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Tag: gothic rock

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 Much of the program music has been archived at Soundcloud and ranges from a Stonesy rock song about sex in heaven (you really can’t make this stuff up) to an epic nuclear apocalypse narrative, 20 Minutes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!

The Shining Tongues’ Haunting Debut Album Transcends a Tragic Loss

The Shining Tongues are the surviving members of the Infinite Three, who proved tragically less infinite with the loss of their drummer Paul Middleton in the fall of 2019. Multi-instrumentalists Daniel Knowler and Sam McLaughlin pulled the project together last year, so there are probably multiple levels of grief and angst in their bitingly ornate, often psychedelically tinged art-rock songs. There’s a towering High Romantic sensibility as well as a fluency in dark 80s British sounds on their debut album Milk of God, streaming at Bandcamp.

The opening track, The Idiot Skin begins as Blondie’s One Way or Another with distant Indian inflections; then the band take it into a pouncing, darkly anthemic direction, sparkling with guitars and keys. Botanica in their early years is a good point of comparison.

They shift to slow-burning post-Velvets janglerock for the second track, Buildings. The sense of rage and loss is visceral, and builds to a dirty inferno: it could be New Model Army at their early 90s peak. Behind the shiny brass and keening organ, It Is Fear draws a straight line back to early Wire.

Nourishment is a recurrent metaphor here. Track four, Eating Bread is the album’s lingering, rainswept centerpiece: this time it’s the Smiths in a rare moment of relative calm who come to mind. After that, the band boil up a blend of 13th Floor Elevators and late 60s Laurel Canyon psych-pop in Rice.

They return to angst-fueled acoustic-electric anthem territory in 6/8 time with Natural Slab. The album’s most lavishly orchestral track, Annihilation has a wealth of dark textures: fuzztone repeaterbox guitar, symphonic keys and a lush bed of acoustic guitars.

Swallow Heaven is not a place for dead birds but a desperate, gloomy, gothic folk-tinged anthem. From there the band segue into Humming/Dissolving, a swirling soundscape shedding eerie overtones.

From there, the leap into The Undefiled Absorption of Supreme Bliss, a triumphantly loopy instrumental, is quite a shock. The band wind up the record with Make Us Eat, which comes across as a grim Mitteleuropean take on what Australian spacerock legends the Church were doing in the 80s. Much as 2021 has been the slowest year for rock records since rock music first existed, this is one of the year’s best.

Daxma’s New Album: Unlimited Shades of Grey

Bay area band Daxma play hypnotic, melancholy slowcore, akin to a missing link between Godspeed You Black Emperor and My Bloody Valentine. Vocals serve more of an instrumental than lyrical role in this music, such that there are any here. Their new album Unmarked Boxes is streaming at Bandcamp. Other than the occasional screaming guitar burst or tumbling drum riff, the pall never lifts: if grey is your color, this is your sound. Love it or hate it, it’s hard to argue with how accurately this band reflect the past twenty months’ interminable, oppressive gloom.

The first track, The Clouds Parted begins with a broodingly anthemic, looping piano riff, then the guitar crunch kicks in and the dirge is on, but with more of an opaque My Bloody Valentine feel. The band shift gears to a Dark Side of the Moon clang that grows more insistent yet hypnotic as the bass takes over the melody. The MBV cyclotron returns, interchanging with moments of minimalist calm throughout the rest of the song’s almost fourteen minutes. It sets the stage for the rest of the album’s longer tracks.

The second cut is And the Earth Swallowed Our Shadows, rainy-day guitar loops within an increasingly dense fog punctuated by aching washes of tremolo-picking. It ends calmly and stately.

The grey-sky ambience looms closer and closer to the growling bass riff that anchors the epic Hiraeth: as the tableau slowly unfolds, it’s like Mogwai covering the Cure at quarterspeed. Suadade is aptly titled: it’s more sparse, beyond the interlude where the stormclouds come sweeping past.

Anything You Lose begins with one of the album’s catchiest passages, then the melody and textures grow more densely immersive. The final track, Comes Back to Another Form, contrasts the album’s quietest sections with its most raging, sustained peak.

Moodily Atmospheric New Wave and Lynchian Sounds From Brass Box

Sometimes Brass Box’s album The Cathedral – streaming at Bandcamp – totally nails a David Lynch soundtrack atmosphere. Other times the group totally nail a dark 80s new wave sound. Either way, their songs are catchy and tightly focused, frontwoman/bassist Ammo Bankoff channeling clear-eyed abandonment and despondency over the chilly echo and swirl.

The album opens with the title track, a mutedly galloping Pink Floyd Run Like Hell riff anchoring Neil Popkin and Matt Bennett’s broodingly echoey mix of guitars that explode in a ringing dreampop vortex on the chorus, Bankoff’s searching, anxious vocals awash in the icy mist.

With its resonant, reverberating deep-space sonics and wistful, starry backdrop, the second track, DDM could be the Lost Patrol. Surrender is not the Cheap Trick teen-rebellion anthem but a dead ringer for Siouxsie & the Banshees circa 1982, right down to the watery chorus-box guitar and prominent bass.

They follow the atmospheric, enveloping goth rock tune Latency with the allusively catchy Waves, which rise to some gorgeously Eastern European-tinged vocal harmonies on the chorus. Then they hit a steady, fast new wave groove with Towne, the album’s hardest-rocking track.

The record’s slowest track, Roses, comes across as a dreampop update on the more skeletal material on Unknown Pleasure-era Joy Division. The band go back to Lynchian/dreampop mashup mode with Ivory Skies and close the album with Parting Ways, a song they should have parted with prior to sequencing the record. On one hand, all the sounds that Brass Box evoke have been around for decades. On the other, nobody has figured out how to blend them quite like this.

