Music Reviews

Chvad SB: Structure

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 06 2018
Artist: Chvad SB
Title: Structure
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber
Apparently this is Chvad SB’s 80th release in about 27 years, which with some artists might imply that they’re knocking them out without much thought. And on the surface, the bold simplicity of the layered drones, strung-out notes and heavily processed guitar noodling in the two 22-minute pieces that make up “Structure” could imply that it didn’t take long to formulate. But scratch a little deeper and you find that, like strong minimalist art, the exceptional balance and control of this release is what makes it really strong.

Supremely long synthetic tones, some imitating strings, others their own form of steady tubular or sine wave beds, loop and loop. Six minutes into opening track “Column” we begin to hear the first elements that could be described as notes, playing out glacially slowly like the melody of a slow ice melt, before with admirable patience we are finally introduced to the reverb-soaked electric guitar sounds, which strum away with a surprisingly happy tone.

“Pillar” is a more echoey affair, with a hall-like ambience and gentle waves of electrical hum and interference sounds being cut through by spontaneous percussive tube hits and single strained guitar notes. Hints of American twang just creep into the guitar work at the end.

It’s yet another really strong bit of guitar drone from the very prolific and consistent Silber label.
Artist: Controlled Bleeding
Title: Headcrack - remastered
Format: LP
Label: Artoffact (@)
Rated: *****
One of the positive aspect/consequence of the launch of some new album by historical (but pretty unknown to younger generations) bands are the related reissue of some old entries. It's what happened on the occasion of the return of the legendary band Controlled Bleeding, whose recent album "Larva Lumps and Baby Bumps", followed by the remix collection of "Carving Song", was followed by the reissue by Artoffact of "Headcrack", the oddest (but maybe the best) release of Paul Lemos' brainchild, the album which was one of the turning point of their long history, when the band left the cacophonic style of their earlier outputs aside in order to develop a more original mixture of dark ambient and industrial. As I told, this turning point coincides with the alternation of remarkably bleak and creepy moments with paradoxically hopeful ones, to the point that you can't sometimes establish the exact separation of such a bipolarity. For instance, you can't really say the vocal chants they occasionally used belong to a hellish or a heavenly dimension, or if the ecstatic minimalism spread over the album are closer to the representation of deceitful illusions or, more likely, of a sort vividly blissful detachment. Under a more etheric point view (let's say so), it seems they translated into a necessarily bipolar sound the consequences of that fossilized rose (or the fossilization of love), portrayed on the cover artwork...damnation, blissful oblivion or maybe both. Cacophony sprouts again on the final tracks (the ones that have been left untitled in this remastered versions as well as on the head-banging and over-distorted noises of the last one, a remix introduced as "the missing Headcrack piece"), but such a resurface makes sense... Whatever you interpret this monumental industrial-ambient output, it's an essential building block of higher levels of modern music.

Alessio Santini: Kenter

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Nov 21 2017
Artist: Alessio Santini
Title: Kenter
Format: CD + Download
Label: Elli Records
“Kenter” is a four-track EP constructed solely from electric guitar and acoustic drums (and occasional vocals if we’re being pedantic), but processed filtered and post-produced extensively to fill it out into a rounded production of glitchy modern darkwave.

“Ffar” revolves around an ominous three-note theme that’s ‘bad guys slowly marching’ in film language, but second track “Sul Mae Nero” is more stripped back, with quieter drones, no central pattern, and this gives the glitchier sounds and atmosphere more room to breathe. The main distorted guitar re-appears with high shock value, with just an edge of gothic vocal that sounds like it happened to be recording in the room next door. Short third track “Sndaz Majorii” is equally open, but with whispered threats and more distortion to make something properly unsettling, before final track “Destroy Destroyers” is, despite its title, a lighter piece of soft pad-like guitar reverb tones and frenetic high-pitched drum glitching.

An impressive exercise in guitar processing and drum glitching, “Kenter” lives in very well-trodden dark and ominous territory but manages to forge its own unique tone nevertheless.

