Sounds and Shadows Top Postpunk/Synthwave/Darkpop albums of 2020

Part 3 of this series might have been the toughest to write. There was such a wealth of great new albums in this genre I found myself at a loss to pick and choose my favorites. However tough choices need to get made. These are all records released in 2020 and not singles. I feel like everyone on this list did something very profound.

Black Rose Burning – Open the Gates – George Grant is doing amazing things using stripped down elements of dark post punk concepts. His voice has this scintillating David Bryne expressive lilt. It harnesses such energy with an acoustic guitar and a percussive gate. It’s romantic, not like a relationship, but the way Star Trek is romantic about the love of stars and exploration. I find myself constantly lost in the beauty of it.

https://blackroseburning.bandcamp.com/album/open-the-gate

SceniusEnough Fears – I found this album at the very end of the year but I have a feeling this will be on my heavy rotation the next few months. The Leeds band is a bending maze of emotion and turns that I found myself deeply immersed in. The vocals from Fab Nau were so original and cutting. Perfect dark trance resonance and endless builds. This is a band I will be paying close attention to in 2021. I feel the beginning of something beautiful starting.

https://scenius.bandcamp.com/album/enough-fears

Vlimmer – XIIIIIIII – This series of albums reaches it’s conclusion in glorious and staggering fashion. Alexander Donat has an amazing gift to take emotion and transfer it into sound seamlessly. Taking a tiny burning ember of idea and gentle blowing on that fire until it swells into a blaze. Truly a criminally underrated talent in modern artistic expression through sound.

https://blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com/album/xiiiiiiii-18

White Mansion – Human – Arkansas brings us this strong front to back traditional post punk. I love the bold transitions here and open air vocals. I think the name Human was perfect for this record because it is all about relationships. You can really follow the story. It’s organic, full of heart, and makes a connection.

https://whitemansion.bandcamp.com/album/human

The Secret French Post Cards – Colors – More glorious post punk darkness this time mixed and mastered by Pedro Code (Iamtheshadow). This record is so understated and comes at you in subtle ways. Olli Ohlander has a ringing and smoky delivery that chews up scenery like a master actor. Blended reverb and echo makes the guitar build tension that pulls you into the moment. Paint a picture in your mind with this record. Another Cold Transmission band.

https://thesecretfrenchpostcards.bandcamp.com/album/colours-2

Danny Blu – The Pale Horse – Crackling energy and neck grabbing hooks from NYC. Personal soul threaded into club kid sleek trance. This record is everything cool I want to give off. The smoky saxophone trills add a beautiful contrast note. The cadence they lyrics are delivered with are an extra percussion and rhythm. It leaves me longing for more.

https://dannyblu.bandcamp.com/album/the-pale-horse

Elz and the Cult – Bloodlines – Elz is one of those beautiful and unique humans that takes their internal light and bleeds it into every track they make. It has such a genuine and soulful flavor which modern darkpop is so hungry for. It is a record of personal intensity that stands out in the landscape. A true gamechanger record that everyone should experience. On Cold Transmission Music.

https://elzandthecult.bandcamp.com/album/bloodline

Korine – The Night We Raise – Philly based band that is taking the scene by storm for good reason. They have such a glamourous beauty. While the lyrics are full of edge and venom. They truly have mastered the idea of taking two things you wouldn’t think would make sense together and then synthesizing it perfectly. It’s elegant, profound, and makes you feel like you are on the inside of secret. Also it has that glorious shake that ass factor. You will dance to this record all night long. On Born Loser Records now.

https://korine.bandcamp.com/album/the-night-we-raise

Panic Priest – Second Seduction – Chicago based Jack Armondo finds himself once again on my albums of the year. This sophomore album uses his rich and powerful baritone to great effect but softens the edges of the guitars in the first album. Putting the synths forward really captures the neon industrial aspects of his city. I love the way he captured the concept of isolation in the middle of a populated concrete jungle that became so relevant to us all in 2020. An impressive offering both in connection and execution on Negative Gain Records.

https://panicpriestngp.bandcamp.com/album/second-seduction

Soft Kill – Dead Kids R.I.P. City – Portland postwave glory with gorgeous and rich vocals and rainy flowing waves of synth sound. This record is so efficient and full of intention. This is one of those records it’s never a bad time for. It has that voice of a generation The Smiths sound but with a speed and energy of the modern era.

