Music Reviews

[ówt krì]: Ximenes

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 22 2019
Artist: [ówt krì] (@)
Title: Ximenes
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
In order to have an idea of what you can expect before starting the listening of this self-released album by self-taught sound artist Kenneth Kovasin, I could refer to something in between the outputs of Helixes Collective's imprint Aural Hypnox (considering both of them come from Finland or from some inter dimensional gate in that area of the planet!), Phurpa ritual performances and the atmosphere of tracks like Jocelyn Pook's 'Masked Ball' (the track of most famous lodge scene of 'Eyes Wide Shut'), to pick something more generally known. The above-mentioned references are just clues to find more or less the statistical area on the wider map of what could be labeled as experimental ambient or dark-ambient, but Kenneth's project, called [ówt krì] (the phonetic writing of the word 'outcry'), has its own peculiarities, in spite of any possible similarities. Honestly he doesn't show any relevant instrumental skill, but as far as I know, Kenneth doesn't describe himself as a musician. He prefers to focus on human voice on this act, that he manages to place with some interesting conceptual fences. The title of the album is a reference to Ximenes de Cisneros, one of the more controversial and extremely austere reformer and inquisitor of the Spanish catholic church. During his life he promoted massacres of Muslims in Southern Spain and crusades during which his army killed and enslaved thousands of African Muslims, but he hardly criticized the spreading of slavery between the American natives after the "discovery" of Americas by Colombo and prosecuted some Catholic Spanish priests, who didn't observe the compulsory celibacy and preferred to convert to Islam and escape to Africa instead of breaking their unions. Such a bizarre duality gets mirrored by the dynamics of the album that departs by the sinister obscurity of tracks like "Sacra Tenebris" and "Resurrexit Dominus" to the gradual ascension of "Salve Regina" and the oblique catharsis of "Ad Caelum", passing through tracks like "Parce Domine" or "Veni Creator Spiritus", where Kenneth gets closer to the style of the above-mentioned composition by Pook. All lyrics got taken from hisstorical catholic chants.

Nexus: The Taint

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 10 2019
Artist: Nexus (@)
Title: The Taint
Format: CD + Download
Label: Agoge Records (@)
Rated: *****
Here's another band from the Italian Agoge Records label called Nexus, and this time they really are gothic rock, well, sort of a goth-metal hybrid. Formed in late 2009 by vocalist/guitarist/composer Vlad Voicu and bassist Tony Di Marzio, they added keyboardist Lorenzo "Il Diverso" Mastracci a short time later and put out an EP called 'Death of Art' in 2013. So 'The Taint' is Nexus's first full album, augmented by live guitarist Diego Aureli and drummer Daniele DiGasbarro. One listen to 'The Taint' and you can tell this is a young band still finding their footing as they go, with some moments of awkwardness in song arrangements, and lacking in sonic variety to a degree. Still, you can also tell the band has potential, and an affinity for the darker side, which is requisite if you're going to call yourself gothic. Melodically the band harkens back to some of the goth-tropes of the '90s but doesn't wallow in the overwrought melodrama that could often be symptomatic of bands of that era. As a vocalist Vlad is pretty good when in melodic mode, but the few times he tries to "gruff it up" (for the harsher side of goth-metal) it doesn't quite cut it. His voice is a bit different than what you might be used to in goth-industrial music, but in this case, that's actually a good thing and works to the band’s advantage. Guitars are full industrial strength, but the keys/synths, although nearly omni-present, seem to rely too much on certain similar (melody) sounds throughout. I'm guessing this may be remedied by their next outing. Most of the songs are catchy enough, but you still get the feeling than in time, this band can do better. They seem to have the ability to create the perfect hit single, and even an epic track, but not on this album. The atmospherics just aren't in place yet, and the album seems to have a "live in the studio" sound that leans more towards ‘demo’ than full-blown production. Still, Nexus is worth a listen, especially since good new goth bands that don't sound like generic alternative ones are hard to come by these days.

This Void Inside: My Second Birth/My Only Death

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 03 2019
Artist: This Void Inside (@)
Title: My Second Birth/My Only Death
Format: CD + Download
Label: Agoge Records (@)
Rated: *****
This Void Inside was originally formed in 2003 by Dave Shadow (ex front man of Italian gothic act My Sixth Shadow) as a one man band experimenting new sounds and concepts composing new songs. In 2008 Dave decided to form a real band, put out an album called 'Dust,' played around a bit, then went dark. Flash-forward to 2016, he stated writing again and came up with a new band lineup- guitarists Frank Marrelli and Alberto Sempreboni, and drummer Simone Gerbasi joined the former members Dave Shadow and the bass player Saji Connor, releasing a new album titled 'My Second Birth/My Only Death'.

