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Tag: bauhaus band

A Darkly Lyrical, Tersely Enveloping Debut From Supergroup Night Crickets

It’s hard to imagine a more apt album for Halloween month, 2022 than supertrio Night Crickets‘ debut release, A Free Society, streaming at Soundcloud. The band – iconic noir songwriter and Bauhaus bassist David J, Violent Femmes co-founder and drummer Victor DeLorenzo and multi-instrumentalist Darwin Meiners – take their name from a David Lynch request for a sample of crickets at night rather than during the day. There’s a big difference!

To what degree does the album title reflect that anguish and desperate hopes of the post-March 2020 era? A handful of the songs are imbued with David J’s laser, Gogolian focus on grim imagery; others are more psychedelic, often with spare dub touches. His incisive, purposeful bass riffs are as masterful as always. Although the trio made the album over the web, the mix is seamless.

The opening number is a characteristically stylish, tense urban tableau set to a terse, minimalist trip-hop vamp:

Black leather on the inside and New York around the corner
And the devil is on your doorstep
‘Cause he knows you’re staying in
Although part of you is always out
Your life is wearing thin

Candlestick Park is a Meiners tune, a catchy, slowly swaying, vividly detailed late 80s reminiscence told from the point of view of a former vendor at the windswept San Francisco Bay stadium. They follow with Amanda’s Mantra, a brief, catchy, synthy new wave bounce.

“Imagine a free society where the horses can run free and wild, ad hoc, without variance or concern,” David J intones over a steady, trippy, Jah Wobble-esque dubwise groove in the album’s title track, “Where the boss and pagans can be at peace in the house of apes.”

Meiners takes over on the mic with more spoken word in Roman À Clef, another hypnotic vamp that brings to mind Flash & the Pan. Lingering Lynchian guitar and ghostly string synth mingle over a catchy bass loop in Soul Wave. Then DeLorenzo builds a colorful lowrider soul groove in Little Did I.

“There’s nowhere to hide, there’s nowhere to hide you,” is the mantra in Sloe Song, an uneasily atmospheric tableau. David J intones a cynical parable about mockingbird media over DeLorenzo’s ominously regal drumwork and Meiners’ oscillating tanpura in The Unreliable Narrator.

The band bring back the Indian dub influence in Down Below and follow with Return to the Garden of Allah, the closest thing to David J’s ominous, allusive rainy day bedroom-goth sound from the 80s.

With its gothic organ stroll, Sacred Monster is the album’s darkest track: it comes across as a more organic take on Flash & the Pan. The band give a shout-out to the filmmaker whose quip they nicked for their bandname in the final cut, I Want My Night Crickets!, a surreal, energetically dub-inflected pastiche. Let’s hope these three smart, theatrically-inspired veterans give us a follow-up to this offhandedly sharp, smart collaboration.

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Darkly Energetic, Carnivalesque Rock Narratives From Northern English Band Weimar

Today’s installment in the ongoing October-long Halloween celebration is Dancing on a Volcano, by Manchester, UK band Weimar, streaming at Bandcamp. You could describe them as gothic circus rock with tinges of psychedelic folk and a loose-limbed rhythm section. About time we had some goth music on this page this month, right?

Not quite. This isn’t all that over-the-top, and it’s a lot more energetic. In case you’re looking for sterile museum-piece 80s rehash, this isn’t it. And much as there are innumerable familiar tropes here, these half-sung, half-spoken songs resonate in the here and now. These guys like ’em long: pretty much everything on the record is in the five-to-six-minute category.

You might not expect a goth record to open with a well-loved Sonic Youth riff, but that’s how Soho Rain begins. Frontman Aidan Cross narrates a seedy London street scene over John Armstrong’s loping bass and Anthony ‘Eddy’ Edwards’ drums, guitarists Johann Kloos and Stephen Sarsen taking their mix of chime and resonance up to a killer chorus.

Track two is The Sociopath, a mashup of noir cabaret and flamenco rock, an apt parable for the era of Bill Gates and Rochelle Walensky:

What do you play with?
Imagination
What is it saving?
Your reputation
As you herd the sheep the flock will follow
And they march blindly on like there’s no tomorrow

The band shift between a horror-movie riff and a familiar Jesus & Mary Chain vamp in I Smashed the Looking Glass, up to an ending that recalls the Electric Prunes. Sketchy verse gives way to bounding, catchy chorus in The Hangers-On: Cross’ scowling rap about starfucking and its consequences works on both personal and political levels.

