Music Reviews



Jonathan|Christian: Beautiful Hideous

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 25 2014
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Artist: Jonathan|Christian (@)
Title: Beautiful Hideous
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Jonathan|Christian is Jonathan Mooney, former keyboardist of the New York based band The New Creatures (now living in Los Angeles, California) and Swedish artist Christian Granquist, having spent some time playing with the power-pop trio Day Behavior and now the keyboardist of Stockholm electronic band, The Atom. (Granquist is the vocalist of this project.) 'Beautiful Hideous' is the debut collaboration of this trans-continental project, and it's already garnered quite a buzz. When I first popped the CD in to play it blind (as I often do, without reading any accompanying material to get a totally objective sound experience) I though I was hearing a new Peter Murphy solo album. Closer listening made me think 'that's not PM, but it does sound uncannily like him'. But not always. Sometimes Granquist sometimes sounds a bit like Bowie, like on 'Before The Dark' a romantic gothy power ballad. Some of the lyrics are even sung in French. In fact, the whole album has a romantic-goth bent to it. The music isn't just keyboards and a drum machine; it sounds like a full band including guitar, although the keyboards are predominant. Very well-produced too. It's a grand style these guys have latched onto, as good if not better than anything else currently out there in this vein. Granquist's lyrics are superb, full of appropriate imagery, pathos, and high drama. It works very well with his voice. Mooney is a most effective composer for this kind of material too, as well as an excellent arranger and player. If there is a word for this album, it has to be 'atmospheric'; there is definitely a brooding mood throughout. Nowhere is that more evident than on their cover of Duran Duran's 'The Chauffeur'. Rather than sing the lyrics, Granquist chooses a recitation for most of it until the end, turning the song into something more'¦sinister. (Although I do like DD's video of the song, it might even be better with this version.) The one thing I wish they had done is a real uptempo rocker. I know they might have thought it would be a mood spoiler, but I don't think so. There are a couple of remixes on the album- one by Attrition's Martin Bowes ('I Walk This Earth Alone'), the other by Bryin Dall of Thee Majesty, 4th Sign of the Apocalypse, Dream Into Dust, A Murder of Angels, Loretta's Doll, etc (title track 'Beautiful Hideous'). Although neither are radically different, they do offer another perspective on the songs, and both are quite enjoyable.

If there is one track on the album that's an attention grabber (if not a hit), it's 'Fallen' with its killer chorus. That song alone should have big labels rushing to sign these guys, but you know big labels these days, a bunch of bitchy little girls. I'd be very interested in hearing what the follow-up to 'Beautiful Hideous' might be. I'd also be interested in seeing of there are any tours planned (a tough thing for trans-continental projects like this). I'd see them if they came to New York. So would a gaggle of goth girls I imagine. How could they resist the tragic romance of Jonathan|Christian?

Nouvelle Phenomene: Glory Of Romance

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 24 2014
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Artist: Nouvelle Phenomene
Title: Glory Of Romance
Format: CD
Label: Other Voices Records (@)
Rated: *****
After the single released on the last summer, Nouvelle Phenomene are releasing, always through Other Voices Records, their debut album "Glory Of Romance". As I wrote on my previous review, they are from Budapest, Hungary, and the line-up is formed by Santa Angela, Santa Fanni, Dziba Zsolt and Peter Buza. With their music they pay tribute to the glorious days when Steve Strange and Visage partner Rusty Egan began to make a name for themselves as a nightclub host and DJ respectively at "Blitz" in London. The opening "Au Fond De Mon Coeur", even if it's personal and catchy, because of its atmospheres will make you remember "The Damned Don't Cry". Human League, Visage, Ultravox are all in the band's dna and helped crafting eight great songs that sound sensual, Mixing danceable songs like "Cruel Game" (that would be ready to be used on a fashion commercial, looking at today's attitude) to melancholic mid tempos sung in French and English (check the beautiful "All Away" which is another instant hit), Nouvelle Phenomene did a perfect album for the lovers of these sounds... like I am. Pop melodies, great synth sounds, lushy pads and atmospheres make you will hang a disco ball on your room and let yourself loose to the music. Check and purchase it here http://othervoicesrecords.bandcamp.com/album/vox-21-cd-glory-of-romance

Kofe: Balance

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 24 2014
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Artist: Kofe
Title: Balance
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Other Voices Records (@)
Rated: *****
Kofe were a Russian band active during the mid 80s which recorded only two records and disbanded in 1986 due to different point of view between the band members. Meaning coffee, the band's name was picked up to underline the differences from the previous generation of rockers that was used to consume alcohol. They were original in many ways as you can listen on this reissue of their second album "Balance" just reissued by Other Voices Records in LP+CD and CD. They were playing a sort of synth wave that on different tracks was transcending toward cinematic atmospheres thanks to the use of vocal samples or to tracks like the opening and the closing tunes (I'm sorry but all the titles and in cyrillic and I can't name them) which are sounding like radio transmissions from the cold war... well those were the years. They had a hit out of this album, the song "Zero" had video which was broadcasted on the Leningrad TV programmes Pop Antenna and Spinning Disk. Kofe gathered the synthwave look and iconography and even if on a track you can hear echoes of Duran Duran's "Planet Earth", they weren't afraid to experiment with sounds and effects. Using noises, samples and modified vocals they were able to make fresh and inspired analog electronic wave. Great release!!! You can check it here http://othervoicesrecords.bandcamp.com/album/vox-20-cd

