Music Reviews

Sweet William: Time

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 31 2017
Artist: Sweet William (@)
Title: Time
Format: CD
Label: D-Monic Records/Datakill Records (@)
Rated: *****
Now here's a band I haven't heard anything from in a really, really long time. Not their fault though. This German band was founded in 1986 by singer/guitarist Oliver Heuer, and has had dozens of releases since that time. I know I've heard them here or there before, but I can't remember when or where. I don't have time to walk their back catalog to catch up (more new releases keep pouring in every day) so I'll be primarily concerned with this one. From what I remember Sweet William was ensconced in the Goth-Punk-New Wave hybrid genre, and Heuer's vocals were a bit Nick Cave-like, while the music was reminiscent of The Cure and New Order. I also recall them being kind of raw too. Over time I think the band's sound was refined, and polished, and 'Time' reflects that. The band covers a lot of ground over 15 tracks on this album, and while not every one is a winner, there is still plenty to enjoy. The album starts out kind of weakly with the low-key "A Face Without a Name," but picks up steam as it goes along. "Funny" is a throwback to simpler times but has mood and groove. For some reason "Kind" reminds me of David Sylvian, perhaps more in the emotion department than anything else. Electro-techno elements burnish "Say Good Bye" and now we're cookin' with gas. "No Need To" has plenty of Goth atmosphere with its spooky theremin-like synth and understated, nearly moaned vocals. It also reminds me a bit of latter-day And Also The Trees. Nice guitar work too. "out of Here" is the first track with some real punch. This is the kind of stuff you'd expect from a good Goth band with 30 years of experience under its collective belt. They tone it down a notch with "Slowdown," a track with oodles of drenched in reverb psych atmosphere and seething darkness. "Room" is the epitome of '90s Goth, yet with a sort of twist. It will remind you of what you liked about Goth bands in the first place. "Yesterdays" is another strong song with a simple but memorable guitar riff and a nice chugging groove. Bet it goes over good live. "out of This Blue" has a very Nick Cave vibe to it. "Magic of The World" is an interesting number that instrumentally builds with layered sequenced synths a good 2.5 minutes before any vocals come in, and when they do, they're synth-processed. The lyrics are mainly the song title, and perhaps that's all that's needed here. The ironically titled "Slow" really isn't slow at all and has this great moving bass riff with vocals that ooze over the top like molten frosting on a burning cake. "My Ignorance" should have been a better song with a good beat and great guitar work but just falls short of being memorable lacking a potent hook. That's redeemed though with "Confusion Taking Over" a mind-bending gothy psych-out that's bound to leave an impression. It all ends on a "Summer Night," a song with a provocative groove, some nice unexpected changes to keep it interesting and a moody atmosphere.
Overall on 'Time' Sweet William exhibits a good degree of sophistication with effective arrangements, excellent use of keyboards and electronics and varied songs. Worthy as it's bound to grow on you and stay on the playlist for quite some time.

Slim Cessna's Auto Club: Cypher

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 13 2017
Artist: Slim Cessna's Auto Club (@)
Title: Cypher
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Rated: *****
Slim Cessna's Auto Club has been around for a long time, since the early 90s. They're an American band originally from Denver, Colorado with musical elements of country blues, gospel, folk and other forms loosely grouped as Americana or alternative country. The only reason why they're getting a review here is that they're supposed to have an aspect of "Southern Gothic" to their music. Throughout this album that aspect only surfaces occasionally in my opinion. For the most part 'Cypher' plays like alt-country rock, and there's way too much religion (or pseudo-religion) woven throughout the fabric of this album for my taste. More often than not, these guys sound like the warm-up act for a fire & brimstone preacher at a tent revival. They are competent musicians and vocalists but their material left something to be desired. If you're going to call yourself Gothic in any way shape or form, there's got to be a dark element incorporated into the music. It surfaces only a couple of times on 'Cypher' - on the tracks "Americado," and "Jesus Is In My Body - My Body Has Let Me Down". Yeah, there's a lot of references to Jesus on this album, also to "braces"; in fact there are four different versions of "An Introduction To The Power Of Braces" a song about wearing braces on arms, legs, teeth and faith. According to the accompanying one-sheet, "braces" is coded language. Whatever. The song reprised three times is thrice too much. As you you might surmise by now, I didn't care too much for Slim Cessna's Auto Club or 'Cypher' which was originally released in 2008 on CD but has been just re-released on their own label on a double-vinyl gatefold LP. Of course, they didn't send me that, they sent the CD because vinyl is expensive ya know, and why waste good vinyl on reviewers, especially if they may not like it. Well, this time they guessed right.

