andrew (Hallowed Hearts) James Perry (Ashes Fallen) and Adrian Auchrome (Machinery of Desire) to reimagine the Tears for Fears classic Shout. The song remains just as poignant as at it’s release. George has a encompassing voice which both soothes the soul and splits the sky. The abrupt transitions keep a constant motion and the layered guest vocals pay homage to the wonderful harmonies of the original. I really loved the organic and driven feel of the drums. The guitar solo was a inspired addition and added a current and red toothed power. An amazing rendition that hit on all cylinders.

https://blackroseburning.bandcamp.com/track/shout

Herr NoxWhere Shadows Fade – I am in love with this new trend in talented song writers pulling in a variety of guest vocalist to splash paint upon the canvas and expand the range of their own art. This album is a haunted house of textured rooms. With patterned guitars and sultry saxophones. The album pushes the darkwave concept with progressive rock inlays. An avenue I have seldom seen explored. This album featured a complexity of 80’s Killing Joke and an expansive feel of 90’s industrial. It’s a varied catalog of rooms to explore. An album that can’t be appreciated in one sitting.

Favorite Tracks: Black Butterfly – A power ballad rock anthem with electronic sensibility. Gotta Light – Rare I would pick an instrumental track but the saxophone swaying sultry feel left me captured and transported.

https://herrnox.bandcamp.com/album/where-shadows-fade

ACTORSLike Suicide – This album keeps flowing in one single at a time. Each one leaves me more impressed than the last. The gorgeous synth line and delayed guitar blending hits a razor edge I haven’t heard since U2 Boy. Jason and company are writing songs at a level that shows there is still places to explore in 2021. The heavy concept here of facing a hopeless cloud and trying to find strength. This song conjures that same lost beauty of Joy Division but with an elegant construction. I am truly at a loss for how they continue to push their own goal post and expectations with every release.

https://actors.bandcamp.com/track/like-suicide

 Kill Shelter & AntipoleA Haunted Place – Here it is, Pete Burns is operating on a level in modern postpunk/darkwave that is rewriting the script. Here instead of recruiting a variety of singers like his groundbreaking album Damage he takes the vocals upon himself. His voice is rich and rings with the power of a well aged bell. To build on that previous level of variety in the soulful lyrics, he has added possibly the top Post Punk guitarist in Antipole‘s Karl Morton Dahl. It’s an effortless compliment which locks perfectly as a puzzle falling into place. Every track is done with such expert precision and runs the spectrum of emotion. This is an early contender for album of the year. Like an expertly honed novel I could hear this record 1000 times and find a new detail to zero in on each play through.

Best Tracks: Raise the Skies – This single is a masterwork. It is the song equivalent of a perfectly crafted watch. Every gear an intricate motion happening in exactly the right time. Of Roses and Thorns – I loved how stripped down this felt. It allowed the chorus to open so much space and Pete’s voice went to a higher more delicate range.

https://killshelter.bandcamp.com/album/a-haunted-place

Premier of Blindcopy “P & H”

Exciting new single from Jack Alberson and his project Blindcopy. This is a follow up to the breakout single Blacklight which received critic acclaim. The Tennessee artist brought out his sonic welding torch to fuse upbeat electronic dance, southern soul, and punk grit. The song issues forth a challenge to rise to a loftier goal and hold ourselves accountable. The grooving drive heavy bassline sets the stage. Jack’s voice rings clear but has a snarl and grit that cuts the space in between. I love the skill of electronic execution with the soul of a blues singer. Just enough steel guitar ring to build the percussion and give a place for the guitar riff to slide between. I need a modern song that makes me feel something and this hits that button. It has that grab you by the lapels and shake you factor.

https://migrainerobotsounds.bandcamp.com/

We wanted to try something new for this single. Doing a premier where Sounds and Shadows listeners get first crack at downloading the track for free. So if you share the link, you can go into the comments below and grab a download code. This is available only to you for the first few days.

http://bandcamp.com/download?from=code&id=4167079696&payment_id=2289958685&sig=813046225fd86d8173cb3ed4f86e0fce&type=album

Cover Art was done by our very own Whitney Flaherty!

