Review of IRIS: Six

Band : IRIS

Album: Six

Label: Dependent records

Members: Reagan Jones / Andrew Sega

Hometown: Austin Tx

https://www.facebook.com/pg/iris.radiant/about/?ref=page_internal

https://iris-us.bandcamp.com/album/six

So IRIS is a band I was a little late to the game on. Their first album was “Awakening” back in 2004. However my dear friend Sunil Khanna at Darkest Before Dawn in Austin told me I needed to check this out, and he hasn’t been wrong yet. This album was no exception.

So what jumps out at me right away. Multiple pedal Shoegaze guitar slush…check. Beautifully produced shake your body 80’s fuzed Synthwave dance beats…check. Place in the blender at medium speed and seamlessly swirl to that place where textural beauty meets pop sensibility. This album covers a lot of ground with a lot of different sounds. Yet, when it’s at its best is when these two elements come together in glorious synthesis. Reagan Jones has this wonderful warm Curt Smith (Tears For Fears) quality to his vocals that captivate and ring with clarity but don’t steal from the sizzling back beat of the music. Maybe that is the other piece that reminds me of well done Shoegaze. Just when he has you in a lull sinking into the warm memorizing music, he cuts to the front and belts a laser beam note that reminds you of the power of his voice.

This band took a fairly long hiatus from 2014-2019 and the maturity of these songs really shows in the smooth even production. It doesn’t have a lot of edge but makes up for that with a genuine and spiritual wisdom. I feel like it can be a hard thing to find in the modern era of beep boop synth pop. It’s that refinement that made this record stand out in the landscape. It also made me really hope to see this band live because I feel like the extra ferocity of a stage performance would add another level of dynamic.

Lets talk about some stand out tracks because while the record didn’t have enormous stylistic dynamic, it definitely changed the flavor in subtle ways from song to song.

Joy Kill – A nice medium tempo Lo-Fi creeper which jumps up for the chorus with a great pop hook. Definitely one where Jones hits another gear in his range then steps back to an easy cadence that lets the swirling synth lines take center stage. Beautiful and expressive.

Pure White Snow – This song really made that synthesis of buzzing slush and clean tone dance beat come together. The imagery was great as well. “Blood Moon so soon, do you hear my cry in vain” I love the subtle computerized effect on the voice which makes it feel very modern while the music was so New Wave.

Take The Pain – They cranked up the drive for this one. Bass way to the front and let the vocals echo off the back. This song speaks to the duality of what they are achieving and sings a concept easy to relate to. It’s a song with enough bass umph to drive folk to the dance floor, but enough depth to make you listen once you get home from the club.

Overall I really enjoyed this album for the blending and the professional quality. It makes me want to dig back into their catalog. I don’t feel like this album was reinventing the wheel but not all of them need to. Sometimes it’s about taking elements you love and honing them together then adding a level of clarity which make that synthesis sound like it was always meant to be together. That’s what IRIS has done with this album and it is an effect I’m glad I gave the attention to.

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Review of S Y Z Y G Y X: The Graveyard Compilation

Band: SYZYGYX

Album: The Graveyard Compilation

Label: Cold Transmission

Members: Luna Blanc and Josh Clark

https://syzygy-x.bandcamp.com/album/the-graveyard-compilation

Do you know that feeling when you watch a truly suspenseful horror film? The first time you saw Suspiria, or The Exorcist. When you are gripping the edge of your chair uncomfortable, unnerved, feeling your heart race faster in your chest but you can’t look away. You know this is just a film and not happening to you but are still overcome with a terrifying dread that the world is monstrous and mysterious. That you might not have as firm a grasp on what is real as you thought you did? That is what I felt the first time I heard Washington DC TerrorElectroGoth band SYZYGYX.

SYZYGYX is An astronomical term denoting the disposition of three celestial bodies on a line. This is an incredibly deep and bad ass band name. This album is a compilation of “Broken Mirrors” EP (Burning Grave Records), “Encounters” EP (Cold Transmission), and “Is That All There Is” (Burning Grave Records). ” A very impressive body of work that all has an extremely avant garde tactile feel that creates a wonderful range in style and structure over the course of one collection. There are some elements of this unique sound that really tie everything together. For one Luna has such a wispy sensual voice that is full of haunted beauty. The music isn’t edgy or industrial, it has a medium pace dance beat. With a lot of subtle percussion notes to build tension and add flavor. The synth sounds are so wide ranging and expressive. When Josh adds in contrasting resonant monotone driving vocals it creates a dialog. A superb and fringe effect.

Luna and Josh with Cold transmission

I really enjoy a band that makes higher concepts and chic visual sound feel so effortless. When cool has a sound. How could you get Ladytron and The Goblins to create a soundtrack for a Italian horror film set in the New York club scene? To me that was the clashing contrast of elegance in SYZYGYX.