Keening slide guitar mingles within the clang in Arandora Star, a grimly pouncing seafaring ballad. The group reach back to a mosquitoey 60s Velvets jangle ambience on the wings of Armstrong’s trebly, climbing bass riffage in Polished Decay, a snide chronicle of the ravages of gentrification.

The band finally go for a lingering, slowly swaying Bauhans atmosphere in Hunter’s Moon, an allusive deep-state scenario spiced with spare Psychedelic Furs-style sax. Then they hit a tense, uneasily syncopated pulse in Faded Queen of the Night, a metaphorically bristling corporate parable.

The band work a surreal mashup of latin soul, loosely tethered disco and jagged, skeletal quasi-funk in Nights in Spanish Harlem. They take their time elevating the alienation ballad Heaven on High Street East to a fleeting, screaming psychedelic guitar break before the sullen, doomed routine returns. They close the record with The Tatterdemalions, an understatedly sinister Celtic-tinged dance fueled by Kloos’ pump organ chords.

Grim Early 80s-Style Guitar Rock From Linnea Olsson’s Maggot Heart

The last time anybody from this blog was in the house at a Linnea Olsson show, it was on a frigid February evening in 2014 at the now long-gone Highline Ballroom. Out in front of a big crowd that night, she played solo cello and sang a very brief, barely half-hour set of moody, skeletal chamber pop songs.

Olsson’s latest project is 180 degrees from that, a dark early 80s-influenced power trio, Maggot Heart. She leads the group and plays guitar, joined by bassist Olivia Airey and drummer Uno Bruniusso. Their latest album Mercy Machine is streaming at Bandcamp.

With its densely layered, ringing intro and contrastingly skronky loopiness, the opening track, Second Chance could be a more minimalist Bauhaus. For a song titled Sex Breath, the album’s punkish second cut is unexpectedly menacing, with a juicy, evilly watery guitar solo: Olsson has really taken her chops to the next level. This is a killer guitar record.

Driven by Airey’s gritty, chugging bassline, Justine wouldn’t be out of place on Siouxsie’s Juju album. The distortion on the bass gets even fuzzier for Roses, which comes across as syncopated Patti Smith with gothic chromatics and vocals spun tightly through a trebly flange effect.

Gutter Feeling has a ba-bump noir cabaret groove and some of the album’s most ghoulish lyrics: Olsson takes it galloping, doublespeed more or less, over a long bridge. The album’s death-obsessed title track is its most pummelingly punk-influenced moment: here as elsewhere, Olsson’s shrieking wide-angle chords bring to mind the late, great Siouxsie guitarist John McGeoch.

“All this talk about nothing gives us something to do,” Olsson intones cynically in High Rise, a mashup of Siouxsie and the Stooges. With its dissociative riffs popping up throughout the sonic picture, Lost Boys could be a straightforward, upbeat Live Skull number from the mid-80s.

Senseless has more of a slow, hypnotic early 80s growl and an ending where all hell breaks loose. The trio wind up this relentlessly interesting, disarmingly catchy album with Modern Cruelty and its contrastingly roaring and icy guitar multitracks, Olsson again threatening to go off the rails at any instant. Not a single substandard song on this album: there’s no telling what’s going to happen between now and the end of the year, but let’s hope there’s still a reason and an audience for a best albums of 2020 rundown when we get to December, Somebody has to keep music alive when the lockdowners are doing everything in their power to destroy it.

Darkly Drifting, Reverb-Drenched Soundscapes From Sonar Atmosfera

Since the late  zeros, guitarist Thomas Simon has worked a darkly cinematic, swirling sound that veers from anthemic post-Bauhaus rock, to ominously epic instrumental tableaux, to hypnotic loopmusic. His latest project, appropriately titled Sonar Atmosfera – streaming at Bandcamp – is a collaboration with psychedelic tropical band Baianasystem‘s João Milet Meirelles. In a lot of ways it’s one long, brooding theme, but the subtle variations are very psychedelic. It’s a great late-night, lights-out listen.

Simon’s guitar flickers and crackles, awash in reverb and smoky atmospherics as the album’s first track, Feel the Hope gathers steam. A drumbeat enters the picture and suddenly this one-chord jam takes on a swaying insistence, akin to a trip-hop take on Pink Floyd’s Run Like Hell.

The second track, Resist is completely different, a lot closer to Baianasystem’s woozy, loopy dub: halfway through, Simon’s spare, resonant phrases add a distant ominousness. The guitar snarling in Live For the Run subsides for a couple of momentary, Bauhaus-like lulls. The two segue from there into The Trip, with its spacious, low-register, bell-like accents and steady, syncopated drum loops.

