Sean Cook, a rare veteran of the 1990s Arkansas darkwave/industrial scene, has released music as Clusters of Fornication (a sly reference, that name!) in recent years. His fourth EP, Loss For Words, refines Cook’s vision, moving forward and reverently looking back.
Kicking off the EP, “Hate is a Carnivore” is a good example of the CoF sound – insistent beats, icy synths, and brittle, introspective vocals.
The opening moments of “Pandemica” marries an electro pulse with truly of-the-time subject matter – the rage and sadness that has tarnished the idealist’s vision for America.
“A God in the Reflection” is an effective condemnation of organized religion, with a beat reminiscent of The Cure’s “A Hundred Years”. The house-style bass supports the beat while remaining understated.
The EP proper wraps up with the minimal Kraftwerk-esque “Moscovium Element”. The beat diverges from straightforward mimimalism – like something Front Line Assembly might sample for their own work. Loss For Words concludes with a short demo called “Each Time”.
One’s first impression might focus on classic reference points – the high drama of the best Sisters of Mercy tracks, the foreboding of Clan of Xymox and contemporaries like Void Vision – but further listening will reveal contemporary relevance. It’s ponderous and simultaneously comfort food for darkly attuned ears.
I have been thrilled to watch as the Goth/Industrial community grows more diverse. Hats off again to Bandcamp for really putting their money where their mouth is to support both bands and the rights people of color. I will go through some of the things I am currently listening to so you can add to your list and support a great cause.
LEATHERS – Reckless – The long anticipated EP from Shannon of Actors. A unique departure from her other projects and really highlights her essence which is more collaborative in Actors. It’s sleek, it’s beautiful, it’s as light as an angel dancing on a pin. I love the silky billowing synths and how they flow off the shoulders of her voice. The sound is such an immersive dream which slides along the borders of reality. I spend moments dwelling on how something so beautiful manages to remain so relatable.
Favorite track: Take your pick, but I will go with Missing Scene. Something about this swooping shoegaze LUSH 4AD vibe. Her voice is reverberating like a tuning fork yet ringing so clearly. I hear this song and even on earbuds I feel like I’m in an old opera house with a towering sound system feeling wave after wave wash over.
October Noir – Cover Type O Negative: Love You To Death – Loving the sound of this band. Does it emulate the band they are covering in a lot of their sound. Yes. Type O is an amazing sound though. It’s ultra bass Steele vocals. It’s crunching power chords. It’s chest pounding bass guitar. This cover is rich with extra layers and complexity. It feels like a love letter to a band now beyond the veil. You can really feel the time and dedication placed on taking apart and reanimating every aspect.
Dea Decay – Magic Lantern – This is a beautiful fun romp from Florida artist Dea Decay that came out in December 2020. A spicy club crashing electronic explosion. No vocals but instead a steady stream of adorable wicked anime samples. It’s non stop energetic explosion of adorable imagery and and surreal colors.
Favorite Track: Catronica – A little secret here, when the new netflix She-Ra came out I was blown away. It’s so wonderful and pure. This song really captures that energy and highlights my favorite character Catra. It’s sharp claws bounding around with reckless abandon.
SHIV-R – Kill God Ascend – Brand new album from the Australian electronic apocalypse know as SHIV-R. I love the expansive fantasy metal destruction fed into a machine brain and turned loose on an unsuspecting populous. Pete Crane is a force of nature in the industrial scene and has a glorious gift for poetic imagery in his lyrics. If you are a fan of the violent industrial power of Front 242 and shaking your body in dangerous convulsions, this is your jam. I’m also impressed by the range shown on tracks like Spark, a truly lovely brain infecting track of pop industrial glory. Or Black Turns Blue a downtempo marching chant of a ballad. This record is a journey. Crane’s voice is one of those charismatic characters that feels at home in every setting the music places it. This is the wonder of modern industrial.
Black Angel – Prince of Darkness – I am LOVING this modern trend of returning to guitar driven true gothic rock. Matt Vowels has done it again. This is sizzling and sensual dark driving glory. I just don’t get to make this comparison enough but this album holds that emotive blistering power of Love and Rockets. Deep brooding rich vocals, whip snap percussion, but it always comes back to the V8 power of these guitars. Everything is foot to the floor speed and slides. It’s a non stop action flick of adrenochrome and dark intent.
Favorite Track: Serene – What a gorgeous highway 51 desert hard hitting ballad. The vocals croon and tantalize as the dust rolls by on an empty stretch. I love song for outlaws.
