New York Music Daily

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Tag: goth rock

Whimz Put an Update on Hazy, Catchy, Drifting Late 80s and 90s Sounds

Whimz is the side project of Sunny Faris from Blackwater Holylight and Cam Spies of Night Heron. Spies seems to be a bigger part of the picture than Faris, who typically gravitates toward heavier and darker psychedelic sounds. Both sing and share guitar, bass, keys and drums duties. They file their new short album PM226 – streaming at Bandcamp – under “sludge pop.” It’s actually a surprisingly lighthearted, catchy record.

The first track is AM1, a slow, catchy, hazy dreampop theme set to a 90s trip-hop beat. AM2 is slower, slinkier and more mysterious, a mashup of 80s Clan of Xymox and dark orchestral Portishead.

The album’s centerpiece is the instrumental I Wanna, a warpy take on ethereally catchy Big Thief minimalism fueled by insistent raga guitar riffage. They build a more minimal, gritty take on late 80s Lush and Cocteau Twins in the album’s most epic number, titled PM1. The album has both a full-length and a single version of the closing cut, PM2, a morose but upbeat bedroom pop backbeat number with contrastingly icy textures.

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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.

A.A. Williams’ Grey-Sky Symphonic Rock Perfectly Captures the Emotional State of the World, 2022

A.A. Williams‘ new album As the Moon Rests – streaming at Bandcamp – perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the past thirty months. It might be an overstatement to call this the personal as political – a concept that’s been weaponized to the most evil ends – but she really nails the relentless gloom so many of us have felt since March of 2020. This is where she vaults herself into the realm of the world’s elite tunesmiths: it’s one of the best records of 2022.

Although the tempos are slow, this is her loudest, most epic and finest album to date, with her signature resigned, nuanced vocals over layers of distorted guitar, spare keyboards and a lushly symphonic bed of strings, elegantly anchored by her husband Thomas’ bass and Geoff Holroyde’s drums. This album is best appreciated as a cohesive whole. Pretty much all the songs are in the six- or seven-minute range. Whatever you’ve suffered, Williams feels your pain – at length.

“I must love myself above anyone else,” she admonishes herself in the opening track, Hollow Heart, a burning, immersive dirge that rises to a towering, symphonic peak. “It does not bring me any comfort anymore.” It’s hard to see beyond your own pain threshold.

Williams’ spare piano raindrops filter through the dense wall of distorted guitar in the second track, Evaporate. Is this an escape anthem or a death wish? Both? You be the judge. It ends cold.

Williams intones about regaining “some control from you” in Murmurs, adding layers of feathery but fanged tremolo-picking mingled within the smoky battlefield resonance. She reaches for hope against hope in Pristine, following a steady, doomed trajectory up from spare electric fingerpicking to a vast, ominous panorama.

Williams reaches for a vengeful understatement in Shallow Water, a gorgeously textured, intricately balanced and unexpectedly hopeful theme that rises with a grim wave motion. She opens For Nothing with a lingering, suspenseful Pink Floyd-style intro, rising and falling until she finally brings the heavy artillery in. With its long trail of distantly menacing chromatics, it’s the best song on the album.

Golden is even more allusive, with a late 80s Psychedelic Furs blend of digital drizzle and swirl. The clouds break and the stars gleam, a little at least, in The Echo. Then Williams returns to the spare/jangly verse vs. explosive, cumulo-nimbus chorus dichotomy in Alone in the Deep. It’s the closest thing to metal here.

“All I can see is my only chance to get away,” Williams intones gently over a spare web of acoustic guitar in Ruin (Let Go), the album’s most unexpectedly delicate moment. She closes the record with the title track, an expansive mashup of Nick Cave and Siouxsie at her early/mid 80s peak.

One of the Best New York Concerts of 2004 Finally Available As a Live Album

What’s more Halloweenish than a dusty archive haunted by ghosts and alcohol fumes?

Today’s installment in the ongoing, monthlong Halloween celebration here concerns a performance in the wee hours of September 3, 2004 at CB’s Gallery, where New York band Ninth House were the centerpiece of a night of gothic rock.