So this is Gothic Rock, eh? Well you could have fooled me. I suppose the cover looks gothic enough, and the band looks gothic enough dressed in black, with some skull T-shirts, but I guess any band could affect that look. So if this isn't goth-rock what is it? Plain and simple, alternative melodic pop metal. Not a bad thing in its own right I suppose, but it ain't goth. The 14 tracks on this album are just too bright, peppy, slick, polished and um, yes, too mainstream to be gothic in any way at all. Dave Shadow is a very good vocalist, and the rest of the band plays the material to the hilt, but you can't pass 'My Second Birth/My Only Death' off as gothic rock. Even as an alt-melodic-pop-metal band the majority of the material presented here sounds quite derivative. Nowhere is this more evident than on the song “Memories’ Dust,” with a chorus melody I feel like I’ve heard a hundred times before. Maybe that’s enough to get these guys the commercial attention they’re undoubtedly craving, but when it comes to gothic rock, I’m really expecting more. It’s the same kind of not-so spooky material you might equate with Sweden’s GHOST, which in spite of the costumes, masks and makeup are not goth. Yes, there are electro touches (synthesizers, keyboards) here and there in the music but what band (besides the guitar purists) hasn’t been doing that? It doesn’t make it goth. So if you want to keep calling your band gothic, that's your business, and saying “eh, not so much” is mine.

Dark Star Safari: s/t

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 09 2019
Artist: Dark Star Safari
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Arjunamusic Records
Newly-formed four-piece Dark Star Safari (comprised of individually well-established artists Samuel Rohrer, Jan Bang, Erik Honoré and Eivind Aarset) didn’t initially set out to write songs. Their initial direction was sparse instrumental improvisation around their relatively conventional musical set-up of guitar, synth, bass, drums and discreet live electronics. During the process, Bang felt the urge to sing vocals over some of the pieces, a move which the rest of the group took up and ran with, almost retrospectively grafting song lyrics onto their moody downtempo improvised post-rock.

Unfortunately, for my personal tastes, the addition of vocals comes across as a bad move. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the sparse, melancholic, low-effort, intimate-sounding vocals that come across as either a more gravelly Anthony And The Johnsons or a less cigarette-wretched Rob Dougan- but sadly there’s nothing much to inspire here vocally either. It’s all too languid and one-note. There are highlight moments- “Resilient Star” is one of the better ones, and the lighter mood of “Mordechai” is slightly David Sylvian-ish.

It’s a shame because some interesting improvised dark post-rock ends up taking a distinct back seat to these vocals. Some dark and sinister atmospherics end up getting sidelined and treated like wallpaper. The sheer sparseness of “Thoughts And Prayers” is captivating around the words, whilst “Child Of Folly” is reminiscent of some of the finest tracks from Resonance Association, who remain masters in this field to my ears. The warmer loops of final track “Fault Line” are also nicely detailed.

The vocals will appeal to some, I’m sure, but for me they’re an obstacle to enjoyment. Any chance of an instrumental version?...

Going to Catalunya: s/t

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 01 2019
Artist: Going to Catalunya
Title: s/t
Format: CD + Download
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Going To Catalunya is the "Independent Acoustic Wave Pop" project of the Dutch duo of Rob Keyzers (White Rose Transmission) and Frank Weyzig (Born For Bliss, White Rose Transmission). Well, at least I'm familiar with Weyzig and Born For Bliss; he used to be with Clan of Xymox and I reviewed positively a B4B album a few years back. Can't say I know anything about the other outfit though. You have to realize that this is just a couple of friends getting together to do a primarily acoustic (guitar, piano) art pop project, and not a real rock band, although that's where they're from. Some elements used here may be misleading though - electronic keyboards, programmed drums, electric guitars, etc., so it's not solely acoustic, just somewhat acoustic based. The concept (and by association, the project's name) was initially focused around Rob Keyzer's life journey to Spain, including the people and events involved during this period of time. The project (in total) comprises paintings, photos, stories and music. The painting can be seen in the cover artwork and also throughout the 12 page booklet. One song ("Polaroids") is dedicated lyrically to photographs and memories. As for the music, it definitely has a melancholy bent in a somewhat progressive skein. If you could imagine Anthony Phillips (first guitarist of Genesis, more pastoral since his departure) replacing Dave Gilmour in Pink Floyd, you might have some idea of what this sounds like. Anyone expecting any kind of heavy rock or snappy songs is bound to be disappointed. It's much more introspective than that, although lyrically, not what I'd call deep. Some will undoubtedly find that Going to Catalunya resonates very well with them. For me, although well-crafted, it was a bit too soporific for my taste.

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