PALAIS IDEAL – The Art of Crashing – I’ve been waiting for the follow up to the 2019 release Pressure Points with baited breath. I was disappointed only by the fact it was three tracks and not twenty. This release is a perfectly blended sound of quality crafting, unique flavor, and infectious hooks. It’s one of those releases I can’t imagine who I could play this for and have them not enjoy it. It really has a universal appeal. It feels kinetic, like Depeche Mode “Construction Time Again”. I always enjoy John’s voice, but this EP really highlights how many different things he can do while sounding distinctly himself. It’s the true mark of a singer who has found his themselves and are owning it. The other greatest power of PI is, like all great prog genre, the two components know each other and their instruments so intimately. It really feels like two blended minds working without barrier. It makes the guitar and bass lines dart, bend, and twine together in perfect syncopation. I will be playing this…. A LOT.
Favorite Track: You can’t go wrong but Results is damn near perfection. From the opening guitar riff, the workout routine bassline, and John’s drive and grit. This song feels like an instant classic from out of time I somehow didn’t hear. It also holds the higher concept lyrics and hope PI always wins me over with. 10/10
It was a long hard week for me. Time to lose myself in someone else’s head. Who are the songs transporting me to another place?
FIRES – Changeling – New single from Aedrea. The title here really tells the story. Such a bold metamorphic shift in sound. In particular the vocals have this wispy Chelsea Wolfe quality full of fairy fire flickering promise. The music is a shifting fantasia, almost an entire film score journey in five minutes. Tender raindrop keys, crushing storm front guitars, and bisecting buzzsaw percussion. A cacophony of sound and beauty. As an added bonus it contains a Bside called “exit/Void” with a spoken word poem surrounded by sinister overtones. Another glorious example of the captivating burning mind.
hallowed hearts – Ruins – NYC’s Hallowed Heart have a new 5 track EP. I love the opening concept of ruins. The things we left behind. The memory of who we were for future strangers to find and wonder at. These are not songs for the dance club. An energetic medium tempo darkwave for walking the dark streets. Pulling the collar of your coat up to stave off a bracing wind. A grey and bleak musical tone offset by the courage of Alex Virlios vocals that cover a wide range and spew forth challenge to cast light on the sullen path.
Supernova – A lovely beckoning open with locomotive punching guitar sounds. Virkios vocals start by painting a rich baritone at home in the post punk style, but then crackle with energy for the chorus. I loved the punch and diversity of sound here. Real feelings of introspection and self discovery.
Circle – Beautiful firefly rising ballad to break the pace of the EP. I love the way the guitar lines push forward and guide the voice here. It’s a beautiful and maudlin song of spiritual longing. Two minutes in the ballad takes on real power and teeth.
Overall: This is an album that takes you to very specific moments and paints a picture in the mind. It’s a journey worth taking and a moment worth looking for.
IAMTHESHADOW – Everything in this Nothingness [Still] – I have waiting long for this release on Cold Transmission Music. A re-release of the Portuguese darkwave darlings debut 2016 album. Pedro and company have been tantalizing fans with rich passionate heart bursting serenades. Getting to return to the opening stanza of their journey and combining it with the years of experience and musical wisdom is an experience to waken the ears and minds of their fans. The music is a crystal pool of water on an autumn night. Beautiful, bracing, and teeming with life. I’m going to now repeat a sentence I have uttered in every Iamtheshadow review I have written. “Pedro Code has the best baritone voice in modern goth/darkwave.” It is a force of nature that moves the heart like a poem by one of the great masters.
Wait, thats not all. In addition to the album, they released a companion remix album and it is such a brilliant homage by some of the top artists in the scene….and me 🙂 It Includes Kill Shelter, Thewalkingicon, Antipole, Crying Vessel, The Frozen Autumn, and yes Amaranth.
I think what was so impressive with this was the extreme level of talent, as well as a deep personal admiration everyone involved had for Iamtheshadow. There is nothing more engaging for a remix album than when you can really hear a reimagining full of love for the source material. I’ll be selfish for a moment and say getting to sing a duet with Pedro was a dream come true and a terrifying challenge. Collin did a masterful job remixing the song as well. Again hard to choose a standout track, because every song was a passionate love letter to an artist we deeply respect.
