Concrete Doves opens with a relentless deathrock bass riff and then militant flash bang drums that trigger my panic response. Feels like getting followed into a dark alleyway and getting the shit kicked out of you by a malevolent spirit. Guitar and undead vocals devoid of any feelings fill out the mix and make for a very disorienting and visceral start to Swansect’s debut.
What follows the musical equivalent of running the gauntlet but the aggressors have razor blades, chunks of concrete, and live power lines. The album utilizes multiple “styles” (industrial, deathrock, sound collage, drone) but is held together by the thematic anxiety of the whole work. There is an overwhelming sense of impending tragedy only buffeted by small bursts of apathy in reference to the destiny of the human race.
The last track to me seems like a meditation on the futility of it all, a sort of peace despite all the destruction and devastation that we’re exposed to everyday, in real life and on the news. Peace stemming from the acknowledgment that some things are just out of our control.
This one is special. The first album with a new label Cold Transmission. Pedro, Victor, Herr, these aren’t just a band, they are friends. IAMTHESHADOW is one of the first bands I discovered in my goth renaissance and I have a deep knowledge of their catalog. This album has a story with it. A triumph over adversity, a celebration of reaching a scarred hand up to pull yourself over the ledge. I wanted to start this review by being honest of what this album was to me before I hit play. Now that you know the magnifying power of this lens I am listening through I am going to set it aside and tell you a story about the pure passion and beauty in these 12 songs.
IAMTHESHADOW: Pedro Code – Voices, Guitar, Synthesizers and Programming Vitor J. Moreira – Synthesizers Herr G – Bass
All songs produced, mixed and mastered by Pedro Code Design & Artwork by Yvonne Kiel
Music is a magical thing. Like a relationship. It has a lot of parts and means a lot of things in different moments. I want to give a little background to help you understand this moment. Portuguese band IAMTHESHADOW are a synth driven darkwave sound which builds around Pedro Code’s voice. It is one of the most expressive and passionate instruments in the current dark music scene. The type of old school crooning black silk that would be just as much at home 30’s jazz as it is today. Since 2016’s Everything Is Nothingness this band has stayed true to an immersive core of feeling driven poetry stretching skyward from rich soil of driving rhythm. Embracing the Fall from 2018 took that raw concept to a new height of exposed Nick Cave style narrative with tender dark ballads and the addition of Antipole’s Karl Morton Dahl adding guitar accents. Pedro and team then turned to other projects like The Dream Collision until signing with longtime friends Cold Transmission Music. It was in Cologne Germany for the Cold Transmission festival I witnessed IAMTHESHADOW live and fell in love. When you love an album you expect to hear a band bring it to life on stage. Those special bands find a way to play those songs with new intensity and passion. To open your eyes wide like the first time. So it was in a distant land on a small stage in Cologne.
For two years I waited to see the next place Pedro, Victor, and Herr would take me. Just as the album was nearly completed a tragedy befell with Pedro being robbed of his laptop, and more importantly the masters of the entire album. Huge sections would have to be completely re-recorded. We would all be waiting a little longer for Pitchblack. It was well worth the wait.
The change in tone from the previous offerings is apparent right away. This record does not build itself around the best baritone voice in modern goth. It uses it as an arrowhead propelled towards your heart on silky flowing movement. Part of the glory of the previous three records was using a recipe of stripped down driven passion in a world of ultra produced post punk. Here that passion is just as present but layered inside an intricate and dynamic musical backdrop that gives each concept a voice of it’s own. Additional vocalist Diego Merletto (The Frozen Autumn), Kadri Sammel (Bedless Bones) Yvette Winkler (Vaselyne) were brought on to do vocals. I can say from experience of being offered a duet with Pedro it is an intimidating feeling. Putting my voice next to his sounded panic inducing. Here it is taking something already beautiful and captivating then placing it in a rich sensual frame.
This album cooks. IAMTHESHADOW has always had the ability to move you. With swelling slow turns and blood given form. Pitchblack is striking percussion. Walking slide foot bass lines. Cascading synth sounds rippling in endless alternating progressions. Here the passion is not tender, or heart wrenching. It has teeth, gravitas, and attitude. More of a Depeche ModeMusic For the Masses .These songs are for dancing. For fine red wine. For staring into the eyes of the one you love.
