This collab between LA’s Damascus Knives and San Diego’s Ratio Strain is just the ticket for those in the mood for harsh rhythmic noise and grinding industrial beats. The first five tracks belong to Damascus Knives and would feel right at home in a cyberpunk noir thriller. The spoken-word soundbites allude to a CIA mind control experiment.
The Experimental Remix is stripped down and feels more synthwave to me than IDM, and that’s not a complaint.
Ultra’s title track has a four-on-the-floor beat that hypnotizes the listener while it envelopes with synth swells.
Psychic Driving has a slow intro before beats and arpeggios take over. Certain sounds made me think there’s a Middle Eastern musical influence at work. Like the name implies, imagine listening to this track while in the desert just at that moment when the Psilocybin kicks in.
Sick Mind has a keyboard line that drifts in and out of key and punchy vocals. The whole thing induces that state of mind that only exists when one is between sleep and waking and can’t tell the difference.
Ratio Strain is the brainchild of W.A.S.T.E. drummer Vanessa Engelfield and dominates “Side B” of this collection with “Filth”. The beats on Industrial Love Song clash seemingly by intention, which makes the beats all the more enticing, all while sound bites of a dominatrix suggest something naughty.
The spoken-word samples on the title track are harder to distinguish. I felt like I was getting cussed out by an android. The beats harken back to 80s-style IDM.
Fuel Injected Suicide Machine features W.A.S.T.E. and has a relentless 808 kick that takes me back to my days of sweating on a dancefloor so cramped you can make out the body odor.
While I hate to compare bands (but still do it all the time), the trippy beat on Kindness made me think of a dark Meat Beat Manifesto. Choral sounds loop in and out of the mix along with heavily-delayed voices. This track is my personal favorite.
Remixes by DJT_Roy and Lexx finish off this collection with additional fuel for the dancefloor.
While the beats are gritty, even downright harsh at times, there’s no shortage of danceability on this record. DJs will be spoiled for choice with these groovy gems.
When nothing feels new, we as humans reach for the old, extend a hand to what is comfortable and safe. Nostalgia reigns supreme as a result, as creators try to strike a balance between those creature comforts and a new monster altogether. In the synthpop and post-punk worlds, this struggle is pervasive, but making it look all too easy is Los Angeles songstress Riki. On her second record Gold, what was old is new again, as Riki takes a bold step forward in an institutional genre.
“Lo” starts things off sonically in the late Eighties, especially in the quieter verses with a swelling, chime-laden chorus. The bassline is hum-worthy on this infectious opening track, before sliding into goth rock territory on “Marigold,” which might be my personal favorite track on the disc. It rides the line between bouncy and moody, maintaining a danceable rhythm with gliding synth licks. “Oil and Metal,” the instrumental intro in particular , wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Depeche Mode’s Violator, but while the track calls back to more familiar melodies, the shimmery synth work is what gives that recognizable tune a fresh coat of paint. The structure of the dueling vocal lines, one talk-sung and one emphatically crooned, is a nice nod to the song’s title as well.
The chilled-out, dub-informed “It’s No Secret” is a cloud walking number, with delay-steeped guitar interludes and a minimal drum part. It’s one of a handful of tracks with a smooth sax lick, giving a big city feel to this otherwise ephemeral song. “Sonar” is vocal-forward with a plucky bass groove. It is here that we see Riki’s full vocal range, be it her singing us to slumber or urging us closer to that old haunt. On the subject of old haunts, the opening to “Last Summer” is as post-punk as we get, with tubular bass lines and the odd chorus-tinged guitar moment. Aside from “Marigold,” this may be the most radio-ready, “puts the ‘pop’ in synthpop” track of the album.
Within “Viktor” lies the very definition of grey sky guitar, though the song is a synthpop number first and foremost. There’s a stirring beauty about this track, a reverent admiration of sorts. The final two tunes, “Porque Te Vas” and “Florence and Selena” are just fun, the former for its Latin flavor and hypnotic vocal melody, and the latter for its retro-futuristic flavors, and the return of that swinging saxophone. All told, we make our way back around to that Eighties synthpop flavor we began with, but the song is far from the same.
