Music Reviews

Heather Leigh: Throne

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Oct 23 2018
Artist: Heather Leigh
Title: Throne
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Editions Mego
“Throne” is an unusual and very personal blend of ingredients from Heather Leigh, that bakes together into a curious and very introspective sort-of-downtempo-indie-pop.

The most prominent element is her voice, sometimes working through nearly-conventional Americana ballads, at other points meandering more freely across beat poetry and individual floating ideas. Vocally it’s really quite Kate Bush-esque, but without slightly less dynamism and faintly more huskiness.

Underneath that sits Leigh’s own pedal steel performance, the sound of which remains loosely wedded to the Americana stereotype it’s associated with, but which thanks to delicate production manages to escape those shackles and sound fresh as a melodic and sometimes even drone element. It works well with some very distorted violin work from John Hannon and some quite straight underpinning electric bass from David Keenan to create a set-up that on a technicality might qualify as country music, but which has a totally different attitude at heart.

Highlights include the surprisingly catchy twang of “Days Without You”, and the folksier, almost FLK-like tones of “Scorpio And Androzani” (which surely can’t be a Doctor Who reference?). Opener “Prelude To Goddess” is a good way to get a strong impression of the album’s stall in four minutes.

To be critical, it’s a little short of variety across its 42-minute running time. Six quite languid songs, some four minutes long but with “Gold Teeth” almost hitting seventeen minutes, all share quite a similar melancholic approach that never feels like it’s evolving or even progressing. This is music for lying still and wallowing, for when you’re not in the mood for surprises.

Nicely unusual, husky and pleasantly indulgent, it’s an unusual little album that defies categorisation.

Golden Oriole: Golden Oriole II

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 08 2018
Artist: Golden Oriole
Title: Golden Oriole II
Format: LP
An energetic, backwards-looking stab at recreating edgy, experimental instrumental 1970’s psychadelic prog rock, Golden Oriole’s second release hits its apparent target. Often manic guitar-led meanderings are bolted together with analogue effects and twiddles bounce off against rigid, sometimes tribal-tinged drum work that has the consistency and sometimes tone of a drum machine, but sometimes the complexity of a complete wig-out.

It’s made of two tracks, though each track has fairly distinct parts so this seems a little arbitrary. “The Waxwing Slain”, after a particularly aggressive opening, evolves into a longer more mesmeric shifting pattern in two parts. Three minutes before the end of the seventeen minute piece it drops out completely, to introduce a high-pitched tinnitus-tickling electronic screech to either brainwash or punish the loyal listeners.

Second track “Az Prijde Kocour” kicks off with similar punchiness, which this time takes longer to abate. When it finally settles it works itself into a strangely funk-channeling stepping-groove affair, as though aimed at the world’s twistiest dancefloor.

It’s a punchy and very focussed LP that will appeal to anyone who fondly remembers (even if they’re not old enough to remember) some of the experimental-guitar excesses of the 70’s.
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Notes from the Underground. Experimental Sounds Behind the Iron Curtain, 1968–1989
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Edition Iron Curtain Radio
Experimentation and progress doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it would be wrong to assume- as we maybe have- that while the West were experiencing an explosion of experimental composition, particularly electronic composition, that ‘behind the iron curtain’ remained a cut-off world still stuck in accordions, oompah brass bands and folk dancing. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, as this 2LP collection, consolidating no fewer than four different collation projects gathering together experimental music from the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia and East Germany demonstrates.

There’s a broad variety of styles here, all with electronic elements but sometimes only serving as bit players in more traditional band set-ups. There’s raw wave music with angry shouted vocals, courtesy of Der Demokratische Konsum. The track from Vágtázó Halottkémek has more than a shade of prog rock about it, while the catchy vocal proto-pop hook in A. E. Bizottság’s “Pek-Pek” is a proper earworm. Kilhet’s “Extract Of Concert Number 4” has the abstract soundworking, splicing and tape effect energy that sits it nicely alongside 60’s Radiophonic Workshop-style performance sonic mangling, while the short-but-sweet “Live in Petfi Csarnok” from Vágtázó Halottkémek is a bold and theatrical percussive workshop.

But the overriding mood for most of the tracks seems to be frustration, bubbling into genuine anger. In keeping with the underground, subversive nature of the music in its context, a lot of it feels decidedly punky in its make-up (though the notable exception of AG. Geige’s weird-kids-TV-music “Elektrische Banane” has to be mentioned).