With 16 tracks that were chosen as standouts from the EPs it’s hard to pick favorites but lets give it a go.

Avoid the Void – Luna’s gentle whisper over this lancing synth sound. The snapping drums. There is something so Siren like in her calling voice. “You’re nothing, you are a waste of skin” I can’t argue. I think this song really struck me for the subtle touches which is what the band does so effectively.

Velvet Lips – What an offbeat and interesting phrasing on the vocals. The drums seem almost at odds with the melody creating this terrifying tension. Shrieking background sounds and subtle hints of beauty to the dark and sinister texture. The bridge change up almost feels like throwing the song in reverse while going 60 mph. It jars me, it captures me, it leaves me transfixed and wondering. The ending drum beats are like metal bars on steel drums and have this infinitely east coast alley feel.

Runaways – The closer is the perfect encapsulation of what this album is working towards. Luna’s voice is bouncing between her sharp stabbing and her breathy soothing. The Synths have a continual build. It definitely feels like running away from something but with no destination in mind. The voices of consequence on your shoulder calling you towards a change. Then the vocals become clear and the synth becomes a spaceship taking the journey to a strange and foreign place.

Overall the album is vast, hard to place in a box, and sinister. That’s what I felt made me love it more and more. Each block of songs stepped outside themselves and the whole of the sound stepped outside of the norm. It’s strange, it’s beautiful, it’s thought provoking. This is music for a private dance party not everyone is invited to. An intimate music. A puzzle to be solved together.

Review of The Ghost of Bela Lugosi: Das Vamp

Lable: Self Release

Members: Vin Price (The Ghost of Bela Lugosi) Songs/Instruments/Music. Various guest vocalist including: Zeke Sporn (Winter Corpse) Kevin Srednep (Psyclown), Sandra + Shawn Mortis (Alter Defection) Jak Taylor (Dream upon Tombs) , Owen Gillett (Ice Cocoon) , Ken Magerman + Collin Schipper (Amaranth 🙂

https://ghostoflugosi.bandcamp.com/album/das-vamp-album

https://www.facebook.com/ghostoflugosi/

Featuring….Me 😉

Ok our last glorious trip down the musical rabbit hole was for a band who is on the rise with critical acclaim. So I wanted to get back to a criminally under discussed band and personal friend Austrailia’s own The Ghost of Bela Lugosi. This has been a review a long time coming as I struggled with how to find the right words since I did have the honor of being a part of the project. Vin is a true tunesmith and multi instrument producer extraordinaire who much like a previous review Kill Shelter created an idea I am fast becoming enthralled with in modern music. A single songwriter combining a wide range of songs and styles with a different guest vocalist for each track to create an eclectic yet consistent album. A fan of the horror genre Vin created an homage tapestry to the campy, spooky, sexy concept of retro film monsters. It’s ambitious, it’s sinister, and has an unapologetic artistry that takes chances and hits the mark. For being such strange taboo concepts these songs are held together with such a beautifully woven pop sensibility. The drum beats are atmospheric and layered. The keyboards are nostalgic and dynamic. Each song has such a unique competition ranging from Ministry, Killing Joke, Devo, Shreikback, and of course Bauhaus. It’s a dance album with a lot of disco flavor. A sensual club dance feel. Just not that club that everyone can go to. That forbidden dangerous club you have to be in the know to find with no sign. The lyrics of these songs encapsulate these monsters. The ones from the 80s you found yourself drawn to.

Vin incorperates so many styles in this music but one aspect that bleeds through in all is that sense of punk rock defiance. Not in the actual sound but in the screw off I will never succumb to corporate mainstream feel of every track. While every song has a engaging hook they also lash out with a lo-fi aggression of piss and vinegar that most modern music lacks the courage to undertake.

Because there is so much to say about the individual tracks due to the different vocalist I am going to break protocol a bit and do extra stand out tracks. I won’t use my own because that is just weird but I will say I love the song I did with him Asphyxiation and think it is an incredible song that was way outside the wheelhouse of what I usually do. I really cut loose vocally in a way I rarely do with Amaranth. You should listen to it. In particular the video he did of Fright Night footage is outstanding. So here are some stand out tracks.

Berlin – This is the song that first introduced me to GOBL. It’s incredible. It’s a smokey room in a foreign land with these marimba like keyboard sounds that roll and remind me of The Cure. The guitar lines are very post punk and enthralling. It has themes of desire and obsession. A femme fatal song that has incredible pop hook and seductive whispers. It features his own voice and words which I think gives this song a particular genuine feel. I could listen a million times and still come back to this song.