White Cauldron – Nine Hells – Wicked release from last year that somehow fell through the cracks on me. The nearby Colombus Ohio band is really hard to place in a box. Sharp spinning blades of Industrial, clashing with jittering witchouse, textural keyboards, and a coven choir of misty swirling vocals. Throwing so many elements together could cause you to be lost in the miasma, but the mix is precise and razor blended to let every element find a voice. I’m not sure how many members the band has beyond Bess but the ultimate power of the release is that feeling of 20 clashing minds swirling around and finding focus like a spectral eruption in a cemetery.
Empty Tomb: This song is the cacophony at it’s best. The overlapping harmonies ranging from Nu Metal spitting to banshee haunt wails are a powerful and unnerving effect I found myself captivated by.
Die This Death: This opening bassline has such a filthy stank on it. It rises and grooves like a buzzing swamp consuming a corpse. The rapped out vocals almost put me in mind of Cypress Hill. Just such a unique and conjured ritual of darkness and decay.
Overall: This is a complex listen for all it’s parts. It often rides the line between background chill and chaos dance mix. With everything going on I found myself constantly surprised how easy it was to get lost in the flow of it. I want to take this ride again.
Astari Nite – Pocket Full of Posies – Look if Astari Nite has a new single, I am here for it. That said, holy crap this is a jam. An enchanting garden of mythic colors and romantic poetry. It bounces between complex layers and stripped down emotional delivery. The vocals are that beautiful teardrop smooth Robert Smith croon which makes my heart well. This band continues to impress with every release.
This pandemic has changed things. The world we left is not the one we will return to. Even as vaccination rolls out and tours and festivals start booking. A giant void was left in the fabric of our reality and club Dj’s headed to places like Twitch to fill that void. It wasn’t enough to spin Spotify or Mixcloud playlists. People hunger for an interaction. To have a story told. A “Radio show with a strong visual component” Hate Mior. The people who have embraced this new medium have broken a never before done artform which is creating a modern day electronic salon for music fans from around the world to congregate and discuss culture and music in real time. I will start by reviewing a very special 5 hour show by Toronto Street artists/Clothing creator/and DJ Hate Mior and their show to commemorate the life and death of icon Ian Curtis (Joy Division).
This piece is a journey, a story of one of the most known and tragic figures of our genre. Ian’s words and unique musical style were taken too soon but left a rippling effect which burned hard in the imagination and inspiration of generations to come. It opens with the fitting David Bowie classic “Rock and Roll Suicide“. Hate then appears on the screen with the flat lined supernova readout that is homage to the Joy Division “Unknown Pleasures” album. One of the most recognizable images in T Shirt history. Their face is emotive and playful. Stark in Black and White. Projecting the range of an experienced theater performer. Then The Sex PistolsNo Fun rings out. It’s hard to separate The Pistols from Joy Division. Legend has it the band was formed at one of their early shows.
At the 25 minute mark Hate lays out what the concept of the show is and why it is important. Also the role the visuals play in the story. Because this isn’t a radio program. It’s a multi media experience. They site reference material like “Touching from a Distance” by Ian’s widow Debra Curtis and the film Control. I love how the story starts at the true beginning. The number one hit in England during Ian’s birth “Why Do Fools Fall in Love“. The narritive progresses to Ian’s early family influence and what it was like growing up in a factory town like Manchester. Matching up the video to the film “Jason and the Argonaughts” which was sited as playing a dramatic role in his development. I love this attention to history. It is clear early on this isn’t just a setlist. It’s a biography set to music.
Ian Curtis is best known for the power of his lyrics. It was truly transformative poetry of the depths of the human condition. Here Hate calls out specific lyrics and the impact his early loves played on those later verses. A story then goes into Ian’s love of mime and performance. How this connected to David Bowie. Then the most important part, how it connected back to Hate’s own life and experience in performance. Because the new roll of the streaming Dj is also as a performer who makes a personal connection with the audience. The Dj is no longer the the one who chooses the music, but a part of the story themselves. This brings Kate into their idea of Ian and Debora’s personal mixtape. I think the other aspect worth noting is Kate does not hit play and put their headphones on. They take this journey with you. In movement and facial expression.
“Kate has an unhealthy knowledge of this band. The setlists were weird until I realized where the show was going.” It felt like going through a museum with the best tour guide on their roster. The stories, background, and history allowed you to see the paintings for yourself. Just gave all the best behind the scenes insight to make everyone who watched feel like an expert.