The venue is long gone. Frontman Mark Sinnis left New York for good in 2009 and has since built a career as one of the most formidable songwriters in Nashville gothic and dark country music. But at the peak of their career, Ninth House were a force of nature – and in recent months, Sinnis has been releasing a series of pristine live recordings.

Rather than reviewing the latest one, CB’s Lounge Drop Dead Party, streaming at youtube, here’s an account from this blog’s archive of previously unpublished concert reviews, which go as far back as the 1980s. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

“Maybe the best show of the year. [Redacted] wanted me to show up at 9 and run interference in case his now-ex, [redacted], showed up (she did, looking all slutty in leather pants and halter top). This was a goth festival put together by some out-of-town folks and it had that flavor. [Redacted] and I hung at the bar through two awful Cure ripoff bands, far from home and sounding that way. The sound was horrible, all trebly and weak.

A good crowd had assembled by midnight for Ninth House. Then the organizers asked Sinnis if a punk band could do an unannounced mini-set (and also borrow his bass amp), and he acquiesced [no memory of this – 3+ hours drinking before a show will do that to you].

So by the time Ninth House hit the stage, it was 1 AM. The opener, Burn, an older song, has been reinvented as a sleek, slinky art-rock tune (it’s about cremation as closure). It has the hooky major-key catchiness of Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me and The Company You Keep, both of which they also played. This was one of their best sets, all the darkest material. The addition of Jennifer on keyboards (looking good in a short skirt) improves the band vastly, with Francis Xavier back behind the drumkit. She played mostly string synth and has adjusted her settings to give this edition of the band the Tschaikovskian orchestral grandeur they deserve.

The sound issues that had plagued the earlier part of the night had persisted, but when guitarist Bernard SanJuan turned up, his icy reverb roar cut through and that helped immensely. The set included the vast, panoramic Death Song, an inferno take of Murder, a chillingly High Romantic version of I Warned You, a hauntingly lush Put a Stake Right Through It and a roaring punk rock blast through their cover of Real Life’s new wave hit Send Me an Angel.

[This review conflicts with the playlist, stating that the encore was a cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ The Ghost in You. The live album ends with a so-so Cure cover; that dissonance makes sense in context, unless the review is accurate and Sinnis simply left the Furs cover off the record].

We hung at the bar until almost closing time while [redacted] alternated between chatting with [ex-girlfriend] and [then-current squeeze] behind the bar, who hooked us up with many more drinks than we needed.”

The e-zine publisher and future daily New York music blog proprietor who wrote this ends the chronicle of the evening there. Somewhere in the New York Music Daily archive, there’s an analog audience recording of all but the last couple of songs in the set, effectively perpetuating the mystery. Happily, this album mix of what was obviously a good soundboard recording is excellent and free of any of the problems with the front-of-house sound

Ninth House went through a long succession of lineup changes but never officially disbanded: once in awhile the most recent incarnation will pull a reunion show together. And Sinnis, who during his time here was one of the most interesting and melodic bassists in town, has finally made the switch to lead guitar. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself…or bring your old band back from the dead.

A Solid Bargain Basement Rock Twinbill on the Lower East Tomorrow Night

Watching this city struggling to emerge from two years of a fascist lockdown and restrictions that devastated the arts and drove a substantial percentage of the population out of town has been eye-opening, to say the least. But there have been some positive developments lately. For one, we’re seeing a slow emergence of bands who were clearly good enough to be playing any dive in town in 2019, and weren’t – but they are now. Fault of venues who placed social media presence ahead of quality, most likely. Two of those bands – the eclectically catchy, occasionally 80s-tinged Sugar Pond and Stonesy jamband Hometown Unknown will be at the Delancey tomorrow night, Oct 8 at 7 PM; cover is $10.

It’s not an ideal segue, but both groups are worth checking out. Sugar Pond’s latest album, It Came From Sugar Pond, is up at Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. The first track, Missing the Point is an interesting take on a gritty late 90s Versus sound with a little 80s goth and a classic disco bassline from Andrew Megos. Frontman Nick Bernstein and his bandmate Jackson Cadenhead share guitar and drums duty on the record.

Track two, Mountain is a swirlier dreampop take on Tears for Fears. Artichoke is part catchy early 80s powerpop strut and part mid-80s Cure: “White room with a two-inch display, nothing there but nothing done today,” Bernstein reveals.

