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.
As the scene of Goth/Industrial/Darkwave/Post Punk/Shoegaze music continues to experience an amazing renaissance, live shows are becoming a haven for the masses of fans to connect. This year boasts a boatload of amazing festivals where bands and fans can meet and share their love of this scene, so I will try and put together a guide of some of the great ones so you can plot a trip full of memories to last a lifetime.
Dark Spring Festival– (Boston) I am super excited for and will be at this one. This a brand new festival is anticipating its first year and they are already starting out strong with an amazing lineup including some of my favorite up-and-coming bands, mixed with long-term favorites. Great town with a cool scene. *Best New Festival
Dark Spring Festival Berlin – This brilliant festival inspired the aforementioned Boston one. It was started by Christian of Golden Apes and features Swiss darkwave act Hapax, Finnish Goth Rock elders Two Witches, Russian New Wave quintet Brandenburg, and French No Wave duo Dear Deer. Lots of Representation from Switzerland’s ‘Dark Nights’ label.
Absolution Fest– (Tampa Bay, FL) Located in Tampa’s legendary club The Castle, this festival started last year and works closely with our friends at Obscura Undead. Tampa Bay has an outstanding scene, and this lineup is off the chain. I mean, fucking Drab Majesty! This one was spectacular last year and every band who played it told me how inspiring it was. Plus, you’re in Florida heat at one of the most renown goth clubs in the US. *Best Value
Cold Waves– (Chicago) – So we went to this show last year and it was a life changing experience. The scene, the venue, the cause, the history, this is everything you hope for from a top-notch music fest. This one has been doing it right for a long time, and the lineup is absolutely stacked. Phenomenal mix of goth and industrial, old and new, plus the fact that Chicago, as a city, is so deeply entrenched in music history. Finally, Jim Marcus is doing a DJ set and I am here for that content! *Best Lineup
Convergence – (Louisville KY) Interesting new venue for this long running festival. Amaranth applied for this one but sadly didn’t make it this time. Maybe next year. However when I look at this boss lineup I can’t feel mad. They packed this show with top talent in lots of genres. *Great lineup Fresh New Scene
Cold Transmission Fest – (Cologne Germany) – Our dear friends at Cold Transmission records started their first festival last year and we had the opportunity to cover it. It was amazing. The way people traveled from all over the world to come together and share a passion for great music. After the success of last year Suzy, Andy and team have expanded and have another wonderful lineup and more to be announced. My heart will be with them again. *Great Lineup, Intimate show
ASH CODE BEDLESS BONES IAMTHESHADOW MARK E MOON DILK
Dark Side of the Con – (Parsippany NJ) – Another long running festival I hear everyone rave about year after year but I’ve never attended. I need to get this on my list. This year it is a who’s who of 3rd wave goth and industrial. Big line up with lots of established acts. If this time period in goth was your jam you can’t beat this. Plus it has a convention feel with a lot of things beyond the music (panels, art, DIY, access to bands)
Out From the Shadows Fest – (Portland) – Another festival I have heard wonderful things about from a great music city. This lineup is stellar and really runs the entire frequency of music styles. Great focus on fresh bands doing 3 stacked nights of music. Huge lineup with a lot of bigger named acts blending well with fresh faces. Plus Portland is just a great place to have a vacation if you are goth.
SYZYGYX (Wash. DC) FEARING (LA) KOMRADS (Rochester NY) LOVE HATE AFFAIR (Austin) THE ELECTRIC WEST (LA) PHYSICAL WASH (PDX) RITUAL VEIL (PDX) – TBD –
BODY OF LIGHT (Arizona) AUTOMELODI (Montreal) SSLEEPING DESIRESS (SF) MAYFLOWER MADAME (Oslo) PUSH BUTTON PRESS (Tampa) V.E.X. (members of MOIRA SCAR) (Oakland) VERSARI (Paris) WE ARE PARASOLS (PDX)
RITUAL HOWLS (Detroit) TEARFUL MOON (Austin) KORINE (Philadelphia) ASTARI NITE (Miami) SICK WISH (Boise) SEVENTEEN AT THIS TIME (Paris) MR WRONG (PDX) LIES WE WERE TOLD (PDX)
San La Muerta Festival – (Austin Tx) Austin is probably one of the best cities for goth industrial in the US. The list of bands currently out of this town is staggering. Great DJ support. I imagine this party is off the chain. They boast a monster lineup from all over the globe. The Vanishing doing a reunion and Shes Past Away.
