In 1974 in Catford, South London Dave Sylvian, Mick Karn, and Steve Jansen formed a GlamProg band which would have some commercial success. The true impact was the influence they would have on future generations of complex and emotive artists. Along with fellow pioneers like The Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, Roxy Music, they challenged the boundaries of the time and continues to impact alternative voices today.
Coitus Interruptus Productions well known for creating tribute albums to highlight the best in new Darkscene music has released this latest offering with the assistance of Yvette Winkler of Vaselyne. Assembling a great production team of Jasyn Bangert (Mastering) Greg Rolfes (Artwork) the team at CI has compiled an amazing list of talent to pay homage to one of the most underrated bands of the past 50 years.
24 tracks on multiple labels all with a passion for Japan. With so many great takes I won’t be able to cover each one. I will try and give some quick impressions on as many as I can. This whole release is brimming over with friends and favorites. If you know and love Japan, this is a wonderful way to rediscover songs you love. if you don’t know them, find some of your favorite covers, then look up the originals. You will not be disappointed.
Brian Hodges & Pieter Nooten (feat. Marselle Hodges) – Let The Happiness In – originally a Mick Carns solo album track from “Dreams Of Reason Produce Monsters“. Marselle has one of those voices you can get lost in, gentle and wispy. Holding the power to erode stones over time. The Seattle artists fully embrace the streaking grey beauty of Sylvian’s original delivery. This isn’t a cover, it is a love letter.
DogtabletFt Marselle Hodges– Despair – Industrial legend Martin King also adds Marselle on vocals on this haunting cover that adds a brighter more resonant piano. The percussion is a gentle heartbeat underneath the streets of Paris in a smokey artist cafe. I love the addition of phosphorous glow to the existential dread. I will say I miss the amazing sax solo from the original, but I want sax solos in every song.
G.W. Childs IV – Gentlemen Take Polaroids – My dear friend G.W. covering probably my all time favorite Japan track. A single that hit number 60 in the Uk charts in 1980. The original really showed the Brian Eno influence with it’s funky sensuality. G.W. keeps the funk, punches the vocals forward with Pet Shop Boys sass and spices up the dance beats. This is a perfect cover for roller disco lovers spinning hands locked gazing into each others eyes.
melodywhore – Ghosts – Steller cover for Texas electronica songsmith and remix master. Released in 1981 and probably their best-known hit, this dreamy ballad where Sylvian really unburdens his soul. James opens with these giant pillar synths and really captures the despair of the original. Wonderful harp plucking effect to take place of the marimba. This was a true exercise in method acting, it really gets in the head space of Sylvian’s composition.
Pedro Code & Herr G – Methods Of Dance – Two amazing talents from Portugal team up to cover another track from “Gentlemen Take Polaroids”. This song features my favorite drum performance from Steve Jansen. A bold change to reimagine it as an electronic dark dance floor driver. Pedro’s voice is always exquisite and goes towards the top of the register in parts. They really change the focus of the track and make it their own.
Pete Burns (Kill Shelter) – Waterfront – I believe this track was a David Sylvian solo song. Beautiful Blue collar dockworker ballad. Sylvian really channeled his gruffer edge for this. Pete, who I know is an enormous Japan fan piles on a further gently plucked blues tone on the guitar and a fading town anguished delivery on vocals. I was almost scared to hear this one because the original is so amazing, but of course Pete absolutely crushed it.
Tenderlash – Life In Tokyo – 1979 release that definitely had a disco glam feel that became a hit on the singles chart in 1982. The NC darkwave band adds in a beautiful New Order synth swell to accompany Candy’s beautiful wispy croon. I really like the megaphone voiceover on the breakdown. They prove this could have been just as big a hit in the 90s alt rock riot girl scene.
Tearing The Blackbox (feat Yvette Winkler) – Back In The Beginning – A team up from Netherlands, this track really hit me with the jazz walking Mick Karn basslines I’ve been waiting for. It’s surreal and engaging with a wicked guitar solo backed by Yvette’s swelling chant. A perfect homage to the precise chaos that is Japan.
