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Tag: siouxsie & the banshees

Touched by Ghoul Explore New Ground Without Losing Their Edge

Chicago band Touched By Ghoul earned a big thumbs-up here for their 2016 album Murder Circus: “This makes you wonder what other treats this group have up their collective sleeves.” Fast forward to 2022: their new album Cancel the World is streaming at Bandcamp. In general, it’s less menacing, more dynamic and more oriented toward vintage Sonic Youth than punk. Which is not to say that the band have lost their edge, they’re just more diverse now.

Guitarists Angela Mullenhour and Andrea Bauer punch in with burning distortion over the tight punk stomp of bassist Alex Shumard and drummer Paige Sandlin on the album’s opening track, Better Than Me, a slap at a stuck-up type. The way the lead line subtly shifts from the guitar to the bass toward the end is a cool touch.

Mullenhour’s wounded vocals swoop over the guitars in God Hospital, dipping to a haphazard oldschool soul ballad interlude before picking up with a snarl. Quick Question has punchy, tensely bending Thurston Moore-style riffs at the center, while the deadpan, sarcastic, mostly acoustic Lost at the Costco has more of a rainy-day jangle – just like the Clash’s Lost in the Supermarket.

Siouxsie & the Banshees have been a frequent reference point for the band in the past, and Sitcom wouldn’t be out of place on the Juju album: the ending is too good to spoil. From there the band segue into the title track, a catchy, sarcastic punk rock stomp with simple, slashing SY riffage.

The band pack a lot into Suicide Space Camp: no-wave skronk and a shapeshifting bridge along with the deadpan vocals. The album’s most menacing track, Yacht Problems seems to allude to a much greater malaise: “It takes lungs to breathe, and they blew them away,” Mullenhour muses.

There’s also a Cancel the World Redux, where she works the ersatz soul ambience for every breathy ounce of sarcasm she can purr. Since March of 2020, rock records in general have slowed to a trickle from the volume we were getting before global totalitarianism. It’s good to see such a strong band still intact and staying true to their vision.

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.

Fun with Anthemic 80s Rock on Thought Leaders’ New Album

See if you can pull on your boots under those skinny jeans. Tell your girl to smudge on an extra layer of eyeliner and stick a couple of wine coolers in her Coach bag. We’ll see if the Ford Fiesta still runs after the thrashing we gave it the other night.

For those who weren’t there, those are 80s references. Thought Leaders‘ new album In Wastelands – streaming at Bandcamp – is the great lost soundtrack to the chilly European road movie that Jim Jarmusch never made. This is stylized, legacy music, but done with a surprising balance of period-perfect detail and unhinged energy.

The opening number, Enigma 41 is a mashup of the Cult and early U2, guitarist Andrew Lund throwing in a little Happy Mondays jangle among his spare, lingering chorus-box arpeggios. The chorus-box textures get icier and the chords get more menacingly juicy, in an early Wire vein, in the next song, Come Even.

Bassist Tyler Cox introduces Burning Glass with a growl before Lund slashes his way in, Daniel Ash style, just as he does on the way out: it’s the best and most savage song on the album. The band tighten up over drummer Kirk Snedeker’s 2/4 new wave beat in the next track, Jane Doe’s Estate (presumably a reference to an inheritance, however small: lyrics and vocals don’t really figure into this band’s music).

They make a memorable mashup of the Cult and Wire in the album’s title track and follow with Shallows, Lund turning up the chorus for a deep-freeze John McGeoch-era Siouxsie chill before a big, cinematic, doublespeed stampede out.

Tumbling Joy Division drums and freezer-burn Bauhaus broken chords mingle over the synths in the background in Desire Reserve, There’s a little vintage PiL in Enemy Flies Above; the band wind up the record with the careening Saturday Night Leave.

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.

Surreal, Entertaining, Strangely Cinematic Themes on Curtis Hasselbring’s New Album

Curtis Hasselbring may be best known as one of the mostly highly sought-after trombonists in the New York jazz scene, but he also plays a lot of other instruments. As a guitarist, he has a very distinctive, jagged style and impeccable taste in late 70s/early 80s postpunk and new wave. He’s been involved with innumerable projects over the years, but his most psychedelic one is Curha, his mostly one-man band. Hasselbring’s music has always been defined by his sense of humor, but this is where you’ll find some of his funniest songs. The brand-new Curha II album is streaming at Bandcamp.

The opening track, Casa Grande is a tongue-in-cheek surf tune with neatly intertwining guitars and keening funeral organ, Dan Reiser supplying a low-key beach-party beat. He sticks around for the second track, Togar, an outer-space Motown theme, guest guitarist Brandon Seabrook mimicking the squiggle of the keys.

Hasselbring keeps the sci-fi sonics going in Sick of Ants!: listen closely to the watery guitar and you’ll catch his appreciation for the late, great John McGeoch of Siouxsie & the Banshees and PiL. How airy is Blimp Enthusiast, a rare vocal number? Not particularly, but this quasi trip-hop song is very funny.