San La Muerte Fest 2020 Sept. 17th – 19th Austin Texas
-This year SLM proudly presents: from Spain ANA CURRA (formerly of Paralisis Permanente, Alaska y Los Pegamoides, Los Seres Vacios) Ana Curra will perform Friday Sept. 18th, 2020 in Austin Texas Venue: TBA Tickets available now on SLM website
-SHE PAST AWAY One of the best current Darkwave Post Punk bands. Only Texas Show! All the way from Turkey! Sept. 19th with The Vanishing Elysium Austin Texas
-THE VANISHING (San Francisco) 20 YEAR REUNION! Only Texas Date! The Vanishing will be playing Saturday Sept. 19th alongside She Past Away! Venue:Elysium Tickets available now on SLM website
Dark Malta Festival – (Malta) Great mixture of Euro darkness. Some big names in goth/Industrial/ and metal here. Plus it is in Malta in April which i imagine is gorgeous. If you have the means, I highly recommend checking it out, so choice 😉
2019 has been quite a year for my dream. It has found it’s tar dark wings and started flapping them to places I never imagined it would go. I have new writers like Collin, Katy, and Adrian. I have 4 times as many followers. Made new friends which I have come to love and value. Traveled to distant lands. Started a podcast. In general it gets me excited for the future that so many people all over the world have shared with me this love of what is happening in modern music.
Unlike last year when I did a top albums review all alone I know had a wine drenched democracy of shouting voices sitting in a room and debating what had moved them in this years music. It was an amazing feeling I had forgotten. I wanted to make this list hold weight. So we made hard cuts and decisions to get our list down to 4 genres and 10 albums per genre. Everyone had input and voice and no one 100% agreed. I love that. This was never suppose to be about me but about the celebration of art. I hope you find something new here. I know I did and it fills me with hope for places a song or album can still move me. We split it into 4 parts 1) Post Punk/Goth 2) Industrial/EDM 3) Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave 4) Wildcards
First up is Post Punk/Goth. This one is my primary wheelhouse so I took point here. There has been a true resurgence in this genre and this was a hard list to choose. The albums listed here are all amazing but we fought long and hard to try and pick some form of order. Here is what we found.
10) October Burns Black (Reflections) – London superband and Traditional goth act from London put out this amazing record this year. James Tramel (The Wake) has composed this album with Rod Hanna (Vox), Lars Kappeler (Guitars) and Tommy Olsson (Guitars) Simon Rippin. It is so full of flowing sinister goth sounds. It really holds true to the sounds of yesterday while forging new ground. Every song is an emotive blast.
9.5) Ritual Howls (Rendered Armor) – I know, i cheated. I just can’t leave this record off. We debated and argued so hard to get this list to 10. This album is just such a world beater. It’s Nick Cave putting on the armor of Echo and the Bunnyman. They are even Detroit fam. They are keeping a flame burning for a sound that cannot be forgotten.
9) Frozen Charlottes (Wax Venues) – Santa Ana post punk doom weavers Frozen Charlotte released this beautiful album in November of this year. I have been in love with Chandler Grace, Janell, and Sky’s savagely dark spit and vinegar punk goth style since their previous incarnation. With Wax Venus they really found a way to refine that edge to a razor point of intensity, Waxing and waning like the moon in a flowing dance around the fire witchcraft ritual.
8) La Me’canique (Dernier Voyage) – This is such a lovely record from Cold Transmission that really embraces the post punk ideals. It’s wide, flowing, and full of landscapes. It feels large and comes through the lens of a distant camera. I think of 80’s Duran Duran and the way they transported you to another place while listening to the songs. A vacation in musical form.
7) Mark E Moon (Refer) – Another exceptional album with a lot of traditional goth elements. Another Cold Transmission band on this list who has a wonderful vibe of old Peter Murphy but with a modern edge full of poetic lyrics and Mark’s deep resonant vocals. Lots of balance and pop hook in this record. I want to peel the layers of this onion and find the core of it’s art.
6) Crying Vessel (Illusions) Slade Templeton is bringing the glam razzle dazzle back into dark music. His dark rich voice climbs and slide around an impressive range. I found it in my heart, and building a place in my head. I had the wonderful opportunity to see them live in Germany this year and it really gave this record another plateau of range. A perfect mixture of previous styles and modern technology this record is a must have.
