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.
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.
Exciting new shadow disco album from Kimberly Kornmeier set to release June 15th. This is a project that has been going since the late 90s but I am just getting on board. I regret waiting as long as I did because this album cruises that perfect wave of shake your ass dance beats and heady introspective lyrics. 17 tracks with 8 wicked remixes full of powerful names like Assemblage 23 and Adian Cane. Kimberly has a gorgeous vocal delivery that sits perfectly in the mix to be the star of the show while allowing the crackling energy of the dance beats to fire like a rocket breaking the atmosphere. The shadowy smoke is always present in the tone, but what really wins me over is the confident defiance in the delivery. Her voice has an indomitable spirit that fills you with hope.
Let It Burn – Opening title track and it’s an absolute burner. When the bell rings you start swinging and that is exactly what this track brought. Beautiful Blondie style delay vocals and sparkling crystal keyboard accents. The song feels so personal, like a story told while watching yourself from outside your body. I’m always impressed when a song can carry off a devil may care attitude without venturing into pretension. It’s one of those tracks you want to be playing in the club when you make your entrance.
Shed My Skin Feat Silence In Machine: A rattling builder with those same laser focus vocals and reckless abandon. Great mechanical demon contrast on the echo vocals by SIM. Again this concept of staring down the barrel of insecurity and trauma and striding boldly forward. This album continues to deliver a powerful voice for women in the scene.
Cold Machine (Assemblage 23 remix) – This is a a song I found so relatable. We keep getting colder and more desensitized to protect ourselves from the damage in the world. Yet in moments we miss that humanity, that vulnerability. It’s a boot stomping baseline and a message that smacks me right in the feels.
Overall: I am beating myself up I am just discovering Bow Ever Down but on the strength of this album I am going to dig through the back catalog. It’s fierce, it’s sensual, and it delivers a message of strength and power. When you preorder the digital album is available now. Final note, the cover art is a burning hellcat with fire eyes. I am obviously here for this.
Caroline Blind has a new single release of an old Sunshine Blind song complete with remixes of some of the biggest names in goth. I know getting that “old school” sound is the coveted concept of the day. One great way to insure it, get a who’s who super group of some of the best Old School musicians still in the game. Names like Ben Christo (The Sisters of Mercy, Diamond Black), Mark Gemini Thwaite (Gary Numan, Peter Murphy, The Mission), and Andee Blacksugar (KMFDM, Black Sugar Transmission, Peter Murphy), along with her former Sunshine Blind bandmates. Mastered by the always amazing Gordon Young
A bursting dark driver. It’s full of nostalgia both in the sound as well as the way it makes you think about your connections, your tribe. The song was from 1992 and played often in live sets but never found it’s way onto a Sunshine Blind cd, which is a crime, because it thumps. Caroline’s voice shows her range drifting between the ethereal and the broken glass grit of Johnette Napolitano. It really places you on a rocking ship in a storm of purple/grey skies and lightning flashes. It’s so exciting hearing from voices I grew up enthralled with showing how much they still have to say in the modern climate. The guitar work here is next level, a laser precision of crackling light. This track just makes me sway from the hard steady rhythm and the vocal intensity that only Caroline can deliver.
A perfect nexus for old goth fans and baby bats just finding the scene and wanting to feel connected to where we came from. Shine up your leather and hit the dance floor hard.
For those that want a musical education of people who built this scene featured on this single
The second single from Texas siren Veronica Campbell off her Cold Transmission released album “Chemical”. The video opens with shiny sinister Velvet Underground leather. Burning wire synth beats, and a bright red smile full of danger. The delivery and the distance are aggressive and enticing in a captivating duality. Veronica always brings a very personal and revealing style to her songs. I love that this is not set pieces or background. The video matches the music with it’s close up introspective feel. The shadowy ram horn character is present, but a foil not a focus. This song is tendrils of smoke always creeping around you while you fall deeper into eyes you can’t turn away from. The playfulness lends a strength. A sense of being the one in control. Red leather is the power tie that holds the authority in this room. The end is a twist I won’t spoil. This is another great example of how Death Loves Veronica is showing that strength, control, intelligence are the sexiness that captures the modern imagination.