When i write reviews one of the common traps I try hard not to get lost in is comparing every new band I review to one of the sacred dark gods of the 80’s and 90’s. It’s a pretty common tactic and lets face it an effective one. It’s easy to associate with what is familiar. Often feels like the world of goth/industrial/darkwave/new wave/ect has pretty much been discovered and artists are searching for ways to test the boundaries of what is possible and find some new ground. I figured I would take a moment to acknowledge this is a reality for a lot of people.
Band: Palais Ideal
Album: No Signal
Label: Dark Vinyl Records – Now on Cold Transmission Records
JOHN EDWARDS: VOCALS, GUITARS, SYNTHESIZERS, PROGRAMMING
RICHARD VAN KRUYSDIJK: BASS, SYNTHESIZERS, BACKING VOCALS, BARITONE GUITAR, PROGRAMMING
Produced, Mixed and Mastered by: Uwe Teichert At Electropolis
Palais Ideal means the Ideal Palace. A concept of building a home or place from the things you find in everyday life. This is an album that achieves something I think is so lost in the modern music scene. Each song is so unique in it’s sound and style. All the ideas tie together but the songs themselves have such an individual sound and aesthetic. This is a intellectual thinking album that has a calculated scientific arc. The songs are poppy and engaging but the words behind each song are a challenge and inspiration. This band from Netherlands attacks themes of politics and technology in the modern world. Lofty ideas that go beyond the standard party themes you could expect from club beats and hook melodies. I found myself lost and found following this story laid out about the hardship and pitfalls which face the modern person. I think the true genius on display was how easy it was to set aside these thoughts and get lost in how fun and energetic the songs sounded.
John Edwards vocals are a master class in range and engagement. From driving chants, beautiful croons, spirited edge, along with playful tongue and cheek. The theme and sound changes within each song and from one to the next. The synths are masterfully sculpted to create a rising falling tide of emotion. Van Kruysdijk’s guitars and bass lines are a driving cacophony of sound and style that build an express train for Edward’s vocals to ride upon. I hear New Order, Joy Division, Information Society, Pet Shop Boys, Japan. All are blending together but the fusion creates something unique that finds it’s own path. From a technical standpoint the music is as precise as the lyrics. No sound is wasted or lost. This is purposeful production that has a journey and a destination. I love when a true professional enhances their vision with craft and that is what Palais Ideal has achieved. I listened to this album 4 times before attempting to review it and I feel like I am just scratching the surface.
trouble choosing standout tracks because the flavor is so different
with each but here goes
Crossfade/Dissolve – Here is that beautiful New Order chanting anthem sound right off the bat. It’s catchy, it’s evolved, the lyrics are delivered with just enough sharp edges to enhance the emotion while having this beautiful calculation of an architect building a better world. I played this track 7 times and regretted none of them.
Deity – Beautiful sped up cut time drums. Textural open voice lyrics delivered with a driving cadence. Again this song has such a science fiction story delivered with a build that opens up with a wonderful guitar line. This is the soundtrack of a future I fear that strikes a logical chord.
A Black Noise – This one gets dark, really dark. A droning Bauhaus drum beat with sinister guitar riffs. Edwards drops his voice to the low register to paint a frightening picture of fear and loss. “Every secret sight and sound, where are they now. A million voices underground, where did they go.” This bassline has a Sisters of Mercy Floodland drive. It’s a fierce and frightening emotion that captures and grasps.
Overall this album is just well done. The highs are high the lows are low. It’s an album you can dance in the club to but take home and really listen for the deeper meaning. I found myself falling into it like a pit that had no bottom. What an experience, what a record. You need this, if you are up for the challenge.
After spending a lot of time with the album I got the chance to talk with John and Richard a bit about what went into the construction and vision of the record. As well as get to know the artists who created it.
(Ken) – I did a bit of research about your name Palais Ideal and found there was a lot more to it then I originally suspected. Why did you choose it and what did it mean to you?
(Palais Ideal) – The Palais Ideal – “Ideal Palace” in French – is a strange and eccentric 19thcentury building that was created by Ferdinand Fernando Cheval, a postman from Southeastern France. He had no formal training as an architect, but collected stones while he delivered letters and built his very odd palace. A perfect metaphor for the desire to create something purely because it ought to be created – which is the foundation of all great art! We love austerity and starkness, but are also heavily into romanticism and bizarre ideas – like building your own private palace!
(Ken) – You have plenty of experience which I feel brought richness and depth to the album. Tell me what you have coming out down the road and what led into it?
