9/13/19 saw the release of so much great music that brought my blood to a screaming level of excitement that just doing a song of the day was not enough. I’ll fire through some of these wonderful premiers.
S Y Z Y G Y X – just released a new album on Negative Gain/Cold Transmission called “Fading Bodies”. Available for pre-order right now. Holy fuck, this record hits a new stride. It’s everything that worked well on “The Graveyard Compilation” but done bigger, tighter, weirder. Luna’s voice is way to the front and lets her haunting ghostly song wrap you in glowing chains. This is a band you will be hearing a lot from in the future. Look for our interview with them next week.
Antipole – Brand new record out “Radial Glare”. They are now officially the most reviewed artist on Sounds and Shadows with three records. Karl has continued to refine and grow the sound of interwoven intricate post punk guitars but has brought the vocals way forward and used frequent collaborators Paris Alexander and Eirene to make this heartfelt belt of bleak winter energy take life and drive forward into the crystalline beauty .
Ships in the Night – The Charlottesville VA group has released a series of remixes including one by Thomas Duerig of “The Purge”. Beautiful bright beam vocals racing by sinister dance beats and poetry of doubt and hope.
Bedless Bones – Your new favorite band from Estonia and another incredible Cold Transmission release. A mystical trance of beauty and darkness, “Sublime Malaise” feels like a coven started a dance club in a haunted forest on a stormy night.
Sombre – New video release for “Black Skin Twins”. It’s a new version of the song from “Linsay” stripped down to leave Cedric’s voice exposed and brimming with emotion. The percussion from the acoustic strings add an organic truth that lets you focus on the words.
I will probably write more on all these releases but so much happened today I needed to share my excitement. Delve into all of this. Each was enough to excite me.
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.
I’ve been searching for the right words for this May 25th 2019 release from Palais Ideal. This album had such an profound impact on me. It’s an early runner for my album of the year and we are just getting started. For me when I think of this record I think of the first time I heard The Church and thought, they are doing the same thing as most of the new wave bands. They are just doing it on a level of depth and complexity which touch on a higher step, while somehow maintaining everything in terms of pop sensibility that their contemporaries are achieving. I think the lack of sugar coating could make Palais Ideal easy to look past when in reality they are the ones creating something most profound.
John has such a wonderful and unique voice which i will expand on later but for a moment I want to focus on the message rather than the voice it is given in. You just don’t hear intelligent, challenging lyrical content like this in modern post punk music. A lot of it is expressive and clever but what Pressure Points has done is weave a cohesive tale of vibrant expression about the plight and achievement of modern culture. It’s Issac Asimov set to a tapestry of music. Enormous in scope and precise in vision. I have listened to these songs so many times already but I ordered the LP and put off writing the review partially out of intimidation partially because i needed to absorb the record played front to back as it was made to be heard. I’m not saying they don’t have great singles here. To me, this is a record of the best 12 deep cuts spaced over a bands 10 albums in one place.
Lets talk about what is unique here. Post Punk tends to lend itself to a technically adept style and Palais Ideal features two masters of craft at the height of their instruments. What they have done is take a step beyond the technical proficiency and into the progressive rock style almost more King Crimson than Joy Division. Dramatic shifts in key and tempo. Time syncopation that has the same heavy driving bass but such fluid movement of tone that it transcends the genre. The music is layered like mesh steel on a robots thigh. John has a voice that flickers and strikes with clarity and hovers on a range between Bernard Sumner, Joe Strummer and Mark Burgess yet always finds a way to cut through the complexity of the tempest. The use of guitars and Synths are economical and create a cleanness in spite of how much is going on.
How on earth to pick favorite tracks?
The Programme – What a complete cybernetic device digging into the depths of your skull and rattling around the pleasure zones in your brain. This bass line is everywhere at once. John’s delivery and that winding guitar rift which glances like light through a prism. “The Colony breaks down, we built it up again, we run the program now” A true statement on the loss of reality through technological euphoria. Facing the self shackled slavery of the modern world with glorious synth candy.
Context Collapse – This high energy snare snap building into a smooth cornered transition and that signature delicate guitar light show. “Forever avoiding a moment of disconnection. Improving, engineering a more transparent you.” So much to unpack here, layers upon layers.
Everything Will Be Ok – So much focus is on this dytopian world of the modern struggle this dance beat New Order soother with the strange echo robot effect vocals breaks up the weight and lets everything go green. “There is no such thing as destiny, life gives you everything you need. Everything will be ok?” So tongue and cheek I can almost beleive.