Die Wheel is a cheeky, very successful take on mid-60s Bacharach bossa pop with twinkling psychedelic touches. The last song is Let Me Squeem (Please Allow), a goofy folk-pop number.

The four guys in Hometown Unknown are first-class musicians. They love to jam; they love to emulate both the Stones and the Grateful Dead. They open their debut album – streaming at their music page – with a Stonesy rocker and then a beefed-up psychedelic funk tune with a sizzling guitar solo. Lester’s Lament, the third track, is a solid, tuneful take on Sticky Fingers-era Stones: it’s a bet the band play it tighter onstage than in this skittish home-studio recording.

Heavy Dreamer wouldn’t be out of place in the Blackberry Smoke tunebook, with a long jam at the end. The final song is a go-go soul shuffle.

The band also have a decent collection of Dead covers available as a free download. Here they’re shooting for what seems to be a peak-era mid-80s Dead vibe, as you can tell from the choice of songs. There’s a low-key, soul-tinged Althea, a Stones-ified Alabama Getaway, a thoughtfully vintage soul-style reinvention of Eyes of the World and a haphazard attempt at doing Going Down the Road Feeling Bad as a honkytonk tune.

Savage Republic Return with a Smoldering New Album

Editor’s note: Guitarist, activist and constitutional law scholar Philip Drucker, a.k.a. Jackson Del Rey, died this past July 16 at 63. A founding member of iconic 80s bands Savage Republic and 17 Pygmies, he was an early supporter of and friend to this blog. Deepest condolences to his wife and bandmate Meg Maryatt.

On one hand, it’s amazing that Savage Republic would still be putting out music as relentlessly intense as they were when they released their feral, rumbling 1982 debut album, Tragic Figures. Admittedly, the group on their new vinyl record Meteora – streaming at Bandcamp – were not among the crew on that album, but both guitarists Thom Fuhrmann and Ethan Port date from the band’s mid-80s peak. Multi-instrumentalist Kerry Dowling and drummer Alan Waddington are more recent additions, continuing a four-decade tradition of pummeling, frequently menacing instrumentals that veer defiantly between postrock, gothic rock and dystopic soundscapes.

They open the album with Nothing at All, an icy stomp that sounds like a track from PiL’s Metal Box album, but with typical leadpipe Savage Republic percussion. This time out, the guitars maintain the chilly, digital reverb sheen, in contrast with the gritty bassline of the second track, Stingray, a catchy dreampop-tinged instrumental.

God and Guns is a slowly swirling, grimly cynical broadside directed at self-righteous hypocrites: “You worship a massive cock, you just follow the fascist plot.” Fragments of Link Wray, Dick Dale and maybe Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth blend together in Bizerte Rolls, a menacingly chugging surf-rock anthem.

The album’s title track is a more disquieting, messier take on what the Cure was doing circa Seventeen Seconds, while Unprecedented is a mashup of My Bloody Valentine cyclotron swirl and Crass abrasiveness.

The album’s best song, Boca del Vaca is an evilly glimmering throwback to the hypnotically pulsing, overtone-laced, Middle Eastern sound the band worked so memorably in the 80s. Then they go back to Siouxsie/Cure chorus-box territory in Newport ’86. They wind up the album with Ghost Light, shifting in and out of focus with the haphazardly percussive energy of the group’s early days. Who knew that Savage Republic would be around forty years after they started, making the kind of records that show up on best-albums lists at the end of the year!

The Creepiest, Most Prophetic Music Video of the New Wave Era

These days it’s getting harder to differentiate between predictive programming, satire and actual news. Whatever the case, this 1990 video by Heaven’s Magic singing Watch Out For 666 will give you chills.

Did Bill Gates have this on loop in his office at Microsoft? Did this obscure Christian band – who put out a couple of strange and disquieting cassette albums in 1985 and 1994 – have deep state connections? Or, was whoever wrote this bouncy, Orwellian synthpop song (uncredited on the cassette) simply paying more attention to what was going on in Silicon Valley than anyone else? Why does the President in the video look so much like John Kerry?