Aaron Poehler & Ryan Tully-Doyle: Dietrich

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 20 2014
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Artist: Aaron Poehler & Ryan Tully-Doyle (@)
Title: Dietrich
Format: CD
Rated: *****
'Dietrich' is a collaboration between Aaron Poehler (guitars, vocals, bass?)) and Ryan Tully-Doyle (drums), from out of San Diego. Poehler used to be in a band called Daisy Glaze (name taken from the song of the same name by Big Star?) when he was in Indiana, but I never heard them, nor have I heard the couple of solo albums Poehler released. On first listen 'Dietrich' sounds a lot like Joy Division with a growly gravelly baritone vocal similar to the guy from the Crash Test Dummies mixed with Fields of the Nephilim's Carl McCoy, lacking a bit of the menace. Opening track 'Sleepless' is a hard charging hot mess with vocals nearly buried in the wall of guitar noise. Actually pretty cool! Thereafter, things rapidly cool down with a more open and slower track, 'And in the End' where you Poehler's vocals are brought to fore. The song was didn't seem to be one of their stronger efforts. Thinks pick up with 'Right Behind You', arguably the most commercial and memorable track on the album, which would fit comfortably on most indie radio playlists. 'Aerial' sounds like sped-up My Bloody Valentine (except for the vocals) with its twisting wall of guitar noise. By this time though, I'm sensing Poehler's songwriting is of limited dimension. 'Everyone Knows Her Name' retires to MBV speed, and things do sound a bit warped instrumentally, but Aaron's voice is beginning to wear on me. The predominant bass line carries 'Anhedonia' once again into Joy Division territory, but other than that, it doesn't have a lot going for it. 'Unwinding' is an atmospheric piece of noise pop, with Ryan singing (for a change), and his vocals are a lot closer to MBV's Kevin Shields. While not the hit of the album, it does provide some welcome relief. Nothing much really stands out on the rest of the album, and all I can really figure out is that the songwriting isn't particularly scintillating from this point on. One may wonder why these guys even got a review here being closer to alternative guitar-based rock than what we usually cover. The album only skirts the edge of darkness; is only vaguely experimental; doesn't fit easily into any of Chain D.L.K.'s categories. The obvious reason would be that it was submitted for review, but my reason is that I sense the potential if they could just stretch out and embrace more experimental regions. I actually like the playing on the album a lot. Poehler's voice might be a bit problematic; Tully-Doyle's is under-used. Still, for those looking for artful noise guitar bands, you might want to check this out. You can find digital downloads of 'Dietrich' on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, etc, but if you want the physical CD, you'll have to get it at their Bandcamp site page.

Lahka Muza: Byt Tvojim Zrkadlom (To Be Your Mirror)

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 15 2014
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Artist: Lahka Muza (@)
Title: Byt Tvojim Zrkadlom (To Be Your Mirror)
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Slovakian darkwave band Ľahká Múza has been around a long, long time, going all the way back to 1984, and releases as far back 1989. 'Byť Tvojím Zrkadlom' ('To Be Your Mirror') is now their 8th album, this one self-released on their own EXcentriX Records label. If you're American, you probably never heard, or heard of them. If you're from Europe, chances are you have, and know what an iconic group this is. The core of Ľahká Múza is Gudrun Snake (vocals) and 677 (guitars). Their sound could be described as a cross between earliest Dead Can Dance and Siouxsie & the Banshees, though sounding specifically like neither. Gudrun has the power of Lisa Gerrard's vocals, but with a more shamanistic, witchy twist, and 677 makes use of that Banshee signature flanged guitar sound, alternately with heavy sustained fuzzy distortion. This became the hallmark sound of many '90's goth groups in this vein, but Ľahká Múza has it down to a tee. There is nothing 'pop' about the music of Ľahká Múza; it is dark, ritualistic, mysterious and oh so foreign to Western ears, yet somehow familiar. All songs are sung by Gudrun in the Slovak language, and sometimes just sounds more than words. This has a very dramatic effect, even if you don't know what she's singing about, which for those unfamiliar with the language (most of us) can be very compelling. (Hey, Gerrard's vocals in DCD often weren't decipherable, but no less compelling.)
Although there are drums and percussion, 'To Be Your Mirror' isn't in any way typical dark dance floor fodder. For one, the percussion (presumably drum machine) often carries a martial beat in one form or another. Reverb swathes the vocals and guitar, and there is an often present bass drone in the background. Gudrun's voice often has an operatic quality; in fact, at times she sounds like two different singers ' the operatic diva, and the witchy evil sorceress. Her vocals soar to uncanny heights, then swoop down low like a raptor after its prey. The music is heavy and thick with atmosphere, and though you may swear you've heard something like this before, you really haven't. 'To Be Your Mirror' maintains its austerity throughout, never deviating from the unworldly aura it presents. Quite uncompromising is Ľahká Múza, and live Gudrun presents herself as a stark fetish figure, the dominatrix supreme. This isn't what I call casual listening; it literally demands your attention. There are some keyboards here and there (most notably on final track 'Symmetry') but the music is primarily guitar-based, and none the worse for it. Definitely worth seeking out, 'To Be Your Mirror' seems as a refinement of the band's previous musical efforts. (You'd probably have to order the CD directly from Ľahká Múza on their website because I don't think their distribution extends to the U.S. yet.) Gudrun and 667 also have a side project called Hieros Gamos (please, please send me the CD to review), the main difference being that the music is more keyboard/synth and fetish oriented, but no less austere. (A little like Die Form in a way.) I only wish they could perform in the U.S., for if they did they would certainly enthrall the lovers of dark music among us.


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