Tracks: June 21st, 2021

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It’s almost the half-year point of 2021, a marker that seems to have arrived with astonishing speed. On the one hand we’re certainly feeling more positive than we were 12 months ago; live music and club events are slowly coming back, providing us with a needed light at the end of the tunnel. On the other hand it feels like we essentially lost a year and change from our collective lives via the pandemic, and that’s making this (hopefully) last stretch of cautious living that much more nerve-wracking. With any luck at this time in 2022 we’ll be well into festival season and be looking back on this time with a feeling of relative relief, but for the next couple months we’ll just have to distract ourselves with new music.

Nuovo Testamento look the part

1919, “Singing to the Universe”
Cult post-punk act 1919 gear up for the release of their third post-reformation record Citizens of Nowhere with “Singing to the Universe”, a sparkling and mournful number with a tense rhythm. The sad passing of founding member and songwriter Mark Tighe in 2017 led to a change in the band’s sound as exemplified on the Futurcide LP, pivoting towards a smoother if no less nervy sound than their celebrated early eighties records – an evolutionary thread that seems to be continuing here. The LP is out June 25 via Manic Depression, why not add it to your wishlist?
MD134 – 1919 "Citizens Of Nowhere" by 1919

Nuova Testamento, “The Searcher”
Another absolutely delightful number from Italian-American act Nuovo Testamento, a trio featuring members of Horror Vacui and Crimson Scarlet. While that pedigree might suggest a more cold darkwave sound, every track we’ve heard from forthcoming LP New Earth is disco-ready italo inflected synthpop, of the sort that you could easily believe was actually released in the eighties. Then again, the strength of the songwriting on “The Searcher” is such that it heads off any accusation of retro-fadism – this is the real deal, from octave bassline to funky drum programming.
New Earth by NUOVO TESTAMENTO

Restive Plaggona, “Ask And It Will Be Given”
Greek producer Restive Plaggona arrives at Fleisch for new self-titled LP due July 5. Like many of Dimitris Doukas’ tracks, preview song “Ask And It Will Be Given” strikes a balance between the hypnotic rhythm of techno and the rawness of classic industrial. The processed and cut up vocals add to the sinister feel of the track, as if a voice is whispering something important to you that you can’t quite make out. This should be a good ‘un.
Restive Plaggona by Restive Plaggona

Stendeck, “Streams of Oblivion”
Has it really been six years since Stendeck’s phenomenal Folgor LP? Technoid producer Alessandro Zampieri’s work has long been a favourite around the ID:UD HQ, the contemplative and emotionally rich nature of his compositions striking a marked contrast with the abstract forms they take. New album Carnage is due at the end of this week, just in time for reading sessions and long night time walks. Expect a review up on the site shortly thereafter, this is highly anticipated.
carnage by stendeck

Bitcrush, “Dead Corners”
Mike Cadoo’s Bitcrush has long been the ex-Gridlock producer’s outlet for post-rock inspired excursions, most frequently released via his own n5md label. New 7″ Dead Corners comes to us via Ant-Zen and sports a pretty remarkable vinyl presentation; the clear record is square cut and features a print on acrylic glass for the cover. It’s a classy presentation and one commensurate with the thoughtful and artful nature of the music on it. Make sure you check out the b-side “On Infinite” for some neat use of horns in a context you don’t often here them.
dead corners by bitcrush

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Observer: Lycia & Ritual Veil

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Lycia - Casa Luna
Lycia
Casa Luna
Avantgarde Music

