Music Reviews

Andreas Gross: Goodbye Mainstream

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 28 2015
Artist: Andreas Gross (@)
Title: Goodbye Mainstream
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Andreas Gross is not only the name of this darkwave band from Cologne (Köln) Germany, but also its leader. On 'Goodbye Mainstream' Gross (who does most of the music and lyrics) is joined by Swenja Schneider (vocals) and Christian Bohr (guitars). Once again this is a new experience for me - 13 previous albums from them I have never heard. I'm beginning to fell a little "left out of the loop". So I spent a little time stumbling through their back catalogue (courtesy of YouTube) and found a similar thread - well orchestrated darkwave with ethereal female vocals. In my wanderings I found their cover of The Birthday Massacre's "To Die For", a sweeter, slightly less bombastic version which was actually very nice. Okay, I'm sold on the band's ability, and it is certainly worth checking out their other stuff, but on to 'Goodbye Mainstream'.

The album begins with a brief, atmospheric instrumental ("s.e.b.o.") before launching into the 50's chestnut "Sleepwalk" by Santo & Johnny Farina. This vocal version sung by Swenja in a nice clear pop tone is an unexpected delight. Somebody has to use this on a movie or TV soundtrack! It's faithful to the original, yet contemporary. Goodbye Mainstream indeed; it hardly gets more mainstream than this! Not for long though, as most of the rest of the album is balanced between darkwave and neoclassical. Bohr's guitar is always tasteful and never overbearing playing his part effectively on every track and Schneider's voice, while delicate is very pleasant and clear as a bell. Previously Andreas Gross had a tendency to wrap his lady vocalists in a hazy gauze, but not so here; her voice is mixed up-front.I don't think it takes anything away from these atmospheric songs. One song, an instrumental track titled "Time Seller" uses bagpipes for the lead melody. The original songs are all very nice, but nothing stands out like "Sleepwalk". As a bonus, a cover version of NIN's "Hurt" is added, with a rare vocal appearance by Andreas Gross himself. His voice is more wistful and fragile than Reznor's, making for a beautifully bittersweet version of this classic tune, and a fitting conclusion.

It would be hard to dislike 'Goodbye Mainstream' unless Swenja Schneider's voice doesn't resonate with you, and this may be Andreas Gross's most accessible album yet. Still, I wish there were a couple of tracks I'd find myself humming after the music ended. Perhaps if they keep this lineup that just may happen in the near future. Available in CD or vinyl format from Echozone.

Museum of Devotion: Another Cold Wave

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 26 2015
Artist: Museum of Devotion (@)
Title: Another Cold Wave
Format: CD EP
Label: Infrastition (@)
Rated: *****
Museum of Devotion is an Electro-industrial band from Ann Arbor, Michigan, consisting of James Cooper on vocals, guitar, keyboards and Robert Anderson on lead guitar, bass guitar and keyboards. Their first album, '...To the Pink Period' goes back to 1988. Then they were a kind of marginally interesting minimal Cold Wave band reminiscent of Joy Division, New Order and The Swans. A cult band to be sure. They've has a couple releases since then (haven't heard 'em) and now they've come up their latest, an EP titled 'Another Cold Wave'. Whatever charm they may have had "back in the day" has been completely lost on this one.

It starts out okay with a nice synth bass and drum groove on "Closer" (say, wasn't that the title of Joy Division's second album?) but then you get electronically processed vocals that lack any melodic interest whatsoever. The production is rather a mess too. The processing can't hide the off-key vocals and pretentious lyrics "..."closer to eternity... " are a real eye-roller. It only gets worse on "Lucky Charm". A driving beat and okay minimal synth but again the over-processed vocals and awful lyrics- " corsage in a pickup truck in the dark somewhere...don't even try said the man in black, if you fake the ride, you'd better walk the line." What the...? Even the aged Don McClean would be shaking his head in disbelief. I know they're really trying for a New Order kind of thing here, but guys, IT'S NOT WORKING! Adding in female vocals at the end doesn't help it any. Still, the song chugs on not realizing that it's a trainwreck. "Forgotten" manages to simultaneously incorporate the main riff from New Order's Temptation" and Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough". Not note-for-note, but too close for comfort. Other elements of the song are just a mess. Vocals buried beneath scads of processing, a wall of synth and/or guitar distortion, you can barely distinguish a verse from a chorus. Throwing in a few notes from DM's "Dreaming of Me" doesn't help either. Jeez, write something original already. Once again, female backing vocals can't save this. Final track, "The Trees" begins with a shoegazey ambience then rhythm with that (nearly) trademark New Order staccato bass, and a spritely melody from a synth with steel drum preset. Wordless vocals by an uncredited woman, a brief recitation about trees by a little girl. It's actually better than I make it sound; it's kind of bright and happy. Although the track is slight, it saves this EP from being a total disaster. You know I just have to scratch my head and wonder...why? The potential is there, somewhere. Better songwriting is the key. And cut back on that god-awful processing on the vocals. If you're going to do Cold Wave, either modern or retro, you need something melodically memorable that wasn't lifted from elsewhere.

The American Jobs: Carne Levare

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 14 2015
Artist: The American Jobs
Title: Carne Levare
Format: 12"
Label: Savage Quality Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
The American Jobs is an outfit led by Nathan Reynolds of Columbus, Ohio. Here Nathan does all of the lead vocals, and plays keyboards, guitar and bass. Other members are Brad Hershfeldt - saxophone, percussion; and Aaron Klamut- bass, drums, guitar; with additional musicians Jan Burton - drums (on opening track "In Caves" only), and Ilanna Kristiansen, Chelsea Meckley, and Nikki Portman - backing vocals (on "Black Tar" only). 'Carne Levare' is their debut album on vinyl released by Savage Quality Recordings. The label describes them as "Dark experimental post-punk/art rock from Ohio that brings to mind early 4AD records, World Serpent Industries and Thirst-era Clock DVA. Gothic post-industrial psychedelia of the highest order!" No it's not. None of those labels would ever have given these guys a recording contract even in their early days.