Unwoman – Darkest Dreaming – Another Dave Sylvian solo album track. This one is a gentle introspective stargazing dream. Erica of Unwoman, who always brings an original spin and quality to their covers stretches out the time as the bow slides across strings. Powerful organic tendrils of sound paint a road for their soulful vibrato and layered nuance. I fell into this track like a baby in arms.
Vaselyne – Riverman – This was a Sylvian + Robert Fripp team up. One of those epically weird and expansive songs with world beat psychedelic flavor. Covered by the Dutch band including Yvette who helped put the whole project together. I absolutely loved this rendition with all the organic movement and Yvette’s warm whiskey vocals. The guitar leads crackle with life and plunge in and out of the water. Definitely a stand out track on a record full of them.
Coitus Interruptus Productions from Seattle has another home run here. I love the way they are creating a bridge between the past and future of this scene. Highly recommend checking some of their other tribute albums to Chameleons, Killing Joke, Coil, Psychedelic Furs, and more. I didn’t get to touch on every band here, but they are all worth checking out. Artwork by Greg Rolfes. Mastering by Jason Bangert
The year is drawing to a close. I’ll start working on the year end wrap ups from another stellar year in Darkscene music. Including a compilation of the Sounds and Shadows Darkscene Singles Chart. First, I want to do one last standard review of what I have been listening to lately. Every time I think I have emersed myself in this scene so deeply I cannot be surprised anymore, I find something that blows my mind once again. Something that says the world and art that goes with it are always going someplace bigger and bolder. No matter how much you open yourself, there is always something new to learn. Happy Holidays my friends.
Midwest Gothic – Awesome new compilation I came across of darkscene bands, some I knew, some I found from Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky to cast a spotlight on the amazing things happening in my area. I always love a good regional compilation and this one is stacked with talent. It features a wide breath of the modern darkscene as well. Josh Kreuzman is the mastermind behind this offering, and I look forward to their future releases.
ANGEL-MAKER – Chris Nelson Freeze Etch – Adam Duckworth BlaK SundaY – Juan Blak, Jennifer Maupin, Jacob Cagen, Ron Anderson, Eric Brown Pillar – Jermaine Artis Juan Blak – Juan Blak Sad and Pretentious – Joseph Mayfield Hypnagogia – Elijah Durnell Square Hollow – Mark Mehlbauer Soma and Seraphim – Preston Krafft, Mako Chernobyl Twice Dark – Josh Kreuzman Broken Nails – Kim Bell 9th Circle Symphony – Jason Bambery, Dru Cadaver, Kurt Fester, Maria Cadaver, Chris Grady
Blak Sunday – The always napalm shadow punk energy of Juan Black. Old school chaos explosion always on the attack with relentless midwest blue color aggression.
HYPNAGOGIA – Tantalizing ritual gothic chant with a spider shuffle tempo and summoner circle cadence. A wonderful new discovery I will be watching for.
Broken Nails – The darting tempo cold wave with robust soulful vocals from Kim Bell. One of those tracks that energizes a dance floor while filling your head with reflection.
Plague Garden – Blue Captain – 10,000 leagues beneath the sea in this pressure pulse old school gothic submarine. The guitars are a darting school of silver movement on the edge of your vision. This project is a Denver CO collaboration of Fernando Altonaga and Angelo Atencio of eHpH. I love the atmospheric reckless darkness and Sisters Of Mercy “First Last and Always” hopeless thrum of the ever-sinking vessel.
Favorite Track: Tonight – A bit of an outlier on the album but the dynamic shifts really encapsulated the treacherous sea. The pulsing bassline full of danger and movement. The hunting teeth of the palm mute guitar. The haunting croon of the vocals. Something about this track put everything together in perfect balance.
Null Device – The Emerald Age – Wisconsin based dark synth band with a new driving political statement full of spiraling hooks and razor edge tapestry. The perfect mix of this album is so economical it makes the motion and pace feel like a UFO that darts and accelerates in a way modern technology has not produced. The vocal duties bouncing between Eric and Jill feels like a conversation of perfect syncopation. This album came out in Nov 2022 and every time I hear it holds a familiarity and nostalgia that defies logic.