Jo Berger Myhre & Ólafur Björn Ólafsson: The Third Script

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 08 2017
Artist: Jo Berger Myhre & Ólafur Björn Ólafsson
Title: The Third Script
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro Music
“The Third Script” is a pack of four ‘ambient gothic’ pieces where slow steady percussive rhythms are the backbone over which layered double bass, long synthetic chords, drones, found sounds and relatively mild electronic bleeps and twitches meander at what is generally a very moody walking pace. Recorded in Iceland, it’s evocative of trying to traverse Iceland’s road number 1 on foot- views that are simultaneously both majestic and barren all the way, underpinned by the steady necessity of left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot...

At points, the gradually building start of opener “1000%” sounds as though at any second it could break into a massive Pendulum-esque slab of EDM, but what arrives is far removed from that. Some of the percussive elements are repurposed and recycled industrial objects or even flotsam, which leads to a very rough-hewn rhythmic tone.

The title track is the longest and most sparse piece, with the percussion mostly removed and the spontaneous double bass bowing often allowed to stand completely alone in an elegant warehouse space. This tone is also initially followed in third piece “Orifice”, though as we progress through this orifice (erm…) the rhythms and tensions gradually reappear in a way that feels very nicely mapped out. Final piece “Ravening” has a more accessible, soundtrack-like feel thanks to the more prominent and relatively mellow piano work.

It’s a very neat and well sequenced package that, while not pushing any boundaries with its experimentation or any distinctive instrumentation, can win you over on its sincerity alone.

Veil Of Light: Front Teeth

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 07 2017
Artist: Veil Of Light
Title: Front Teeth
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Avant Records
Stepping up the tempo and attitude from previous releases, Veil Of Light’s new LP (or CD or digital if you prefer) is a revamping of the punkier side of new wave, constructed with a production blend that’s for most part retro 80’s, and for the lesser part modern thumping techno. Here are ten tight, energy-packed, radio-edit-format (nothing over 4 minutes) pop songs with distorted male vocals, heavy guitars and attitude-laden, fast-retriggering drums.

The lo-fi parts of the production are sometimes reminiscent of Mesh’s early demos and at times faintly KMFDM. The goth-ish lyrics are sometimes hard to discern and veer dangerously towards cliché on tracks like “Cut Out Your Name”. The more distinct melodic elements of tracks like “Body To The Ceiling”, “Strum Und Drang” and the surprisingly bright “Under A Sun That Never Sets” end up being the better bits.

It’s somewhat surprising how backwards-looking this release is, no more so than with the film dialogue samples and orchestral synth stabs of “Fight Fire With Fire”. It’s an approach really inhibits its ability to impress or stand out. It’s solid and obviously heartfelt but sadly too forgettable.

Irmler / Oesterhelt: Die Gesänge des Maldoror

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Aug 03 2017
Artist: Irmler / Oesterhelt
Title: Die Gesänge des Maldoror
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Klangbad
Assuming my German is just about adequate enough to understand the press release correctly, “Die GesÄnge des Maldoror” is a mostly-instrumental musical setting inspired by the six cantos of the influential Isidore-Lucien Ducasse writings of the same name from 1869.

It’s a startling and dynamic six-part epic composition combining a compact traditional orchestra with a sprinkling of added ingredients ranging from prog rock-style heavily effected guitar through to electronic ambience.

After a deceptively calm start, the first and longest part is a multi-sectioned affair full of percussive shifts and tension, with a theatrical flavour. The short second part pushes the prog rock elements and will appeal to King Crimson fans, before the third part shifts gear boldly into a pared back near-minimalist environment of soft drone, distant indistinct solo choral voices and gentle bells- towards the end of which, the German spoken-word reading of the text sharply jolts the listener’s complacency.

In some ways, the second half mirrors the first. The fourth part brings back the orchestra, with gentle plucked strings, before yet another unexpected diversion into analogue synth noodling reminiscent of very early Kraftwerk, that then somehow hops into downtempo jazz. The fifth part, another highlight, loops us back round to the rock guitar, with added sharp-edged cuts and distortions, which fades as the more conventional orchestra returns, before the sixth and final part offers us a sombre analogue-electronics-heavy finale.

Every time you think you’ve settled into the listening experience of this album, things shift- but in a non-brutal way that keeps you along for the ride. It’s a fascinating, expansive, melodramatic and high-budget affair which deserves a lot of attention.

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