Setlist: PROLOGUE: David Bowie – Rock n’ Roll Suicide John Peel Announcement
: The Death of Ian Curtis Sex Pistols – No Fun Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant PART 1: Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers – Why Do Fools Fall in Love David Bowie – Sound and Vision The Doors – Light My Fire Neu! – Wave Mother The Velvet Underground – Candy Says Nektar- It’s All in the Mind Mott the Hoople – All the Young Dudes Roxy Music – More than This WARSAW YEARS Warsaw- No Love Lost (early recording) Warsaw – Warsaw Warsaw – The Drawback Warsaw – They Walked in Line Warsaw – Tension Warsaw – Lost Iggy Pop – The Passenger Buzzcocks – Lipstick The Fall – Firey Jack The Drones – Persecution Complex X-Ray Spex – Oh Bondage! Up Yours Delta 5 – Mind Your Own Business Gang of Four – To Hell with Poverty Martin Hannet & Joy Division – Noise Drums Sine Warmup N.F Porter – Keep On Keeping On Joy Division – Interzone Frank Sinatra – My Way
In between the sets you hear the famous Henry Rollins rant, along with a Bill Burr quote. I love the full picture here of adding other voices to how Joy Division effected them. Shout out for the Bootblacks spin who I think has a direct line the flavor and magic Joy Division captured. From here the set veers sharply into a tribute to Joy Division the way it was meant to be heard. 1st pressing vinyl, obscure cuts, and a Martin Hannett homage. Kate calls out the people who support them, which is such an important part of the modern stream. People have a longing to be connected to what they are seeing. The best streaming shows understand this and make the experience interactive.
PART 2 – THE RISE AND FALL OF JOY DIVISION Joy Division – Shadowplay (First television appearance) Kraftwerk -The Man Machine Joy Divison – Day of the Lords Joy Division – Twenty Four Hours Joy Division – Insight Martin Hannett & Joy Division – More N4 Drum Programming Joy Division – Transmission (Arrow Studio 1978) Jou Divison – Transmission (12″ original vinyl) Joy Division – Incubation Joy Division – Dead Souls (live at Les Bains Douche) Joy Divisio – Isolation Joy Division – She’s Lost Control (original first UK press vinyl) The Captain and Tenille – Love Will Keep Us Together Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart Section 25 – Girls Don’t Count Section 25 – Colour Movement Sex & Violence Parts of Ian Curtis’s recorded past life regression therapy (originally recorded by Bernard Sumner) FINAL CURTAIN A Certain Ratio – All Night Party Joy Division – Ceremony (Live at Birmingham University) Joy Division – Disorder Joy Division – Decades Joy Division – Digital Joy Division – The Eternal Iggy Pop – Nightclubbing Iggy Pop – Mass Production Martin Hannett & Joy Division – Atmosphere Buildup MUSIC VIDEO: Atmosphere David Bowie – Warsazawa
The game has changed and Djs haven’t just had to adapt. They have had to create a new medium of art and experience. This was a history lesson, a street performance, and a psychology paper rolled into musical format. If this is the future of streaming shows that the pandemic has made for us. If this is the way the world connects online to become a little closer, a little smaller. I say the future looks bright and is starting to heal the pieces of what this isolation has made. Where will it end?
I’ll work on more stream reviews soon, who are some of the ones you love? Comment below
Glasgow minimalist artwave with their sixth album release. I have done a previous review but hitting play 30 seconds in and I already feel this is something different. The tempo is that same patient, anticipation building, tuning fork vibration of keyboard sound. The mix is no longer a dark and swirling murk of life. Instead the water is a clear blue which allows every word to permeate to the surface. Paula has a flickering flame tongue whisper voice which has charged to the front for this record to take a captivating hold. This is an end of the night reflection sound. A secret to treasure, not a proclamation to share. It is a sound just for you in your most personal moments.
Antidote – Ok starting with a bit of a deep cut here. It just has that lovely opiate blur sway to it. Mazzy Star soul with a bright lights big city feel. It perfectly captures what this record does so well. Pulls you out of your head with the smallest amount of chaos necessary to grab your attention.
We Don’t Want To Sleep – Lovely transporting intro of life teeming summer days with the buzzing sound of insects growing in a tension of life. I love the bright energy and sleepy tempo in equal measure. It skirts that line line between excitement and dream. This is a musical experience built on delicate balance. I love the effortless nature with which it sits on the head of a pin.
Overall: This is not the album for every moment. It’s specialized, a perfect construct for that lazy eyed moment of introspection in the foggy haze between excitement and dreams. Jonathan Skinner is a master artisan in crafting rich tapestry using efficient material. Paula is a siren holding your imagination as your consciousness flickers between this world and the next. Instead of looking for a sound which is fine in many moments. Seek out a sound which is perfect in it’s own time.