Vampires of Hollywood – A sinister 80s synth build up draws you into this song. It’s lurking on the endge of your imagination. Sandra + Sean Mortis have a seductive spoken word vocal style with a creppy resonating reverb. Reminds me a bit of Tina from Switchblade Symphony. It doesn’t attack, it lures you into a dark place where you are her captive.

Videodrone – Holy creep dance burner. Owen Gillett has such a vast range and poetic style on this song. Again it is subtle and gentle like a beautiful ballad with David Gahan sex drip and Tones On Tail synth swells. The lyrics are so dangerous and forbidden. When he opens up in his high octave reaches it swells with emotions. “Like Ribbons sliced by razors, blowing in the wind” The bassline here walks a tightrope edge and gives this song motion.

Stockholm Syndrome – What an intricate club jam. The vocals have a terrifying otherworldly monster effect but delivered with a smooth crooning beauty. It’s one of those tracks that attacks you at multiple angles and never lets you get comfortable. I love this feeling and effect. It’s unnerving and unquieting.

Die With Your Eyes Open – Such a great concept for a track. The opening guitar riff is a classic. It’s a post punk throw back to old Killing Joke or Daniel Ash. The vocals are a little background but delivered with a reserved passion that fits the style.

Overall this album is such an unapologetic artistic expression. It’s full of danger and forbidden desires. It is one of the albums I love to play for people and say why do more people not know about this? Maybe it is to risque, too dangerous to make it’s way to the standard charts. I think that is part of it’s strength and I don’t think it is something Vin could change if he wanted to. Step outside the cycle of everything you are hearing and give this album a real try. You won’t be sorry. I’m proud to be a part of this record.

FIVE YEARS AND A LIFE OF ITS OWN: Artificial Monuments’ 𝘐𝘭𝘭𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘐𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘵𝘺

A cast of talented musicians and the darkness of a drawer make for an interesting duality.

Blessedly free of eight minute dirges, plodding male vocals and other dark wave wankery, Illusions of Identity presents us with nine crisp tunes reminiscent of Martin Hannett’s austere design, with none of the orbiting emptiness between melody. In just under thirty minutes, we have both airy pop sensibilities and an acute sensation of claustrophobia, splinters of jubilation and despair. Taking inspiration from acts such as The Soft Moon and Vince Clarke, Artificial Monuments has put forth an album that post-punk purists and pop aficionados will embrace. The corollary is a long, dark ride on your own highway – the fade in and out of headlights, dissociation, punctuated by moments of lucidity and intimacy: this juxtaposition is almost viscerally effective and ultimately, immensely satisfying.

Danish punk scene veterans Kim Wolf and Johannah Jørgensen formed Artificial Monuments in 2013; a handful of demos were put to tape before they asked MOTH alum Patrick Ringsborg to join. According to Ringsborg, the trio wanted something stylistically very different from both MOTH and Johanna’s old band, Metro Cult: ‘We thought we were cutting it down to size, making very minimal cold wave in the style of acts like say, Malaria! but the pop melodies kept creeping in, and the synths kept on layering and layering, and we ended up with this weird amalgamation of super minimalistic compositions and 2-bar pop hooks.’ A few shows in Copenhagen, one in Malmö , and the group was ready to start putting an album together.

Unfortunately, in 2015, an accident left the band without their friend and vocalist Jørgensen, and the project fell by the wayside. Tragedy often lends a measure of truth to a scene frequently fueled by self-indulgence; however, the band is reluctant to talk about it. Ringsborg’s manner is candid yet cautious when speaking of Johannah; ‘It is not a secret’, he says. ‘Even though the LP is drenched in the story, I don’t know how to tell the story and keep it tactful.’

So the nascent record sat. A few years later, the remaining members agreed to get to work. Some of the songs were merely ideas, simply, as Ringsborg says, ‘a synth hook on a mobile phone’. The skeletons of the melody were there, but revisiting them proved interesting. ‘The AM songs were left in the drawer for 3+ years before we agreed on finishing the album, and in the mean time we were listening to vastly different stuff from when we wrote the songs.’ This time around, instead of Iron Curtain and Neon Judgment, Ringsborg took his own inspiration from Bel-pop and ‘cheesy New Age synth’ music. Obviously, he’s not surprised in the marked tonal shift. ‘You do an album on and off over 5 years, it kind of takes on a life of its own!’ Left to his own devices with regards to mixing and mastering, Totem’s Christoffer Bagge offered his skills and support.