Lycia should need no introduction to anyone reading this, but lapsed darkwavers may not be aware of just what a hot streak the legendary band has been on for the past few years. Far from the “respectable for a band their age” half-measures writers are often prone to, Quiet Moments, A Line That Connects, and In Flickers have all earned rave reviews, and justifiably so. New EP Casa Luna keeps the hot hand going, and for anyone who’s playing catch-up, offers six distinct moods which cover much of the terrain those records have explored in a concise and beautifully executed listen. Pensive opener “A Quiet Way To Go” sits on that mysterious line between mind and landscape Lycia have so often drawn (as we recently discussed), while the winsome synthpop of “Galatea” manages to be both melancholy and peppy at the same time. Both are a far cry from the thudding savagery of “Do You Bleed?”, where Tara Vanflower ominously answers the titular question over no wave sludge: “You will.” The Lycia back catalog, now stretching back more than thirty years, remains one of the most important and foundational in American dark music. That the band are still adding to it with records just as beautiful, harrowing, and captivating as any previous entries is something for which we should all be thankful. Recommended.
Casa Luna by Lycia


Ritual Veil
Keep Looking Down
self-released

In contrast to their last release (2017’s Wolf in the Night) Portland darkwavers Ritual Veil have moved towards synthpop on new EP Keep Looking Down. It’s a good look for the duo made up of Aidan Wolfe and Wolfgang Williams; their previous material has shown a knack for strong pop hooks that shone through the more dour trappings of the post-punky songs. The change is most apparent on the title track, which brings the more italo-influenced Pet Shop Boys cuts to mind with its tom rolls, disco bassline and wistful melody. It’s a genuinely great track that benefits from the retro-trappings in the production like orch hits and scaled vocal samples; the song is strong enough that it transcends from retro-charm to timeless. Follow-up “Misery” is a touch more downbeat in tone and consequently plays things a touch more conservatively, the synthesized orchestration is plainer but not lacking in substance. The releases finishes up with “How I Like It”, a number that relies on a straight rock rhythm and guitar, but keeps with the preceding numbers through it’s synth claps and bubbly bassline and chiming lead. Strong stuff across the board, and a nice promise of what we might expect from Ritual Veil going forward.
Keep Looking Down by Ritual Veil

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We Have A Technical 366: He Does That

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Forever Grey

Forever Grey

From the sugariest of highs to the most oppressive of lows, it’s tough to imagine records with vibes as different than the pair up for discussion on this week’s podcast. The mature synthpop of Beborn Beton’s 2015 comeback A Worthy Compensation is considered alongside the abject miserablism of darkwave duo Forever Grey’s Alabaster Chamber. All that plus some griping about guest lists on the latest episode of We Have A Technical. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Templər, “Myths And Consequences”

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Templər - Myths And Consequences

Templər
Myths And Consequences
Hands Productions

The new record from Templər, AKA Thomas Chalandon of Imperial Black Unit, might be the sort of reset and reorientation those of us who fixate on sub-genres and the hybridization thereof, especially in these days of techno/industrial dominance. Preceding Templər release Human Hate had at least one foot firmly planted in the techno-body world, but Myths And Consequences quickly shows that its appearance on Hands isn’t the product of happenstance. Much more so than any release from the Imperial Black Unit clique, it’s a powernoise record through and through, and delivers a strong set of tracks in that style.

Fans of classic Hands and Ant-Zen acts have for several years been pointing out just how close to OG powernoise so many current TBM acts sit, and here Chalandon acknowledges that debt, and pays it back in full. From the opening slinky, scraping grind of “Road To Jounieh” and onward, Myths And Consequences sounds like something one might hear emanating from Maschinenfest’s speakers just as easily as Berghain’s. The stuttering rhythms of “Let the Soul Chase the Sorrows” hit like a classic Winterkälte groove, set atop icy pads and feedback. The less aggressive yet still twisting psychedelia of closing tracks “I Shared A Whiskey With A Ghost” and “The Inner Flame” suggests Izsoloscope.

This isn’t to say that the record is an exercise in recreationism for its own sake. “Le Crime par la Pensée” has lift and bounce on its kicks which feel very of the moment, and add some scope and grandeur to the martial yet swaggering arrangement. The near-nine minute “Under Pressure” begins with a straightforward kick right in the modern dark techno pocket, before beginning to mutate into a funkier and more neurotic beast with some pinchy programming and bit-crushed noise.

