Music Reviews

Silver Dust: House 21

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Dec 13 2018
Artist: Silver Dust (@)
Title: House 21
Format: CD + Download
Label: Fastball Music/Escudero Records (@)
Rated: *****
'House 21' is Swiss band Silver Dust's third album, a melange of steam punk, metal, goth and prog rock that is really confounding. If you read through the lyrics in the booklet you'll find that this is a concept album with the story taking place during WWII where a soldier, sickened by the atrocities of war, deserts and flees the battlefield arriving at a creepy refuge (House 21) where the bulk of the story takes place. Certain lyrics are attributed to certain characters in the story, but the band's singer, Lord Campbell sings all of them so without the booklet you really won't know who's saying (singing) what. It's ambitious, but kind of a lot to swallow for the casual listener, but we'll soldier on anyway. After an atmospheric dark cabaret opening instrumental that reminded me of Netflix's "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" you are thrust into the doom metal of "The Unknown Soldier," (not a cover of The Doors song but an original) heavy with guitar and gothy keyboards and a singer who sounds like a cross between Ozzy and Pete Steele. The spooky-ooky carnival of souls-ish vibe on the title track is all rock & roll sideshow, and to me it sounds like Mr. Bungle for wayward goths and steam punkers. "Forever" dispenses with the circus act but sounds as if it could be any heavy guitar alt-rock band. "Once Upon A Time" is perhaps the most solid track on the album doing what this band sounds like they do best- vocally potent metallic rock with enough gothic touches to appeal to a black-clad crowd. Then they veer off into the ozone with the hardcore wacked and wacky "La La La La" and I feel like I'm in a Bungle nightmare again. Adding insult to injury, the next track is a cover of that Kim Carnes chestnut, "Bette Davis Eyes" featuring the vocal of Mr. Lordi of the Finnish metal band of (nearly) the same name. Of course it's a joke, but this makes as much sense as Thor singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" during the Infinity War. Perhaps it's ironic that the title of the next song is "This War Is Not Mine," a rather dreary ballad that's supposed to evoke some emotion and compassion, but when Lord Campbell's voice turns falsetto, it triggers an involuntary snicker. I can't help but think of Spinal Tap when it comes to "The Witches Dance," and although Silver Dust doesn't sound much like Nigel Tufnel, David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls, I picture the lit'l people of Stonehenge, and oh how they danced. Funny though, on the next track ("It's Time") they actually do sound like a parody of a metal band, and uh, isn't that just what Spinal Tap is? Last track, "The Calling" pulls out all the stops to give listeners the big finale they deserve for making it through this metallic phantasmagoria. It seems too much, too little too late though. On the positive side, everything is executed with ultimate precision, and the artwork in the CD booklet is very cool. It all depends on how much you're willing to buy into their concept for ‘House 21’ to make any sense, and perhaps this may be more apparent in Silver Dust’s live show, but chances are only fans of the band are going to get into ‘House 21.’

Sarram: Four Movements Of A Shade

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Nov 21 2018
Artist: Sarram
Title: Four Movements Of A Shade
Format: CD + Download
Label: Midira Records
“Four Movements Of A Shade” is a rather familiar-sounding exercise in guitar-driven drone and minimal post-rock, blending heavily effects-washed grungy shoegaze guitar chords with a selection of synth pads and other drones into a four-part, forty-minute work, a dark and intense brooding sonic journey with a raw, improvised-and-recorded-in-a-day attitude to it.

Part III drifts slightly closer to melody, the guitar sounds almost approaching U2 at one point, whereas other parts are more resolutely formless. There’s plenty of evolution within it, and although it’s only split into four parts, the progression within each is such that it could legitimately have been subdivided further.

The press sheet says you’ll love this record “if you like Sunn O)))” and also “N”, and I think that’s true- but you’ll also find it sounding surprisingly unoriginal too. This all feels like it’s been rather ‘done’- indulgent, brooding guitar noise taken towards, but not beyond, its logical extreme. Rich and immersive, yes, but as for inspired or inspiring, it falls a little short.

Pharoah Chromium: Jean Genet- Quatre heures à Chatila

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Nov 15 2018
Artist: Pharoah Chromium
Title: Jean Genet- Quatre heures à Chatila
Format: 7"
Label: self-released
This is a bold and powerful political 7” in which Elli Medeiros reads French-language extracts from Jean Genet’s essay “4 Hours In Shatila”, describing the massacres Genet encountered in Beirut in 1982. Underneath Medeiros’ straight and emotive reading, Pharoah Chromium lays down a pair of uncomfortable but not intrusive electronic drone environments, with gritty rumbles, odd whispers, occasional heavily processed guitar plucking and oddly plinky, almost stylophone-like improvised high melodic notes. It melds together into a powerful modern take on beat poetry without very much beat. It’s an expressive release that could easily have merited a longer exploration on its own, instead forming part of a larger project “Eros & Massacre” that, on the strength of this, is certainly worthy of attention for fans of politically emotive experimental electronica.

Buzz Kull: New Kind Of Cross

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Nov 14 2018
Artist: Buzz Kull
Title: New Kind Of Cross
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Avant! Records
With this solo album, Marc Dwyer, using his smart I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that ‘Buzz Kull’ alias, has offered up a compact pack of synth darkwave that follows a reliable formula- pulsing arps and bass squelches, fairly fast synth-rock drum patterns and gritty and distorted vocals. The closest comparison might be Depeche Mode, but it also sounds like, or at least influenced by, a variety of other dark electronic and synthwave sounds.

A slightly lo-fi and decidedly 80’s manner continues throughout, though it’s not an overtly retro release. It’s epitomised by tracks like “Existence”. When slowed down a touch, such as on “The Garden”, it starts to recall early-era Human League, while the slightly more techno-ish edge on “New Kind Of Cross” ends up being a highlight.

It’s book-ended by a couple of nice instrumentals, with “Flowers Have No Meaning” hinting at a more cinematic and sinister style that could maybe have been explored at more length.

It’s a half-hour that’s richly produced, for sure, and sounds rather personal, but it maybe lacks the special twist or the catchy hook that would make it stand out from the crowd. Dwyer is gigging around Europe at some length and it’s one of those releases that might sound better in a live context than at home.

Sphyxion: 2

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Nov 13 2018
Artist: Sphyxion (@)
Title: 2
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
Apparently it's a new name but Sphyxion is the minimal wave project of Frédéric and Olivier Charlot, better known as Maninkari. While their main project it's at the crossroad between classical and experimental influences, this one is more enjoyable as it makes heavy use of rhythm box while the drones frequently evolves in melodic lines and the use of female voices gives a pop touch to the whole. As the tracks are untitled, they will referenced by their number.
The first track opens this release with a structure centered a rhythmic cage and a buzzing background; as a voice is looping the effect is hypnotic. The melodic apertures of "2" reveals the influence of minimal wave and "3" inverts the canonical form of this genre as the synth is almost metronomic while the rhythm is slightly variated. The vaguely middle eastern pattern of "4" are matched by a rolling beat and "5" borders IDM with its complex but sonically skinny beat. "6" is catchy with its sort of glockenspiel used to expose the main melody. "7" is the first track not using a beat while creating a minimal lied with repetitive, but slowly variating, string melody. "8" use the amplitude enveloper to create a rhythm out of a oscillating melodic cell. The synth melody "9" emerges after misleading the listener with its introduction hinting a static track based on loops. "10" closes the release with a minimal wave track almost canonical but avoiding triviality.
With a more easy listening framework, it will probably attract more listener than the average Maninkari's release but they could be disappointed if they won't be patient enough to capture the subtle nuances in a apparently static form. Listen with care.

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