5) Golden Apes (Kasbek) – Berlin based post punk Golden Apes have been making music for a long time. To find an album of this power and depth of idea deep in a storied career is a noteworthy achievement. Peer Lebrecht has a voice so full of soul and power that it wraps you in it’s world. The music is a masterclass in what post punk can achieve in movement and embrace. I will finally get to see this played live in Boston this year for their first US tour. If you don’t know about this record plunge head first into one of the genres most exciting artists.
4) Antipole (Radial Glare) – Karl Morton Dahl of Norway holds the distinction of being the most reviewed artist on Sounds and Shadows. I feel moved by every album he has made. This one found a way to hit a special new level for me. Antipole is everything you love about post punk music like Joy Division and New Order. Karl is a true historian of the genre, but finds exciting new ideas about how to use modern technology to make the concept sharper and more intense. This record was such a wonderful tribute to his homeland. A record that transports you to that reflected, glittering place of dark ice. Paris Alexander and Eirene of Young and Cold records have added perfect vocal compliments to create one of this years stand out records.
3) The Dream Collision (The Certainty of Forever) – This album from Pedro Code of IAMTHESHADOW was a piece of art that left me changed and moved. Pedro has possibly the most beautiful and sensual voice in modern dark music. This record was so stripped down and exposed I found myself unforgettably moved. It is powerful and tender like Nick Cave but with the beauty and elegance of Ian McCullah. A truly moving offering.
2) Twin Tribes (Ceremony) – With their recent transition to Negative Gain Joel and Luis of Twin Tribes hold a special place here at Sounds and Shadows. Their Debut album “Shadows” was the inspiration for this webpage. They are bringing the concepts of spiritual post punk into the modern era. This sophomore offering was not a lull but a leap forward in concept, depth, and power. Rich and full of energy each song is a ritual to summon forth an intimate experience in the listener. You probably need this one on vinyl. Also they do a must see live show, find them in your town and bare witness.
Part II is the best Industrial/EDM – I grew up on industrial. It was my punk rock. My scream at the world release. Somewhere along the way i just drifted to other avenues. This year was a huge one for me to rediscover Industrial. Adding in Adrian and Collin to the family who are both stronger on Industrial than me have really helped me find this world again. The albums that have come out this year and bringing it back front and center for a lot of people. These were our top picks.
10) Klack (Introducing the 1984 Renault Le Car) – Matt and Eric are workhorses. They had a Daddybear album, Null Device, and another Klack album all this year which could have easily made this list. This album rose to the top for me. It’s perfect blend of retro and fresh feel with dance beats and unique concepts has become a go to for my listening parties. New ideas for the new industrial.
9) Lingua Ignota (Caligula) – I just found this through Adrian. Wow. It was like nothing I have heard. This is a sound so frightening and intense it gives The Goblins nightmares. It is the sound of a priestess ripping out her own eyes and bleeding from the sockets. Do not listen right before bed unless you want to be haunted by disturbing dreams. I speak from experience.
8) Kid Saint Nothing (Above_Below) – What a treat that I get to add a dear friend from Kalamazoo MI to this list. They belong here. This album is a raw heartfelt therapy session scream set to catchy dance beats. It’s wide and intense and needs to be played constantly on your listening device.
7) Dogtablet (Feathers and Skin) – Industrial music lords Jared Louche (Chemlab) and Martin King have worked with others to create this massively powerful record of animalistic spirit totem sounds. It feels like a creature speeding free under a moonlit sky. This album came late in the year but has been my constant companion ever sense.
6) FIRES (All My Dreams Are of This Place) – Aedra is a force of nature. Her intensity and vocals have really pushed the edges of the Industrial genre. This album has a tight mixture of early 2000 emo and electroclash force. Whenever I need to find my inner tiger to face the day this album is where I reach first.
5) Moris Blak (The Irregularity of Being ) – This album is a force of creative expression and cyber blending technology. Lots of amazing guest vocalists like Pete Crane, Amelia Arsenic, and Angel Metro. A true tapestry of electronic sound woven and blended with dance hall beats and shattering brash power. This needs to be in heavy rotation of every club you shake your ass at.
4) Curse Mackey (Instant Exorcism) – Curse has been a huge part of the industrial scene for a long time as Evil Mothers, Pig, Pigface, ect. This album represents his first solo offering and it is nothing short of breathtaking. This album has such a focus on lyrics with a true William Burroughs literary quality. Full of slashing beats and laser focused vocals. I own it on LP. You need it on LP.
3) Bones UK (Bones UK) – More of a big label offering but a straight burner. This album is on the top of Collin’s list this year. I love the ladies getting representation in this genre and this album cooks from front to back. Lovely pop hooks to really add some mainstream club vibe, and we unapologetically love that.