(John) – Palais Ideal has only been around for two years, but Richard and I formed our very first band together ages ago, playing a mix of prog rock and goth. Over the years, I’ve been in bands performing everything from latin music to technical death metal. The fact that we both play different instruments and have experience arranging, recording and producing has also helped us to get where we wanted to be. The next big thing for us is the upcoming release of our second album, on which we’ve brought together a wider range of influences than before – from Low-era Bowie and classical music to funk pop and krautrock. We kept pushing each other in interesting new directions and wanted to see how much we could expand, while still staying more or less within the post-punk and new wave genres.
(Richard) – I have been exploring many different musical styles, albeit all of the darker, melancholic variety. Early new wave and post-punk are my roots, and to create something that references this musical era feels very natural to me. We are trying to keep our musical direction and style very clear, and at the same time looking for ways to find our personal ‘signature’ within the genre. A very interesting journey!
(Ken) – Music is usually not all glitz and glamour. You need to pick moments to fuel you into the next. What is the moment you are most proud of in your career?
(John) – For me, touring in Germany with Clan of Xymox was a big occasion – if I’d have known that would happen when I was a teenager listening to their albums, my head would presumably have exploded. We toured the UK last year, which was another wonderful experience. Of course, working with the legendary John Fryer, who produced many of our favorite albums, has been incredible – he’s brought a whole new perspective and has been delightful to work with. We’ve had a lot of great reviews and met some wonderful people through our music, which is highly inspiring. In May, we’re releasing our new album at an event featuring some of our favorite bands – She Past Away, Selofan and Auger – and we’re looking forward to that!
(Richard) – I am fortunate to be able to say that there are so many moments that come to mind! For instance: watching Gitane Demone delivering spine-tingling vocals in the studio on a track by another band that I am involved in: Phallus Dei. To have co-written songs with heroes such as Graham Lewis (Wire), David J (Bauhaus), Winston Tong and Blaine L. Reininger (Tuxedomoon), Peter Christopherson (Coil), Edward Ka-Spel (Legendary Pink Dots) and Larboe (Swans). Also memorable is the tour I did with Daniel Johnston, for whom I arranged three songs for big band. A very special programme! As for Palais Ideal: There have already been so many highlights in our short existence! I’m proud of our videos, our releases, and especially our upcoming album.
(Ken) – So one of the things that enamored me with this record was its eclectic nature. Every song has it’s own flavor. Who was your inspiration and how did you make the styles fit together?
(John) – I’m a big prog rock fan, especially the early 1970s stuff, such as Pink Floyd, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson. On many of the albums from that period, each song would be clearly built around a specific concept, which could be a musical theme or lyric, yet all tracks would be tied together. It made sense to try this approach within a post-punk concept: creating a self-contained little world around the musical and lyrical concept of each song.
(Richard) – Before we started, we defined a very clear sound for our music: what kind of drum sounds, synths, bass and guitars we were going to use. The fact that there is a logical connection between these sound elements, allows us to go to the heart of each song without the album becoming incoherent. We are always looking for clarity in our musical ideas and arrangement. Every track should be a strong statement in itself.
(Ken) – So “Seen Missing” was a song that has been playing over and over on my phone all week. The lyrics has such a mystery of a secret message. Maybe it is the double entendre in the name 🙂 What was going on when you wrote this, tell me the secret?
(John) – Basically, it’s about the fact that, thanks to the internet, we currently have access to a huge amount of art, music, writing and more. We can access all of this at any time, from anywhere. Countless great ideas and creations that might have been forgotten forever are available to us. It’s important that we look back and remember all of the people that came before us, re-evaluate what they’ve created, and share our discoveries. A lot of our lyrics are a bit bleak, kind of techno-paranoia “Black Mirror” stuff, but technology can also have a huge positive influence on our lives.
(Ken) – To me seeing a great band live needs to be a different experience than hearing the record. Tell me what you do live that makes it different?
(John) – Personally, I’d rather see a band like Motorhead playing than watch some dude behind a laptop. We like to get carried away and focus on getting across as much energy as we can and involve the audience. It’s fun to goad each other on a bit on stage. One of the greatest gigs I’ve ever seen was The Fall, who were completely serious and totally entertaining at the same time. Why shouldn’t post-punk be fun?
(Richard) – Whereas in the studio one can zoom in on the details, on stage it’s about the right energy. A live performance is, first and foremost, about communication. To feel connected with the audience is a great sensation that can take you to great heights on stage. Most important thing is to be fully authentic and really go into the feeling of a song. We dive in head first into our shows and people feel that. A live show is about celebrating the moment. We have played quite a lot, hitting the stage just a few months after we started, and we have taken that experience back into the studio and into song writing.
