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 that the group I am listening to sounds like. It’s a pretty common tactic and lets face it an effective one. It’s easy to associate with what is familiar when it often feels like the world of goth/industrial/darkwave/new wave/ect has pretty much been discovered and artists are searching for more subtle 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: Pressure Points
Label: Cold Transmission
Vocals, Guitars, Synths, Rhythm Programming
Richard van Kruysdijk:
Bass Guitar, Baritone Guitar, Guitar, Synths,
Backing Vocals, Rhythm Programming
I’ve been searching for the right words for this May 25th 2019 release from Palais Ideal. This album had such an profound impact on me. It’s an early runner for my album of the year and we are just getting started. For me when I think of this record I think of the first time I heard The Church and thought, they are doing the same thing as most of the new wave bands. They are just doing it on a level of depth and complexity which touch on a higher step, while somehow maintaining everything in terms of pop sensibility that their contemporaries are achieving. I think the lack of sugar coating could make Palais Ideal easy to look past when in reality they are the ones creating something most profound.
John has such a wonderful and unique voice which i will expand on later but for a moment I want to focus on the message rather than the voice it is given in. You just don’t hear intelligent, challenging lyrical content like this in modern post punk music. A lot of it is expressive and clever but what Pressure Points has done is weave a cohesive tale of vibrant expression about the plight and achievement of modern culture. It’s Issac Asimov set to a tapestry of music. Enormous in scope and precise in vision. I have listened to these songs so many times already but I ordered the LP and put off writing the review partially out of intimidation partially because i needed to absorb the record played front to back as it was made to be heard. I’m not saying they don’t have great singles here. To me, this is a record of the best 12 deep cuts spaced over a bands 10 albums in one place.
Lets talk about what is unique here. Post Punk tends to lend itself to a technically adept style and Palais Ideal features two masters of craft at the height of their instruments. What they have done is take a step beyond the technical proficiency and into the progressive rock style almost more King Crimson than Joy Division. Dramatic shifts in key and tempo. Time syncopation that has the same heavy driving bass but such fluid movement of tone that it transcends the genre. The music is layered like mesh steel on a robots thigh. John has a voice that flickers and strikes with clarity and hovers on a range between Bernard Sumner, Joe Strummer and Mark Burgess yet always finds a way to cut through the complexity of the tempest. The use of guitars and Synths are economical and create a cleanness in spite of how much is going on.
How on earth to pick favorite tracks?
The Programme – What a complete cybernetic device digging into the depths of your skull and rattling around the pleasure zones in your brain. This bass line is everywhere at once. John’s delivery and that winding guitar rift which glances like light through a prism. “The Colony breaks down, we built it up again, we run the program now” A true statement on the loss of reality through technological euphoria. Facing the self shackled slavery of the modern world with glorious synth candy.
Context Collapse – This high energy snare snap building into a smooth cornered transition and that signature delicate guitar light show. “Forever avoiding a moment of disconnection. Improving, engineering a more transparent you.” So much to unpack here, layers upon layers.
Everything Will Be Ok – So much focus is on this dytopian world of the modern struggle this dance beat New Order soother with the strange echo robot effect vocals breaks up the weight and lets everything go green. “There is no such thing as destiny, life gives you everything you need. Everything will be ok?” So tongue and cheek I can almost beleive.
Overall this album is a force of everything that this new renaissance in post punk music is making possible. First you tear it down, then you rebuild it, then you synthesize it to a higher complexity and evolution. Pressure Points is a soundtrack for the modern spy novel of the post digital age. It’s full of adventure, depth, and a calculated empathy that makes me dream of electric sheep. This will be an album I am still peeling apart when I am putting together a list of the most important musical contributions of the year.
Band: Crying Vessel
Album: A Beautiful Curse/Illusions
Members: All songs written, produced and engineered by Slade Templeton of Crying Vessel.
All Lyrics by Slade Templeton.
All songs vocal recordings were assisted by Chris Geissler.
All songs written, recorded, produced at Influx Studios (Bern Switzerland/Berlin Germany).
This is an exciting review to write, I have been wanting to talk about “A Beautiful Curse” for a while now but I have been holding off in anticipation of Illusions coming out. I’m glad I waited because now I get to write my first two album combo review and I don’t think I could have chosen a better band than Crying Vessel. Crying Vessel began as a project between Slade Templeton and Basil Oberli as an art concept that found legs and has grown into some of the finest post punk/Synthwave/dark dance fusion coming out and spreading it’s dark wings across the world. It takes a lot of what is familiar and beautiful about classic dark music and infuses it with a jolt of electricity and sizzle.
Lets start with “A Beautiful Curse” the full length album that first introduced me to Slade’s magnificent crooning style. This album is rich in touch point synth pads and whip crack drum beats. It’s medium tempo music but unlike it’s roots it plays on the front edge of that beat giving it life and drive. Delay heavy flicker guitars give the songs a post punk feel while Slade uses the clarity and beauty of his voice to soften the edges of songs full of tension and desperation. I love when a vocalist has the swagger to put himself front and center over already great music and Crying Vessel knows how to make use of it’s greatest strengths. The songs on this album have a personal voice. They use a lot of dynamic motion pulling instruments forward and back to make you sway with them in this moment.
A Beautiful Curse is just that. These songs are aesthetically pleasing to the ear. At the same time so full of dark themes. The album is strong track to track and doesn’t throw anything away. You really hear a lot of isolation in these songs. Where some post punk has a definite “city” feel this album conjures such a feeling of separation from the world moving around it. That serene feeling of beauty and sorrow kept drawing me back to the title.