Chalandon’s work in Imperial Black Unit has done an admirable job of nodding to the roots of electro-industrial while pursuing the new sound of Berlin (something “A True Terror Corporation” also does here), and Myths And Consequences similarly doesn’t feel beholden to purism of any stripe. A “we’re not so different, you and I” bridge across generations and sub-genres, it’s a solid record which reminds one of the enduring appeal of this brand of pummeling rhythm.

Buy it.

Myths And Consequences by Templər

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XTR Human, “G.O.L.D”

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XTR Human
G.O.L.D
Braid Records

As recently as last year’s Interior XTR Human was more of a post-punk act, albeit one with a healthy dose of art rock and a touch of new wave in its DNA. New album G.O.L.D finds songwriter and producer Johannes Stabel leaning far more heavily on synthesized instrumentation and percussion, wedding them with both the rock structures that previously defined the project and a healthy dollop of sticky synthpop hooks. The result is something pretty unique, straddling genres and sounds in clever and often unexpected ways.

The basis for most of the tracks on G.O.L.D is thick synth bass and chiming leads, with the middle of the mix left open for Stabel’s commanding if sometimes atonal vocal delivery. It’s a canvas that proves pretty versatile for the kinds of songs XTR Human peforms; opener “Leben ohne Licht”, kicks off as a bit of foreboding teutonic electro before it blossoms into a lovely melodic synthpop chorus, Stabel splitting the difference vocally with Die Selektion’s Luca Gillian for a surprisingly catchy hook. “Maschine” marries a simple bit of moogy bass to an insistent synth sequence, either left bare or joined by brassy horn sounds, all before a rapid succession of pre-choruses cycles through the arrangement. When Stabel does go in on post-punk sounds it’s as something of a counterpoint; the wiry rhythm of “Fleisch” is adorned with orch hits and synth toms, so the guitar chords that usher in the song’s big energetic chorus are an unexpected surprise.

For its cleverness in arrangement and stylistic markers, there’s a consistent sense of gravitas across the record that speaks to Stabel’s preoccupation with the current state of German culture. Some of it should be easy to pick out even for non-German speakers – “Dark Germany”‘s on the nose title matches the song’s frenetic pace and discordant melody – while some touches are a bit more under the radar. “Starker Junge” for example weds a wash of tremolo guitar to its dissection of toxic lad culture, slight notes of contempt apparent in the delivery of the refrain. You could probably rejig “Angst” into a classic sounding new wave number if you were so inclined, but its chintzy organ and whispy melody are weighted with nervous tension and buzzy energy that give it a far darker cast than it might have otherwise had.

There’s a lot going on on G.O.L.D, between its frequent switch ups, gear shifts and big attention grabbing blasts of sound. That ends up being one of its biggest strengths, as it’s not an easy record to tune out while it’s playing, even on repeated listens. What it gives up in subtlety it makes up for with vitality and movement, never lingering too long before the next big rush forwards.

Buy it.

G.O.L.D by XTR HUMAN

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Tracks: June 14th, 2021

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Have you noticed that even though first Friday of the month is no longer always Bandcamp Friday, artists are still dropping lots of new material at the end of the week? Friday is a good release day for us regardless of what’s happening with BC since it coincides with when we start assembling these Tracks posts, but it’ll be interesting to see if that has permanently changed the way we think about release schedules going forward. All that said, this Friday will be Bandcamp’s second annual Juneteenth fundraiser, with all their share of proceeds going to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. See your way to buying some music on the 18th and supporting this important initiative won’t you?