Lets talk about some of those tracks:
Always– Track two leans in with that slashing motion and crisp snare snap. The keys here take center stage and Pedro’s vocals lift and support them. “When you realize, don’t wait”. It’s this urgency of both lyrics and the music. Crackling energy that ignites passion and stirs longing.
Shivers – I’m not sure if this song will end up being a single but i fell in love with it from the start. It has a lot of that classic IATS feel. The train getting further from the station delayed guitar riffs. Pedro’s voice strides to the forefront and is larger than any room I could image. “I played my hand, hoping faith would last” I would dance through the rain on a street full of watery explosions while this song played forever.
Ouroboros (Feat: Kadri Sammel from Bedless Bones) – So Bedless Bones from Estonia is a criminally underrated band. As I said I can’t imagine the giant brass stones it takes to sing next to Pedro. Ouroboros is a perfect name for this track because the voices blend so perfectly it is hard to tell where one starts and the other stops. “Face down on the floor, you are my shadow” Powerful EDM flavor meets traditional darkwave. This song is a dance floor giant.
Awake & Asleep (Feat. Diego Merletto from The Frozen Autumn) – Another weaving smoke tendril that you can’t quite grab a hold of. To have a weapon like Pedro’s voice and to leave it in the background to craft a song this strong is such a bold choice. It really breaks up up flow of the album in the best way. This chorus is such a bold change and hard hook.
When you love something and it still finds a way to surprise you, that is true power. That’s what Pitchblack was for me. The anticipation of knowing something you were going to love was coming. Building the expectation beyond what could be met. Then being amazed when it passed that expectation. This is already the #1 selling darkwave album on bandcamp on day #1 and there is a really good reason for that. Take this journey. Fall in love with music that has soul. This is a record that makes you feel something. That stirs that ancient instinct inside our hearts.
A week from this last Friday was the second day Bandcamp waived their artist fees. Since then, there’s been a burst of new music posted that ranges from one-off projects bred from quarantine boredom to albums that have been in the works for the last year.Some artists have re-released old albums that were never released digitally while others have chosen archived songs that aren’t new but haven’t been released before.
I’m pretty much saying Bandcamp is rad right now.
There is so much great music out and more coming out every day. It was hard to pinpoint my top favorites, but I’ve spent the last day narrowing my latest playlist to my top six favorite new releases.
I’ve always been taken aback by Mogwai’s soundscapes. There’s a vastness in their music that can create such a sad, lonely feeling in my gut. It’s crazy how without words, they can say something so well that it brings tears to my eyes. ZEROZEROZERO is the score to the show on Amazon Prime with the same name exploring the inner workings of the cocaine trade. This album gives the story light as it creates action and tension with massive builds and soundscapes.
When X announced last January that they were going to be releasing a new album, the punk scene stirred. What would the first album release in 27 years by an iconic punk band be like? Great news, everyone! It’s awesome. X spent the last 18 months writing and recording 11 new tracks that are relevant and hype to hear. When the band hit the scene in 1977, they quickly become prolific for their unique sound. Duel vocals, an homage to multiple rock genres at once, ripping guitars, and attitude. That’s X. This album was released on April 22, 2020.
Vlimmer is a music-making machine! This album is dark and ambient with a drive behind it. Though it’s utterly haunting instrumentally and vocally, it’s breathtakingly beautiful simultaneously. Instrumentally, you’ll hear sounds that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand, but then there are these huge vocals and harmonies that hypnotize you. There’s chaos built into the structure of the songs that give you that feeling of tension without pushing you to discomfort.This album was released on May 1, 2020.
When I heard the song, “Dissolve” by Secret Shame, I felt refreshed and excited for more. I heard homage to bands I love like New Order. It literally felt like I was listening to a song by The Cure recorded for 33 1/3 rpm but played at 45 rpm. This is the perfect cross of post-punk and goth rock. You can feel how much fun the band had creating this EP. It’s because of this that the music that creates a deeper connection with the audience. I’m very excited to hear the other half of this EP when it’s released June 5, 2020.
In 2019, four 15-year-olds came together in Melbourne, Australia to form the rad indie-grunge band, Tabloid TV Darlings. The group is heavily inspired by ‘90s alternative rock, specifically grunge. The singer sounds almost exactly like Kurt Cobain, but the band has melodic feel with fuzzed-out guitars and cool vocal harmonies. This group of teenagers has me jealous of their songwriting ability and has me super excited for their future releases. This album was released on May 3, 2020.
