In 2019 I took a life changing trip to Berlin where I learned a lot about myself, another culture, and music. I also started a love affair with one of the most underrated post punk bands in the modern scene Golden Apes. Peer Lebrecht has one of those few in a generation distinctive voices with an amazing ability to convey emotion and paint pictures in a listeners imagination. We can all look forward to future Golden Apes releases, in the meantime Peer has ventured into other soundscapes with the solo project Voyna. This album is a departure from GA more synthy darkwave sounds and bring a spotlight to Peer’s voice with an expansive alternative rock backing. Always one for metaphor in his poetry “The Cinvat Bridge” or bridge of judgement was a mythological passage which separated the land of the living from the dead. The album releases 3/21/21 but I was lucky enough to get an early glimpse. You can pre order in the link below.
Provenance – Opening with a walking bass in tiny footfalls. Two winding reverbed guitar lines building into a synth line of pure light. The the drums sizzle to the forefront. Masterful craftsmanship to create the tension and set the perfect opening for that dark chocolate and black coffee voice. As Voyna sets the scene of this desolate house everything comes to a crescendo just before it is stripped away to that simple intro bassline. Already I am plunging into these icy waters headfirst.
Refraction – A brighter striking tone to get the energy pumping. Peer goes into a a higher sharp edged register. I love the way we are already showing the range in styles that seem to be going so many places, none of them Golden Apes. The breakdown here is a spiral that just stops time and stretches that lovely hook chorus into infinity. Then the time cuts and a rush of energy sends you galloping into the close.
The Sky And A Grain– Wow this is a gorgeous new wave vibe with tones of Flock of Seagulls , Echo and the Bunnymen, OMD. Basically this is the prom song of a John Hughes movie that was never actually made. Just a rushing wind racing hook. I love the distortion effect on the chorus vocals. This is a total banger.
Fractal King – Another huge sound shift. This is a smoky lounge at 2am. Walking bass and tremolo Twin Peaks vibes. Filthy intentions and slow sultry danger. “I’m bleeding from the heart, from all the pain in me, I’m sinking like a stone for all the pain in you”. The ending of this song is gut wrenching and visceral.
Overall as much as I am impressed by all the things The Cinvat Bridge is, I am equally moved by how much it strays from Golden Apes. It spans a journey of eternity walking down this bridge and touches on so many aspects of the human experience. Peers voice is the unmistakable star of the show, but these songs are so lovingly crafted and brimming over with emotion and higher artistic concept. A surprise early contender for album of the year and it doesn’t even release until March 21st. You need this in your collection.
So dark music/goth has always run a parallel for with me Romanticism. Love, loss, passion, distance, these ideas that Robert Smith perfected and were such a intimate part of that original concept. Then as the scene evolved and became broader the norm stretched further from that idea. Today as the wind is chill and the leaves have abandoned the trees I am thinking about bands that are still pluming the depths of this idea. As a song writer the most difficult thing for me to write is a genuine love song, that captures the feeling but doesn’t step over into cheese. I tried to come up with examples of releases I have not previously discussed on the page.
A Covenant of Thorns: Black – I have been waiting on this release for a long time. It’s what inspired me to write this piece. Scott-David Allen is a true master of this idea. He has been making songs of heart rending sadness and beauty for decades. I can honestly say this is an opus. The best I have heard yet. The production level here is next level with it’s Depeche Mode level darkpop and his amazing voice pushed to the front where it conveys a delicate yearning and sadness which is lost in the modern era. The whole record is a pilgrimage to the top of a mountain where he offers up his heart like a saint to the object of his love. The passion and idea are so raw but the mixing and song writing is done with a craft that shows the dedication such a personal offering deserves. YOU NEED THIS RECORD! (He screams from the rooftops)
but Numb – A gorgeous synthwave love poem full of hope and expression
Signs of Life – Damn it is hard to pick but this track is so crispy. Allen’s voice is everywhere on this one. The feeling cuts to deep and love lies at your feet. The chorus just opens up like a bird flying over the sea. It’s so bright and dark at the same time in perfect balance.
Choke – This one has a little more edge and sinister to it, but it is still yearning. Because sometimes a little kink can still be romantic.
Creux Lies : Blue – New single out from Sacramento’s favorite dark dreamers has thundering drums to drive is golden thread poetry. It’s a thicker richer sound than phenomenal 2018 release “The Hearth“. Ean’s voice is wide as the ocean and and dances on the mist. It’s really hard to capture the range and beauty of Ian McCulloch (Echo and the Bunnymen) but I feel like that is exactly what happens. My secret favorite part is the outro with old school lofi keyboards. I need a whole hell of a lot more of this and I need it now!
Twin Tribes (Cult of Alia Remix) : Perdidos – Twin Tribes has mastered the post punk passion and sultry beauty of bands like The Cure. This latest remix by Cult of Alia is a softer more subtitle ghostly whisper tantalizing love lost beyond the void. the pulsing keyboard rhythms take the place of driving bass and conjure images of haunted towers. I’m so hungry for another Twin Tribes album, but this was a welcome repose.