https://anopendoor.bandcamp.com/album/dead-kids-r-i-p-city

Idles – Ultra Mono – I love this album for the punk side of post punk. It’s intelligent, political, smash your fucking teeth in complex blasting rock. It has the true core of Fugazi. I wasn’t quite sure where to put this under but it belongs on some list.

https://idlesband.bandcamp.com/album/ultra-mono

Kiss of the Whip – We’re Not Here – Baltimore is doing some amazing things in the current scene and KOTW are near the top of that list. There is an amazing feeling when someone has such a wizardry of an instrument that it transcends and lefts everything in the song around it. That’s how I feel when Tristan Victor plays keyboards. The wide open textures and landscapes that flow through your mind at razor speed. His melodic whisper growl vocals really draw you in and let those complex synth changes do their work. I continue to be impressed with every new growth.

https://kissofthewhip.bandcamp.com/album/were-not-here

Spectres – Nostalgia – Sometimes I want a record that really pushes the edges of a genre. Sometimes I take comfort in bands that do a familiar sound with perfect execution. This album is so full of feelings that transport me back. Each song is original and new but the pallet of colors is brilliant with New Order, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen. The heartfelt homage to the music I grew up on cleaned and washed and sent straight to my heartstrings.

https://spectresvancouver.bandcamp.com/album/nostalgia

Loveblind – Sleeping Visions – What happens when a traditionally shoegaze label like Saint Marie Records puts together a superband of Shoegaze talent to make a darkpop album. In this case what happens is one of the most textural beautiful records of the year. Dorian Electique has a stunning and haunting vocal quality that floats on the waves of slushy wave crash guitars and striking drum beats. Every time I play this record I picture silk scarves flowing in my wake. it just makes life a little more beautiful.

https://saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com/album/sleeping-visions

Black Nail Caberet – God’s Verging On Sanity – This band from Hungary has been on my constant playlist. They had an album in my top list of 2019 as well. I love that they don’t sit idle and instead explore a new aspect of darkpop. Emese has a remarkable strength and depth to her voice that reminds me of Annie Lennox. The dance beats are a force to be reckoned with and are like a shot of energy in the arm. When I need to find a little something extra within myself this is the record I reach for.

https://blacknailcabaret.bandcamp.com/album/gods-verging-on-sanity

Algiers – There is No Year – If you have never witnessed Algiers live, once the world reopens that should be the top of your to do list. They are the best live show I have seen in the past 20 years. It’s breathtaking to behold. They are another band hard to put in a box in the most amazing away. Notes of Motown/Gospel/Post Punk/Electronica. It’s all thrown in the blender and spun to a smooth creamy glory. The lyrics are poignant, fresh, and delivered with a voice sorely lacking in this scene. This record is such an up and down journey through culture, injustice, and personal revelation. I really can’t stress the importance of this band enough.

https://algierstheband.bandcamp.com/album/there-is-no-year

Then Comes Silence – Machine – Swedish based dark rockers put out this album in March and I listened to it many times in it’s entirety. The single We Lose the Night is such a perfect jam it has to be my most earworm song of the year. Just walking through the world I found it constantly popping into my head. This record has what I think of as true Post Punk vibes. The bass is thunderous and driving. Vocals are enchanting and full of warm and captivating feeling. Also the track Ritual feat: Karolina Engdahl is a perfect duet to blend beauty and razor cuts. I was an instant fan for life.

https://thencomessilence.bandcamp.com/album/machine

Bootblacks – Thin Skies – NYC post punk stars took a giant leap forward in their evolution for this album. It truly takes it’s own life and direction. Adding on Jason Corbett (Actors) to chisel and magnify a sound that already had such a unique and dangerous flavor. It is sleek, mysterious, and is my number one soundtrack if I ever pull an elaborate jewel heist and car chase in the heart of New York City. I think the most magnificent part of this album is that it really took “Post Punk” someplace new. It’s easy to get hung up on nostalgia, and there is some of that here. There is also a sound so sensual and fresh. I can just smell the musk of this album. You need to feel it on your skin.