What Is It about Mexican Darkness? Part I

Mexico city’s Oscura scene (MCOS) has become one of the strongest Mexican urban cultures due to the amount of musical, literary and artistic works produced every year. How does this came to be? As many cultural processes there is a consensus that establishes a date of birth, this one is settled in1994 with the first visit of London After Midnight to Mexico city. Back then it wasn’t called MCOS. As a matter of fact, it didn’t have a proper name. We endlessly and (maybe) uselessly discussed if the correct term we should use was “Dark” (yes, in English) or Gótica (yes, in Spanish). As years went by “Dark” became “Darks”, and “Gótica” turned into “Gothic” (yes, now in English) and finally into” Goth” (still in English), by then the discussion ended but suddenly Post Punk made an appearance. Perhaps we all were tired of trying to find a “pure”, “true”, “honest”, yada, yada, yada term and we all agreed on MCOS since it conveyed the many genres, terms, discourses and attitudes related with what we, in Mexico City, understood as our scene.
And before ’94?… Well, we haven’t agreed on that, but when I began chatting with Ken about MCOS he mentioned the term “proto-Goth”; I found it very imaginative and accurate so I decided to steal it from him (hehehe) and establish two proto Goth ages. The late one 1987-1993, and the early one 1979-1986. Of course, the “mascara traces” (paraphrasing Grail Marcus’ book) can be followed up to 1973, but of course they weren’t as “dark” as they became in ’93 nor in ’79.
Mexican rock history is a complex one, in the sense that there hasn’t been a direct line of development. Local bands haven’t been able to establish such a line therefore a proper domestic scene or genre is absent. As a matter of fact our rock has had many, many bumps, cracks and blurs among many other things. Most of Mexican rock and roll, twist, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, punk, new wave, techno-pop, grunge are derivative of what we knew, through mass media, of what was going on in England and the US whether we talk about mainstream or semi-mainstream musical expressions. We even had our Brit Pop scene!!! This is still happening.. Of course, It is common that most of the acts that jump on someone else’s train vanish once the trend passes, or others change style (according to the new musical fad); but sometimes, this acts generate a scene that remains and flourishes strongly. This was the case of MCOS.
It is fair to say that the first pulse of MCOS was known as “Dark”. It became a mainstream word and trend in Mexico City in the second half of the eighties, but it was just that: a trend, not a scene, not a movement, nothing like that. It didn’t had a discourse. People having fun (nothing wrong with that) following a fad. Of course, there were some people with the insight of what was happening in the US, England, and Germany, but those were the initiated ones. While they might have already known about Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Cure or Siouxie; and talked (years before the image broke into mainstream) about the Beggars Banquet or the 4AD labels; a more conservative audience, mainstream music consumers, might have had their first contact with the proto-goth look when they saw Alaska (the lead singer of the Spanish pop band Alaska y Dinarama) on Mexican TV. She appeared in Siempre en Domingo (a Tv show molded from The Ed Sullivan Show which became one of the most important platforms for mainstream music in Latinamerica) all dressed-up in “siniestro” style (“sinister”, that’s how they called Goth in Madrid in the first half of the eighties) generating a strong impact in the audience, some loved her and some loathed her. Her looks were very shocking for youth to imitate, moreover for regular teenager girls. Mexico was very conservative and since 1968 young cultivated culture (much more if it was rock related) represented something to be closely watched and reprehended by the state trough police or other authority agents, it was a common situation to see teenagers or young adults being frisked, beaten, picked up, detained only by wearing long hair or clothes out of the ordinary. Paradoxically, early 80’s Mexico began a process of modernization that contemplated its urban young population appearance, yet it should be a “friendly” and “healthy” appearance. An example of this friendly appearance was represented by the pop girl vocal group Flans which look were regarded as outlandish by media and massive audiences. Was it? Well, they were molded from Bananarama.


A second mainstream contact with proto Goth look might have occurred when Soda Stereo (considered by many people the most influential Argentinian band) reached Mexican hit parade (around 1986). By that time the band used to dress in black with colorful shirts, wore mascara and crepe hair; and such was its impact that many kids began to dress like them… upper-middle class kids, of course. It was with this look when the word “posmo” (short from postmodern) became the regular way to address people dressed like that.