For You – This was a darkscene singles chart winner. A boot stomp tempo club banger with Jill belting with Irish funeral dirge sorrowful beauty against sparkling explosion synth lines. A captivating modern classic.
Misspent Youth – A haunting piano ballad with Eric’s clean and emotive voice ringing with captivating expression. Each note on the piano streams forth like ripples in a still underground pool.
Eric Oehler – Vocals, Synths, Violin, Guitars Jill Sheridan – Vocals, Lyrics, Synths Eric Goedken – Lyrics, Additional Production Kendra Kreutz – Cello
G.W. Childs IV – Tarrant County – Lately I have known an obsession, that is yee haw goth. G.W. Childs is legit cowboy who fell in love with Yaz “Upstairs At Eric’s” and created a synthesis of southern family devotion and scorching disco inferno. I love old school country western. Hank Sr. Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline had a blue collar emotional delivery which would one day become punk rock. Legendary producer John Fryer (NIN, Depeche Mode, Love & Rockets, This Mortal Coil) reached out and encouraged his friend to lean into his country roots and make this EP of classics with a glossy hyper color synth wave sizzle. I’ve always felt the key to a good cover is when an artist excites a new generation that never heard the original song, but leads them back to it after. This is what the soulful delivery of every track on Tarrant County accomplishes. Watch out for an upcoming interview I did with G.W.
G.W. Childs IV (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Star Wars: Battlefront) • Legendary producer John Fryer (NIN, Depeche Mode, Love & Rockets, This Mortal Coil) • Famed game composer Peter McConnell (Psychonauts 2, Sly Cooper, Monkey Island) • Matt Carter (Guitar) • Ed Love (Drums)
Crune – Necromantik – Recently I covered the Skull Festival in Detroit. I saw a lot of amazing bands. One really struck me. When you see something special for a reason you can’t put a finger on, you know. When the sassy yee haw goth playing a theremin telling stinging tales about severed heads on the bedpost took the stage, I knew I was seeing something special. I made it my mission to make sure the world was aware of the glory of Crune. I remember standing in front of the stage behind the members of Adult who I could see were also struck and feeling that theatrical chest wrenching darkness the first time I heard Danny Blu. This is the beginning of a talented young artist on a rocket ship destiny you won’t want to be the last to know about.
Favorite Track: May Your Wounds Turn Gold – Slithering sensual napalm of exposed truth spewed forth with careless expression. When I saw this song played live, I dropped my jaw. It is raw poetic cabaret unleashed behind an electronic construction of syncopated dynamics. This is the future.
The Joy Thieves – 6 To 3 – Chicago super band led by Dan Milligan have a timely new release while the rights of women to control medical decisions about their own bodies is called into question. Joy Thieves will be donating 100% of the money raised from the sale of the ‘6 To 3’ EP, and its accompanying line of exclusive t-shirts and hoodies to the National Network of Abortion Funds. We are always quick to point out when someone falls short, so I was happy to give credit when artists stand on the right side of history. I love The Joy Thieves iconic blend of hard rock and industrial mayhem. Blending voices and furious flame wall liquid guitar. In addition to the 2 tracks is an industrial high court of scene mainstays not in The Joy Thieves offering remixeslike Jim Marcus (GoFight), Walter Flakus (Stabbing Westward), Steven Archer (Stoneburner), Gaby Gustavson (Eva X). A fiery anthem to capture the tension and anger of these dark times.
Minuit Machine – 24 – This release combining the amazing talents of Hélène de Thoury and Amandine Stioui is staggering for its quality as well as tragic because it might be the last pairing the two. Helene has suffered some health issues which have caused her to step back from the project for the time being. This EP is nothing short of breathtaking in it’s seamless pulsing sophistication. Every track harnesses an effortless magnetic vouge you can’t help but want to be close to. Amandine’s vocal’s ring through the air with every phrase like a struck chime. A haunting electronic overture that paints a perfect moment while promising what could have been.