https://bootblacks.bandcamp.com/album/thin-skies

Our interview with Bootblacks

Empathy Test – Monsters – This album was my most played on bandcamp this year. I just couldn’t stop coming back to it. It holds a beauty and quality that touches on so many genres. It’s personal and full of imagery that transports you into a movie. Isaac has one of those once in a generation voices that speaks right to your heart. This record just struck a chord inside me like the first time I heard Radiohead The Bends. That feeling of dramatic intensity that makes me think of youth while the refined craftsmanship spoke to my changed perspective. This is a young band, and their potential to grow and make art on another level seems limitless.

https://empathy-test.bandcamp.com/album/monsters

Our Interview with Empathy Test

Get to Know The Family of Cold Transmission Music

If you follow this page at all you know our close relationship with Cold Transmission. They are a new kind of label for a new wave of dark music. They have continued to compile top talent and provide them with artistic freedom to make the albums they want to make. Now they have released a label sampler which features those talents with exclusive tracks from Kiss of the Whip, iamnoone, IAMTHESHADOW, Control Room, and Mark E Moon. Also featured are remixes and several previous tracks from their diverse stable. This two CD set is a great way to know the Cold Transmission family as well as get a round view of the current branches of dark music.

Recent Interview with Cold Transmission Music

https://coldtransmissionmusic.bandcamp.com/merch/spotlight-a-cold-transmission-label-compilation-double-cd?fbclid=IwAR0i5syO5plsQGQQK2LnbfmNl5x0x6h4NKkm0OgsjjcMbDGcwbNGdOtl07U

Purchase the compilation “Spotlight” here

CD 1:
1. S Y Z Y G Y X – Kill the Pain
2. ELZ and the CULT – HORRIFIED
3. Kiss of the Whip – Put You In The Past (exclusive)
4. HALLOWS – Subtle
5. Bedless Bones – Split
6. La Mécanique – Dernier Voyage
7. DILK – Pluto
8. iamnoone – Stranger (exclusive)
9. ICY MEN – Полупустые автобусы (Uninhabited Buses)
10. White Mansion – Clear Your Head
11. Iamtheshadow – Off My Hands (exclusive)
12. Clone Culture – You Are The One
13. Control Room – Are We All Alone (exclusive)

CD 2:
1. The Gathering – Trying To Call (Colibri Mix)
2. Palais Ideal – Erase (Original Mix)
3. Mark E Moon – Dancing (With The Lights On) (exclusive)
4. MARY – Frantic
5. The Bluebeard’s Castle – Plunge
6. The Secret French Postcards – Out Of You
7. Vestron Vulture – Hair On Fire
8. Silent Runners – Forgotten
9. Push Button Press – Mire And The Sea
10. Carlo Onda – Kopf oder Zahl
11. ROSI – Tanzen
12. Monographic – Addicted
13. Paradise Cove – Lost
14. Reconverb – Hem  

So obviously a lot of ground to cover here. I’m going to try and give you a quick impression of some of my favorites 🙂 Needless to say this is a great value and a way to turn yourself into an instant expert of the current scene.

S Y Z Y G Y XKill the Pain – DC based electronic duo full of slither and sex appeal. Luna’s husky whisper is both tantalizing and full of imagery. Beautiful synth sizzle and ass shaking dance beats. This track is great because it has a duet vocal from Josh that really shows the beautiful relationship on feature in this band.

ELZ and the CULT – HORRIFIED – Turkish sassafras sensation rich with pop hooks and slithering nightmare delivery. Gorgeous visuals and truth saber delivery that always leaves you wanting more.

Kiss of the Whip – Put You In The Past (exclusive) – Baltimore Synth lords bring a sweeping club collapse in a snow storm. They really turned the edge up for this track along with Tristain’s lovely new wave vocals cutting through the din.

HALLOWS – Subtle – Brand new signing from Seattle WA this duo is bringing a post punk stripped down stark haunted energy. Vanee and Dom do a wonderful switch off vocal intensity which feels like a conversation in a room of smoke and prism.

Bedless Bones – Split – My favorite band from Estonia. This track has a ringing tribal ceremonial feel. Kadri Sammel has such a unique vocal delivery and the EDM beats hold the reins of a fiery energy chopping the bit to break free. This is one of the most underrated bands in the scene and will be breaking to that next level soon.