Blippy, motorik beats and Space Invaders sonics contrast with Simon’s allusive chordlets and menacing chromatics in A Dream. Fight With Love, a brief postapocalyptic scenario, has snippets of movie dialogue. The eleven-minute epic My Story slowly rises from atmospheric minimalsm: Brian Eno’s Apollo comes to mind.

The album’s most hypnotic, loopy number, Condor Jam is built around a simple 1-4-5 reverb guitar riff spiced with gritty, distorted motives. Manic World finally reaches that point, a chilly dancelfloor thud pushing Simon’s spacious, cumulo-nimbus phrasing out of the picture. Simon’s forlorn, desolate, clanging phrases and chords ring out over shifting textures in the album’s final epic, On Land.

Ashjesus Can’t Live in Bushwick But They’re Willing to Play There

“I can’t live in Bushwick, those people make me sick,” Ashjesus frontwoman Em Ashenden intones, before the screaming guitar and drums kick in on the first track of the 80s throwbacks’ so-called “demos” collection that’s up at Bandcamp as a free download. As the band churn up an acidic storm,like an early Bauhaus, she admits that she tried to get into Bed-Stuy…but insists she’s found nirvana in Ridgewood. Obvious, maybe, but this is one of those songs that needed to be written

It’s rare that you find a good band playing on a Saturday night in the ‘Shweck, but Ashjesus have a gig a the Broadway (the old Gateway space) on Jan 18 at around 11. Kaheim Rivera does his woozy, weedheaded raps beforehand at 10. Neither of the acts on the bill nor the venue have webpages of their own, so it’s anybody’s guess how much cover is, or if there is one – the Gateway was a pass-the-hat situation.

The rest of Ashjesus’ album keeps the early 80s noise-goth vibe going. Room – as in “I need a room” – has more of the loud, watery chorus-box guitar and bass that define this group’s retro sound. The implication is that a friend with a couch is a friend indeed: “Get one for yourself too,” Ashenden encourages.

Soda Bitters sounds like a lo-budget Joy Division. “I don’t need to take a cab, I can drive to rehab, how cool is that?” she wants to know. The poppiest song here, How Do You Feel Special says a lot in a few words, one of this band’s specialities – it’s a dis to a controlling boyfriend. With its quasi-reggae bassline and icy guitars, the last song, Tour, could be XTC or PiL, or the bastard child of the early Police and Bauhaus. Grab this haphazardly spot-on, period-perfect morsel while it lasts.

A Psychedelic Vortex from Thomas Simon

“WARNING: All songs are extended jams,” the cd sleeve page of guitarist Thomas Simon‘s new album Vortex cautions the listener. Simon’s extensive body of work spans the worlds of film music as well as artsy rock. A track from the debut album by his band Musiciens Sans Frontieres was a winner at the 2011 Toronto Marijuana Music Awards, which explains a lot. But as digressive as Simon can be, his music can be amazingly catchy. This album is a clinic in implied melody: you will walk away humming tunes that Simon is only sort of playing, leaving plenty of space for your mind to fill in the missing notes. The photo on the cd case shows Simon’s guitar rig spread out around the spot on the floor where he’d be standing, the expanse of equipment including but not limited to reverb and distortion pedals, a wah, laptop and set of reissue Moog pedals. Simon’s endlessly circling loops and washes of textures filtering through the sonic picture are bolstered by Frank Saitta’s drums and Lior Shulman’s percussion plus drum samples from the Escola de Olodum and “various Salvadoran street jams.”

The first track, Haze, opens with an eerie chromatic riff that alludes to Simon’s work on his previous solo album Moncao (ranked among the ten best albums of 2010 at this blog’s predecessor). Lingering waves of guitar over a slowly pulsing drum loop and menacing fragments of lyrics complete the picture and set the scene for the rest of the album. The Truth sounds like Lee “Scratch” Perry doing art-rock, guitar and melodica conversing over a hypnotic clickety-clack rhythm. The version of the third track here, In the Middle of Nowhere, on the Moncao album has an echoey Syd Barrett menace; here, it’s considerably stripped down, in the same vein as Pink Floyd’s One of These Days. The funky, echoey Dub the Toad segues into Don’t Worry, which is closer to the anthemic rock of Musiciens Sans Frontieres.