Overall this album is a force of everything that this new renaissance in post punk music is making possible. First you tear it down, then you rebuild it, then you synthesize it to a higher complexity and evolution. Pressure Points is a soundtrack for the modern spy novel of the post digital age. It’s full of adventure, depth, and a calculated empathy that makes me dream of electric sheep. This will be an album I am still peeling apart when I am putting together a list of the most important musical contributions of the year.
Do you know that feeling when you watch a truly suspenseful horror film? The first time you saw Suspiria, or The Exorcist. When you are gripping the edge of your chair uncomfortable, unnerved, feeling your heart race faster in your chest but you can’t look away. You know this is just a film and not happening to you but are still overcome with a terrifying dread that the world is monstrous and mysterious. That you might not have as firm a grasp on what is real as you thought you did? That is what I felt the first time I heard Washington DC TerrorElectroGoth band SYZYGYX.
SYZYGYX is An astronomical term denoting the disposition of three celestial bodies on a line. This is an incredibly deep and bad ass band name. This album is a compilation of “Broken Mirrors” EP (Burning Grave Records), “Encounters” EP (Cold Transmission), and “Is That All There Is” (Burning Grave Records). ” A very impressive body of work that all has an extremely avant garde tactile feel that creates a wonderful range in style and structure over the course of one collection. There are some elements of this unique sound that really tie everything together. For one Luna has such a wispy sensual voice that is full of haunted beauty. The music isn’t edgy or industrial, it has a medium pace dance beat. With a lot of subtle percussion notes to build tension and add flavor. The synth sounds are so wide ranging and expressive. When Josh adds in contrasting resonant monotone driving vocals it creates a dialog. A superb and fringe effect.
I really enjoy a band that makes higher concepts and chic visual sound feel so effortless. When cool has a sound. How could you get Ladytron and The Goblins to create a soundtrack for a Italian horror film set in the New York club scene? To me that was the clashing contrast of elegance in SYZYGYX.
With 16 tracks that were chosen as standouts from the EPs it’s hard to pick favorites but lets give it a go.
Avoid the Void – Luna’s gentle whisper over this lancing synth sound. The snapping drums. There is something so Siren like in her calling voice. “You’re nothing, you are a waste of skin” I can’t argue. I think this song really struck me for the subtle touches which is what the band does so effectively.
Velvet Lips – What an offbeat and interesting phrasing on the vocals. The drums seem almost at odds with the melody creating this terrifying tension. Shrieking background sounds and subtle hints of beauty to the dark and sinister texture. The bridge change up almost feels like throwing the song in reverse while going 60 mph. It jars me, it captures me, it leaves me transfixed and wondering. The ending drum beats are like metal bars on steel drums and have this infinitely east coast alley feel.
Runaways – The closer is the perfect encapsulation of what this album is working towards. Luna’s voice is bouncing between her sharp stabbing and her breathy soothing. The Synths have a continual build. It definitely feels like running away from something but with no destination in mind. The voices of consequence on your shoulder calling you towards a change. Then the vocals become clear and the synth becomes a spaceship taking the journey to a strange and foreign place.
Overall the album is vast, hard to place in a box, and sinister. That’s what I felt made me love it more and more. Each block of songs stepped outside themselves and the whole of the sound stepped outside of the norm. It’s strange, it’s beautiful, it’s thought provoking. This is music for a private dance party not everyone is invited to. An intimate music. A puzzle to be solved together.
I walked into this review not knowing what I was really getting into, I heard a little bit from Ken, whom only said “try this one, I think you’ll really like this”. I dug it and I said sure why not. Was I in for a SURPRISE!
I like to dive into my reviews without knowing ANYTHING about the artist, as I listen to their music I hope that they invoke a sense of wonder from me, wonder that’ll ultimately will lead me to become obsessive with knowing everything I can about them. With ELZ, It was that but in a different way, I didn’t expect myself to hold off on knowing more about them, until after the listening. I found myself so lost in their sound and only their sound that I didn’t want any other information to possibly ruin that experience for me.
Here is my journey through ‘PSYCHODRAMA’ :
Invention of Faith – Faith is a recurring word in this album, as stated before I didn’t know much about ELZ and the Cult during this listen and as I write this I really wish I had lyric book of sorts to decipher what this space journey of delicious horror was all about. Great opening track, very Mass Effect, very Muse (if you’ve heard their new album you’ll know what I mean), very She Wants Revenge.