La Mécanique – Dernier Voyage – This Montreal band does an upbeat post punk with a connoisseurs ear. I love the melodic French art house vocal cadence. I always say that hearing this band is like you went on holiday. They transport you with every song.

iamnoone – Stranger (exclusive) – I don’t think I have ever reviewed iamnoone before, which is a slight anomaly for a Cold Transmission band. This is one of the exclusive tracks and a burner. I love this upbeat pogo dance beat. Silky smooth vocals with a staccato quick delivery. A beautiful ice dance of cool blues and minty greens. This could have been a New Order solo project you never heard.

Iamtheshadow – Off My Hands (exclusive) – One of the flagship powerhouse bands of the label from Portugal. Another exclusive track and this one is a sizzler that rented a room in my head and will probably stay for months. Pedro Code as I often say has the best Baritone in modern dark music. This track is a synth driven croon that makes me long for the dance floor. Beauty, drive, and purpose. So much passion and power to hold such pop appeal.

Interview with Pedro of IAMTHESHADOW

Control Room – Are We All Alone (exclusive) – Another exclusive track and another band we have not reviewed from Hattiesburg Mississippi. I didn’t know they had darkwave there, but I am pleasantly surprised. This track is slithery serpent wall shadows and synth explosion. Nice low register baritone vocals and contrast. One of those cool bands with bright feel music and fallen in a well vocals and lyrics.

Palais Ideal – Erase (Original Mix) – My dear friends from the Netherlands that make post punk prog for deep thinkers. This track is a subtitle and delicious sonic wave full of winding changes and New Order Movement. It’s an Artificial Intelligence code creation of twisting layers and complex effects. Every time I hear it I think this is what creating on another level feels like.

Mark E Moon – Dancing (With The Lights On) – Isle Of Man dark wave dreamer with another exclusive track. This one is a racing wave with a darkabilly backbeat the rides the front of the crest. Mark’s ringing clear voice carries the action as the drums crash around him. This has a really cool U2 90’s before they sold out feel. Total ear worm glory.

The Secret French Postcards – Out Of You – Swedish post punk crooners unleash this lovely Echo and the Bunnymen dreamy dance ballad. It’s full of cascading waterfalls of sound and cooler than thou vocals. Once the chorus jumps up it really sets the hook in.

Push Button Press – Mire And The Sea – Florida’s own post punk paragon’s who are soon to release a new album I have been eagerly anticipating. I love the use of harp pluck strings and 80’s killing joke complexity. I am again impressed with how Cold Transmission embraces bands who want to step outside of the standard pop mold and trust that listeners long for complex concepts and delivery.

Monographic – Addicted – German based band that does an edgy Chameleons style post punk. I love these thick smashing toms and stabbing guitar downstrokes. Cracking energy and melodic intensity

Review of Elz and the Cult “Bloodline”

So this has been an eagerly awaited release for me. Due out 5/22/20 on Cold Transmission records. I have in my hot little digital hands early so I can go through and give some impressions. Elz is a dear friend and all around amazing human. This Turkish based project is breaking new ground in the abstract dark pop genre for the last few years. We had Elz on our podcast to discuss this record when it was still coming together, please enjoy at this link:

https://elzandthecult.bandcamp.com/album/bloodline

Songwriters; ELZ, Sharon Engelhardt, Nigel Strong.
Produced and performed by Taner Yücel.
Mixing by Taner Yücel.
Mastering by Görkem Karabudak.
Vocals; ELZ, Eylül Deniz, Efe Akıncıoğlu, Taner Yücel, Sharon Engelhardt, Görkem Kasal, Deniz Aksoy & Ayça Sarıönder.
Photography: Berk Çakmakçı
Art Direction by StudioPul

Recorded at Taner Yücel’s homestudio & Mayday Studios, Istanb

I feel like Bloodline was an amazing creative step forward for Elz to really explore the creative brilliance that was always inside them. It is such a beautiful amalgamation of sexy over the top 80’s pop with a soul like Madonna fused with sinister Geiger like sonic imagery. Right from the first track it is dancing with ballet dexterity on giant metal spider legs in intricate patterns while screaming the injustice of it’s existence. This record never stops moving and it drips with dark sex appeal and the blistering drum beats are a jolt of energy that make your capillaries pop in your circulatory system.