Favorite Track:So Hard – Sledgehammer drum beats, lightning bug transitions, and a club build that set the stage for a gorgeous golden melody. Tendrils of glitter smoke catching beams of light. This song can hold my heart forever.
Spike Hellis – Spike Hellis – After seeing them at the Skull Festival in Detroit this year, I haven’t been able to put this away. LA based electronic flamethrowers who answered the question if Alec Empire hadn’t pulled a 180 and became a cryptobro what would a cleaner crisper refinement of the magma fury become? Hearing Spike Hellis really helps me understand what is meant by “Electronic Body Music”. It is felt in the tissue as much as heard in the ears. The range of feeling on this chaotic labyrinth darts through every hidden crack of the human experience. It really must be heard live to fully comprehend, but having a map of the recorded experience can go a long way towards grasping the subtilty of what is happening. I really need to line up an interview with this band in 2023.
COLD TRANSMISSION MUSIC – ZEITGEIST+ – There is no secret about my feelings on Suzy and Andy Herrman of Cold Transmission Music. They run a family style label that highlights the best in European Cold and Dark wave. As well as searching the world for underappreciated talent to shine a beam of their amazing energy on. This is the 15th of these compilations they have released to bring both their own signings as well artists they love. In the end CT are fans of great music first and then a great label. This compilation truly has the soul of those old Cleopatra compilations that want to tell the world about the best new music hidden under the crust. I need to do a review of this compilation on it’s own but wanted to at least shout it out in 2022.
Favorite Track (So Far) – S Y Z Y G Y X – Maniac – Luna has done an exclusive single for this comp and it is fairy light magic in a frozen palace of winter. The percussion of vibrating copper timpani sounds rippling the water from bleeps and bloops. Vocals equal measure smooth and smoke filling the room with vapor. This is a true talent that needs to be lifted up to a brighter light.
Compiled by Andreas Herrmann Additional Mastering by Pete Burns at THE SHELTER Illustrations by Jared K. Nickerson (Jthree Concepts) Artwork by Yvonne Kiel (www.onlyvonne.de)
Klack – Believe – I am always down to Klack. I will Klack in the morning, Klack late at night, I will Klack everytime because it always feels right. This cover is a perfect blend of two great artists Eric and Matt who loved the same song in different ways. They meet in the middle and the homage is perfect. Ok not quite perfect. They could have sung “Do you Bill Leeb in life after love. Maybe Cher would have missed the reference. I wouldn’t have. This choir hits like a glorious angel smashing into a gold brick wall.
Aurelio Voltaire – The Black Labyrinth ~ A Requiem for the Goblin King – Has it really been 13 studio albums for Aurelio Voltaire? This review is special to me. As someone who writes “Goth music with a heavy dose of humor” it is hard not to give credit to the OG that inspired me all those years ago. Here he taps into his own inspiration from an artist and film that burned a codpiece shaped scar into every 90’s goths soul. It appears we also share a passion for collecting every talented guest star he could cram into this shadow glass menagerie. Let’s have a look at this list.
15 members of David Bowie’s band spanning nearly every era of the Starman’s career from the pianist on 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars to the saxophone player on Black Star, Bowie’s last album. The Black Labyrinth was co-produced by Mark Plati who produced the 1997 Bowie album, Earthling as well as the post humus release, Toy.
Other guest musicians included members of My Chemical Romance, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Vision Video, The Cog is Dead, Frenchy and the Punk, violinist extraordinaire Mia Asano, Ally the Piper, D and D songstress Ginny D and an international cadre of musicians making up the orchestra and choir.
The 20 song release is clean like twilight in a fantasy world briming with the mystery of a firefly forest and the pageantry of a catholic funeral. Voltaire’s iconic is the ringleader that ties together the spectacle. If you don’t know Voltaire, you have missed one of the most gloriously self aware experiences in the dark scene. If you do you are in for a 20 track journey with one of the great bards of our time. Let goth music be fun. Let it be the giant melting black candle musical theater it was always meant to be. I both teared up and laughed out loud listening to it. You need this album.