Let’s give a little leap to the end of the decade: Disintegration came out and put The Cure everywhere, of course they were already known but when I said everywhere I’m not talking about the usual mainstream music channels, you could even hear some songs of the album as background on some soup operas or in a Mexican Navy tv advertisements, another thing to notice is that the word “posmo” was substituted by “dark” . How? Why? It is a mystery, but many people associated the look exclusively with The Cure, and above all, with Robert Smith. It didn’t matter that many other bands wore the same clothing style or the same palm tree haircut. Caifanes, one of the most important Mexican bands, which members wore a trad goth style have been called a Cure’s rip off by people with this narrow view. Caifanes has become a cornerstone for Mexican rock due to many initiatives the band has had in its career. Among many important things they generated was the fact that they made a crossover from mainstream rock and pop audience to the banda and grupero audience (banda and grupero are Regional Mexican music genres), the real Mexican mainstream. They did this by including a cumbia (a rhythm originated in Colombia that has a huge penetration in Mexico) in their repertoire. Little did they imagined that this song, ”La negra Tomasa”, was to became a milestone in Mexican music and audience, and they did it while they were still dressed in black. So, it is fair to say that they made the style reach to the most far regions of the country. Before that, many people who wore spiky hair were referred by mainstream observers as punks, because that was the only reference they had. After “La negra Tomasa” the term Dark displace Punk and even became part of our language. Mexicanisms Dictionary includes the word, not with its original morphology but with one which formerly used to be a pejorative term: Darketo. According to this Dictionary “Darketo(ta) refers to someone who dresses in black, is melancholic, with a depressive and solitaire attitude”. And that’s it, two lines to define a cultural scene. Well, they are not to blame, of course. We are talking about a massive point of view.

By the beginning of the following decade, Dark as a trend was fading away from mainstream which was ready to receive the next fad, the so called alternative music. Still, many people clinged to the remains of the trend; a few promoters and radio dj’s who were deeply in love with the bands associated with the genre and its discourse kept promoting and broadcasting classical as well as new bands productions. For us, Mexico City’s fandom, the classic bands were The Cure, Bauhaus, Siouxie and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Fields of the Nephilim, Christian Death and Dead Can Dance (among others); whereas the new bands were Love Is Colder Than Dead, In The Nursery, Attrition, Stoa, Human Drama, The Last Dance and London after Midnight (among others). What I’m trying to say is that the classic bands were listened by an audience which most of its members were not particularly related to the discourse of a proto-goth scene; most of these people also listened to Talking Heads, ABC, U2, Pink Floyd, Sting, etc. The audience that became interested in the new bands was very into them and anxious for what would come next; moreover because all those bands gave concerts in Mexico City within the first half of the decade. This audience was to establish the solid ground for what, four years latter, would became Mexico City Goth Scene. And what about Mexican obscura bands? As I mentioned at the beginning of this text, the development of the scene was not lineal and it can be traced to 1973 to some experimental rock bands like Decibel, El Queso Sagrado or Como México No Hay Dos. Many of their musical atmospheres, performance and part of their discourse had motives that years later would be recurring in the Dark Scene’; but most important, when this groups disbanded some of their members formed New Wave and Techno pop acts, such as: Size, Syntoma, Pijamas a go go, El Escuadrón del Ritmo, Silueta Pálida, Década 2 and Casino Shanghai. Bands that are now considered the seed of the MCOS. On an important note; they NEVER referred themselves as Postpunk or Synthpop. On the second half of the eighties came some other bands that flirted with the influence of the classic acts mentioned above, among them were La muerte de Euridice, Alquimia, Las Ánimas del Cuarto Oscuro and of course Caifanes. However, as I mentioned on the first lines, the hard core proto-goth bands were born by the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties. Santa Sabina, Ansia, La Concepción de la Luna and El Clan were the first line followed behind by the likes of El Cuerpo de Cristina, La Divina Comedia, Hélicon or Los Olvidados. Some of them, like Santa Sabina, La Concepción de la Luna, and above all El Clan would become landmarks of the Mexican Goth Scene once it became solidly established in ’94. Still, the acts that would represent a breakthrough for the development of the scene and its consolidation as MCOS would see the light (or should I say; the darkness) around the last five years of the past millennium.