There’s more. Take three minutes to watch the video for their 1985 single Cathy Don’t Go (scroll to the bottom at Edward Slavsquat’s brilliant and insightful news blog). The technology is slightly more retro – barcodes instead of QR codes – but the scene in the doctor’s office is pricelessly prescient.

The band’s backstory is just as troubling. A studio-only project, their songs originated on the Music With Meaning Show, which broadcast from Greece in the late 70s through the mid-80s. The program was produced by the Family, a Christian cult notorious for child abuse, and whose founder’s son murdered the woman who had molested him. Much of the program music has been archived at Soundcloud and ranges from a Stonesy rock song about sex in heaven (you really can’t make this stuff up) to an epic nuclear apocalypse narrative, 20 Minutes to Go, sung in part by a little girl.

These people may have seen Klaus Schwab’s New Abnormal coming a mile away, but their story reminds how the enemy of our enemy is not always our friend.

Emily Jane White Turns Up the Amps on Her Dark Sound

At the more corporate music venues around the world, it’s often the case where an opening act blows the headliner off the stage. Such is likely to happen tomorrow night, July 29 at 7 PM at the Poisson Rouge, where brooding songwriter Emily Jane White opens for Scandinavian chanteuse Eivor, who plays a distinctively minimalist take on 80s darkwave. $30 adv tix are still available as of today.

White established herself back in the zeros as a major voice in folk noir and is now taking a plunge into gothic rock with her latest album Alluvion, streaming at Bandcamp. Anton Patzner – who also produced – assembles layers of ominous keys over the guitars of “John Courage” (the name is a brand of British beer) and Nick Ott’s drums.

An icily dystopic sequencer pulse anchors the opening track, Show Me the War. With the ringing reverb guitar and distant cumulo-nimbus synth, it has a very 80s feel – and sets the stage for the rest of the album.

Track two, Crepuscule, is far less shadowy than the title would imply, with a late 80s Cure ambience that grows more dense and orchestral. Portentous low piano crashes along with the drums to introduce Heresy – “Their eyes are watching, they drank a cup of poison,” White intones. “You surrender all your hope to be somebody.” A plandemic parable maybe?

“I saw the pain fall around you…I saw murder in the background,” White reveals in Poisoned, a brisk southwestern gothic elegy. She rises to full-blown High Romantic angst, the piano against stormy symphonic synth in Body Against the Gun. She stays with the same template, with more of a distinctive 80s Cure gothic atmosphere in The Hands Above Me, a defiant antiauthoritarian anthem.

“Enduring, scarred, can’t be undone by someone,” White sings with an angst-fueled shiver in Mute Swan, over a techier ambience: this also sounds like a lockdown narrative. The sinister reverb on the guitars comes up a notch over suspense-film piano in Hold Them Alive.

“Morbid reflection, a dying art,” is the chorus tagline in the crescendoing anthem Hollow Hearth – these days, maybe not so much anymore! Although it may well predate the lockdown and be more metaphorical, I Spent the Years Frozen aptly describes the alienation that’s pervaded the world since March of 2020

The album’s final cut is Battle Call, a noir-tinged reflection on the legacy of violence in the aftermath of war. There’s plenty of validation here for anyone who’s suffered in the totalitarian takeover of the past twenty-eight months.

Singles for the (Almost) Ides of March

This blog predicted that 2022 would be way better than 2021. The global totalitarians’ ongoing death throes have been ugly – Justin Trudeau building a shitlist and seizing citizens’ bank accounts for wrongthink seems to be a prototype. But the blowback has been fierce, and reason for real optimism. No wonder the narrative has suddenly been shifted from hygiene theatre to the latest circus of two corrupt-AF ex-Soviet kleptocrats duking it out, with no thought to the colossal toll on their respective nations’ populations.

Another reason for optimism is that more and more musicians are stepping back into the ring. Today we celebrate that with a short, roughly twenty-five minute self-guided playlist. Click on artist names for their webpages, click on song titles for audio.

Americana songwriter Kaitlin ButtsBlood comes across as a very subtle protest song disguised as a fierce kiss-off ballad, set to a simmering oldschool country backdrop with some tasty resonator guitar. “My name dragged through the mud, and godawful things swept under the rug.” Relatable, huh?