Faith in Me -A sort of continuation from the intro track, this cyber-punk/cyber-goth, vampires in a Ridley Scott space film sound is just a perfect kind of dark. The chorus is lovely. “I have lost faith in me”… preach!
Cold War – ELZ and the Cult, keeping with the persistence of that bass synth, moves more into an aggressive industrial beat with track two. The dirty vocals that become prominent throughout the ‘PSYCHODRAMA’ make their first appearance here. The track maintains a steady darkness while still being dance floor friendly, a nice mix that’ll fit any gothic DJ’s playlists. Goth Pop indeed.
Growing Pains -Wake up! The gunshot New Order-esque drum intro coming at you from a very very dark chord progression should keep you on your feet. The vocals maintain the grime, the style however moves into a Lebanonn Hannover with Russian Utro behind the mic area. I’m loving it. This song is ready for International goth floors. Dj’s, remix this, GET AT THIS.
Die Once More – With ‘Die Once More’ ELZ and the Cult give us a break. A brief of a lull in the aggression. (As if one could say that about this album). The entire release is very industrial and literally any track could be mixed/remixed into a club banger. Creating an accessible album like that is really difficult.
Last Family Supper – The intro here is something out of a 90’s cyberpunk video game and the album, when it decides to chill, is really just sci-fi/horror space ambient suspense music. Prepping us for something killer, no doubt. The vocals once again evoke a Lebanon Hannover vibe while the drums beat like a march. The lead synth keeping it all a touch away from depressing and into real of wonder and excitement. ELZ and the Cult spoke about dying once more and again and again in ‘Die Once More’ but here he speaks about not giving up, he cannot die, he will not die and he doesn’t know why. This person is conflicted and all this conflict is fighting a cold war within his heart and mind. ELZ is the fallout. This soul is burning hot and bright within the darkness that it expresses. My favorite track thus far.
We Never Met – Moving deeper into the record, ‘We Never Met’ gives us joyful, maybe hopeful, feelings and honestly everything about this album just bleeds a sense of happy sadness. I call that life. The vocals are now touching a The Horrors vibe, something I hadn’t thought about the first couple of listens. This is a really cool track that flowed and evolved beautifully. I feel that ELZ and the Cult got the bangers that they thought everyone would like out of the way and are now exposing their true self. This is what i wanted all along and I love it. If you’ve made it this far, they reward you and it’s that journey that we as the listeners must make and upon catharsis we land a very important connection with the artist. We are no longer just listening to ELZ and the Cult, we are now experiencing ELZ and the Cult.
Dreams in Their Darkest Moments – (Interlude) Interludes are amazing, they can do so much to an album in such a short amount of time. Refresh your pallets, friends. I feel a sense of movie soundtrack from this. This band not only makes banger club hits but can, and I’d put money on this, easily find themselves soundtracking the next block buster sci-fi/cyber noir.
Gremlins – Excellent transition into Gremlins, seamless. This song gets me moving, the lyrical melody is also great. I wish for more clarity in the voice, less grime, nevertheless he’s hitting all the right spots. This track is also the best example we have of EZL and the Cults melodic range.
Manipulation – Cool drum work on track ten. It seems that every song has some new sound, tone, synth sound in it. Keeps for very interesting listening the most minimal song in the album, for sure.
The Witching Hour -We are now at song eleven and I must say the beat behind this, easily the most danceable song on this record. “In the witching hour the monsters come to play” So damn good. I have to be honest here, I started listening to ‘Psychodrama’ early in the morning here in Los Angeles. I had a nice cold dark brew. ELZ and the Cult, during the process of listening, have helped me upgrade from a dark roast coffee to a Dark Seas Mission Brewery Imperial Stout, ready to keep the death dance party going. Thanks!?
Dystopian Prayer – NIN all the way, with a tad of Vazquez’s The Soft Moon in it, the most different and experimental of all the tracks in my opinion. ‘Dystopian Prayer’ is a nice “near the finish line” song showing us what this project is capable of and perhaps what is yet to come.
Funeral of Queen Mary -Everything about this says the end. Finish line. Operatic! A Clockwork Orange! It’s epic and it’s majestic. Dark, evocative, dark pop at it’s finest. ’Psychodrama’ was a hell of an experience.
Overall this album was a powerful and diverse journey., in the way a film maker creates a story with a variety of shots and perspective ELZ and the Cult have created a musical journey that takes accessible dark pop and combines it with the challenge of raw emotion and dark sensual beauty.. It’s a broken roller coaster traversing a shattered futuristic city.. It builds, it fills, and it does not disapoint.. You need a ticket for this ride.