2) Stoneburner (Technology Implies Belligerence) – This record changed the game for me. It made me fall back in love with Industrial music. It has that same old school flavor, but takes such incredible chances. A thinking persons industrial with a concept and follow through. Steven Archer of Ego Likeness has unleashed something transcendent and powerful and managed to save enough in the tank to follow the record with another this year “Massdriver”. Both are incredible pieces of art you need to explore but you never forget your first love. This record was that for me.
Go Fight (Anthem) – Jim Marcus and Die Warsaw were a part of my first obsession with Industrial music. A titan in the genre and one of the great humans who holds this scene together. This record is all covers of the 80’s songs that helped build his musical life. It’s perfectly crafted. It’s full of soul. It finds a way to make something of the past connect with my present. I mean any time i can hear two of my favorite things in this life Go Fight and Shriekback happen simultaneously consider me hooked. Nothing on this record doesn’t immediately send my body into motion. This is the work of a master crafting a love letter to the things that built him.
Next up is Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave: Another brutal list to try and widdle down to 10 albums with everything wonderful released this year. As genres have expanded and new ground was broken the resulting art which is dreamy and beautiful has grown with it. This is a list of our favorites.
10) Lilith My Mother (Her Fall) – Beautiful dance magic with clear pop beauty infused with midnight dark lyrics and fallen angel vocals. Every song fills me up and has me asking questions. Do not sleep on this amazing artist.
9) Corlyx (In 2 the Skin) – Sexy LA sludge grunge is my weakness and this album is the cure. It’s sensual, powerful, and forces your body into motion. Caitlin has a voice that wraps around you and stirs that hairs on the back of your neck. Doesn’t your party deserve to be this hot?
8) Standalone (Standalone) – Steven Seibold of Hate Dept has unleashed this solo project so delicious and stripped down with beautiful synth sounds crafted with a wizards touch. It’s so personal and easy to relate to at once. The vocals are smooth and elegant and hold your heart with tender timing. So underrated.
7) Boy Harsher (Country Girl Uncut) – The feels of this record. It’s a smokey dimly let exclusive club that would turn me away at the door in music form. It’s efficient in the use of layers and sounds and has gorgeous imagery in the lyrics. I love everything about the crafting done on this record.
6) Agent Side Grinder (A/X) – Oh the delicious post punk infused stabbing drum beats. The dynamic vocals have a dark tone and emotional delivery. It’s full of songs that always feel like they are moving faster than they are. It’s that energy and crackling synth pad sound that makes ASG have such a unique sound. This album builds on everything that makes them one of the biggest names in the genre.
5) Sweat Boys (Nervous Prayers) – This record off of Give/Take strikes a special chord with me. Sitting in my room listening to Yaz “Upstairs at Erics” was such an impact on me. Waiting to hear a synth driven album that captured that same purity and exposed feeling has been something i have searched for a long time. With this record my search finally ended. It’s beautiful, electric, and makes me jump up and down like only a 260lbs man on a pogo stick can. If yuo care at all about synth pop you need this in your ears.
4) Drab Majesty (Modern Mirror) – Drab Majesty off Dais records isn’t just an album, it’s an experience. Knowing the exact amount of every sound to use to get a perfect blend is such a difficult art form. The harmonies, and flowing lush beauty. They are like aliens operating at another level from us common music plebs. This album is staggering and unique in it’s beauty and darkness.
3) Mr.Kitty (Ephemeral) – 31 tracks, all of them good. Take that in for a moment. This album was such a memorizing accomplishment. It’s an artist exposing themselves and making it sound lovely and pure. I played this record so many times this year I feel like I have a personal relationship with the artist and I have never spoken to them. If you don’t have this you need to make that a priority.
2) Hante (Fierce) – The soundtrack to a film of a better life lived than mine. Just listening to the gorgeous vocals and visual sounds on this record fill me with hope. The creative force unleashed here is an epic achievement. It makes you think, it makes you believe.
Wingtips (Exposure Therapy) – Look I can tell you what I love about this music. To me the real power of this album is that so many great musicians I know all talk about how much this record meant to them. It has been mentioned and picked on our podcast by almost everyone we have interviewed. It’s perfect, nostalgic, fresh, and full of texture and intensity. Every track is a banger. Every line is a poem. This was our combined number one pick out of one of the hardest categories to judge.
Final Catagory Wildcards: This was all the things too far out of the box to fit anywhere else. In a way I feel like it made it really exciting and definitely some of my top overall picks.
