Music Reviews

Dark Star Safari: s/t

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 09 2019
Artist: Dark Star Safari
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Arjunamusic Records
Newly-formed four-piece Dark Star Safari (comprised of individually well-established artists Samuel Rohrer, Jan Bang, Erik Honoré and Eivind Aarset) didn’t initially set out to write songs. Their initial direction was sparse instrumental improvisation around their relatively conventional musical set-up of guitar, synth, bass, drums and discreet live electronics. During the process, Bang felt the urge to sing vocals over some of the pieces, a move which the rest of the group took up and ran with, almost retrospectively grafting song lyrics onto their moody downtempo improvised post-rock.

Unfortunately, for my personal tastes, the addition of vocals comes across as a bad move. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the sparse, melancholic, low-effort, intimate-sounding vocals that come across as either a more gravelly Anthony And The Johnsons or a less cigarette-wretched Rob Dougan- but sadly there’s nothing much to inspire here vocally either. It’s all too languid and one-note. There are highlight moments- “Resilient Star” is one of the better ones, and the lighter mood of “Mordechai” is slightly David Sylvian-ish.

It’s a shame because some interesting improvised dark post-rock ends up taking a distinct back seat to these vocals. Some dark and sinister atmospherics end up getting sidelined and treated like wallpaper. The sheer sparseness of “Thoughts And Prayers” is captivating around the words, whilst “Child Of Folly” is reminiscent of some of the finest tracks from Resonance Association, who remain masters in this field to my ears. The warmer loops of final track “Fault Line” are also nicely detailed.

The vocals will appeal to some, I’m sure, but for me they’re an obstacle to enjoyment. Any chance of an instrumental version?...

Going to Catalunya: s/t

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 01 2019
Artist: Going to Catalunya
Title: s/t
Format: CD + Download
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Going To Catalunya is the "Independent Acoustic Wave Pop" project of the Dutch duo of Rob Keyzers (White Rose Transmission) and Frank Weyzig (Born For Bliss, White Rose Transmission). Well, at least I'm familiar with Weyzig and Born For Bliss; he used to be with Clan of Xymox and I reviewed positively a B4B album a few years back. Can't say I know anything about the other outfit though. You have to realize that this is just a couple of friends getting together to do a primarily acoustic (guitar, piano) art pop project, and not a real rock band, although that's where they're from. Some elements used here may be misleading though - electronic keyboards, programmed drums, electric guitars, etc., so it's not solely acoustic, just somewhat acoustic based. The concept (and by association, the project's name) was initially focused around Rob Keyzer's life journey to Spain, including the people and events involved during this period of time. The project (in total) comprises paintings, photos, stories and music. The painting can be seen in the cover artwork and also throughout the 12 page booklet. One song ("Polaroids") is dedicated lyrically to photographs and memories. As for the music, it definitely has a melancholy bent in a somewhat progressive skein. If you could imagine Anthony Phillips (first guitarist of Genesis, more pastoral since his departure) replacing Dave Gilmour in Pink Floyd, you might have some idea of what this sounds like. Anyone expecting any kind of heavy rock or snappy songs is bound to be disappointed. It's much more introspective than that, although lyrically, not what I'd call deep. Some will undoubtedly find that Going to Catalunya resonates very well with them. For me, although well-crafted, it was a bit too soporific for my taste.