ULTRA SUNN

Ultra Sunn: Ultra Swank

V▲LH▲LL, “Eversleep”
It’s been three years since we’ve had a full LP from our favourite Swedish Mystery Vikings, but V▲LH▲LL are back with third LP Eversleep slated for a September release. We’d heard it through the wolfsbane that new material from the duo might tilt towards the poppy side of things, and while there’s still plenty of the icy beats and atmosphere upon which V▲LH▲LL earned their rep, there’s definitely something a bit smoother and more hummable than usual about the title track. Definitely a record we’ll be anticipating throughout the summer.
NEVERSLEEP by V▲LH▲LL

Leathers, “Reckless”
Now collated with the project’s extant three tracks for Artoffact, we have a slick new number from Leathers, the side project from Shannon Hemmett of Actors. While there’s always been some distinctly poppy and new wave flavour in Leathers’ Curve-ish approach to shoegaze, “Reckless” is pure electro-pop through and through, with a halting frailty that has us thinking of Continues as much as Marsheaux. Set this one aside for hazy summer nights spent in solitude.
Reckless by LEATHERS

Ultra Sunn, “Silver Smile”
Ultra Sunn’s “Night is Mine” remains one of the biggest tracks of the year in its various forms (we’ve been feeling the new beat mix lately but they all good), but the Brussels based duo aren’t slowing down. New this past week, we’ve got a new cut “Silver Smile” that effectively splits the difference between funky hard beat (complete with orch hits) and electro-darkwave. I expect their next EP due this summer will have more contenders, but this’ll definitely hold us down til then.
Silver Smile by ULTRA SUNN

Kris Baha, “Into the Dark”
Kris Baha’s name has been remixer of choice for a lot of artists we follow here on ID:UD, from Randolph & Mortimer to Inhalt to Boy Harsher. The Australian producer’s own material has been straying from the EBM sound of his earliest productions for a while now however, and latest single “Into the Dark” feels fully like a darkwave track, albeit one with some added funk in its thick, fuzzy basses. It’s an easy fit and one we’re keen to see developed in future releases.
Into The Dark by Kris Baha

Zack Zack Zack, “Bak”
Did someone say “saxgoth summer”? We were very taken with the sound of Turkish wave act Zack Zack Zack on their EP1 back in February; post-punk, new wave and trad-folk instrumentation mixed up rather well, and with dancefloor potential to boot. New track “Bak” (say ‘Zack Zack Zack new track “Bak”‘ out loud, it’s fun) is all those things again, but with a very low, sinister kinda vibe, with the saxophone and guitar peeling off some very wild riffs. More of this please, all night long.
Bak by Zack Zack Zack

Det Kätterska Förbund, “Sacred Grounds”
Lastly, some punishing yet lush death industrial from the unrelenting Swedish team-up that’s been brewing for a few years. Nordvargr collaborating with Thomas of Trepaneringsritualen makes plenty of sense to anyone familiar with the respective artists, and the forthcoming Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås LP is an object lecture in texture and tension.
Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås (CSR265CD/LP) by Det Kätterska Förbund (Nordvargr + Trepaneringsritualen)

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Observer: Hapax & Hallowed Hearts

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Hapax - Exile
Hapax
Exile
SwissDarkNights

Italian act Hapax have earned their growing fanbase with a steady stream of direct and well-structured releases, and as new EP Exile shows, have been shifting their focus away from post-punk and darkwave to pure, classic goth rock. It’s a move that suits the trio well here, with six tracks that range from the reflective “A Different Blue” to the speedy first-wave fretworkout of “Silvery Track” to the club-ready title track. Regardless of tempo there’s a clear sense of sober harmony and arrangement to every track, and not a moment’s wasted. The deep and often guttural vocal style, which we so often associate with the heavier, borderline-metal style of continental goth, makes for a nice contrast with the lighter and defter guitar tone Hapax use, perhaps splitting the difference between Berlin and Leeds. Very strong stuff from an act still on the rise and which we’d love to see gain a higher profile here in North America.
Exile by HAPAX


