Music Reviews



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Artist: Ghost Painted Sky (@)
Title: Flightless
Format: CD + Download
Label: Restless Grey (@)
Rated: *****
Ghost Painted Sky is a goth/darkwave band from Northampton, Mass., and 'Flightless' is their first full-length release after a few EPs going back to 2014. GPS stated out as the solo project of David Strong but now includes vocalist Lisa Wood. 'Flightless' consists of 13 tracks full of melancholy atmosphere. There's a lot of old school flavor updated with a modern sensibility. Opening track "Liminal" is drum-heavy tribal in which we get a hint of Lisa's prowess with wordless vocals. The music still continues along tribal lines on "Cleansed" with the addition of doomy guitars and Lisa's vocals take center stage with a touch of the shamanic. Okay, I'm impressed now, but can they keep it up? Well, not really. Most of the rest of the album kind of sags and drags with mostly David on vocals. I'm getting rather bored until Lisa returns on the 12th track, "A Fleeting Moment" which is refreshing. She also appears on the final, and title track "Flightless". It's obvious to me now that without her vocals the songs sound lackluster. It seems to be a typical case of too much too little too late, but I've always been a picky goth when it comes right down to it. I wouldn't pass this up out of hand, but I would recommend listening to it first. Maybe you'll have more of a taste for David's vox than I did, and maybe you'll be less critical about the songwriting too.
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Artist: Guillotine Dream (@)
Title: A War on the Passage of Time
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Finally Guillotine Dream has a new full-length release, titled 'A War on the Passage of Time,' the followup to 2016's 'Lemuria' mini-album. For the uninitiated, Guillotine Dream is a UK goth band under the leadership of Ian Arkley (known as Arc in this project), who is better known for his Gothic Doom Metal band My Silent Wake. Guillotine Dream is really nothing like MSW, with a much more trad gothic rock sound along the lines of Fields of the Nephilim. While 'Lemuria' opened strong with its title track and showed much promise, it did sound a bit self-indulgent at times. The first two things I noticed about 'A War on the Passage of Time' is how atmospheric it sounds, and also how comfortable the band sounds with the material. Not to say that the songs sound "comfortable"; they're generally a bit more malevolent and darker than those on 'Lemuria'. Arc sets the mood right off the back with the fast-paced "Primitive," surely an attention getter. It's the medium-paced "Code" though that really draws you in. Even more atmospheric is "Succubus Sigh," a gothic love song devoid of sentimentality. "Signs" picks up the pace again in near breakneck fashion racing towards the edge of some unfathomable precipice and sailing over the cliff of doom with aplomb. I should mention that although Guillotine Dream often gets compared with FOTN, there's none of that undead ZZ Top vibe the Nephilim were so prone to. Arc's voice is not unlike McCoy's so that's why comparisons are often made. Title track "A War on the Passage of Time" is less dynamic than I expected, but it does ooze dark atmosphere. Even more effective though is "Darklings Rooms," a song that is Goth 101, but done perfectly. "Number 16" is about a house that you really don't want to visit; a place with a reputation for unspeakable evil. ("They say it's a house of death...nobody's welcome here...") "Dead Genius" is an agonizingly slow crawl that even with vocals is 90% atmosphere. The album ends with a reprise of "Lemuria" from the first album, but it's done a little different this time out- a little lengthier, dispenses with any acoustic guitar, and has a less goth-pop sound fitting in more comfortably with the other material here on this album. Which is better? (you may ask), to which I'd reply, they're both good in their own ways, but it's almost like a different song. While the former version is stronger, the latter is more atmospheric. In total, Guillotine Dream have managed to put out an uncompromising goth album to be reckoned with; one that does not sacrifice one iota of dark gothy atmosphere for the sake of commerciality. In these times, that's to be commended. (CDs are limited to 333 hand-numbered copies.)
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Artist: Aux Field
Title: Square Landscapes
Format: LP
Label: kotärecords
Georgia-based Rezo Glonti’s latest album comes with sparse background information and lets the eight tracks speak for themselves as they blend synth-electronica and elements of the most atmospheric edges of synthwave. Despite being drum-sound-free this is mostly rhythmic stuff, a modern take on proto-electronica with quite a fresh outlook.