Dummy from Los Angelas, CA is a dreamy shoegaze band that echos the sounds of legendary groups like Kraftwerk, Stereolab, and Cluster. Their marriage of rock genres ranging from krautrock to post-punk is enough to give it a unique sound. They take a minimalistic approach to their work but build huge soundscapes within the composition. Each song has it’s own range that builds the album into somewhat of a cinematic-feeling piece overall. This album was released on May 1, 2020.
Favorite Track: Slacker Mask
I know I was a little late to the game by writing these days after Bandcamp waived it’s artist fees, but there’s still amazing music being released every day! There is so much to still be excited about on Bandcamp. Whatever support you can offer to your favorite new artists is always appreciated even if it’s only $5.
I’ve been hearing so much great music these last few weeks and look forward to the time when we’ll all be able to go to shows again and experience music together. Until then, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this segment of “Katy’s ‘End of Days’ Playlist”.
Here’s my latest update on life. Like many people, this has been a rough patch. A lot of personal inventory has been had along with tough life evaluations, revelations, and epiphanies. It sucks. Luckily, I have had one thing in my life since I was a little kid that always helped me through the hard times. That thing is music. During this time, a lot of things have shut down. However, music keeps going and keeps getting better by the day.
When I was scrolling through Bandcamp today, I needed some new tunes to carry me through this week and the many moods it would surface. Some of this is brand new, some of it came out this month, some of it is just a preview of what’s to come. All of it’s great.
This indie-rock, electro-pop, synth album is the definition of glee. The songs are fun with lots of quirky samples that seem to be centralized around generally peppy things. Griffith’s voice has a soothing sound to it. Not to say it’s angelic, but something about it feels familiar and refreshing. The music is incredible. It’s fast and in-your-face synth-pop with synthesized drums that incorporates romantic feels at points with unexpected instrumentation. Every track on this album had its own thing that made it stand out.
‘Le livre des Merveilles’ is absolutely insane. It’s every ounce of what you’d imagine a post-jazz, post-rock, avant-garde, power-pop album would be. You never know what to expect. Each track creates an entirely new landscape and mental image. Some tracks, like “Le livre des Merveilles” are shorter and have a poppier feel, almost like Stereolab.While other tracks like “Le fleuve Brison” start a little more cosmic feeling and take their time building into hugeness. The album maintains is unpredictability throughout splashing in longer experimental interludes featuring instrumentation from synths to strings within the tracks. Also, there are a ton incredible vocal harmonies.
If you’re in dire need of walls of sound with pop-rock vibes underneath, this is the album for you. Blankenberge has fused together shoegaze, dream-pop, and post-rock together in a way that is astonishing. The instrumentation is saturated in a way that hits you in big emotional waves. One of the guitars sounds super wet and surfy, while the other creates ambiance and space. The songs are still driving and sometimes really upbeat, borderline optimistic-sounding, without being overtly happy. The vocals are super saturated and act as more of an instrument than lyrics to sing along with. There are huge post-rock builds and unexpected rhythmic changes throughout that make each song increasingly interesting. Altogether, it’s really beautiful music that makes ya feel good.
“ODDLY is a 3 piece rock band with no bassist. Why we don’t need bass? Cuz we’re louder than that.” I took that from their Bandcamp about section because I thought it was perfect. It perfectly describes who they are and kind of how they sound,. Don’t let their promise of loudness dissuade you. I mean, it’s pretty loud, but it’s intricate and fun with little happy vibes overall. There’s a classic, early 90’s alternative punk vibe to it with apathetic vocals riddled with angst. I love the call-and-response in songs like their featured track, “Loaded”. From beginning to end, this EP is everything it promised to be with its title.
SPC ECO consists of former Curve member Dean Garcia and his daughter Rose Berlin. They’ve been doing this project actively since 2007 and have been putting out shorter EP’s the last few months. This EP is very fun and poppy with some really chill electronic songs and some really energetic songs. The dreaminess of this album is almost immeasurable. When you close your eyes and listen to tracks like, “Don’t Mind Me,” the mental scenery is so bright and positive. Other tracks, like my personal favorite, “Who We Are” have a more melancholy vibe to them with experimental textures and synth. This is an alum that you can get hypnotized by and utilize when you’re doing extended outside tasks like walking around, gardening, or driving.