Hallowed Hearts
ruins
self-released

Alex Virlios (Blue Images, ex CRTL and Provision ) and Andrew Sega (Iris)’s project Hallowed Hearts digs further still into the post-punk and goth rock sounds that informed their 2020 debut LP Into the Fire on their new EP ruins. Like the LP that precedes it, the new release has a strong focus on straightforward melodies and smooth, low-key production that allows the songs’ merits to speak for themselves. “Supernova” is largely all dancefloor rhythm and until its descending chorus comes, in providing both the song’s hook and a pathway to variations in the arrangement, with guitars that switch between delicate lines and rock chug and swooshing keys. “Fly” goes even further down the second wave of goth rock pathway, matching its guitar arpeggios to a spooky keyboard melody and one of Virtlios’ more expressive aperformances. The twangy title track pulls back somewhat towards glassy eighties post-punk in the style of Sad Lovers & Giants or Modern English but that proves to be something of a fakeout as the EP concludes with a dramatic take on Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”; while it’s not a song that calls out to be covered again, Virlios and Sega zero in on its theatrical sentimentality and deliver a straight but heartfelt take on the classic rock number. That kind of move shows both the skill and good taste Hallowed Hearts bring to bear on their material, never straying too far from their strengths.
ruins by hallowed hearts

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We Have A Technical 365: Pod Costas

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//TENSE//

//TENSE// – Live leather 2011.

After almost a full month away from it, we’re back to the classic two albums format in this week’s episode of We Have A Technical. Voices, the 1998 LP from Lights Of Euphoria, is discussed as a sampling of the styles in European electro of the day, while //TENSE//’s 2011 swan song Escape is revisited as a precursor to the entire next decade of North American EBM. We’re also checking in on the rescheduled Cruel World festival set for LA next May. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Slighter, “V O I D”

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Slighter
V O I D
Confusion Inc.

There’s an easy elevator pitch for Colin Cameron Allrich’s music as Slighter; cinematic electronics and touches of industrial programming with trip-hopesque breakbeats and basslines mixed in for good measure. It’s a melange that worked tremendously well on 2019’s Automata and which is refined further on new record V O I D, an LP that is as much about flavorful sound design and atmosphere as it is about individual songs.

That focus on ambience is certainly what first grabs the listener’s ear on a first listen to V O I D. Opener “Broken Unknown” is almost entirely that, a simple spoken word passage from R.A. Desilets setting the stage for several minutes of deep warping basses and warbling electronic sounds. Soundtrack is a word that gets tossed around a lot, but this recurring style of composition in Slighter’s work has more in common with the scores of Jóhann Jóhannsson than it does any of Allrich’s other musical influences. It’s a focus that carries over into the more traditionally structured songs; obscurity is established at the outset of “Oblivion”, it’s massive drones and grinding synths resolving first into a rhythm, then drums and a bassline, with Allrich’s voice, ticking cymbals and eventually slick melodic pads resolving from the darkness to make a mid-tempo head-nodder. That kind of slick, inevitable feeling shift in composition is very much the album’s hallmark, whether on instrumental beatless outings like “Dissolver” or on the tense, rumbling sprint of “Controller”.

That reliance on moody, beatless textures is often associated with drawn out, self-indulgent ambient recordings, but Allrich thankfully keeps the record moving, never losing momentum or wasting time. Allrich puts a lot of his best written songs out in front; “Spill Blood” has a deeply menacing vibe that emerges between the strings, whispered vocals, dialogue samples and wiry synth sequences while “Complicit” jumps into a damnably infectious rhythm that recalls Massive Attack’s darker moments, easily the best club contender Slighter has released yet. Allrich knows what works for him, never stretching his voice outside a soft half-spoken delivery that suits the material, letting individual elements breathe in the mix and not getting lost in the large sonic spaces his music occupies.

V O I D is an effort from a producer whose studio acumen is considerable, but who has zeroed in on how to make that skillset serve his songs. There’s no clinical detachment in an appreciation of the album: as impressive as it is from a craft standpoint, you’ll often find yourself feeling your way through the record as much as listening to it, a testament to Slighter’s continued musical and technical evolution.

Buy it.

V O I D by Slighter

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