As they say, many hands make light work. A host of talented musicians backed the group in its final act – women artists, in particular. Johannah’s sister, Sally Dige, was one of the many who helped Illusions of Identity get off the ground. Ina Noire and Lisa Løebekken absolutely kill the darkly elegant “Wasteful Days” – a disco twist which wouldn’t be out of place on that album Al Jourgensen doesn’t want to talk about. Likewise, Mala Herba’s gelid vocals manage to lay like syrup over the peaks in “The Sun is Anaemic”. A febrile thump countervailed by Johannah’s sultry hum, “Succumb” is, for lack of a better term, a fucking banger. Cecilia Wörlen’s beautifully languid contribution to “Tired Bodies” is almost chipper, contrasting sharply with its lyrics. The lone track to which Ringsborg lends his voice is aptly named: “Incremental Vex”. His spidery whispers sound prophetic as the song builds, plateaus, and ends almost quickly as it begins – your panic attack neatly resolved in under three minutes. Conversely, the following instrumental track “Void” sounds hopeful in comparison.

What’s next for Artificial Monuments? Ringsborg says this is it. ‘We are very proud and happy that it is finally coming out, it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to do. I’m sure that what we’ve ended up with is substantially different than what we would have done had we been able to finish the album organically back in 2015. Whether that is a good or a bad thing in regards to the outcome of the album, there’s just no way of telling.’

Artificial Monuments’ cassette will be out later this month on Funeral Tapes /Rusted Teeth, and keep an eye out for the LP, to be released on Dead Wax Records this summer.

FURTHER LISTENING: 
https://chainsaweaters.bandcamp.com/
https://technecph.bandcamp.com/
https://sallydige.bandcamp.com/
https://t0tvm.bandcamp.com/
https://mothband.bandcamp.com/
https://metrocult.bandcamp.com/

https://www.gofundme.com/johannah-jrgensen-support-care

-Rachel 

Creux Lies: The Hearth

Band: Creux Lies

Album: The Hearth

Label: Cleopatra Records

Members: Kyle Vorst, David Wright, Topher Snyder, Barry Crider, Ean Clevenger

http://creuxlies.bandcamp.com/album/the-hearth

https://www.facebook.com/creuxlies

There is so much beautiful and nostalgic to hear. What if you made The Cure Disintegration but gave it razor sharp teeth? The drums had more snap. The guitar lines had that same entrancing delay but with more motion. Ean Clevenger has an obvious Robert Smith quality to his voice, yet where Smith focused more on a tongue and cheek sass. Clevenger is bringing a piercing intensity and higher range of New Order Movement feelings of being lost. The driving bass , the rising synth phrases, those crisp bark beat snaps. It’s like hearing every album that got me through my formative years but done with the precision production of the modern age. Every song makes me want to fall in love but never find the courage to express it.

Lets talk a bit about what isn’t nostalgic, because there is plenty of fresh takes in this offering. Beautiful guitar leads full of textural slush in a shoegaze slither. This record bleeds of layered sounds so thick you want to run your fingers through them. Intricate drum beats with a symphony conductors precision control the movement of each track. Just like most albums that touch me deeply it usually comes back to a vocalist that can make me feel something. Who can take me on a journey with words and feelings and this album left me shook. Every phrase drips with tortured honey and sorrow. Sometimes as an older listener who has lived a bit you hear something that makes you feel young again. In the case of Creux Lies it is not with energy and power. It is by reminding you of how deep you used to feel things before the world tempered you. Hearkening back to The Cure again this album is full of pop hooks. Strong ones that grab the lapels and shake you. It’s hard to define when you hear something that is similar to plenty of music I am hearing, but has something extra, has IT. I’m at a loss on how to express it but I do know it when I hear it. I heard it.

There really isn’t a weak track on this album, but I’ll pick some favorites.

Portals – This is the obvious single, but it is that way for a reason. The beautiful New Order keyboard melodies are absolutely captivating. The lyrics “Did you fall in love with a killer at your door, while waiting for a lifetime to begin” pure poetry. The vocals in this track are a masterclass in sliding between the cracks in the wall of sound around you. The build on the end is a perfect tension and release. Staggering.

Virginity – This is such a gentle caress of an opening, that effectively smashes you in the face with a giant crashing wave of sound when you least expect it. The slow crawling tempo makes you sway like a leaf on the wind. It feels like the terrifying lack of control at a first love so powerful you don’t yet have a frame of reference for it. Clevenger reaches into some sky splitting notes in this one and laser burns them into your heart. Slow dance with yourself in this moment.

Aine’s Song – Tom fills, give me all these tom fills. Tiny dancing pin prick guitar lines doing a duelist routine with the bass and rhythm, “I saw your face again, I want to take you home” That feeling of being struck. We have all felt it but to blend the music and lyrics so seamlessly to express it. I love the whispered secret in between chorus. I love the world drops out breakdown. You built me up and then pulled it all away. Just so those toms could drive right back into me.

Overall this album is an emotional and powerful offering. It’s also full of energy and fun though. It shows me how the past can pave the way for something new in dark music. I was an instant fan for life and you will be too.