When our friends at Cold Transmission release two compilations back to back like this two things are generally true. 1) They feature a perfect blend of some of the hottest new music available from around the world. 2) They have one volume dedicated to Goth/Post Punk/Cold Wave and the other primarily electronic. This ended up right to form. It’s about 40 songs total at an unbelievably low price so I can’t touch on every single track. However I made a picture of Bloody Mary, hooked up my good speakers, and I am going to see how many I can do in one review. Buckle in and lets go for a ride.
Volume 10: So the genre of “Gothic Rock” is one that has been sitting on the self for a few decades without nearly enough attention for my personal taste. I feel like it is really making a huge comeback in the modern scene. Bands are really coming forth with new and exciting things from wicked goth guitar riffs and driving bass lines. I was blown away at how this compilation captured so many of these great next wave Goth Rockers from all over the world in one place. If you call yourself “Goth” and want to have your finger on the modern pulse, Zeitgeist Vol 10 is a great place to start. It puts me in mind of those old Cleopatra Records comps I fell in love with all those years ago.
Track 1: A Projection – Stockholm Sweden post punk artist off of Tapete Records. What a strong start this song is. It bounces and the snapping of those live snares gives a furious pace. This track had a lot of The Mission UK flavor and a beautiful melody. I became an instant fan. Lots of depth, lots of rawness.
Track 3: Mark E Moon – This is a previously unreleased track Delta of Venus of this Cold transmission act from the Isle of Man is a gasoline fire of dark driving poetry. I love the lyrics, the cascading synths, and Mark’s Jaz Coleman style vocals. Total Burner
Track 4: Sonsombre – Fear is a a slow driving goth rock modern classic from North Virginia revivalist Brandon Pybus. I really feel like Sonsombre are leading the charge for this next wave of goth music. Lots of Sisters of Mercy/Mission/Rosetta Stone ballad feel on those sweeping light finger drip guitars. This song makes me howl at the moon at 3am.
Track 6 : October Burns Black – Cast Aside is a “Proper” Goth rock track in every old school sense. This super band made up of bits and pieces from all around are giving you the real deal right out of 1981 preserved in dark crystal and given new life in the present. A mournful emotional outburst full of texture and power.
Track 7: Astari Nite – Dearly Beloved, This crooning shadowy ballad from Miami Florida’s robust goth scene. A lot of David Bowie/Roxy Music glam to this dark winding tale of loss.
Track 8 : Secret French Postcards – The most recent signing for Cold Transmission from Baltimore Maryland. Make Me Bleed is a beautiful track with very dark overtones but an ethereal shoegaze backdrop. One of those tracks that hits you on different layers every time you listen.
Track 9 : Icy Men – Another amazing Cold Transmission band hailing from Keiv Ukraine. They have another just released single I need to review. I love this minimalist bleak tone of isolation and desperation. I can’t understand the lyrics but i still find myself moved by the power of the delivery. The bending low range guitars create a great movement in a place devoid of hope.
Track 13: Caidas Libras – Post punk from Costa Rica. This song Poderes Simples has an intense and driving bass groove that charges through the track like a raging bull. The vocals are very whispered and low fi. I found myself wishing to hear more of it. The music has an undeniable groove and a sinister tone.
Track 14 : Paradise Cove – Inside is another previously unreleased track on Cold Transmission. I love the distorted voice and punk rock vibe. Very Alien Sex Fiends buzzing club jam feel. Slick as an oil spill on an a frozen lake.
Track 15 Scary Black – Louisville KY goth masters Scary Black bringing one of my favorites on this compilation of goodness with Starlightdancer. Those reverb dreamy guitar riffs, the sinister low register vocals, and the ringing chime bells. So old school, so fresh, I can’t get enough.
Track 17: The Gathering – Building a Bridge is the slashing builder and breaker from Vancouver also on Cold Transmission. It’s so open and harmonic, almost feels pop punk but with such perfect instrumentation and looming dark tones.
Track 20: Death Instinct – Hide is a track from Pittsburgh PA’s dark rock band Death Instinct. I love the Steven Morris drum builds. The echoing vocals with a slight lilt giving just enough glimpse of light to add some extra spice to the cold wave feel.
Track 23: Amaranth – My Turn Again is a song from Kalamazoo MI goth rockers. The singer sounds like a pretentious prick. Fuck that guy. The bass player seems hot though.
Track 25: The Bluebeard’s Castle – Another Cold Transmission band this time from France. I love this old bat cave feel yesteryear goth. Also the vocals have a touch of Jello Biafra in them which is awesome. I love the cadence and the bass underneath driving it.
I’m going to try and go back and fill in the bands I missed but this was just a marathon of reviewing. Needless to say I put in this much time because everything on this compilation is worth exploring and it takes you on a journey across the world. It makes me excited for what the goth scene is still capable of in 2019.