(Ken) – We have talked about something happening lately in dark music. A Renaissance, what do you hear and what does it mean for you?
(John) – There are quite a few contemporary bands that are making music that is strongly inspired by the “golden age” of post-punk, new wave and goth, but with a contemporary spin and new energy. At the same time, a lot of the 80’s generation of musicians are reappearing, or still going strong. I think people are pretty sick of the generally pathetic, bland and whimsical nonsense that the music industry is forcing on them, and looking for something that dares to ask relevant questions and tackle difficult themes. There’s a kind of grassroots movement happening across different countries, with new labels, blogs and bands that are just ignoring the status quo. Something similar has been happening in the Synthwave scene, and it’s great to see how so many people have picked up on that.
(Ken) – If you could play with one band current or gone who would it be and why?
(John) – I think being on the same bill as Killing Joke would be pretty awesome. We have a lot of respect for them, musically, and also because they’ve been doing their own thing for decades. I’d also love to perform with Joy Division, The Sound or one of the Rozz Williams incarnations of Christian Death, although that’ll never happen for obvious reasons. If I could join someone else’s band for a day, it would be early Genesis or Van Der Graaf Generator 😉
(Ken) – This one is for the gear heads. What is one piece of equipment you couldn’t make your sound without?
(John) – I bought some late 90s USA-built PRS guitars last year and couldn’t do without them! My Roland Jazz Chorus 120 amp and my Juno and Oberheim synths are pretty inspirational, too. Although we use a lot of hardware and tube gear, we’re both big fans of the UAD hardware and software platforms. However, I like to think that we’d still sound like us if we were limited to a pair of banjos
(Richard) – My ’62 Fender Jazz bass is totally the sound that I love! As for synths: My Prophet 5 features in every song we make. The most beautiful synth for me.
(Ken) If you could use dark magic to span time and steal one dead musician from history to join your band, who would you summon forth?
(John) Bowie! We’d let him do anything he wanted to, obviously… Johann Sebastian Bach on keys would be quite good, too.
Album: It Will Come to You
Label: Northern Light Records
Corbett – vocals/guitar
Shannon Hemmett – synth/vocals
Jahmeel Russell – bass/vocals
Adam Fink – drums
Ok I have taken a bit of a hiatus from writing reviews prepping for a show but when Jason Corbett calls me out to review what is one of the most important new albums of 2018 I better crack my knuckles and get in front of my keyboard. When I first heard this Vancouver based band I was spell bound. Transported in time and enthralled by the sheer cold razor coolness of this record. It started really blowing up and I suppose I just felt like Actors were so good they didn’t need me to write about them as much as other new bands. However to not express what this album meant would be a disservice. This record cooks from front to back with throwback sounds, perfect precision and continuity, while lyrically bringing a fresh and modern take that resonates with everyone I play it for. Do you know how Ian McCulloch is a once and a life time sound that no one can really capture ever again? When I hear Jason Corbett I hear a young Ian crooning out effortless expressive lines that wrap you up and transport you. I’ve mentioned many times in reviews being a singer myself I always hone in on vocals first and Corbett delivers a sonic artistry of wide scope and emotion that makes every song feel like an intimate performance just for you. Not to understate his guitar work, when I saw the Actors live in Detroit I was blown away by how he shredded. The guitar lines while fitting in the post punk sound have a jagged edge. He was also wearing a Slayer shirt when he played them.
Musically this album is diverse in a way so missing from “Post Punk” today. It changes in tone and scope from song to song. Everything blends together in one story but just like a complex character in a novel it is full of intricate parts. Hemmett is a maestro of subtle brush stokes in the synth sounds contradicting the sharp moving guitar parts. They build, fall, and create movement. Russell has studied hard at the Martin Hannett school of using the bass as a percussion instrument to drive these songs and feed life. I remember being surprised how large a bass he plays live, but sometimes to get the big sound you need a big instrument. They are dark and bracing and surround you in the motion of a chase scene after a heist in a bright lit city on a cool night. Fink uses a crisp snapping drum sound that builds a foundation for the constant movement and swirling parts. I can’t remember the last time a record felt so much like a beautiful sound track of a film that was never made. You can’t help but conjure images of these songs in your head. It’s a magnificent effect which continues to grow every time I listen to it. Actors are not creating a brand new sound here, but they are playing at a level of quality in their synthesis of glam, post punk, electronic, and new wave that you feel like new ground is being broken. I’m truly awed by what is accomplished here and I am not alone.