The blippy Blaster comes across as a motorik tv theme on whippits. With its loopy low-register piano and clip-clop beats, Soap makes even less sense until Peter Hess’ bass clarinet ushers in a somber mood for a second. Hasselbring’s trombone appears distinctly for the first time in Murgatroid, a clever mashup of 70s disco, outer-space theme and early new wave.

With its intricately dancing web of guitar multitracks, the rather disquieting MMS has echoes of early 80s Robert Fripp; then Hasselbring takes it further toward acid jazz. He goes back to lo-fi motorik minimalism with Totally Hired, then shifts toward spare, 90s electro-lounge with History of Vistas.

He closes the album with the coyly tiptoeing Her Pebble Fusion and then Blown Bubble Blues, which is kind of obvious but irresistibly fun. Hip-hop artists in need of far-out samples need look no further. You don’t have to be high to enjoy this, but it couldn’t hurt.

Revisiting a Nocturnal Rock Gem From Halycine

Halycine’s ep In the Salt – streaming at Bandcamp – made the shortlist of best releases of the year here in 2016. File this under acts who should be vastly better known. Frontwoman Chloe Raynes has a velvety, accusatory delivery that brings to mind Randi Russo; so does her darkly guitar-fueled songwriting. That comparison holds up strongest in the chugging midtemp anthem Circles, which opens the record.

The bitterly loping second track, Elixir has echoes of early 80s Siouxsie and delicious layers of guitar, from gritty to icy. One More Try is the most majestically angst-fueled anthem here, a 6/8 noir ballad disguised as dark 80s rock, awash in Raynes’ quasar guitar pulses.

She saves her most powerful vocal attack for Woman, You Better Run and its tantalizingly long series of chord changes: “I do not think it’s safe” is the mantra. The final cut, Silver Moon brings to mind the Jesus & Mary Chain circa Darklands: “It’s been a long road for you,” she intones enigmatically, “I wish you well.”

Gold Dime Release Their Dark, Haphazardly Trippy New Album at Alphaville Tonight

Gold Dime’s new album Nerves – streaming at Bandcamp  personifies the best side of indie rock coming out of Brooklyn these days. Nothing effete or twee or mannered about their careening, noisy assault. Frontwoman/multi-instrumentalist Andrya Ambro (half of messy, well-known avant rock duo Talk Normal) doesn’t have Siouxsie Sioux’s command of microtones, or menace for that matter, but she still could pass for a Banshee, in the early days of that band, at least. Gold Dime are playing the album release show for their new one at Alphaville tonight, June 3 at around 11. Explosive postrock/spacerock guitar loopscaper Ben Greenberg, AKA Hubble opens the show at 10; cover is $10.  Then on June 16 Gold Dime are at C’Mon Everybody at 9 for the same price..

The new album’s opening epic, Easy is a galloping, noisy raga-rock jam,, bouncy bass holding it together hypnotically as guitarist Lazar Bozic’s spacerock chords devolve into shards of feedback and reverb-tank pings – and then they pull the monster back on the rails. The mantra “You can’t tell me nothing” becomes a simple, emphatic “Leave me alone,” as Parior Walls‘ Kate Mohanty’s alto sax enters the mix, whirling and then sputtering.

The amped-up version of spoken word artist Anne Clark’s All We Have to Be Thankful For growls along with echoes of Syd Barrett, vintage Jesus & Mary Chain and Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Ambro’s sarcastically deadpan vocal over wry faux-doo-wop and sheets of spacerock reverb guitar.

The minimalistic 4 Hours sounds more like the Creatures than Siouxsie, with spare alto sax over a simple, pounding drum riff until the guitars ooze and then march in. “You don’t own me, a lot of you don’t know me…but you cut me,” Ambro intones as the firestorm rises behind her.

Shut Up sounds like an Unknown Pleasures-era Joy Division outtake with a woman out front, spiced with vintage drum machine and light industrial percussion. Ambro opens Quota  – as in “I’m not here to fill your quota” – over a trancey digeridoo loop; the reverie punctured by eerie  guitar riffage that brings to mind Randi Russo. Disinterested begins with even more menacing reverb guitar clang and roar, then follows an allusive All Tomorrow’s Parties-ish tangent, violinist Adam Markiewicz’s sweepingly multitracked string arrangement alternating with fret-melting crush. 

With its simple, plaintive, rainy-day piano, Hindsight starts as a less devastated take on Joy Division’s The Eternal, then the sky darkens as the guitars blot out what’s left of the sun. The album winds up with Rock, which pretty much capsulizes everything this band is about: minimalistically vamping industrial new wave spacerock psychedelia. Who wouldn’t want to see a band do all that live?

