Music Reviews

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.

VV.AA.: Munk Presents Teutonik Disaster

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 14 2019
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Munk Presents Teutonik Disaster
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
In this 8 track compilation, Munk & Kapote have unearthed a variety of very rare early 80’s German new wave funk and disco punk records- or, more pedantically, they’ve unearthed a 2003 Gomma Records compilation called “Teutonik Disaster” which they themselves curated. They’ve given the tracks some faithful, Greg Wilson-esque re-edits, added a few drum machines, polished them up a bit and the result is a collection of high quality, near-authentic-sounding 1980’s style extended mixes.

Despite the flamboyant name, instrumental opener “Monogamie, Kannibalismus unserer Zeit” by Die Heteros sets the laidback tone rather well. Long, organic, disco-pop music, a true fore-runner of house in its structure and grooves but with the sonics of funk-rock. We stay mostly in 120bpm territory, never getting too dynamic or dramatic, and keeping everything very mid-set and DJ friendly.

Tracks like Carmen’s “Schlaraffenland” (a slightly cheeky take on The Archie’s “Sugar, Sugar”) don’t sound too far away from tracks DFA, Soulwax or LCD Soundsystem might have written in the mid 2000’s, which is to their credit, while the Prince-style (but pre-Prince) funk guitar work on BBB’s “Alltag” glues it thickly into the 80’s as a decade. The squeaky synths on “Mit Der Allein” by Roter Mund and the bendy bass and pitched-up vocals of Camilla Motor’s “Gefahr Im Tovoli” are two of the compilation’s more fun, possibly tongue-in-cheek moments.

It’s a chilled out hour long listen that allows you revel nicely in old-fashioned extended mixes of tracks that may not be familiar, but which are certainly enjoyable, in an unchallenging way. A nice set for giving your leisurely house sets something a little different in character.

The Star Pillow: Music For Sad Headbangers

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Mar 13 2019
Artist: The Star Pillow
Title: Music For Sad Headbangers
Format: CD + Download
Label: Midira Records
Although the tongue-in-cheek title might lead you to expect distorted slow guitar drone and electric noise, and the opening chord of the Slayer-referencing first track “Bruno Martino is my Tom Araya” seems at first to confirm the presumption, over the course of 37 minutes this relatively short album does prove to be broader and more detailed than that. Admittedly the opener does escalate into slow, heavily processed thrash guitar hammering, but inbetween the grunge, such as the climax of “Moving Grey” and the inevitable finale in final track “Sad Headbanger”, in many parts this has a more thoughtful level of detail and introspection that tempers it very well.

Longest track “Departures” is a soft, appropriately pillow-like sonic wash of gentle pads and warm hums, with small guitar-sonic details that give it a live, leisurely improvised feel.

“Circle Of Events” stands out as slightly odder, with a more overt guitar melody line that sounds quite twangy, almost corny pseudo-Americana that doesn’t quite work, but “Quiet Cooper, we’ll not die today” pulls off a slightly similar arrangement more successfully.

It’s a result that builds a well-measured touch of class and introspective thoughtfulness around its gritty core, to mostly strong effect.

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