Perhaps fittingly then, some of the sound quality is understandably lo-fi. “Krebs ohne Stuhl” and “Untitled” are examples of tracks with a decidedly tape-sourced sonic quality that no amount of high-quality mastering will completely remove.

Other tracks worth making a note of include the deep and sinister rumbling flows of Ziemia Mindel Würm’s ”Untitled” (the one track were sound quality really is a hindrance to overall effect). The industrial-pop of New Composers’ “Max-Industry” stands up well as one of the brighter moments, as does the quite forward-thinking (if oddly named) final track, Ornament & Verbrechen’s ”Der lÄchelnde Chinese”.

To be fair, it’s not without its weak moments too- Praffdata’s “Live in Remont, Warsaw” being an example of a track that perhaps didn’t warrant being exhumed.

It’s a fascinating collection and a great insight- more than a glimpse, a positive 86 minute extravaganza- into experimental sounds with strong connections yet also profound differences to what we Westerners might think of as a experimental music history.

Duskmortym: One Night over the Baltic...

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Sep 10 2018
Artist: Duskmortym (@)
Title: One Night over the Baltic...
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Any time we get a metal album in, we always need to make sure that it's either gothic, industrial or both. Some (but not all) black and doom metal qualifies (if it's bizarre enough), but that's usually up to the reviewer. There is an awful lot of good stuff that gets sent to us that just doesn't qualify for Chain D.L.K.'s genre parameters. Duskmortym makes the cut on its sheer outrageousness, its refusal to be confined to a genre and its generally gothy tone. The band is actually one man- E. S. Bowles, originally from Victoria, BC but now farther north of Vancouver Island in Nanaimo, BC. Bowles does it all - electric and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, vocals, plus artwork and design for the CD and recording and mixing. 'One Night over the Baltic...' is Duskmortym's debut album, originally released in 2014, but re-released in 2016. Don't know why it's taken so long to reach us. A lot of it is extreme metal, which Bowles calls symphonic black metal. (Think of bands such as Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, etc.) Like the Borg of black metal, Duskmortym has assimilated an amazing amount of metal tropes and styles (Speed and Thrash included) and everything is played with accomplished expertise. Problem is, Bowles can't seem to to stay in one area long enough which makes for rather schizoid continuity. One minute you're getting gothic organ, the next- speed metal guitar riffs, then intricate classical acoustic guitar in a medieval folk style. The album seems to be more of a showcase for this talented musician than an album of well-composed and structured songs. There is a theme though - a journey across the Balkans with encounters with the occult creatures of the night, not to mention some Greek and Indian Goddesses. Song lyrics are quite poetic, whether they're spoken, pitch-shifted (down to demon range) or screech-growled in that stereotypical black metal mode. The only other musician on this album is Sara Robinson providing some voca. (Some sections reminded me of early Mortiis.) I think if the album was a little more focused I might have rated it higher but don't underestimate it. 'One Night over the Baltic...' is bound to impress black/gothic metal fans no matter what I think.

Map 71: Void Axis

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Sep 03 2018
Artist: Map 71
Title: Void Axis
Format: CD + Download
Label: Fourth Dimension Records
The fusion of Lisa Jayne’s Essex-tinged spoken word poetry and Andy Pyne’s drums and electronics results in a raw, sometimes abrasive album that expects attention. Over steady non-evolving electronic patterns and aggressive snare-heavy drum work, Jayne reads freeform lines full of abstraction and idea collisions that suggest this is what Karl Hyde would sound like if he was simultaneously both very tired and very angry.

There’s a strange nostalgia element at points that seems to be harking back to the political and musical dissent of the 80’s, not just lyrically in pieces like “The Prefab” but sonically as well at times- and even in an odd way in the artwork. Themes are deeply physical and confrontational but not devoid of moments of self-doubt and at times self-pity.

“Nuclear Landscapes” is one of the strongest tracks, particularly dark and distorted electronics and rumbling drums underpinning more sparse words. The multi-layering of the vocal on “Armour and Ecdysis” combined with drumming that steps towards freeform jazz also makes it more intriguing, with more depth than some of the other more one-note offerings like “Neonsignquietlife”.

It’s a rough-edged and challenging listen at times from a duo that might be more watchable and engaging in a live context than on a recording. It didn’t really float my boat but if you’re looking for the punkier side of avantgarde, here’s some worth sampling.

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