Music Reviews

Florian Grey: Ritus

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 09 2018
Artist: Florian Grey (@)
Title: Ritus
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Florian Grey is a German gothic rock band fronted by vocalist Florian Grey, with bandmates Von Marengo (guitars); Yannik "Rage" Bockelmann (drums); and Simon Zlotos (keyboards/bass). Hell Boulevard Frontmann Matteo Vdiva Fabiani also provides some guest vocals. 'Ritus' is their sophomore album after 2015's debut, 'Gone'. Mr. Grey was previously with the band Eve's End, and although he started this new enterprise as a solo project, it's developed into a regular full-time thing. One listen to 'Ritus' and it sounds like these guys have been around a lot longer than 2015. There's a professional quality to it that bespeaks lots of experience, and although some of that may be due to producer Hilton Theissen, it's Florian and the band that are doing the heavy lifting here. The first thing that makes this band stand out is Florian's strong, distinctive, melodic baritone vocals. Nothing gruff, screamo or harsh here, just an excellent voice. Next thing you may notice is the plethora of hooks, and while not all equally potent, there are enough standouts to make you want to hear them again, and that's a really big plus. Third is the musicianship and arrangements, both of which are impeccable. With all three going for the band, this is a killer combo. And it's not just the songs, but also the atmospherics which are important in gothic rock. Although the band does occasionally sound more alternative than goth (owing to a more pop-commercial than arcane appeal) there is enough dark matter to pull the listener back to the black. While I wouldn't call the band goth metal, Von's guitars have plenty of edge that often lean in that direction giving the band a certain toughness, especially on "Blucifer" (which opens the album), and "Relief," two of the best rockers on the album. Another song that deserves mention is "My Babylon," perhaps the real hit single off this album. From song to song there is plenty of variety- up, down, and mid tempos that keep the listeners engaged. And of course, all songs are sung in English. You know, some of the best gothic stuff is coming out of Germany these days (Such as the band The Cascades) and with Florian Grey's crossover appeal, they really should be popular in America as well. (Why can't we have talented bands like this here instead of the crop of whiney-ass millennials that always seem to be in the spotlight?) Unfortunately it's expensive to tour (especially in the States) and unless there's a big pile of money behind a band, it just can't happen. For my money though 'Ritus' is an excellent album, well worth purchasing, especially in an age of hit-or-miss efforts. You should visit Florian Grey's website too because it's very well done, better than mnany I've seen and that's another plus.

Semiotics Department Of Heteronyms: s/t

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 24 2018
Artist: Semiotics Department Of Heteronyms
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Avant! Records
When reviewing recent single “Tell Them”, I praised the 3-pack of slightly hard-edged synthwave-synthpop, saying “if an SDH album appears I will definitely check it out”. Now that the album’s here, my expectations are met, but perhaps not exceeded.

Here you get eight strong bits of synth songwriting, some pop-radio-edit length, others allowed to breathe a little more but never straying too far from conventional song structure. There’s a slightly lo-fi, proto-techno analogue feel to the warm analogue low end sounds and the sometimes rather echo-heavy vocal treatment that gives everything a gently raw flavour. Firmly rooted in the sonic values of the synth 80’s, it rolls along nicely but a little predictably at times, and by the time you reach “What Did I Come For”, you do begin to wonder whether more synth sounds might have been available.

The vocals are quite velvety and confident, but never really pushed very hard, tending towards whispered and even spoken-word vocal lines rather than anything bolder. The PR sheet’s comparison of the vocals to Dolores O’Riordan is a little ambitious, though you do hear the same celtic twang in “She Uncovers Before Me”.

Perhaps predictably for a first album there’s a feeling of defining a sound rather than pushing it here, epitomised by tracks like the strong “Guilty And Gifted”. “Mean” is the most ambitious track, a pulsing seven-minute affair with quite a cinematic feel.

A strong, relatively compact bit of dark synthpop with more than one foot facing to the past, SDH’s self-titled first full-length album is steady rather than amazing.