This is episode 1 of the Sounds and Shadows podcast. Here we feature artists in our scene choosing three bands they find meaningful and important in modern music. We then discuss three of their songs. In this episode Collin and I talk with Jason Corbett of the band Actors and Jacknife Studios from Vancouver Canada. We discuss three bands he has recorded Frankiie, Gang Signs, and Mesa Luna. We also drink sugar free Red Bull and spout off about life on tour, the modern post punk revolution, and whatever came to mind.
So I just did the piece on new Industrial which I admitted is a bit out of my wheelhouse these days. However the modern resurgence of Post Punk is right smack in my center. So we have had a lot of great releases in the past few months so I figured I would also catch up on some quick reviews of these. Post Punk is so rooted in the past. Sacred mainstays of the 80’s still rule this scene. I think a lot of the new bands I love pay a lot of respect and homage to that. However what we have in terms of technology and access to good recording has really opened the door to push this genre further than ever before. Here are some examples of people taking that post punk sound and cranking it up to hyperspeed for 2019.
Kicking off with a review far overdue. Norwegian Post Punk all stars Antipole released “Radial Glare” in September of this year. I have done glowing reviews of Karl Morten Dahl’s last two albums. He is a true post punk historian who has an intimate understanding of Post Punk roots. The tones, effects, and mood are perfectly constructed in the vein of Joy Division, New Order, The Cure, and The Church. I don’t say this lightly but i feel like the clarity and texture of what he achieves goes beyond what those legends had at their disposal. This newest offering is pure frozen crystal that conjures such beautiful images of icy castles of fantasy rising against a desolate land. The vocals from frequent contributes Paris Alexander, Eirene & Marc Lewis charge to the front in a way Antipole never has before and I feel like it was the final piece in the evolution of this band. Karl is an artist that loves listening to music as much as making it. It really shows in the art he makes. If a writer wants to write better they read great writers. Karl is a great song writer because he is always listening to great songs. This album is available in a mint green limited Vinyl and it is 100% the way to hear the nuanced layers he has constructed.
Next up are those beautiful boys from Texas Twin Tribes and their new album “Ceremony“. This is the sophomore offering from one of the fastest rising stars in this genre. Their first album “Shadows” was basically the reason I started this review page. It was going to be a tough act to follow, but they have not missed a beat. The perfect ritual like intimacy of these songs reminds me so much of The Cure. The connection between their instruments of Joel’s driving foundation on bass creating a floor for Luis’s nimble fingers to dance on with guitar. I found an instant connection to the lyrics on Shadows but Ceremony has really focused on a poetry which might be the hardest thing to recreate of early Post Punk. Each song is beautiful, sorrowful, and unique. These lads are truly destined for greatness and if you haven’t heard them drop what you are doing and get them in your ears now.
I can’t believe this is the first review I am writing about the shadowy melancholy dream that is Chicago’s Wingtips. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing them at this years Cold Waves festival and their stage show is a powerful vision. The new album Exposure Therapy off Artoffact Records is the type of romantic beauty and chic attitude I miss in this genre. They tell luscious stories that are intense and self involved in a way that speaks truth. I think it is this genuine anguish that makes it feel so authentic and nostalgic. This is an album that you listen to in your living room and feel like the artists have joined you for tea. Trust me you want Hannah and Vincent at your next tea party.
Ok to be fair this album from Iceland’s Kælan Mikla released November 2018 but somehow I never reviewed it and that is a freaking crime. I feel like they have a lot of the check marks of post punk. Driving basslines, dark themes, rising keyboard leads, slushy guitars. This album Nótt eftir nótt is so hard to put in a genre box. I can’t understand the lyrics so it feels like placing your hand on a burning hot rune stone and summoning a pack of raging Scandinavian Fae who assault you with powerful rebukes and Peter Hook bass lines. Maybe I’m not painting the picture of how glorious that is but it is an effect I have never heard replicated and an amazing one. If you ever feel like no one is breaking any new ground in post punk music you need to dive into this band deep. Trust me you haven’t heard it before.
Closed Mouth is the amazing project from Yannick Rault who put out an album titled One on Cold Transmission in May. It was mastered by the amazing Pete Burns (Kill Shelter) who also mastered us. I think what is so ambitious and wonderful about this record is the scope of it. It has a very Killing Joke feel, but all the incarnations of Killing Joke at once. The synthwave, the post punk. It drives, it grinds, it’s a shimmering adventure of sonic possibilities. It’s one of those albums you can pick up anywhere in the 14 songs and always get a different feeling. Yannicks vocals are distant and haunted and reach you from a million miles of painted texture. This album is a deep dive.
October Burns Black is a bit of a supergroup with James Tramel of (The Wake) they definitely delve more to the darker Chameleons side of post punk. The newest album “Reflections” is a master class in dark, sinister, emotional groove. I love the slow winding power of these expertly crafted whispers pulling you down the river Styx. High on my list of must see bands.
I could go on all night about the wonderful post punk resurgence happening right now but i have to draw a line somewhere. If you have a favorite I have not listed or reviewed please leave it in the comments below.
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.