Once Again Into the Breach My Friends. Time To Review Some Music.

Another Friday night finds me tipsy and alone behind this keyboard. However I am never truly alone when I have great music and all of you to share it with. I have all my latest Bandcamp purchases, a few of which are absolutely smash hits. Please leave a comment below of who you would like to see me review in the future.

Twin TribesAltars – The beautiful lads of TX have released a remix album. Now I will always buy anything Twin Tribes put out sight unseen. I have to say this collection of remixes by some of the hottest names in darkwave was a special treat. The songs were big departures from the standard Twin Tribes style, but Luis voice still kept each song familiar. It included tracks from both previous albums placed lovingly up for sacrifice on the Altar to be transmuted and given back to the world.

https://twintribes.bandcamp.com/album/altars

Remixers Include: Skeleton Hands, Geometric Vision, Luz Futoro, Ash Code, NITE, Wingtips, Matte Blvck, Dave Parley, She Passed Away, Bootblacks, and Creux Lies. Yes you read that right. I think the power house of performers here really speaks to the immense effect Joel and Luis have had on this scene in such a short time.

Favorite Tracks:

Upir (remixed by NITE) – Damn this is gorgeous. This slow drifting synths remind me of a quiet corner in a buzzing high energy club. The beat then kicks in with a lovely synth line. Just such a bold shift from an already amazing song. This is the most I can ask for in a remix. I true homage while breaking a new vision.

ShadowsMatte Blvck remix – Shadows was the song that started my deep love of Twin Tribes. It holds a very personal place in my heart. To have it transformed in this way and still hold such an intense emotional impact is something glorious. This is that secret cult but no longer around a ancient tree but now in a lush modern club. Full of velvet and burning incense. A beautiful and dangerous collision of past and future.

Overall Impact: Generally speaking I am not a huge fan of “just remix” albums. I really love remixes included with an EP or something fresh. However as is often the case Twin Tribes have become the expectation that proves the rule. They took songs I love and collected most of the top names in modern darkwave. If you don’t know some of the bands here, you need to let this album lead you back to them. It’s very accessible and has a nice variance of sound. General fans will enjoy, fans of Post Punk/Darkwave will love.

the DramedyAnd The Light Goes White – New album from Dave Dramedy, who I recently saw playing bass for Caroline Blind in Detroit. This was a strange and experimental album that never left me bored. Dave surely has a power and range to his voice that rides the line of Mark Burgess and Iggy Pop punk edge. I really like the blend of rhythmic acoustic and harder driving bass guitar sounds. This is an album that grows on you. It seemed to get better with every listen. Like a favorite film where you notice a new detail every time you watch and always feels fresh.

https://thedramedy2014.bandcamp.com/album/and-the-light-goes-white

Favorite Tracks:

Parasite: It’s hard to put my finger on it. The inflection in the vocals. The ring of the drums. The chopping downward acoustic guitar. This song although having a very dark edge, carries a vibe of 60’s Height Ashbury psychedelia. Of the Mamas and the Papas. It covers a lot of ground stylistically. The vocals are full of piss and vinegar for how beautiful and resonant they are. This song is a jam that is hard to place in the box. Other than the box of I love this fuking song.

What’s left To Say – Just stabbing sun shard energy right out of the gate. Total bop feel with flaming guitar lines, biting vocals, and late 90s Brit Pop hooks. I just couldn’t stop my leg shaking on this one.

Overall Impact: This album is so full of twists and turns. A definite nostalgia feel, as well as a region one. I really felt the California connection in every song. I think this record is very accessible despite the complexity. It is a hard sound to describe but if The Church were being yelled at by Iggy pop to stop changing time signature and just play bops. That’s what I feel.

Christian DeathSpectre (Love Is Dead) Kill Shelter Remix – This song is a classic. Probably my favorite CD track. So how do you re-imagine something iconic? Give it to Pete Burns. Pete is such a master of the sonic scalpel cutting away tiny bits until you are left with such a precise and streamlined modern wave beam. If I had it in my heart to toss a grenade over my shoulder and purposefully stroll from a collapsing building, this is the track I want playing. It’s pure energy and dangerous intent. 10/10.

https://christiandeathrozz.bandcamp.com/album/spectre-love-is-dead-kill-shelter-remix

Overall Impact: Everyone will love this track. It’s very fresh, it’s very way back. It’s just a slamming banger from start to finish.