The lyrics are true Oscar Wilde style slash open a vein and spew your essence at the listener. Elz has genuine front person star power and a captivating voice that guides your hand as you apply your make up at the mirror. It’s one of those sounds that has the ability to make the listener associate with the singer and infuse their attitude on you. I genuinely believe listening to this record will make you hotter.

Lets talk favorite tracks: This 12 song album is a complete work with no throwaways. Of course i have favorites

Ultraviolence: Ok these songs are glorious on their own. The videos though are masterworks and an enormous amount of effort goes into the aesthetic concept matching the music. So always watch those. This song is bracing, it hits hard and the chorus is a razor chain lashing around the room. It also has such detailed construction and perfect pop beat. Every floor of every goth club must one day shake with it’s power.

Horrified: The husky come hither whisper of these vocals make the hair on my arms stand up. The chorus is a sky opener and it really captures the idea of something being both beautiful and horrible at the same time. It’s hard to imagine how something so shocking and intense can get stuck in your head like a pop hook but here we are.

Safe Zone: This is what I call a car chase song. That perfect mid tempo that feels like night driving through a city in decay. I really like the vibrating voice effect used here. Tight corners and slippery shadows. Lets hope we all make it home alive.

Masturbate About You: Glorious pace changer, ramps up the tension. This is a edgy concept and expressed perfectly. The chorus unleashes a raging demon of emotion which hits a new height just to be pulled away again. A real roller coaster through a dark tunnel.

I feel like this whole album is pushing the boundary that the modern dark scene needs pushed. It crackles, it frightens, and it highlights all the things beautiful about the current dark revolution. I really want to realize the dream of seeing Elz and The Cult live. This record is out for pre release now on Cold Transmission and you are going to want to snatch it up and be on the cusp of the next wave.

Reasons To Strive In A Decaying World

I can’t sugar coat this. The world is frightening and hard right now. People are scared for their financial future, their health and safety. Usually in times like these I turn to music more than ever. Even that has not been enough to inspire me. Tonight is the first time I am taking a stab at writing in a few weeks. Looking at the enormous wealth of material piled up in my inbox seems a daunting task. Tonight though, I felt that glimmer again. That need to share with you what is making me shine and feel connected in these dark times. Artists need to feel our love more than ever. Reach out and tell them you are listening. Show them you support them by buying their merchandise. Let them know culture still matters and the beauty of the world is still alive. Here is what touched me lately.

AttritionThe Great Derailer , This EP single from Martin Bowes Feat: Emese Árvai-Illés of Black Nail Cabernet is nothing short of breathtaking. I’m an enormous fan of her voice and style. This razor wire blend of Martin’s sandpaper and her silk to Industrial post modern jazz sounds is so fresh and so nostalgic. I have played this so many times in the last two weeks. Also the video is a must see piece of art on it’s own.

https://attritionuk.bandcamp.com/album/the-great-derailer

I Ya Toyah – Released Code Blue Reloaded: The one woman sonic army has uncorked this series of remixes from industry leaders like Skold, Joy Thieves, Adoration Destroyed, and Xentrifuge to bring re imaginings of 2018 emotional explosion Code Blue. Ania is currently shooting like a rocket to the top of the EDM /Electroclash world with her fearless emotional style. If you don’t know about I Ya Toyah know that your world could be brighter.

https://iyatoyah.bandcamp.com/album/code-blue-reloaded

Joy ThievesA Blue Girl : New release from the Chicago Industrial superband The Joy Thieves. Led by Dan Milligan and featuring industrial titans like Chris Connelly, John Fryer, Ania Tarnowska, Gordon Young, and many more. This album is that seamless place where 90’s electronic industrial meets hard rock and organic excitement to find a blistering percussion express train to shake that assville.

https://armalyte.bandcamp.com/album/the-joy-thieves-a-blue-girl

ELZ and the CultHorrified: The Turkish electronic heartthrob is back with this creeping storm of broken glass and velvet vocals. This song oozes sex appeal and sinister intention. Dance hard and scrawl ancient runes upon thine wall.