So many absolute can’t miss tracks on this record but I will choose a few:
Dig Deep – I hate to be on the nose and choose a single, but this song is such a jam it can’t be ignored. It’s razor movement and star point keyboard sounds. The drums on this track are so crisp and resonant of Depeche Mode (Black Celebration). Each beautiful line delivered in a cascade. Try not to dance to this.
Killing Time – This turns the speed up to make a more 80’s new wave feel. Slade takes his vocals into the higher range. “Poison mind, killing time” Again those simple keyboard lines that fill so much space. Martin Gore would be proud.
Trust me – Taking it down a notch this gentle builder lets Templeton use a whisper to draw his listener in like a snake charmers whistle. Again that great dynamic keyboard pan and heartbeat drum sound. This song is a tempter song. A dare to fall prey.
This album is a truly visionary compilation of styles and feelings that fit together with The rich passionate vocals and wonderful sense of timing. That timing from song to song really sets it apart. However I also want to discuss the wonderful contrast it has with the new EP “Illusions”
So something I feel has been sorely lacking in darkwave/post punk music lately is pizzazz, taking all that works well in driving bass lines and accent keyboards and then hits it with the old razzmatazz. The showmanship, the slightly over the top emotion in the vocals that doesn’t cross over into cheese. David Bowie had it, Roxy Music had it, and now Crying Vessel has tapped into that glam show that makes these songs feel like an epic production of visual stage show using only music. It’s a little extra breath in the voice, an extra millisecond holding the note, a dueling guitar with different levels of echo right out of Reeve Gabrels playbook. This EP made me swoon, and it did it in 3 songs. I was left longing for more and hope that Slade pursues this style further. For a lot of bands taking a little edge off and turning up the croon could take away from the dark sound he established. This album does quite the opposite. It found another step on the ladder and I couldn’t get enough.
All that is Real (Featuring She Pleasures Herself) – Here those Cure style guitars take us back to the forest and ask the question if love is real. It’s gorgeous, it’s accessible, and it brings that swagger. It ends on a note that leaves me begging for more songs.
What an eye opening wow follow up to an outstanding album. This is a must have for any fan of the dark music genre. I am extremely excited to see what Slade and company have on the docket for us next.
Lable: Self Release
Members: Axel Wursthorn and Cédric Manine
This is a review for Sombre and it was a tough one to write. A lot of styles and voices were reaching to be heard on “Lindsey”, many sounds from song to song that it didn’t fit easily into a particular box. This is an band that wears their influences on their sleeves but those influences run the spectrum of all varieties of dark music. I find this lack of focus to be refreshing. There is a real sense of searching on this record. Some of the songs hit immediately right out of the gate, some of them fill me with longing for the possibilities. All of it stirs something in me and leaves me longing.
So lets talk about what I hear. This album sounds so clean and beautiful. I think as a scene that the trend in modern dark music is to pile layers of slush and effect just because we can. Sombre has the execution and production of a surgeon. It’s quickly apparent that a producer is also a member of this band. The hooks are very welcoming but the concept is simple and exposed. Cedric’s vocals are a deep and rich cadence that keeps within the melody and holds the structure together in almost the way a lot of bands use the bass line. He also has an effortless dare I say aloofness in the timber and cadence, it feels refined and existential in it’s delivery. I really enjoy the blend of Dead Can Dance, Depeche Mode, and most of all Killing joke for the sheer variety of sound. However what I like the most is the addition on modern Alt J trip hop texture slither mixed with panning orchestral synth pads.
Musically the feel is very retro and full of builds and tension. I feel like this album has another gear it is waiting to hit and I look forward to what that sounds like. The bass lines and percussion are crisp and driving. They flow forward and aft with Cedric’s vocals to create a frenzied and harried dance. I think the sound more than anything is hard to pin down which is intriguing and keeps me wanting to dive deeper. This album always feels like it is running somewhere new and that motion is what builds the excitement.
The lyrics lean more towards an expression rather than a metaphor. I found it easier to relate to for this. I am really finding a lot of appreciation for the freedom of a totally independent release. Again the subject matters really stretched from the romantic to the societal power dynamics. One thing that tied them together was the genuine nature. Where someone tells you their story directly from their hearts without anyone to answer to. That’s what captures me here.
Stand out Tracks:
Find the Light – This has that Duran Duran pop chorus and layered harmony with a Happy Mondays dancing bass line. The song has a lot of builds and falls. With Cedric’s rich warm vocal tone crooning in a sensual and charismatic verse just to be offset by that large build chorus. Silence burns holy night removes the veil from your face.
Black Twin Skins – This has an 80s almost prog feel that reminds me of everything the Church did well. It’s very dynamic but the layers pull and push to create movement. The vocals come way to the front and are very exposed. Cedric’s singing finds a way to carry the rhythm and the breakdown is a masters course in how to fill within a pop hook. I love the guitar solo for this song. Very slush 90s shoegaze. “We are to young to remain alone, the fear chills us to the bone”
The Master – What a non sealant effortless groove. This song slithers for lack of a better word. You can feel it moving back and forth through you. These drums are shadowed and echoing reminding me again of Happy Monday’s. I love the whispered echo vocals.
Lindsey – The title track stands above all others. This beautiful harmony with a second higher voice for the perfect capture of everything Sombre is bringing to the table. The lifting and lovely voice is dancing on top of Cedric’s rich baritone. The pop hook chorus is one that locks your mind up and repeats. The strange reversed vocals mixed with the heart beat drums. Just a complete anthem of artistic expression and accessible pop sensibility. A +
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?