At times, particularly in the very charming unfoldings of “Unstuck”, this feels like Jean-Michel Jarre background music, and if you slapped a strong melodic hook on the top you could pretend it was J-M-J. The second half of the album, in tracks like “Memo” and “Paragraph”, has a slightly more experimental feel, making more use of raw sawtoothed sounds and analogue (or analogue-esque) sonics.

The pulsing and tension in tracks like “Underpass 90” has a decidedly soundtracky feel that feels like it’s calling out for visual accompaniment, further helped by the fact that across the 41-minute duration it spans a variety of moods, with “Expending System” [sic] one of the more melancholy moments and “Garden In The Frame” evocative of slightly prolonged preparations for battle.

If scrabbling to find fault I might say that this release never really grabs your ears fully in the way it threatens to do at times, and last track “Fieldhead, Dear Friend”, despite the perfectly-timed note change at 2:14, ends up just slightly limp as a finale, but these are minor points to what’s otherwise a top-class bit of cinematic sort-of-synthwave.
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Artist: Chris Parmenidis
Title: 8B5C3B++
Format: CD + Download
Label: Focused Silence
Conceived as “the movement between different entities guided by the construction of continuity conditions”, this single 42-minute work is primarily conceived as an eight-channel installation that will be performed in a London church in October 2018. This is a studio-built stereo re-work, unusually released prior to performance perhaps to act as a ticket sales incentive.

In more practical terms what it is is a series of expansive breathy atmospherics, hums and drone washes over which flit small numbers of mild glitches and bleeps, processed high-pitched sound effects, synthetic bubbles and lazy semi-melodic tones. Occasionally, denser clusters of clicks and glitches conglomerate into harsher packets of noise but these are fairly quickly washed away into the reverb and emptiness, while at other points, glass-like tones give proceedings a more fragile feel. Plaintive radio-like signals in the second half sound like interpretations of interstellar waves transposed into emotive audible pitches, in a manner that scientists might pore over searching for patterns.

Listeners who like their electronic atmospheres to sound sparse, disquieting and sci-fi will enjoy bathing in this, but the bold press-release claims that “there is the whole history of modern digital culture wrapped in this singularity” are heights never properly scaled in a sonic work that’s polished and engagingly broody without really feeling like it’s pushing any boundaries.
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Artist: Gavin Guthrie
Title: The Totality
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Medical Records
Gavin Guthrie’s second album is a pack of ten DJ-friendly house tracks that gleefully play with acid, techno and synthwave elements in a manner that manages to feel both authentic and fun.

Opener “AciDDD-1” shows the enduring appeal of classic-sounding acid house, while “4 For Blood” also employs the acid squelches but with a more driving sawtooth-synth techno set-up that softens into a very-nearly-house-piano-led melodic second half. The title track has shades of Marshall Jefferson-style US house, to the extent where you keep expecting a deep American voice to cut in and start telling you how to move your body, before “Ectoplasmic Beats” has a more European early-pop-techno flavour to it.

In tracks like “Home Furnishings” there are some glitchy touches that expose the release as a modern production but for the most part it’s kept analogue and ‘real’, close enough to keep the purists happy for sure, an hour’s worth of tunes that inspire mentions of everyone from Adamski (the more underground stuff) to Richie Hawtin to Josh Wink. Some tracks stretch their wings a little further, such as the rumbling “The Impending” or more raw percussive-driven “Sound Mind In A Sound Body” which both have elements of 80’s industrial about them as well.

I’ve got a massive fondness for old underground club sounds- maybe just because I’m old- and that’s why I absolutely love this album. There are plenty of people plundering that era for sounds and ideas but it’s rare to hear it done with both the sincerity and the success of this collection.
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