From the opening track "In Caves" the record does sound like it was recorded in caves, drown in a miasma of reverb, a crawling, dismal sludgefest going nowhere slow...very slow. Is this a joke? Was I playing it at the wrong speed? Apparently not. "Velvet, Moss and Flies" shifts gears a little but not much. Heavier percussion and eastern overtones, still with Mr. Reynolds woeful baritone warbling. Imagine a talentless Brendan Perry and you have some idea. Psychedelic? A bit, but it's a batch of bad acid to be sure. "Black Tar" is aptly named and based on a "Smoke in the Water" (no, not the same notes, but similar in concept) style riff and augmented with some female backing vocals. I don't know exactly why, but this song makes me think of the Manson (Charles, not Marilyn) family singing 'round the campfire at Spahn Ranch prior to the Tate-LaBianca murders. "Grace" is just an awful, mournful moaning dirge with tweeting birds in the background.

Things don't get any better on side B. "Jailhouse" sounds like a practice session of the Velvet Underground in Lou Reed's quieter moments, but only if the band was stoned out on a mixture of heroin and hallucinogens. No point in going into the other four tracks on this side; I've had quite enough, than you. Recording quality is abysmal, but perhaps they were going for that sort of lo-fi sound. Weird thing is, some people are really going to like this. By some of things I've read, some people already do heralding it as great bleak postpunk/no wave. Just don't count me among them. One star for showing up, the other for releasing it on vinyl, for whatever that's worth.

I.corax: The Cadaver Pulse I & II

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 11 2015
Artist: I.corax
Title: The Cadaver Pulse I & II
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Aural Hypnox (@)
Rated: *****
Stellar Mansion, the series that Aural Hypnox is promptly updating by means of re-releases from members of the Helixes collective, had another surprise for dark ambient lovers in store some months ago, the first two obscure official outputs by I.Corax, the brainchild by Anti AIH Haapapuro and Jaakko JKV Vanhala. Both pulses of the cadaver got assembled by heavily processed different sounds (human voice, animal noises, field recordings, wind and bowed instruments) that render deeply immersive and visionary sonic journeys whose effectiveness on listener's imagination got enhanced by the fact that the six tracks of the two parts - the darker "The Cadaver Pulse I: Sealed in a Radiant Larval Maelstrom" and the more etheric "The Cadaver Pulse II: Mothelix Liquescent" - got merged together for continuous listening. Far from being a listening experience for necrophiles in spite of its title, the dark arcane nuance of the sounds, its esoteric "dress" where organic sounds have been painstakingly distorted and triggered as if they were filtered by mind altering drugs as well as the references to hymenoptera of the subtitles that fittedly describes what you are going to listen in some way reminded me the so-called Monarch Mind Control project, a sub-program of the notorious CIA's MK-Ultra program I've read about after the case of Paolo Ferraro, a former Italian judge which got tossed out of the magistracy as a result of his investigations into a sect within Sovereign Military Order of Malta which involved military high-ups, famous psychiatrists, politicians and judges and supposedly performed this kind of programming in order to enslave weak-minded people, named after the monarch butterfly, but such a linking outlives the purpose of I.corax's stuff. I hope that some of the 500 copies of the box-set which includes six offset printed insert cards and a fou panel booklet - are still available for your aural pleasure.

Red Sun Revival: Embers

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 09 2015
Artist: Red Sun Revival (@)
Title: Embers
Format: CD EP
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Red Sun Revival is an alternative/gothic rock band formed in London, England in 2011. The line-up consists of vocalist/guitarist Rob Leydon, guitarist Matt Helm, bassist Panos Theodoropoulos, and violinist Christina Emery. 'Embers' is the band's followup to their 2012 debut album titled 'Running From the Dawn'. It's gothic rock/darkwave all the way. There is a passing similarity to Fields of the Nephilim, but I think RSR really has their own sound, although it's been culled from numerous influences in the late 80's-early 90's. The band presents a very full, rich sound, nearly orchestral, yet without an orchestra. On first listen, I didn't care much for Rob Leyden's voice; it's low, somewhat raspy and hoarse, and to me sounded too affected. I suppose the first time I ever heard Nick Cave or Carl McCoy I must have thought the same thing too, but after subsequent listenings, I've gotten used to it and it's grown on me. There is something about their sound that reminds of early-to-mid And Also the Trees as well. In order to really get a sense of where this band is now, I had to go back and check out tracks from 'Running From the Dawn'. 'Embers' continues on in the same vein as 'RFTD', but seems even stronger, more confident, a clear indication that the band has grown. What was rhythmically a bit stiff on the debut album has loosened up and become more dynamic courtesy of former Nephilim drummer Simon Rippin. The opener, "Mistakes" is a very powerful number, full to overflowing, and carries a hint of prog-rock in it, especially in Helm's soaring leads. Great beginning. 'Broken' tones it down a notch but still has a lot to offer sonically. It would make a nice B-side. "Surrender" sounds like the kind of song Leonard Cohen might write if he were in a gothic rock band. 'Embers' is the slowest track on the EP and there is a certain shoegazer element to it in its languor. Lyrically, Leydon wallows a bit in regret and the bittersweet taste of events of the past. Hopefully he can sweep those dusty, haunted cobwebs away for the next release and come out of the corner swinging for a knockout.

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