Selofan: Partners in Hell – This gorgeous Greek darkwave really deserves it’s own full review. I am embarrassed to say I have not written a review of them yet and they really deserve it. Per the theme I am going to focus on the track “There Must Be Somebody“. Driving mod synth tones flow down a moonlit river while a women in white calls forth with longing. This is beauty and horror blended together in true gothic fashion. Joanna Pavlidou’s voice is heavy with heart and touches you with icy clarity. Pavlidis’s basslines and chorus of synthesizers create a water color image of stormy regret and movement. Why have I not spent more time with this band?
Mortal Boy: Chronoception – LA darkwave band which is beautiful as it is intense. I love the Richard Butler flavor to the vocals. The star strike guitars really add a wonderful contrast to the darkwave style. This is definitely music full of plum red wines and flickering candles. It drips of both passion and loss. Favorite track “Kiss Me Poison” which combines all the best parts of the vocals and woven tapestry. If you have a special goth partner in your life, this is the music they want to hear as you bring out a romantic dinner.
The Secret French Postcards: Colours – New Cold Transmission Music release from Sweden. I love the post punk feel and organic drum sounds that add clarity and precision to this droning croon. This album is the moment in the movie where the protagonist looks across a crowded club and locks eyes with their soulmate. Olli’s vocals are drenched in warm and earnest love. Offset by resonating guitar lines and keyboard cascades by (IAMTHESHADOW) Pedro Code. It’s feels modern and fresh while the melodic vocal chant reminds me of Steve Kilbey (The Church). This is a band I keep feeling grow with every release. This one is out on 12/11/20 and preorder is available now.
Lust For Youth: Lust For Youth – Self titled album from the Danish synthpop band giving huge New Order vibes, which is never a bad thing. This record feels like staring at the sky while rain falls down. It’s cool, it’s stark, and it reminds you why you want to keep hoping for more. I was two tracks in and I’m already a believer. They aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but they are doing something familiar very well. A dark tone while centering in on lyrical hope. My favorite track was “Great Concerns“. This album was a journey of connection and the power of the human experience.
Korine: The Night We Raise – I have been deeply in love with this band since Twin Tribes played them for me on our podcast. From Philly this band is glorious dark dream slush with encompassing vocals and swirling synths. This new album from Sept took another step forward in production and clarity. It also has a razor fang edge to the beauty of the music. Sometimes love bites hard and while wrapped in a velvet glove of tone Korine cuts you to the quick. This is a record you really need to spend the extra moment with and peal back the layers. The cotton candy sweet on your tongue is truly just the first layer.
When i write reviews one of the common traps I try hard not to get lost in is comparing every new band I review to one of the sacred dark gods of the 80’s and 90’s. It’s a pretty common tactic and lets face it an effective one. It’s easy to associate with what is familiar. Often feels like the world of goth/industrial/darkwave/new wave/ect has pretty much been discovered and artists are searching for ways to test the boundaries of what is possible and find some new ground. I figured I would take a moment to acknowledge this is a reality for a lot of people.
Ok I have taken a bit of a hiatus from writing reviews prepping for a show but when Jason Corbett calls me out to review what is one of the most important new albums of 2018 I better crack my knuckles and get in front of my keyboard. When I first heard this Vancouver based band I was spell bound. Transported in time and enthralled by the sheer cold razor coolness of this record. It started really blowing up and I suppose I just felt like Actors were so good they didn’t need me to write about them as much as other new bands. However to not express what this album meant would be a disservice. This record cooks from front to back with throwback sounds, perfect precision and continuity, while lyrically bringing a fresh and modern take that resonates with everyone I play it for. Do you know how Ian McCulloch is a once and a life time sound that no one can really capture ever again? When I hear Jason Corbett I hear a young Ian crooning out effortless expressive lines that wrap you up and transport you. I’ve mentioned many times in reviews being a singer myself I always hone in on vocals first and Corbett delivers a sonic artistry of wide scope and emotion that makes every song feel like an intimate performance just for you. Not to understate his guitar work, when I saw the Actors live in Detroit I was blown away by how he shredded. The guitar lines while fitting in the post punk sound have a jagged edge. He was also wearing a Slayer shirt when he played them.
Musically this album is diverse in a way so missing from “Post Punk” today. It changes in tone and scope from song to song. Everything blends together in one story but just like a complex character in a novel it is full of intricate parts. Hemmett is a maestro of subtle brush stokes in the synth sounds contradicting the sharp moving guitar parts. They build, fall, and create movement. Russell has studied hard at the Martin Hannett school of using the bass as a percussion instrument to drive these songs and feed life. I remember being surprised how large a bass he plays live, but sometimes to get the big sound you need a big instrument. They are dark and bracing and surround you in the motion of a chase scene after a heist in a bright lit city on a cool night. Fink uses a crisp snapping drum sound that builds a foundation for the constant movement and swirling parts. I can’t remember the last time a record felt so much like a beautiful sound track of a film that was never made. You can’t help but conjure images of these songs in your head. It’s a magnificent effect which continues to grow every time I listen to it. Actors are not creating a brand new sound here, but they are playing at a level of quality in their synthesis of glam, post punk, electronic, and new wave that you feel like new ground is being broken. I’m truly awed by what is accomplished here and I am not alone.