So now we have reached the hard part, how do I pick standout tracks on an album that was meant to be absorbed as a single flowing piece. It’s not singles here. Every cut is a deep perfect cut. Ok , self, be professional, I’ll try.
Face Meets Glass – I suppose if there is a “single” this is it. Such a lush and vibrant song in a dark tone. Here you can definitely hear the Echo and the Bunnymen comparison. It’s just slick city streets, black leather jackets, the coolest girl in the room dancing alone. If Ian McCulloch, Peter Hook, Iggy Pop, and Gary Numan were hanging out at a club in Berlin at 1:47am this would be the song they would listen to.
Let it Grow – Here the Post Punk edge is let off the chain. This bassline is as thick as a slow river. An elegant builder full of background guitar and stabbing single note keyboards that just keep getting layered as the song progresses. Flavors of New Order smashing Technique into Movement. Why did no one think of this before?
Slaves – All these days that you fear, there’s no god, only what you had to offer. Holy shit this is a burner. The simple slashing guitar riff, that bassline that just rolls over you like a Mack truck. I could hear this song 200 times on repeat and it would never lose flavor. It drives on the edge but in a medium tempo. This is the song I want to play while doing a jewel heist in a black turtleneck in New York while the revolution begins. (Note:Since writing this review I have definitely listened to this song more than 200 times)
Overall this album is a true modern day classic. It’s ambitious, perfectly executed, and full of homage. Actors are leading the charge in a Neo-Renaissance of dark wave music. If you don’t know about this album yet you need to get it immediately and be in on what is becoming a movement in modern music. Find this, love it, hold the vinyl in your hands and spin it many times.
Wait, there is more? Yes our own Rachel Pool got a chance to do this insightful interview with a Jason who we love dearly.
(Rachel) Explain, in ten words or less, the music scene in Vancouver.
(Jason) It’s a thriving hotbed of talent.
(Rachel) What made you choose the name, ACTORS?
(Jason) It felt just interesting enough. All the good names were taken and Duran Duran Duran was too long.
(Rachel) Does that name allow you some security in your songwriting? Was it by intent to create a lyrical fiction? How much of your songs are written from life experience?
(Jason) A name means less and less as time passes. It’s not something I think about. All the songs are written from life experience although it’s not 100% autobiographical. Sometimes you just need a visual and a good rhyme.
(Rachel) Describe the original formation of Actors. How did musicians of your talent level come to together into one singular vision?
(Jason) We are all friends first. It just made sense for us to fall together with ACTORS. We respect each other and everyone has something special to contribute. I couldn’t do this with just anyone.
(Rachel) Bands of brothers and sisters: what do you argue about most, as a band?
(Jason) We don’t really argue. I snore so I’m pretty sure the others members have wrestled with the idea of holding a pillow over my face in the middle of the night.
(Rachel) How do you feel about remixes? Are they necessary to band networking? Is it comfortable to have other bands interpret your music, and how do you deal with what you may feel is an inaccurate rendition of your song, or indeed one which may have captured the spirit/leitmotif better?
(Jason) I’ve recently started doing remixes for other artists again. It’s fun. I haven’t had anyone remix an ACTORS song since the first single Post Traumatic Love. I don’t think they are “necessary” but I do love to hear different interpretations of songs. Sometimes a remix will be better than the original.
(Rachel) If you could have any band/musician remix one of your songs, who would you choose?
(Jason) I would love to see what David Lynch would come up with. Maybe he would just light one of our records on fire and record it burning.
(Rachel) How did you find music? Did you grow up with musicians, or did a certain album or artist inspire you to create music yourself?
(Jason) It was always around. The radio and music videos on tv. Bowie was the first big inspiration for me. Ziggy Stardust > Let’s Dance > Scary Monsters, in that order.
(Rachel) Your album has been considered by many to be one of the most important releases of 2018, does this shock you? What is a best case scenario of what you want to accomplish in 2019?
(Jason) I wanted to believe that if enough people heard these songs that the album would find an audience. I had learned to temper my expectations over the years so the reception this time around was initially hard to believe. Best case scenario is we keep touring and continue to create opportunities to connect with more and more people. We plan on releasing our next full-length album in 2020.
(Rachel) There has to be at least one of you who is a Cat Person™ . Freyja Six Beans(our cat) sat on our computer desk and had to be forcibly removed several times while we were playing your album. How can you explain your animal magnetism?
(Jason) You’re very intuitive. We love cats. I’m sorry you had to forcibly remove Freyja Six Beans on our account. Can animal magnetism be explained?