Music Reviews

Electric Bird Noise: The Moonflower

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jul 24 2017
Artist: Electric Bird Noise
Title: The Moonflower
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Media
Confusingly, the latest Electric Bird Noise release is simultaneously both the imagined soundtrack to a Philip James Fox play, and a ‘greatest hits’ release gathering together extracts from previous Electric Bird Noise releases.

Across the fourteen short pieces there’s a diversity which reflects the diversity of the project. From more straightforward meandering solo guitar pieces like the opening few tracks, some of which have somewhat drunken-sounding filters over them, to more fully-rounded shoegaze-type stuff like “Welcome To Static Beach” and “I Come From The Earth”, to fast punk workouts like “I Miss Those Hardcore Kids”, to the synthwave tones of “Carnegiea Gigantea”, it certainly tries to encapsulate a lot.

The diversity isn’t so broad that you would think “I can’t believe these all come from the same artist”, but it’s certainly a neat and versatile range that has the dynamic changes that make sense if you think of it as a soundtrack album. Alternatively it’s a decent sampler advertising Electric Bird Noise’s longer and more consistent previous works, but either way, it’s worth checking out.

Collide: Color of Nothing

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jul 16 2017
Artist: Collide (@)
Title: Color of Nothing
Format: CD + Download
Label: Noiseplus Music (@)
Rated: *****
'Color of Nothing' is Collide's 8th studio album and their first one in six years following 'Counting to Zero' in 2011. That album was a rather downtempo, melancholy affair that although well-executed, largely lacked the fire that they exhibited on 'Two Headed Monster' from 2008. There's fire aplenty though in 'Color of Nothing' and it begins with the aptly titled "Wake Up". If Collide's fans thought they had lost some of their industrial edge previously, I can tell you that it's back in full force now. The harder edge here is provided by the guitars of Kevin Kipnis (Purr Machine) and Scott Landes. Statik is still handling programming (electronics, percussion) and kaRIN has never sounded more seductively witchy. Something about the ways her voice was recorded on this album is really different. She is still immediately recognizable but there are places where her vocals are elusive as smoke. Statik incorporates a lot of melodic/rhythmic industrial loops on this album, perhaps more than he's ever used before. Where Collide had once flirted with taking over the mantle of the 90's band Curve (ie; The Secret Meeting - 'Ultrashiver') here on 'Color of Nothing' they do so forcefully and unapologetically. They even invited Dean Garcia back again to play bass on a track ("Fix"). This is a bigger, bolder and heavier album than they've ever done before. Although there's no definitive unified concept here, this is one of those albums that plays best as a whole rather than trying to pick some hit song, of which there isn't really one here. They're all good. Even though it took me a while to really get into 'Color of Nothing' it was worth it, and I think Collide's fans will think so too. It's an album that could only have been put out by a goth-industrial outfit of the calibre of Collide, and was worth the wait. I can only hope they'll feel like touring it.

Furvus: Aes Grave

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jul 04 2017
Artist: Furvus
Title: Aes Grave
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Dark Vinyl
The first Furvus album in eighteen years is a cinematic journey of gothic neo-classical dark drama. Long drone bass notes, religious-sounding organ and harpsichord arrangements and sparse, surprisingly prosaic, militaristic drumming combine into a sinister arrangement, over which pained, gravelly male vocals sometimes strain themselves in Latin. It’s not a comedy album.

While opener “Missio Apostate” is a strong introduction, it’s closing piece “De Rerum Natura” that is the definite highlight, with a strong sense of the culmination of all the expression and tension having built up to this determined release of energy that seems to make sense of everything that came before it.

Pieces like “Melopoeia pestilentiae, caudata domina nostra”, with its horses hooves, distant bells tolling and whispered Latin incantation-style vocal, do border more than a little on the gothic cliché, but for the most part it walks its own distinctive and sincere path. “Pos de chanter m'es pres talenz” predictably introduces a chanter into the mix and makes you wish its authentic evocative tones had been present more often.

“Mon In The Mone” stands out as anachronistic- a folksy guitar and multi-layered vocal affair that takes a break from the dark drones in favour of a more around-the-fireplace-in-the-pub singing tradition. The other unusual interlude is the Gregorian chanting of “Attollimus culignas, pro gloria Bacchi!”, which sounds like it’s been recorded in a road tunnel.

The production is good, but perhaps not as epic as it might have been. While many of the string and bass sounds are very rich, the drums sound thin and undynamic. The powerful acapella vocal that opens “Pos de chanter m'es pres tanlenz” somehow doesn’t cut through as much as it might. The end result is just a touch too muddy.

It’s a bold and very focussed statement that adds only the very slightest touch of modern production to an organic musicality steeped in both the Middle Ages’ primitive side and its religious pomp and circumstance. Limitations in the production budget are the only thing holding “Aes Grave” back from being truly stunning.