Okay, so this isn’t an album or an EP, it’s just a single. However, I’ve been obsessed, now listening to this track a dozen times. I can’t tell you what exactly I love about it so much. Is it the excessive use of spring reverb or that classic tone on the organ. I love the fact that it sounds like you’re listening to the track on a warped piece of vinyl. Something about it is so positive at the same time as being so haunting. It has every ounce of a happy day song when you’re driving down the street, wind in your hair, styling some huge fashionable sunglasses while still being ever so slightly unnerving. There’s nothing minor or negative about this jangle-pop track, which is something really great to be able to listen to and really enjoy right now. I can’t wait to hear more from this band.
Only Track: It’s A Felling She Don’t Believe In
Release Date: March 30, 2020
Once again, I hope you all enjoyed this installment of “Katy’s ‘End of Days’ Playlist”. I enjoyed making it. There’s a ton of amazing music coming out regardless of the world situation that can give us all a little comfort right now. Whether you’re into dark, heavy stuff or prefer things to be a little lighter right now, there’s something out there for you to enjoy. You just have to dig a little. Hopefully, these lists help steer you in the right direction.
Things are tough, but you better believe we’re tougher than this. Stay safe and healthy if you’re able to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Reach out to your friends and family and find something to occupy your mind so things don’t feel as dark. I’ve chosen to deep dive into Bandcamp and have found it to be a sanity-saving time consumer.
You are cared about even if it’s by someone or a group of people you’ve never met. We care about you. All of you. We want to help make this time bearable for people who aren’t used to being home all the time and severely want everyone to get through this with as little damage as possible, but we’re also here if you just need to talk to someone. Reach out. We love you all.
Art Diktator is a Turkish art-disco/electronica duo that started in 1997, through which husband and wife team Hakan and Ravenna have since been an intricate part of the Turkish underground music scene. Using self-drawn graphic videos and a high-energy stage show, they have been captivating audiences of many genres under one progressive sound.
Last week, we did a podcast with the amazing Elz and the Cult. One of the bands they chose to share was Art Diktator, and Collin and I fell in love. This high art / quirky electronic dance sound is brimming over with artistic intrigue and dance floor electricity. It’s a tornado of different styles swirling with dark energy to the eye of the storm where beautiful melodies meet electro-punk danger. The voices form a wonderful call-and-answer duality and match dark sensuality with angelic beauty. I don’t understand most of the lyrics, but the power of delivery leaves me captivated.
I found myself wrapped in their constantly bouncing lo-fi synth sounds and driving, dark bass lines. Hakan’s voice is a deep, rich snarl from the lowest register in a sinister chant below the music, while Ravenna is a melodic, lilting gust of wind over a barren city. Strikingly effective use of transition and phasing. All the artistic integrity of Black Tape for a Blue Girl-esque darkwave plus the tearing, dance drone of Sig Sig Sputnik is a lot to pack, but somehow Art Diktator finds that place. I love how each song changes tone and emotion so much and leaves me feeling like I am watching a foreign heist film with no subtitles. In the podcast, Collin called it “Angry ABBA” and I can think of nothing more apt.
Van Gölü Canavarı– This lovely, strange synthwave line comes in lulling you with its downturned tempo. Then, bam! everything speeds up and your body starts moving to the beat. Hakan croons with his deep, gravely voice and is answered with a robotic callback. The name means Van Lake Monster, which is a Turkish myth. I just kept getting lost in the furious motion and contrasting sounds.
Don’t Dream It, Be It– Did I choose this one because I could understand the lyrics? Nope, I picked it because it’s a jam. The crisp waves of slithering sound mix with the xylophone-sounding ascending keyboard banks. It’s a mantra we can all understand. Made me feel like I was part of a Turkish remake of Beverly Hills Cop and the end salvo with Ravenna’s whispering chorus were a beautiful finish.
ZONE FATAL – I believe this was an older track, in which the vocals feel reminiscent of Andrew Eldritch. The lyrics are also very dark and poetic and the music is a driving dark city soundtrack. Lots of tight corners and slithering shadows.
Overall, discovering this band and the others Elz shared with us during the podcast has really opened me up to the rich and wonderful Turkish Underground scene. I’m going to have to dig deeper into this catalog because this album is a sizzling train ride into the dark.