10) Scary Black (Shadow Dwellers) – Kentucky sinister darkness Scary black released this shadow storm full of familiar elements and fantasy sparkles. It’s full of dangerous dreams and lovely rich vocal melodies. I really look forward to their future.
9.5) Vlimmer (XIIIII) – German sound wizard Alexander continues to spew forth the most gloriously textured collections of sounds with pull heart strings like a horses reins. It baffles me how good every single release is.
9) The Purge (Rain) – Strange winding electronic storms. This album feels like weather shifting and changing. It has a flavor of trauma and young love lost. Thomas does a beautiful job using his vocal range to tell stories and build tension. It’s my sad rainy day music.
8) Girl Band (The Talkies) – Strange twisting and powerful. I really liked the chant of this band and the abrupt changes. This one came courtesy of Katy. Really intense sound.
8.5) The Joy Thieves (This Will Kill That) – Again a little bit of cheating here but this EP needs to be on the list. Such a perfect blend of hard rock and industrial with some of the biggest vocal talent in modern industrial. It’s smash everything in this room music because you are happy. I first described it as Clutch beating the shit out of Stabbing Westward with a baseball bat and I stand by that.
7) SYZYGYX (Fading Bodies) – One of the fastest up and coming bands in the scene. On both Negative Gain and Cold Transmission Luna and Josh are a sonic experience full of sexy dark disco grooves you would find in David Lynch’s private club at 3am. It breaks every mold and is always in my rotation.
6) The Ghost of Bela Lugosi – Ok technically not an album, but my house my rules. Australian based Vin Price has released about 12 singles this year and everyone of them is straight fire. It’s so punk rock, so raw, but so melodic and beautiful. It touches every part of every genre and I am here for all of it. It won’t play by the rules and that is part of it’s power.
4) Hide (Hell is Here) – Sheer unbridled power with a meaningful message. This is like nothing you have heard. Raw, intense, full of power tools. The vocals have more spit and acid than most metal. This album changed my world view
3) ELZ and The Cult (Psychodrama) – Visually, sonically, sassily, there is nothing about this album that does not completely enthrall me. It’s filthy, beautiful, it’s a horrible dream of a broken world that i can’t escape or look away from. I find a new layer to it every time i listen. You must have this.
2) Palais Ideal (Pressure Points) – I have been waiting to make this one of my top albums of the year all year long. This record broke all the boundaries of post punk. It’s thoughtful, precise, unique, and tells a story of some of the best science fiction I read in any novel. A thought provoking example of the power of music. Have this on LP and feel it’s warmth and glory as it was meant to be spun
Mesa Luna (Feel Nothing) – This one came to our attention courtesy of Jason Corbett (Actors). We didn’t have enough shoegaze representation here and this album was a stunner. #1 pick from Katy. It’s haunting, diverse and full of life. Take a journey with this record.
I had about 40 more albums this year that could have made this list. Maybe I will do an honorable mentions. I’m shredded though. There is currently a glorious revolution happening in music. Be a part of it. This list is a great place to start. Happy Holidays from us at Sounds and Shadows.
When I was in Berlin Golden Apes album “Kasbek” was my continual companion. I was very excited after the review to have a discussion with Peer Lebrecht about music, the future, and where the passion comes from to keep making music through decades while you watch the world change.
Ken: I found your band several albums into your journey, I’m excited to discover you in reverse. Tell me about when and how you came together, and when did that become the current incarnation of the Golden Apes?
Peer: The fact that KASBEK, our current release marked the 20th anniversary of that band. It makes it quite easy to detect the right point in time when 3 guys, sharing the same musical passion for everything in common. We, met in a small and spare flat then tried to turn lots of energy, idealism and a little bit of weltschmerz into choruses and verses…Feels good to remember after all that time. Diaries and demiurges….
Can´t tell where we all came from but we met at the right time in the right place.We all had already gained some experiences in bands and projects before but this. Golden Apes was some kind of reset, a playground, a return to zero because we were free from any pressure and guidelines. There was no template, no route, no urge of artistic sophistication or thoughts about concerts or recording something – just a guitar, a bass, a keyboard, a trashy drum machine and tons of songs we wrote in the first handful of months. Should we have kept it like this? Maybe…Ha Ha Ha… But soon a kind of ambition crept in and everything got more structured and ordered. We sorted and selected, discarded and rebuild and in the end we had about 12 songs, which soon became our debut album “Stigma 3:am”. Though so many seasons have changed since then and whole rivers have passed under the bridge I still like it´s atmosphere, it´s insouciance and hedonistic attitude towards genres and stylistic boundaries. Something we came closest to with MALVS again I think, some 18 years later…and finally KASBEK…circles, circles, circles….