A Deliciously Menacing New Album and a Palisades Show from Edgy Postpunks Eula

Eula are one of the most individualistic bands in New York. As noisy as they can be onstage, the noise works because throughout their terse, relatively short postpunk songs, there’s always an underlying tune. Frontwoman/guitarist Alyse Lamb knows all the most menacing places on the fretboard and makes it to all of them on the band’s meticulously arranged new cassette album (which isn’t out yet, hence no streaming link, although a couple of tracks are up at Bandcamp and Soundcloud). Although they’ve been lumped in with the indie crowd, Eula are too edgy, purposeful and often downright Lynchian to be tagged with that logo. You have to go back a few years, to groups like the Throwing Muses at their most assaultive, or to Siouxsie & the Banshees, to find a real point of comparison. They’re playing the album release show at Palisades in Bushwick at around 11 on March 5, with psychedelic noiserock legend Martin Bisi, who produced it, playing earlier at around 9 along with a Swan and an ex-Sonic Youth: cover charge TBA. Eula will also be at Abbey’s Pub at 407 Monmouth St. in Jersey City on March 8 at around 11.

The album kicks off with Noose, which artfully scatters all kinds of eerily ringing, resonant shards of guitar over a percussively pitchblende, looping, qawwali-influenced groove. I Collapse reminds of X circa Wild Gift, bassist Jeff Maleri and drummer Nathan Rose giving it a galloping rhythm until Lamb’s guitar explodes on the chorus: “Can you handle nasty weather?” is the mantra.

Maleri’s creepy, bolero-ish bass and Rose’s murky cymbal washes open Little Hearts, which builds to another volcanic chorus before Lamb goes back to a whispery noir insistence: “And then you wake to find the circumstances are not so kind.” She anchors the snide, sarcastic Orderly in stomping, jagged, early Joy Division minimalism.

Rising slowly out of hypnotically misty jangle to a wistfully echoey sway, The Destroyer brings to mind Boston’s great Black Fortress of Opium. Like No Other also sways along, juxtaposing aggressive, late Sleater-Kinney style vocals against a swooping, looping backdrop. With its distant hints of Indian music and dark Appalachian folk, the subdued Your Beat is the album’s catchiest track.

Driven by Maleri’s gritty, circling bass, Aplomb is as punk as these songs get, followed by the noisiest number here, Meadows. The album – one of 2015’s three or four best up to this point – winds up with the trippy, disquietingly echoey Monument. Expect the band to rip these songs to shreds onstage, possibly with a power assist from some special guests.

Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi Go Down the Rabbit Hole Into Art-Rock

Violinist Carla Kihlstedt, a founding member of Tin Hat, has built a career that spans the worlds of Eastern European and Russian folk music, film scores and the avant garde. Her new album with her Rabbit Rabbit Radio song-a-month duo project with her husband, percussionist Matthias Bossi, simply titled Volume 1, is an eerie collection of lushly but plaintively arranged art-rock. Kihlstedt’s unselfconsciously breathy, angst-fueled vocals echo Siouxsie Sioux in their most dramatic moments, as does the music in places. Otherwise, Kihlstedt’s writing here is as eclectic as you would imagine, a bracing and sometimes surreal juxtaposition of atmospherics, dancing folk themes, classical cadenzas and burning rock riffage. Her lyrics are terse and vivid, full of disquieting imagery. Bossi’s songs are even more surreal, considerably more lighthearted and more rock and pop-oriented. The duo are playing the album release show on Saturday, July 13 at 7 PM at Joe’s Pub, most likely with a parade of special guests; $15 tickets are still available as of today.

The album opens with the bristling, anthemic Curious One, Kihlstedt sort of a one-woman, upper-register Rasputina, adding layer upon layer of string textures over chromatically-charged minor key changes. The eerie After the Storm alterntes between tricky pizzicato and a big, soaring chorus, an elegantly brooding portait of a storm or shipwreck survivor – or widow, maybe – who’s lost it all.

Bossi’s first track here is Hero and a Saint, a trippy trip-hop number driven by echoey Rhodes piano. Me Gusto El Calor is dadaesque, catchy new wave pop, with layer after layer of synth riffs. The album’s final track, Merci Vielmal, whimsically mashes up a bunch of European languages. And Ballad For No One works a brooding  cabaret piano vein.

Khilstedt takes centerstage on the album’s most gripping, intense material. Newsreel builds from a series of mantras, “there was a…”., up to a menacing circus rock theme flavored with spiraling ELO-ish violin. In the Dead of the Night builds off murky low-register dobro, creating a creepy desert rock tableau. The longest and most Siouxsie-esque song here, Hush Hush rises from astringent violin and bells to a dark chromatic vamp: “The bones of this house heal things, we don’t dare say these peculiar thoughts,” Kihlstedt intones enigmatically. Over the spare electric guitar and percussion of Home Again, she evokes Rachelle Garniez in a distantly lurid moment: “I’ll take my time crawling back home to you; don’t rush me baby, I’m closer than you know.” And Paper Prison, with its moody, opaque, slowly crescendoing atmospherics and murky sound effects, sounds like the Cocteau Twins gone gothic. Even considering how brilliant Kihlstedt’s work with Tin Hat has been over the years, this is just as good, if completely different. It’s available as an album, or a subscription, a good reason to follow this project as it continues to evolve.

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!