Dr. Jordan Peterson may be known as one of the most insightful researchers and analysts in the reality space, but as it turns out he’s also a songwriter! His latest anthem, Wake Up is an aptly creepy, Floydian art-rock tune with a shifting cast of vocalists.

Lowly Weep, by UK songstress Darkher, is a heavier art-rock take on the mystical gothic sound that New York’s own Kristin Hoffmann was exploring back in the late zeros and teens. Don’t let the awkward title put you off.

Here’s Good Before, by another moody songwriter, Maria BC, rainy-day jangle-and-clang spacerock. All is not so safe in her hotel womb.

Let’s wind up the playlist on a positive note. Rapper Bryson Gray‘s No Mask No Vax – featuring his bud Forgiato Blow – is a singalong Pitbull-style banger. Gray is a man of many lyrical styles and as rugged as individualists get, as he makes clear in Controlled, a hilarious, golden age-style dis at everyone who hates on him. “Big Pharma must be lobbying rappers.” Thanks to fearless investigative journalist and incorrigible listmaker Sharyl Attkisson for the tipoff.

Today’s last song is an oldie, from 2016. How did Debris, by Neia Jane, pop up on the radar here earlier this week? It was on autoplay after a completely unrelated Soundcloud clip. Imagine Guided by Voices at their majestic, multitracked peak, but with a woman out front

Singles For Today: Laughs, Raised Middle Fingers and Moody Mystery

More protest songs, epic darkness and riotously vindicating laughs at the end, Click on the artist name for their webpages, click on song titles for audio.

Rap artist Lukas Lion‘s biggest hit is 1984, which was censored by youtube, so you know he has to be good. He’s brilliant, actually.

Fear is their greatest tool.
Fear can turn the brightest minds to fools
Televise endless lies, keep people terrified
That’s the way they maintain their rule.
Fear is the prison that they want us all to live in
And ever since the beginning this has been their only mission….
A real pandemic doesn’t need advertising…

One good song deserves another, so he came up with 1984 Part 2 (scroll to the bottom of the page after Margaret Anna Alice’s eloquent and meticulously referenced takedown of Kathy Hochul’s fascist end run around the New York State legislature).

The Ministry of Truth has taken over.
There’s a reason that they chose Corona.
Corona means crown, work it out man
It’s all symbolism from the beginning they told ya.
A virus of the mind, infecting your thoughts.
But enough is enough. Now we’re saying no more.
The emergence of apartheid, creating segregation
That’s the road that they’re paving.
Cuz if you’re not jabbed then it’s you that they’re blaming.
It’s you that is dangerous. Mass manipulation.
Coercing you to get penetrated.
What’s the difference between that and a rapist?

Lion’s latest release is The Great Puppet Show, a circus rock hip-hop parable: “Our magical screens will make you believe anything that we please.”

Irish folk-rock songwriter Dantom a.k.a. Daniel Thomas Dyer has a couple of spot-on, sarcastic protest songs from his album Root of the Root up at Odysee. The funnier one is Talking Covid Attack Blues (aka Sleeptalking Blues), a full-band Subterranean Homesick Blues for the twenties,  with pricelessly amusing backup vocals:

Spread the facts from the BBC, most trusted source in the world to me we should al live i fear
PCR, they say it’s the best, gold standard, 40 cycles…
Been on Facebook most of the time, we need more censorship there I say

He’s one of the few to make the connection between 9/11 and the plandemic in a solo acoustic tune, Breathe. Thanks to Mark Crispin Miller for passing these two along

On the more expansive side, Darkher’s new single Where the Devil Waits has stately ominous High Romantic angst rising over a cello drone and spare acoustic guitar

The big epic on this list is the new single by New Zealand band Die! Die! Die!, This Is Not an Island Anymore, rising from a drony intro punctuated by percussive blasts. It sounds like peak-era Sonic Youth with Kim Gordon out front, but much noisier and postrock-y

Let’s end this with a good vindictive joke. This isn’t a music video: it’s what tyrants look like once the mob outside the castle has busted down the gate. Here’s Boston Mayor Michelle Wu going into full panic mode once she realizes that her Twitter chat is not turning out the way she planned. The people have spoken!