Ken: I was struck by how different this record sounds from others I have heard in modern post punk, tell me about how it is different from your previous records?
Peer: Destiny is a weird thing now and then. Graceful and cynical, torturing and pleasing, snow and ashes…one second honey is running through your veins and the other mercury…and its true shape you only realize in the end. When we started with KASBEK we thought we were going to do an album that would become a gift for ourselves, something to celebrate the 20 years of existence in the most proper way – in the rehearsal room, making and recording music. That was the idea. But somehow it all took a completely different route, something strange crawled in, slowly but toxic…something that let us die on the way. Sadly. The deeper some of us got into the focus on the music, the more we faced a kind of strangeness and alienation between us. The songs felt like a trigger for skimming layers of things unspoken for years. There were so many cracks suddenly, so many distances and discrepancies of expectations, ambitions, engagement and creative involvement. But this is how it goes sometimes. Not every covenant is made for eternity.
In the end it felt a bit like doing a solo album with 11 of 12 songs written by myself and no real input during the mixing and polishing. But there was never a second I had doubts about going on. On the contrary. The more I felt deserted, the more important Kasbek became for me. It was my album all of a sudden in some way and I dealt with it passionately. And I confess – I´m quite proud of it. Was it to become the last Golden Apes album? Or the first letter on a new, blank page? Still I don’t know, but Kasbek is a caesura, one of those relics pointing to a certain moment in time whose palpable significance makes you shiver.
Ken: I read that Kasbek as an album name was a tie in to Greek mythology with the story of Prometheus. Tell me the significance of this title and how it relates to the music you are making ?
Peer: Prometheus, who stole the fire (as an metaphor for knowledge and wisdom) from the gods and handed it over to the man and was therefore chained on a mountain in the Caucasus (this ominous Kasbek), where an eagle was eating out his liver, day by day cause – and here my congrats for the authors savvy, it was regrowing every night! A brilliant story, isn’t it?
Where is the link to the album? Somehow the whole story is about the wish for knowledge and the failure of dealing with it. It is about morals and their counterweight, about sacrifice and the tempting odor of things forbidden. It´s about guilt and atonement, about betrayal and iniquity…The rest is hidden in the words, in the lines between…in the flames.
Ken: Post punk/dark music is going through a real Renaissance at the moment. What are you doing to distinguish yourself artistically?
Peer: Honestly? I have no idea. I still would call myself a musical amateur with no idea about thirds, syncopation, the Pythagorean tuning or the Neo-Riemannian theories. I always made music the way it finds me and I don’t care about sophistication, compatibility or definition of genres as long as it is moving me, makes something inside oscillating. (I even don’t know what post-punk is nowadays for the inflationary usage of that label makes it quite different to stay on top of things.) And although I use to hear a lot of music, keep always watching for new and exciting bands, I strangely always escape into instrumental ambient, neo-classic tunes when it comes to writing. From Harold Budd to Moon ate the Dark, from Eno to Dvdub. The atmosphere is the setting, the condition of the mind the main source of inspiration. So maybe it is this different set of influences or the missing intuition for contemporary trends that puts Kasbek in a stylistic alcove…I never really thought about that…
Ken: Speaking of the growing scene I know you just did a show with Actors in Berlin. Tell me about some bands you would really love to share a stage with?
Peer: Fortunately, I´m part of a team, which organizes an annual little festival here in Berlin (Dark Spring Festival) and we are lucky enough that we survived for 10 years now with a concept that is far beyond any commercial prudence. We only invite bands and artists whose music we personally like and cherish. No thought about popularity or the number of sold albums. We are just naïve idealists and it works well! Therefore, I´m blessed with the fact that I could already share the stage with so many interesting bands. For example The Trees, Motorama, Whispering Sons, She Past Away, The Foreign Resort….not to forget all those amazing people we met on the way so far: the above mentioned Actors, Pink Turns Blue, Clan Of Xymox, Cinema Strange, Love Amongst Ruin….to be continued. So have a look at the billing of the next Dark Spring Festival and I´m sure there you´ll find a few answers…
Ken: I recently took a trip to Germany and saw your home city of Berlin. I was absolutely floored by the way people embrace music and art there. Tell me about what it is like to be a part of that, how has it shaped the music you create?