So now we have reached the hard part,
how do I pick standout tracks on an album that was meant to be
absorbed as a single flowing piece. It’s not singles here. Every cut
is a deep perfect cut. Ok , self, be professional, I’ll try.
Face Meets Glass – I suppose if there is a “single” this is it. Such a lush and vibrant song in a dark tone. Here you can definitely hear the Echo and the Bunnymen comparison. It’s just slick city streets, black leather jackets, the coolest girl in the room dancing alone. If Ian McCulloch, Peter Hook, Iggy Pop, and Gary Numan were hanging out at a club in Berlin at 1:47am this would be the song they would listen to.
Let it Grow – Here the Post Punk edge is let off the chain. This bassline is as thick as a slow river. An elegant builder full of background guitar and stabbing single note keyboards that just keep getting layered as the song progresses. Flavors of New Order smashing Technique into Movement. Why did no one think of this before?
Slaves – All these days that you fear, there’s no god, only what you had to offer. Holy shit this is a burner. The simple slashing guitar riff, that bassline that just rolls over you like a Mack truck. I could hear this song 200 times on repeat and it would never lose flavor. It drives on the edge but in a medium tempo. This is the song I want to play while doing a jewel heist in a black turtleneck in New York while the revolution begins. (Note:Since writing this review I have definitely listened to this song more than 200 times)
Overall this album is a true modern day classic. It’s ambitious, perfectly executed, and full of homage. Actors are leading the charge in a Neo-Renaissance of dark wave music. If you don’t know about this album yet you need to get it immediately and be in on what is becoming a movement in modern music. Find this, love it, hold the vinyl in your hands and spin it many times.
Wait, there is more? Yes our own Rachel Pool got a chance to do this insightful interview with a Jason who we love dearly.
(Rachel) Explain, in ten words or less, the music scene in Vancouver.
(Jason) It’s a thriving hotbed of talent.
(Rachel) What made you choose the name, ACTORS?
(Jason) It felt just interesting enough. All the good names were taken and Duran Duran Duran was too long.
(Rachel) Does that name allow you some security in your songwriting? Was it by intent to create a lyrical fiction? How much of your songs are written from life experience?
(Jason) A name means less and less as time passes. It’s not something I think about. All the songs are written from life experience although it’s not 100% autobiographical. Sometimes you just need a visual and a good rhyme.
(Rachel) Describe the original formation of Actors. How did musicians of your talent level come to together into one singular vision?
(Jason) We are all friends first. It just made sense for us to fall together with ACTORS. We respect each other and everyone has something special to contribute. I couldn’t do this with just anyone.
(Rachel) Bands of brothers and sisters: what do you argue about most, as a band?
(Jason) We don’t really argue. I snore so I’m pretty sure the others members have wrestled with the idea of holding a pillow over my face in the middle of the night.
(Rachel) How do you feel about remixes? Are they necessary to band networking? Is it comfortable to have other bands interpret your music, and how do you deal with what you may feel is an inaccurate rendition of your song, or indeed one which may have captured the spirit/leitmotif better?
(Jason) I’ve recently started doing remixes for other artists again. It’s fun. I haven’t had anyone remix an ACTORS song since the first single Post Traumatic Love. I don’t think they are “necessary” but I do love to hear different interpretations of songs. Sometimes a remix will be better than the original.
(Rachel) If you could have any band/musician remix one of your songs, who would you choose?
(Jason) I would love to see what David Lynch would come up with. Maybe he would just light one of our records on fire and record it burning.
(Rachel) How did you find music? Did you grow up with musicians, or did a certain album or artist inspire you to create music yourself?
(Jason) It was always around. The radio and music videos on tv. Bowie was the first big inspiration for me. Ziggy Stardust > Let’s Dance > Scary Monsters, in that order.
(Rachel) Your album has been considered by many to be one of the most important releases of 2018, does this shock you? What is a best case scenario of what you want to accomplish in 2019?
(Jason) I wanted to believe that if enough people heard these songs that the album would find an audience. I had learned to temper my expectations over the years so the reception this time around was initially hard to believe. Best case scenario is we keep touring and continue to create opportunities to connect with more and more people. We plan on releasing our next full-length album in 2020.
(Rachel) There has to be at least one of you who is a Cat Person™ . Freyja Six Beans(our cat) sat on our computer desk and had to be forcibly removed several times while we were playing your album. How can you explain your animal magnetism?
(Jason) You’re very intuitive. We love cats. I’m sorry you had to forcibly remove Freyja Six Beans on our account. Can animal magnetism be explained?