Elouise: Deep Water

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 18 2017
Artist: Elouise (@)
Title: Deep Water
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Well, this is certainly different! You've undoubtedly heard of Bluegrass music; you know - banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, etc., country style finger-picken, toe-tappin' good-timey stuff. Well, this ain't that. This is Blackgrass music, the antithesis of Bluegrass. From the band's one-sheet: "Fueled by a sordid real-life backdrop of good old-fashioned suicides, murders, and alcoholic depravity followed by church on Sunday, Elouise is an eccentric collaboration of Los Angeles-based musicians who came together to create an ominous, raw and cinematic genre of music they identify as Blackgrass. It is the sound of sin and salvation mixed in a dark cocktail with a taste of Bluegrass, a black symphonic sound and weary emotional vocals that tell original tales of struggle and re-imagine songs from our collective American consciousness." And that's the doggone truth, so help me Gawd. The CD cover ought to give some sort of clue- five ne'er-do-wells in stark black & white standing in front of a decrepit barn. That's got to be Elouise Walker (whom the band was named after) in front with them dead eyes (actually, too much eye shadow), not the kind of gal you'd bring home to mama. Elouise has the kind of voice that's all jailhouse Mallory from "Natural Born Killers" with a distinct drawl and the creakiness of an old porch rocking chair. Backed with banjo, guitars, cello, fiddle, and sometimes drums, harmonium, horns, double bass, accordion, bandoneon and marxophone, this band plays morose into magnificent. It's the kind of outfit you'd expect to be from New Orleans (Nawlins), Baton Rouge, the Mississippi Delta, or somewhere just outside of Mobile, Alabama, but certainly not LA.

The album is a mix of inspired originals and deconstucted and re-imagined classics such as "I'll Fly Away," "Amazing Grace," the Carter Family's "Shadow of the Pines" and Link Wray's "Fire and Brimstone." These ain't yo daddy's versions of these chestnuts; this is pure Elouise Country Gothic, slowed and simmered, steeped in the blood of the lamb, and kissed by the devil. One of the best tracks on the album is the booze-fueled "Saturn Bar," a Dixieland style funerary march to that famed New Orleans watering hole where danger lurks at every turn. It's a flavor Elouise capture perfectly, the sour taste, the smoky ambiance, the surrealness of the moment. They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Elouise proves it in "Hurricane" with her witchy warble over over pounding toms. (Best not go on any dates with a girl named Katrina.) For a brief respite from Ms. Walker, one of the guys in the band, Rich Dembowski takes over vocal duties on a couple of numbers, the best of which is "Oh Lord." Vocally he comes across like a combination of Ray Davies and Leon Russell, with the song more the latter than the former. Gotta love a line that goes, "...I ain't gonna get on my knees, I ain't gonna get on my knees and pray, til you and I get a few things straight.." There's also an amazingly sad gypsy cello and double bass solo by Michelle Beauchesne and William Bongiovanni titled "Evil." Any one of these songs would have been excellent to play over the end credits for the HBO "True Blood" series, but too bad that's long gone now.

This kind of music isn't going to be everybody's cup 'o mud, and to be perfectly honest, country, western and bluegrass is some of my least favorite music. (The only thing worse in my world is rap and hip hop.) But I have to say for me, Elouise holds some kind of fatal attraction.

The Last Days of Jesus: The Last Circus

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 28 2017
Artist: The Last Days of Jesus (@)
Title: The Last Circus
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****

The Last Days of Jesus is a band from Bratislava, Slovakia, and 'The Last Circus' is their sixth album. I've never heard any of their previous material, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. If somebody asked me if I'd heard of The Last Days of Jesus I might have thought they were trying to lay some religion on me. Well fortunately, this band isn't one of those Christian rock acts, or we'd be done by now. According to Discogs, they're a Slovak Progressive Goth Rock band that started out in 1992 to combine the spirit of old school Batcave and Deathrock with new musical sounds and patterns. To me, they sound more like quirky new-wave with a slightly prog-art rock bent. Also according to Discogs (font of information they are), the band's record label ZIM-ZUM s. r. o. is the company of Mario Poór, the lead singer of this band, calling himself maryO the Joker on this album. I put the label as self-released as I could find neither website nor email for the label.

While not strictly "circus music," 'The Last Circus' does have a certain atmosphere of carnival lunacy about it, as exhibited in the weird opener of "Joker's Aid" with lyrics intended to knock 'em dead - "...I can conjure up some oxygen, Can't see your lover, Through the smog in your room and Streets covered in murder..." Kind of like Batman's Heath Ledger Joker. Hmmm... The obvious hit single from this album is the next song- "Hop-Hop," a fast shuffle that would have deserved an MTV video in the 80's, and might have rocketed this band to fleeting cult stardom. Great hook about running away really, really fast. The instrumentation of the band is fairly standard - guitar, bass, keyboard and drums, but these guys have working this since 1995 and are a well oiled machine. Throughout the sixteen songs on this album the band never lets up with their energy and enthusiasm and though some tracks are better than others, this is the kind of album that maintains a certain level of consistency and interest throughout. maryO is the consummate showman entertainer throughout with a distinctive melodramatic vocal style. There's a hint of darkness woven throughout and a smattering of madness as well. To some degree I'm reminded of the more sinister aspects of Oingo Boingo, and to a lesser degree, Wall of Voodoo. Some songs have a cabaret flavor, especially in tracks like "Swing the Clown," "Arthenice," and "Cabaret of Life". Along the way there are nods to 1930's and 1940's performers like Cab Calloway and Raymond Scott. In a more modern vein they sort of sound like Electric Six meets the Cramps at a funeral party for Bauhaus. One of my favorite tracks on the album is (She's happy because) "She Died" (at my wedding...) which are the only lyrics in the song. These guys are delicious mad fun throughout 'The Last Circus,' and if you don't like the picture of the juggling ringmaster in the novelty diamond-shaped die cut on the cover, you can switch the booklet around to show Siamese twin showgirls. Absolutely worth a listen or three.

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