https://elzandthecult.bandcamp.com/album/horrified

Caroline BlindThe Spell Between : The first new album from Caroline Blind of Sunshine Blind is about to drop and although too long a wait is well worth it. She has assembled a who’s who of the goth scene from The Wake, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Switchblade Symphony, Pretentious Moi, Bellwether Syndicate, Muse. Do I have your attention yet. The record has covers and several new songs so full of passion and emotion I got misty several times listening. This is one of the all time powerhouse voices in goth spewing forth decades of ideas in one offering. It runs the range of dance hall burner, to soul baring acoustic Stevie Nicks tear jerker. If you never spent your formative years listening to Liquid, drinking black coffee and smoking cloves you need to embrace this release of all that made goth great. This record stands on the shoulders of it’s own giants.

https://carolineblind.bandcamp.com/track/first

Sopor AeternusIsland of the Dead : Honestly this is one of those bands I am embarrassed I didn’t already know about. I heard this on the Pat 626 show and I fell instantly in love. It’s dark, quirky, and utterly unique. It has a mystical and theatrical quality full of poetry and intensity. Brooding and whip crack sharp with hammer dulcimers and vocal deliver as sharp as a dagger. Music like this is my dark secret passion.

https://soporaeternus.bandcamp.com/album/island-of-the-dead-2020

Antipole – Perspectives II : Another album of steller remixes from Karl and Antipole. This one featuring Actors, Crying Vessel, SYZYGYX, ect. You may think, how does Karl manage to continue getting such incredible artists to remix his songs? Because they are so fracking good. I am hard pressed to think of anyone who has more of a scholars approach to taking the concepts of the past like Joy Division/New Order/Cure then holding that concept and breathing it forth as a new idea. So when you have that dedication to sonic texture, the line of people willing to take those building blocks and mix them into something that inspires them is endless. Prepare for another amazing offering. Starting with the first single by Actors.

https://antipole.bandcamp.com/album/perspectives-ii

Black Angel The Widow: LA is doing a very bringing rock back to dark music thing at the moment. I hear a very psychedelic lizard king vibe happening here in this giant 16 song offering. Lots of steady movement and venom dripping from reverb laced retro amplifiers. I like the concept of a modern goth rock, but going back before Sisters of Mercy or Mission to a 60’s/70’s vide in dark music.

https://blackangelmusic.bandcamp.com/releases?fbclid=IwAR3gQh6WUXsi2R5wzZVDukS1h8od9Kml_PP0G4c2kM6j5IewMwnIHjhkIhw

Panic Priest Nighthunter: A very different feel for Chicago darkwave Panic Priest on Negative Gain. Jack has a deep resonant voice dripping with sex appeal and introspective energy. This new single evokes a very 80’s Depeche Mode stack and build feel. I can’t wait to see what turns this new direction takes.

https://panicpriestngp.bandcamp.com/album/nighthunter-single

Ash Code1981 – Ash Code has released a new video and it is aesthetic and sonic glory. I always feel when i listen to them this ultra sleek coolness full of retro advent guard beauty and slithering excess that transports me and gives you a glimpse into an ultra hip life just beyond my pedestrian fingers. Just listening to this song makes me feel like a part of something more awesome than i am.

https://ashcode.bandcamp.com/

KlackDistancing : Klack is back with a twist on their single to remind you to give everyone a little space in these dangerous times. Love it.

https://klack.bandcamp.com/album/distancing

Goth Covered –  Oskar Terramortis the goth father of Europe has put together this stunning compilation of modern goth rock bands doing old school goth covers. My favorite is Sonsombre doing Nosferatu Dark Angel . The whole thing is magnificent as always. I’m just bummed it didn’t include our Peter Murphy cover

https://oskarterramortis.bandcamp.com/album/goth-covered

I have no shame, I’ll include it now. This is Amaranth‘s cover of Peter Murphy‘s I’ll Fall With Your Knife Feat: Lorelei Dreaming. DON’T YOU FUKING JUDGE ME

Listen Darklings, the world is cruel and promises get broken. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Band together, look out for each other, and keep sharing music that inspires you. We will get through this together.

Review of Art Diktator: Isola

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.

https://artdiktator.bandcamp.com/album/isola

https://www.facebook.com/artdiktatorfanpage/

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.

Ravenna and Hakan

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.

Hakan’s artwork

Favorite Tracks:

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.