The Cascades: Diamonds & Rust

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Oct 29 2017
Artist: The Cascades (@)
Title: Diamonds & Rust
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
If you're from America it is likely that you've never heard or heard of The Cascades. Das ist eine Schande because you've been missing out on a great German Goth band...with a capital "G". The Cascades were formed in 1988 but didn't put out their first album until over a decade later in 2001. I first heard about them a little while back when I reviewed M.W. Wild's 'Third Decade' (solo) album here. Wild was (and now is again) the lead vocalist of The Cascades. At the time of the review I searched out some music by The Cascades (whatever I could find on YouTube) and said I wasn't overly impressed by them. Well, I don't remember what I listened to but it wasn't what's on this magnificent 28-track double CD. This is some of the finest Goth I've heard, period! 'Diamonds & Rust' is both a career retrospective and prospective of the best of the band's output from way back when until the present now. There are early demos, best cuts from the official albums, and also some brand spankin' new material. The Cascades band lineup now is: M. W. Wild- lead vocals; Morientes da Silva - Guitars; Markus Müller - Keyboards / Programming. Supplemental musicians are Tommy Dietweger - Drums, and Esther Widmann - Backing Vocals. (Of course there are a good number of musicians passed through the band over the years who are somewhere on some of the tracks of these CDs but I'm not naming them all.) Of the two CDs 'Diamonds' seems to be the more potent one as it consists mainly of the newer material. 'Rust' find the band at its beginnings but is still quite interesting to hear how they sounded and evolved in their early days. On a good chunk of the material The Cascades sound a lot like Sisters of Mercy due to Wild's vocal similarity to Andy Eldritch and Morientes' muscular guitar. The earlier material is less Sister-like because it's kind of obvious the boys were experimenting, and that's actually a positive thing. I think they were still searching for their identity which incorporated some electro elements, as well as influences from bands such as Fields of the Nephilim, Killing Joke, Bauhaus, and other similar goth luminaries of the '80s and '90s. During the period when Wild left the band (ostensibly to pursue a solo career) he was replaced with vocalist Ben Richter (2007-2010) and you can hear him on one track - "Everyday". Truth be told it's the weakest cut on both albums as he sounds a poor substitute for Mr. Wild in a lackluster performance. (Kind of reminds me when Rozz left Christian Death.) First of the new tracks (on the 'Diamonds' CD) is "Wenn Der Regen Kommt" ("When the Rain Comes") obviously in German, and the other "Phase" (Demo) is in English. Both are enhanced by the backing vocals of Esther Widmann. (Oddly enough in my review of Wild's solo album I mentioned that he could have benefited from a female backing vocalist on the order of Patricia Morrison...hmmm, possibly advice taken?) Both songs are very good in different ways, although I prefer "Phase" not just because the vocals are in English, but because there's a tinge of Bowie in it. This album won't be officially released until November 11, and if I were you I'd be counting down the days until its available. It is ever so worthy.

Sweet William: Organic Shades

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Oct 22 2017
Artist: Sweet William (@)
Title: Organic Shades
Format: CD
Label: Datakill Records (@)
Rated: *****
Although Sweet William's 'Organic Shades' is touted as their "acoustic album," it isn't entirely acoustic. There are electronic keyboards for string sounds, and some electronic processing on the acoustic guitar here and there. That should be of little consequence though as the songs on 'Organic Shades' have a gentler and milder tone overall. The album is collection of tracks of which some are covers of other bands and the remainder Sweet William tunes that have been reworked to a more acoustic format. Beginning with "A Face Without a Name" from their 'Time' album, the song is a semi-stripped-down version of the original, and if you never heard the original, you might actually like this one better. Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" is virtually unrecognizable from the original...Whitesnake unplugged? Nah, not really. Although Heuer injects some soul into this '80s hair band classic, this version makes you realize what a weak tune it was in the first place. "My Ignorance" (from 'Time') seems a bit more poignant in this quieter version than it did in the original. A definite misstep was doing a low-key version of Joy Division's "New Dawn Fades". I get it; you really, really like the song. It lacks the teeth it really needs though to get the point across. I think a better choice might have been Duran Duran's "Come Undone," but that's just my opinion. Covering Nine Inch Nail's "Hurt" is kind of a calculated risk. Sweet William's version has neither the angst of the original, nor the pathos of Johnny Cash's version, but it still manages to have an impact. "Ocean" (from their 'Ocean' album) is well done, but superfluous. It just sounds like an alt-take. Why Oliver and company chose to cover ELO's drowsy "Big Wheels" is absolutely beyond me. It's one of those songs that heavily relies on ELO's patently overblown sound, and try as they may, it still sounds lame. "Kind" was a great song on their 'Time' album and one of the few songs on this album that really deserves a mellower, simpler version to put it in a different perspective. Final track, "The End of the West" is a moody instrumental with ostinato acoustic guitar and moody synth strings....with bombs at the end!?! Overall, 'Organic Shades' is okay but not great, owing more to the choice of material than its execution. There are many great songs out there aching for a (acoustic) remake, and likely some from Sweet William's earlier repertoire. Maybe next time...

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