Reanimation: The Ghost of the Muse

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 13 2018
Artist: Reanimation (@)
Title: The Ghost of the Muse
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
You may recall Reanimation from the 'Under The Last Tree On Earth' album a few years back. It was a unclassifiable eclectic ear (rock) candy, and 'The Ghost of the Muse' is apparently set to eclipse it. While 'UTLTOE' was a moody, melancholic strange brew, 'The Ghost of the Muse' has a harder edge with more definition and less self-conscious introspection. Not to say the prior album didn't have its moments of punchiness (it certainly did), but there were a lot of aimless, passages that although atmospherically nice, seemed to lack focus. Some other things were just too repetitive. 'The Ghost of the Muse' opens strong with the rousingly psychedelic "Everything Is Not A Happy Ending," taking its time to build but by the time it gets to the chorus, it's smokin'. For some odd reason I'm reminded of Steve Hillage's work outside of Gong. The followup, "Tears Do Not Burn," is more straight-ahead, less obscured in purple-hazy guitar with a folksy harmonica sound on the riff and a post rock sensibility. Good track. "Silently Screaming" comes off like one of Brian Eno's softer (non-ambient) tracks, in a mellow melange of perfection, yet picks up steam as it goes along. Speaking of Eno, Michael Shanahan's (he who is Reanimation) vocals have never sounded more Enoesque than on this album. "Without You (Close Your Eyes)" has a repetitious chord backing throughout but never seems to get annoying. Shanahan seems to be becoming quite adept at writing these easygoing yet foreceful psychedelic numbers that in a fair and just world would be getting an awful lot of attention by now. But we all know we don't live in that kind of world, do we? "Plane Crash Smiles" is a frenetic psych trip that just soars over and above it all. Repetitive staccato piano chords are the backbone of "The Point of Collapse," and while not the best track on the album it has enough psychedelic fireworks to keep all but the most jaded interested. "Silently Screaming (Reprise)" ends the album, with acoustic guitar, and is a bit reminiscent of Pink Floyd. At 43 minutes this is kind of short for an album, but thankfully it's devoid of filler that many artists put in just to get an hours+ worth of material. The release is on (Limited Edition) vinyl, so maybe that has something to do with it. CD as well, for those of you lacking turntables. While the music (and vocals) on 'The Ghost of the Muse' is absolutely marvelous, there are some inherent problems; it sounds a bit too compressed and the vocals aren't as up-front as I'd prefer. According to the liner notes, "This album was recorded on a 16-track Korg MKII digital recorder. Each composition was improvised and layered one instrument at a time, often changing direction, until desired temperature and results were obtained." Maybe that had something to do with it, or perhaps the mastering, I don't know. An album like this really ought to POP in your ears. Still, it's a worthy purchase I'd recommend because I haven't heard a new psych album this good in a long time.

Noisebrigade: Selected Resistors

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 11 2018
Artist: Noisebrigade
Title: Selected Resistors
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Der Klang
A compilation of tracks from Maurizio Pustianaz’s Noisebrigade project from 2008 through to 2017, selected resistors is a thorough 76-minute pack of instrumental synthwave and synthpop sounds full of warm analogue synth sounds, pads and bleeps bent into making dark, cinematic and brooding music.

There’s a broad range of grooves spanning electro and a few different shades of techno, from the heavier Warp Records-esque breakbeat thumps of “I Robot” to the dystopian sci-fi drama of “Chemical Experiment”. There’s a consistency in how the pure, almost lullaby-like melodic tones play against

Text-to-speech vocals appear sparingly, such as on “Inside Trader” which has a decidedly Kraftwerk proto-electro flavour. The retro flavours are also prominent on “Hierophant’s Nebula”, which, perhaps due to my own nostalgic make-up, reminds me quite strongly of Keff McCulloch’s incidental Doctor Who music of the late 80’s- a perky and steady underscore at times.

There’s a generous helping of 7 tracks from the “Cathodic Dreams” album, and four completely unreleased tracks, with the rest picked from EP’s and various artist compilation exclusives. Despite the decidedly retro-facing general sonic make-up of it, it’s interesting to hear how the production values definitely evolve over time, with the later tracks sounding richer and pushing things a little further.

A very pleasant pack that will appeal to anyone with a fondness for analogue electro and synthwave.

VV.AA.: Wave Earplug No. 2

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 08 2018
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Wave Earplug No. 2
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: 4mg Records
A ten-track collection of pan-European synthwave music, the second volume of “Wave Earplug” is a worthy sampler of a variety of dark-edged alt-synthpop you may not have already encountered. For the most part it’s a variety of artists revelling in old-school analogue synths and some quite lo-fi and industrial production values, as though the 90’s and beyond had never happened, but it’s none the worse for it. Tightly-constructed under-four-minute pop songs of vocoded vocals and bright melodies over simple proto-techno grooves pervade.

Strong tracks include Staatseinde’s driving and squelchy “Repa” (particularly the surprisingly operatic finale), the heavier-kicked rumbles of ImiAFan’s “Sekundenzeiger” and the early-Depeche-Mode-like “Moonlighting” from Arsenic Of Jabir. Noisebrigade’s “X-Rays” wraps things up with a nicely dark twist.

A couple of tracks, like Machinepop’s “Integrated Circuit”, perhaps have too much of a homegrown bedroom demo feel to their production.

It’s well curated in that there’s a lot of consistency- save for the vocals it would be easy to believe that most if not all of these tracks had been produced from one source- but it’s perhaps lacking in real standout highlights that would make you reach for this compilation for frequent repeats. For wave fans though, this is a healthy dose of new material and could well open your door to some new artists worth further inspection.

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