Deadlight HolidayBlood // Body – Our dear friends from West Michigan uncorked this badass single with some slamming sounds of Nu Metal and sizzling tempo Stabbing Westward vibes. Great production in the breakdown swirl. Loving these scratchy tear your head off vocals blistering past the crunching guitar. Also a gasoline covered dead man’s dance remix by Angelspit. I sense big things on the horizon from these young folk and I look forward to sharing a stage with them again soon.

https://deadlightholiday.bandcamp.com/album/blood-body

Raichyl SinversaYou Tell Me (Re​-​Mastered) – Remastered single from Raichyl of Philly. This is a nice crooning darkpop head bopper with an empowerment edge of 90s grunge. The guitar work is napalm scorched earth to contrast the lovely lifting vocals. A little bit of southern sass in the tone puts a nice edge to this “I’m not falling for your shit again” boot stomping driver.

https://raichyl.bandcamp.com/track/you-tell-me-re-mastered

Aesthetic PerfectionAutomaton (feat. Sebastian Svalland) – Ok I have a confession that will not win me any goth points. Aesthetic Perfection sort of happened right in the moment between when I gave up on discovering new music and the time I listened to nothing but. Daniel Graves has become a leader of the modern dark scene for a reason. So getting to hear this new single without much context is a really interesting way to stumble into the band. This track is a bop. With firecracker exploding chain guitar work by Sebastian Svalland. It is also produced by Front Line Assembly legend Rhys Fulber. So I went in blind expecting cold razor precision on the production. Which is exactly what I got. What I was pleasantly surprised by was the range and voice charisma of Graves. It oozes with thick viscus grime and light footed cadence that keeps the energy constant and focused. The song also gives a tight compressed poetry of lyrics that convey a relatable idea in the modern era without an abundance of words. There is a special anticipation when you discover a band with a rich history later in their career and get to work your way back. I may have to do some of my reaction videos to some Aesthetic Perfection classics. Put your favorites below in the comments. Also buy this track immediately because it is a slam.

https://aestheticperfection.bandcamp.com/track/automaton-feat-sebastian-svalland

Redwing Blackbird: Fire Cleans Everything EP 

 Fire Cleans Everything EP originally released on Election Day (11/04/2020) immediately grabs you with a sense of the tension across the U.S. in 2020. 

The opener and title track Fire Cleans Everything the sophomore release from Redwing Blackbird (Denver Based Band, by way of Phoenix, AZ) picks up almost as soon as the song starts with the steady rumble of the drums and driving bass line that, just as easily could have been released in 1984 as today to be answered in turn by the slow whining drone of the guitar.

Paul Bakers vocals on this release reminds me of the first time experienced Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Nothing Wrong. 

This screams post punk protest music with the restraint of a stalking jaguar as Paul Chants, “FIRE CLEANS EVERYTHING”

This momentum continues on in the liquidity psychedelia of Space Bridge. Something in this track pulls in thoughts of cult band Slint’s  Album Spiderland. 

Powerful yet just understated enough to become a cult classic.

RW/BB bring things down a notch with Rake, a down tempo neon ballad laced with the echo of western guitar. This track exposes so much aurally that the story becomes visual, as Paul crones Well I use to wake/ Run with the moon/Live like a Rake in such a way that could have just as easily come from the mouth of Nick Cave or Michael Gira, and take you on a journey down the highway heading away from the chaos of the city, even if it is just for a moment in a seedy hotel

.

Closing this brilliantly composed EP is the chillingly upbeat yet apropos Guillotine, bring me right back to that Red Lorry Yellow Lorry experience. The smell of decaying card board of the Used Trax, and the head phone encapsulating me in some dark embrace that will last for years. 

This is a modern Post Punk Classic in Waiting.

Redwing Blackbird (bandcamp.com)

Images courtesy of Sarah Martinez