Anni Hogan: Lost In Blue

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Apr 07 2019
Artist: Anni Hogan
Title: Lost In Blue
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
Blue is the color of sadness as well as the color of the sky and both things are making us feel overwhelmed: the first because of the weight of our contradictions and the second because we feel the beauty and the vastity of the nature and we feel small in front all this. I read "Lost In Blue", the latest Anni Hogan album produced by Dave Ball and Riccardo Mulhall, as the tale of lost souls which wander taking life as it comes: sometimes there are sparkles of joy which explode like a baby's smile, sometimes moments of doubt and if you're lucky there won't be many of despair. In this album Anni is like the owner of a cabaret where people is coming in to share their experiences. Lydia Lunch, Wolfgang Flür (ex Kraftwerk member), Gavin Friday (formerly of Virgin Prunes), Richard Strange (Doctors Of Madness), Kid Congo Powers (of The Gun Club, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds andThe Cramps fame), Celine Hispiche, Scarlet West and John Fiddler are coming in, enjoining Anni while she's playing her piano with an orchestra. They are walking to the mic like their they're going to unload the weight of their lives by telling everything to a friend and they let themselves be carried away by the mood created by the music. Just to give you a precise idea, here's what the label's presentation is writing: "...dark cabaret and modern vaudeville, with Anni's trademark torch songs evoking the dimly-lit corners of bohemian Soho and reigniting the sordid torment of those illustrious Marc & The Mambas days". Anni is also singing some songs, joining her guests with the same sensibility they showed. The album has been released on CD (having a bonus track sung by Wolfgang Flür), blue and black vinyl. For the occasion four video have been released for "Blue Contempt" featuring Lydia Lunch, "Thunderstruck", "Ghosts Of Soho" featuring Celine Hispiche and "Angels Of Romance" featuring Gavin Friday. Lost but not damned!

Paracelze: Ptérodactyle

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 28 2019
Artist: Paracelze
Title: Ptérodactyle
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Cheap Satanism Records
With a set up of violin, bass and drums, Paracelze are a Swiss trio who set about making highly post-produced, electronics-heavy instrumental avant-rock without any guitars in it. And although they firmly brand themselves as metal or rock, the result is sometimes more of an experimental electronica package than perhaps they want to admit. Over steady, assured and sometimes Silver Apples-ish drumming are laid dark concoctions of twisted sound, broken found sound samples and growling fury. Meanwhile the distorted violin and bass work is a more than adequate substitute for a standard electric guitar.

“The Mystic Ride” shows off the balance nicely, ploughing a common but effective interplay between innocent-sounding xylophone-ish tones and gritty distortion underneath. It also demonstrates the band’s ability to “go pop” and step into more familiar-sounding arrangements that are accessible, and whilst they’re certainly not in the middle of the road, they are at least on a fairly major highway with it.

This dynamic persists for the half-hour duration, exemplified by tracks like “Sand Cloud”, with laid-back wig-out sections initially pulling you one way before a dark distorted second half throws you in the opposite direction- immediately followed by the title track’s very short-lived headbanging crescendo.

It’s an accomplished and nicely laid-out, compact little experimental album that is perhaps not as distinctive or unique as the publicity may lead you to believe, but if you like your rock both heavy but thoughtful, this is worth putting in your ears.

Ritual Howls: Rendered Armor

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 18 2019
Artist: Ritual Howls
Title: Rendered Armor
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Felte
Detroit trio Ritual Howls’ fourth full-length album feels like it’s fallen through a wormhole in time from the late 1980’s. The combination of twangy guitar and bass, slightly weedy synths and squelchy electronics, simple drum patterns, gravelly vocals and sinister lyrics evokes thoughts of just-going-dark Depeche Mode, Cassandra Complex, pre-acid Shamen, or from slightly earlier, more than a hint of Joy Division. This release does for the more gothic side of 80’s indie pop what synthwave does for 80’s synth works, except that it’s even more authentic-sounding, with every detail from the songwriting to the production rooted so firmly in that sound that it must surely be a deliberate labour of love.

Luckily the songwriting is strong enough to carry it as a worthwhile listen rather than a tribute exercise. “Love Cuts” exemplifies the tone well and has anthem potential among the band’s fans. I was drawn more to the tracks that leant more electronically, with “I Can Hear Your Tears” a strangely appealing bit of anti-disco with a perhaps unintentional feel-good atmosphere. It’s a compact set of pop songs, generally keeping things to-the-point and well under five minutes, and tracks like “All I’ve Known” cut a decent pace that keeps things moving nicely.

Sonically there’s more than a hint of nostalgia about it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing of course, and I’m sure there’s still a scene out there that will lap up this fresh material in a traditional style.

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