Peer: I don’t know if there is a specific Berlin patina on the music we make, (maybe this is something I even can´t judge for living here for every single day of my life already!), but I agree that there´s some kind of urbanity sticking on it, like sand on wet skin. All the places it is passing seem to bear traces of man somehow….abandoned, damaged, broken, lost but reservoirs of memories. There is a lot of nature in my lyrics – seas and rivers, mountains and valleys, deserts and skies but these are metaphoric landscapes somehow, conditions, backsides of mirrors, resulting either from that romantic rejection of modern technological deadening or just a subconscious vocabulary of a mind…? Analysts may know. I´m not sure if this is linked to a special place.
Of course, culture rates high in Berlin, either on the surface or below of it and in one way it was amazing to dive into this Bohemian maelstrom, there were so many possibilities…especially beneath the water! All the clubs, all the venues, concerts 7 days a week, so many interesting people and so many people looking for the same. It was great being in it, being twenty, being curious…but a lot has changed since then. Don’t get me wrong, there´s still a great variety of abreuvoirs of cultural and subcultural life, but somehow it´s on display now. It feels sold out and tired. Maybe it´s a question of generation or just the usual way of cities eating their inhabitants. Take a look at other former cultural hotspots like London or NY. It all becomes polished, whitewashed and an insiders tip in a travel book….
Ken: So one of the songs on the record I kept coming back to was “Clouds Silver Lining” It was such an effective use of dynamics. Tell me about what was happening during the time you were writing it?
Peer: I can´t point to a certain song on Kasbek and tell you when and where I wrote it. Somehow the whole album became one piece of work, a solid shell with a lot of inclusions. There were periods of doing the music and periods dealing with the lyrics, not that one-after-the-other linear progression. I just remember that the first, atmospheric part “Clouds Silver Lining” was the first I did and for a while there was no idea to change the atmosphere at all. Just those leaden major and minor chords, this lofty Cocteau Twins guitar and the decent drums. It changed when I accidentally put a bass line from another idea over the main pattern and realized that it changed the whole mood without affecting the harmony. So we found that rattling middle section, whose conclusion asked for the heavy guitars and these over polished late eighties drums. And about the words – it´s a classical love song with all this light and pain, this hope and disappointment, this faith and echoing loss….
Ken: You did the Song “Dust and Dew” as a duet with Shannon Hemmett from Actors/Leathers, I felt like you had such great call and answer chemistry with your voices. What is it like to share a song like that, what do you think another voice added?
Peer: This song is really, really special for me. And not only for we never did it this way before. There was “Missing” on the MALVS album on which Froxeanne from The Frozen Autumn added a few lines with her magnificent voice, but it was more a final seasoning with her coming to the studio, taping her vocal lines in a few takes and leaving again. “Dust And Dew” became so different case. I wanted to do a song WITH someone this time. Someone special of course. Shannon and me knew each other from a few shows we played together and stayed in close contact since then. She´s a brilliant being and it turned out we share so many similarities if it comes to passion for arts. In this way the idea of doing something together has been in the air for a long time.
After the riverbed for “Dust & Dew” was dug, I sent her the rough musical template and the first verse. She replied with the second and so on and so we worked through the whole song, denying that there were a few continents and oceans between us. And when she added her additional keyboard textures in the end I was so delighted about the result, so enamored of its density and intensity. But the real consummation of it all happened a few months later only, when we sang the song together live on stage here in Berlin…then we really finished the great white work.
Ken: What is the future for you now? What is your ideal outcome for the rest of 2019? Hint: come tour in America 🙂
Peer: As revealed above there is a moment of re-design happening here, some adjusting of the compass, because even if I left a doubt a few sentences before, I erase it here and now again – I will go on with the band. It is a too big and important part of my life for letting it go completely. There was this idea to work on some new music on my own at first, to see things from a different angle, to redefine states and conditions, but there will definitely be a post-Kasbek era for the Golden Apes. Don’t know its shape and don´t know its color, but I´m certain about its existence. Promised.
Ken: What is something about your music you put a lot of heart and soul into but you think often gets overlooked?
Peer: I don’t feel legit enough to judge this, to measure popularity and the reach of the music we do. I just can say that we feel quite happy about the feedback and response we got over the years. We have never been that front page band, never stood prominently in the spotlight and always failed to meet commercial and economic expectations but….it was never about that. From the very beginning we dealt with everything on our own, there was no real company at our back, no educated management, no booking agency…what was not easy and asked for a lot of idealism and resilience but making music the way we wanted to do it, music that felt right and important (to us) always kept us going on. And finally I´m quite happy that we can do all this without any pressure, without any need to meet other demands than our own. There is so many music left to do, so many places we have been to, so many lovely and wonderful people we met – we couldn’t be more proud of the things we faced so far.