If her sound is this dynamic and sweeping on only her sophomore outing, imagine what Riki can do in the future. Gold is a joy of a record that must not slip under the radar of an avid synthpop fan. There is plenty to dance to here, but there’s perhaps even more to get lost in on a first or second listen. It’s fresh, and for a style of music that has one super-prominent touchstone or point of reference, that is nothing short of an achievement.
A week from this last Friday was the second day Bandcamp waived their artist fees. Since then, there’s been a burst of new music posted that ranges from one-off projects bred from quarantine boredom to albums that have been in the works for the last year.Some artists have re-released old albums that were never released digitally while others have chosen archived songs that aren’t new but haven’t been released before.
I’m pretty much saying Bandcamp is rad right now.
There is so much great music out and more coming out every day. It was hard to pinpoint my top favorites, but I’ve spent the last day narrowing my latest playlist to my top six favorite new releases.
I’ve always been taken aback by Mogwai’s soundscapes. There’s a vastness in their music that can create such a sad, lonely feeling in my gut. It’s crazy how without words, they can say something so well that it brings tears to my eyes. ZEROZEROZERO is the score to the show on Amazon Prime with the same name exploring the inner workings of the cocaine trade. This album gives the story light as it creates action and tension with massive builds and soundscapes.
When X announced last January that they were going to be releasing a new album, the punk scene stirred. What would the first album release in 27 years by an iconic punk band be like? Great news, everyone! It’s awesome. X spent the last 18 months writing and recording 11 new tracks that are relevant and hype to hear. When the band hit the scene in 1977, they quickly become prolific for their unique sound. Duel vocals, an homage to multiple rock genres at once, ripping guitars, and attitude. That’s X. This album was released on April 22, 2020.
Vlimmer is a music-making machine! This album is dark and ambient with a drive behind it. Though it’s utterly haunting instrumentally and vocally, it’s breathtakingly beautiful simultaneously. Instrumentally, you’ll hear sounds that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand, but then there are these huge vocals and harmonies that hypnotize you. There’s chaos built into the structure of the songs that give you that feeling of tension without pushing you to discomfort.This album was released on May 1, 2020.
When I heard the song, “Dissolve” by Secret Shame, I felt refreshed and excited for more. I heard homage to bands I love like New Order. It literally felt like I was listening to a song by The Cure recorded for 33 1/3 rpm but played at 45 rpm. This is the perfect cross of post-punk and goth rock. You can feel how much fun the band had creating this EP. It’s because of this that the music that creates a deeper connection with the audience. I’m very excited to hear the other half of this EP when it’s released June 5, 2020.
In 2019, four 15-year-olds came together in Melbourne, Australia to form the rad indie-grunge band, Tabloid TV Darlings. The group is heavily inspired by ‘90s alternative rock, specifically grunge. The singer sounds almost exactly like Kurt Cobain, but the band has melodic feel with fuzzed-out guitars and cool vocal harmonies. This group of teenagers has me jealous of their songwriting ability and has me super excited for their future releases. This album was released on May 3, 2020.
Dummy from Los Angelas, CA is a dreamy shoegaze band that echos the sounds of legendary groups like Kraftwerk, Stereolab, and Cluster. Their marriage of rock genres ranging from krautrock to post-punk is enough to give it a unique sound. They take a minimalistic approach to their work but build huge soundscapes within the composition. Each song has it’s own range that builds the album into somewhat of a cinematic-feeling piece overall. This album was released on May 1, 2020.
Favorite Track: Slacker Mask
I know I was a little late to the game by writing these days after Bandcamp waived it’s artist fees, but there’s still amazing music being released every day! There is so much to still be excited about on Bandcamp. Whatever support you can offer to your favorite new artists is always appreciated even if it’s only $5.
I’ve been hearing so much great music these last few weeks and look forward to the time when we’ll all be able to go to shows again and experience music together. Until then, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this segment of “Katy’s ‘End of Days’ Playlist”.