Bleak Anthems For a Bleak Year From Blackwater Holylight

Blackwater Holylight are one of the most original and intriguing dark rock bands around. They started out as an improbably successful mashup of Black Sabbath and the Cure with a woman out front, then on their second album left much of the 80s behind for a heavier sound. Their third release, Silence/Motion is just out and streaming at Bandcamp. It’s the band’s most straightforwardly dark and quietest release yet, no surprise considering this year’s zeitgeist.

The first track is Delusional: a spare, lingering dirge introduces a venomous, growling, swaying anthem. Frontwoman/bassist Sunny Faris joins forces with guest vocalists Bryan Funck and Mike Paparo for Exorcist gasp-and-rasp over Sarah McKenna’s funereal organ, guitarist Mikayla Mayhew adding simple, single-note leads over drummer Eliese Dorsay’s supple beat.

Faris is a more distant, ghostly presence in Who the Hell, a surreal blend of the Cure at their most gothic and Tangerine Dream, but heavier than either of those two bands. She and Mayhew switch instruments on the title track, Dorsay’s muted martial volleys driving a rainy-day acoustic guitar-and-piano theme toward fullscale gothic majesty, then falling away elegantly.

Imagine Sonic Youth with lithe bass, echoey keys and a competent singer, and you get Falling Faster. Faris and Mayhew exchange axes again for MDIII, a swaying, drifting, desolate theme rising toward gritty dreampop-tinged roar.

Likewise, there’s a late 80s Lush feel in Around You: it’s the closest thing to a straight-up pop song the band’s ever done. The album’s final and most psychedelic cut is Every Corner, built around a catchy, hypnotic raga riff (Faris on guitar and Mayhew on bass) until the band hit an unexpected, increasingly sinister stoner boogie interlude.

Blackwater Holylight are on tour this fall: their next free-state show is January 21, 2022 at Trees in Dallas, Texas, opening for first-class heavy blues/psychedelic band All Them Witches.

Elegantly Melancholy, Wordless Vampire Anthems From Rik Schaffer

Beyond members of the World Economic Forum’s taste for adrenochrome, vampirism usually falls into the cartoon category as far as Halloween is concerned. This year, composer Rik Schaffer has opened up a rich vein of his themes from Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines at Spotify. He couldn’t have picked a more appropriate year to splatter the world with this, considering how many hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by the various lethal injections being promoted by the WEF and the Gates Foundation. How serious, or completely cartoonish, is this music?

This magnum opus is all about epic grandeur, punctuated by infrequent portrayals of ridiculousness. This is the uncommon soundtrack that’s also a good rock record. Schaffer’s themes for the game frequently draw on 80s goth, but not in a cliched way. Where innumerable film and video composers embrace chilly synth soundscapes, Schaffer uses guitars for the most part. Sometimes they’re minimalist, as Daniel Ash would have clanged out circa 1980. Other interludes here evoke bands as diverse as Slowdive, the Church and Roxy Music.

Schaffer likes all kinds of icy chorus-box sounds. Loops figure heavily into this, whether a tentative folk-tinged acoustic phrase, a merciless motorik theme, or vast, windswept vistas awash in a chilly mist. In the rare moments when the bass percolates to the surface, it’s delicious. In general, Schaffer’s songs are more majestically melancholy than grim or grisly: a vampire’s life is a sad and lonely one.

He moves methodically through ornate spacerock and whimsical trip-hop with a hint of disquiet, to a gorgeously textured, bittersweetly vamping anthem without words awash in torrents of organ and stately chorus-box guitar. Dissociative atmospherics encircle a goofy dance club tableau. A long return to moody shoegaze sounds sets up an imaginatively flamenco-tinged coda and an unexpectedly Beatlesque outro. Who would have thought that a video game theme collection would be one of the best albums of 2021.

Troubled Music For Troubled Times From Mary Ocher

One of the more darkly intriguing albums to come over the transom here in the past couple of years is German singer Mary Ocher’s The West Against the People, which is still streaming at Bandcamp. It’s hard to think of a better way to describe what the world’s been through since the lockdown began, isn’t it? And the music itself tends to be grim, grey and unrelenting, with a skeletal late 70s/early 80s no wave influence.

The album begins with Firstling II, a shifting, echoey vocal soundscape, drifting further toward desolation. There are two versions of To the Light here: the first with Ocher’s watery, quavery vocals over oscillating organ and a shuffle beat, the second with elegant piano and echoey electronic washes, more evocative of the song’s understated desperation.

Zah Zah, a simple, catchy dub-influenced bass-and-drums loop is also reprised later as a brief electronic interlude. My Executioner is a coldly marching, minimalist no wave march: “We come face to face, my butcher,” Ocher snarls, “How do you deconstruct fear?”

Pounding drums and carnivalesque synth underscore Ocher’s cynical defiance in Authority’s Hold: it could be an early Creatures song. Gritty wordless vocals contrast with blippy synth in The Irrevocable Temple of Knowledge, while Arms is unexpectedly calmer and seems more improvised.

With its pulsing, echoey synth, The Endlessness (Song For Young Xenophobes) could be Carol Lipnik in especially minimalist mode, Ocher’s voice jumping to spectacular heights. Washed Upon Your Shores is even more rustically simple, just vocals over a persistent high bass note and rattly percussion.

Ocher revisits a dub milieu with the spoken-word piece The Becoming, featuring Die Todliche Doris. “It is not uncommon to think of acts of unnecessary violence,” Ocher demurs in this sardonically detailed tale of revenge. Ocher closes the album with the eeriliy loopy Wulkania, a collaboration with Felix Cubin.