Ken: If you were given unlimited resources to make any of your songs into a video, what song would you choose and what would it look like?
Peer: That´s a question that hits the nail on the head in an almost eerie way, cause we´re really in the state of working on a draft for a new video right now. Christian and me are dealing with some ideas in the moment and we hope to get something on the way later this year. And of course I won’t reveal what song it will be. Let´s keep it murky…but it will look great I hope….Ha Ha Ha….
So after returning from Germany it’s time to get back to writing reviews. This one is crucial to me as this album was my constant companion while i walked the streets of Berlin. It’s one of those records that has become perfectly ingrained in my mind with a beautiful moment in time. It takes a lot to surprise me at 41, hearing everything I have heard, seeing the bands I have seen. Every so often you stumble on a band like Golden Apes and stand jaw agape thinking how has no one ever thought to do this? Because this album is something different. It comes at you in subtle ways, familiar ways, until that moment you look around and realize you are somewhere else you haven’t been before.
This record is so full of tiny changes in instrument and sound, but they don’t build all at once. For each new voice added another falls away and it creates this brilliant sense of movement and variance. What stood out so effectively was how many elements were added but instead of the modern trend of letting them pile on top of each other until it becomes mud, instead something was subtracted each time. It kept the songs so crisp, clear, and efficient. This has a great deal to do with the drums which are doing things so far out of the box for modern post punk music that it makes me both think this band has left the genre and at other times that they are blazing the path for it’s future. KASBEK is a mountain in the heart of the Caucasus. A place where Prometheus gave fire to man and earned a lifetime of torture for his trouble. That theme of sacrifice for knowledge keeps coming back the more I spin these songs and goes a long way towards framing the lens of these stories. Because that is what this album is, a series of stories told around a fire that tell a history leading towards this moment.
Lets talk vocals a moment. Peer has a voice full of power and soul which fills the bursting chaos of this music and gives it a human face. It is rich and forceful without charging to the front. these songs don’t need an impressive vocalists to show their quality, but they have one. It really completes the effect and bring a uniqueness that allows you to focus on all the gentle notes happening and still hold your ear with a memorable power.
Christian’s playing is inspired and has such varied style. It’s the type of song writing that plays with familiar themes and keeps finding new places to reach within the cracks. This is not a new band, they have been making quality albums since 1998 and I am mad at myself for just finding it. However there is something wonderful in discovering a band that has several strong albums later in their career after an evolution where you get to work backwards through their progression and take the journey in reverse.
This album covers so much ground in terms of emotional evocation and stylistic movement that choosing best tracks is a chore. I have had moments where i fell deeply in love with every song on this record for different reasons. To me that says this is a record to have an in depth relationship with. That is a magnificent feat in the modern era.
Oblivion – A 6 minute single, in 2019. Who does that? This band and it works beautifully. This song is the optima of what I described. Adding pieces, taking them away. Creating motion. These drums have a beautiful tribal intensity with a Martin Hannett clarity of production. Peer drives through the build with a dense sustained baritone that paints a scene of hopeless abandon. I can’t stop listening, it’s a modern classic.
Deliverance – Ok of course I love a song called Deliverance for anyone who knows Amaranth. This song is gentle and beautiful with a Chameleons riff and flow with a building tension that culminates in a beautiful chorus that contains the power of Joy Division “Atmosphere”. Understand the power of that statement. Bands can’t just achieve something of that impact in the modern era but this song has done just that.
Clouds Silver Lining – Holy shit this song has the swelling power of a minimalist Bach chamber song. “I cut my tongue with your silver lies, suddenly i feel all the love, and so i see you” To reach this level of emotion and beauty at such a reserved tempo is the true calling of dark music and this song builds to a sky shattering crescendo that opens minds and ears. Breathtaking and brilliant by the sum of it’s parts.
Berlin left me changed. The power of artistic expression and the blood in the stones of this city are present in the people here. Hearing Golden Apes it is impossible to not feel that connection and this album is a true modern day opus. I am at a loss to express how important it is you discover this record and understand the connection Berlin has with this style of music. Golden Apes can make that real for you from whatever place in the world you are sitting. Take this journey with me from this new album all the way back through 20 years of great music.