Strange Love alternates between an echoey Bela Lugosi’s Dead ambience and a mechanical dancefloor thud, followed by the nebulous washes of the aptly titled Secret Winds of Sound. Altered Planet, the most cohesive track on the Moncao album, is reinvented here as a snarling, guitar-fueled trip-hop tune that grows more swirling and vertiginous. Dead Hero works a galloping Run Like Hell groove with layers and layers of lingering, sustained, ringing, echoing guitar: it’s both the most trance-inducing and hardest-rocking track here. The album ends with Condor Jam, growing gingerly from a muted drum loop to a growling, jangly swirl, up and down through a darkly biting theme. Fans of all the aforementioned bands as well as the artsy side of stoner rock will eat this up: spin this at night, alone on the floor, in the right mood, with headphones on and you’ll be in good position to figure out what it’s all about.

Fun Post-Velvets Stuff from the False Alarms

Today’s free download is the debut album by the False Alarms. If Darklands-era Jesus & Mary Chain is your thing, this is for you: the Brooklyn band use that album as their template, right down to the murky sonics and offcenter bent-note guitar leads. What differentiates the False Alarms from the rest of that crowded field is their energy and sense of humor. This is one of those bands whose ideas are better than their execution – tightness is not their strong suit. But having the ideas is the important thing. Just about anybody can build up chops on an instrument if they practice enough, having good songs is a whole different story.

Six of those here. Nothing of the Sea nicks the hook from Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead and takes it to Darklands. When She’s Able is more of a post-Velvets stomp, and it’s funny; this girl is a real mess. Johnny Suicide takes Jim Carroll’s People Who Died and adds Dead Boys snarl and roar, while White Flowers goes back to the J&MC, with lyrics so completely dissociative they’re a hoot. The reverb-drenched Don’t Mind Feeling Bad has the same vibe but no drums; the closing cut, Formality Blues is the funniest, has no bass and would have made for a good stoner jam if they’d decided to make it any longer than about a minute 45 seconds. “Why you have to be so fucking lame?” asks the frontman. Bands like this usually A) don’t last more than an album, B) typically disperse their members into even better bands…or morph into one. Get this one now while it’s online.

Unhinged Hungarian No Wave Noir Surf Jazz

The danger in writing about an album that came out almost a year ago is that the band might not still exist. Dorota hail from Budapest: their album is a brain-warping, assaultive mix of surf rock, no wave funk and free jazz, often with a creepy noir edge. With shimmery reverb and chorus-box guitar contrasting with menacingly growling, melodic bass and a drummer who smartly chooses the spots where he gets ugly, it’s a time trip back to around 1980. If this band had been around then, they’d be worshipped for being an influence on Sonic Youth, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and god knows who else. It’s feral, fearlessly noisy, adrenalizing stuff; while there were plenty of bands who prowled around the jagged outskirts of new wave back in the day, no one sounds quite like Dorota. The album cover gives it away more or less: a rough woodcut showing a warrior, naked except for the antlers on his head, skewering a rifle-toting soldier.

They introduce their menace quietly, just steady, scraping bass over a vocal loop. The second track is sort of a twisted Besame Mucho Twist, a staggering one-chord surf jam that cruelly refuses to find any kind of resolution except in horror tonalities. A brief no wave funk interlude is followed by a sick, skronky funk tune in 7/8 time that they take down to an atmospheric interlude before bringing it back. The way these instrumentals shift shape, switch tempos abruptly and then return to something approximating coherence is the jazz element here. The best two songs are the most noirish: the first a swaying mix of surf and dark new wave built around a brooding bolero guitar hook, the second a cinematic, ten-minute southwestern gothic epic that alternates a slow, twangy, desolate desert guitar theme with ghostly, quiet interludes where shadowy flickers of sound twitch their way from the amps to the cymbals.

The best of the funky songs blends paint-peeling atonalities and junkie blues guitar over the snarl of the bass, the guitar’s watery tone and horror-film motifs echoing John McGeoch of Siouxsie & the Banshees. The funniest one is basically a one-chord jam that slowly and matter-of-factly speeds up to a whirlpool of dreampop guitar over the roar and clatter of the rhythm section. Another of the funkier tracks evokes Robert Fripp’s abrasive King Crimson stuff; the strangest of the short interludes here features bagpipes over a distant guitar din. The band brings back the bolero allusions on a song that sounds like a cross between Bauhaus and the Raybeats, and ends the album with a warped big sky theme, Bill Frisell on an acid O.D.

Does Dorota still exist? YESSSSS. Even if this is the last album they ever put out (happily, from the looks of it, there may be many more),  it’s a classic of its kind. Download it at their site and then hit their Soundcloud page where there’s even more delicious pandemonium!