Choke Chain, “Mortality”

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Choke Chain - Mortality

Choke Chain
Phage Tapes

Mark Trueman certainly isn’t making the question of how to cross-index his work as Choke Chain within the post-industrial cataloging system any easier. The elements of dark electro and EBM which he brings to bear on the caustic and misanthropic series of releases that solo project has released over the past four years have always intermingled in unexpected ways yet have never obfuscated the seething anger and misanthropy which fuels Choke Chain. That tension grows even tauter with new record Mortality.

That Mortality opens with the funereal instrumental “Sorrow” is the first hint that Trueman’s added an extra layer to his sound. Taking a cue from the more mournful, cleaner, and yes, melodic strains of dark electro, the record places some new, moody ambiance in contrast to its still pummelling rhythms. The clean chimes which bob and weave through the kicks of “Living This Death” suggest the softer side of :wumpscut: or Leaether Strip’s symphonic ambitions, while the heavily flanged string flourishes which close out “Despair” hearken back to vintage Antler Subway fare.

If there’s some intriguing nuance to Mortality‘s specific musical influences and moods, no such ambiguity can be found in its lyrics. Even by the bleak standards of Choke Chain’s extant discography, Mortality is an exercise in pure miserablism, with the meaningless of life, the horrid intractability of death, and the inevitability of suffering in the interim being recurring themes. The closing message of “Cruel”, “What you do in life means nothing in death”, is a rather representative example.

If that extreme degree of nihilism could perhaps be credited to Trueman’s affection for Rudimentary Peni and other similarly bleak punk, the that he’s embracing the more florid side of his dark electro collection at the same time keeps Mortality from ever becoming monotone or feeling rote. It’s a subtle but real step forward for one of the most promising rising figures in dark electronics. We’re all gonna die: may as well listen to some Choke Chain first. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. Recommended.

Buy it.

Mortality by Choke Chain

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Tracks: September 25th, 2023

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Is it officially spooky season yet? Maybe, depending on whether you start hitting up the Spirit Halloween store the moment Fall officially starts or wait ’til October starts in earnest, but either way it feels firmly like we’ve entered 2023 endgame time and need to start taking stock of the year it’s been and what’s still to come. This is of course a lead in to our annual plea to let us know what albums and releases we’ve not covered yet that you think we should be writing up or podcasting about. We’re just two people, and there’s always stuff that slips past us because of that, but you folks have traditionally done a great job of giving us solid recommendations and we’re always up to expand our horizons, or deep digger into the ones we explore already. Drop us a comment if you feel moved to do so, and then give this week’s Tracks a listen.

Moon 17

Moon 17 throwing hex in Kansas City. Photo by @vertig0s_net.

Pixel Grip, “Bet You Do”
Seeing Pixel Grip return to the stage after nearly a year away at Purple City in August, we were struck again by the things that make the Chicago trio special: their seamless blending of their hometown’s electronic musical traditions from house to industrial, with an emphasis on fat basslines and singer Rita Lukea’s considerable vocal charisma. New single “Bet You Do” is the first new track we’ve heard from them in recorded form in a minute and it fits very nicely with our expectations while also amping them up considerably via some very hot dancefloor ready arrangment choices and excellent production – you can drop this at the disco or the goth club and you’ll get a response in both.
Bet You Do. by Pixel Grip

Moon 17, “Bersicker”
We pointed you to the debut track of Kansas City’s Moon 17 a month back and pointed out how their reads on body music and darkwave run against the grains of both of those genres’ current overarching trends. Follow-up track “Bersicker” picks up right where “Jellyfish” left off, deking around common expectations we’d have when it comes to arrangement and programming in stuff this pugnacious and, yes, dancefloor friendly despite its unexpected bursts of aggression. Taken together, these two tracks point to an act approaching the stuff we love in a very different way and who are definitely worth putting on your radar.
Bersicker by Moon 17

Male Tears, “You Are Your Posts”
Okay, so “Your Are Your Posts” comes hot on the heels of Male Tears’ excellent LP KRYPT and is easily on par with anything on that record, as were preceding non-album releases “Sad Boy, Paint My Nails” and “In This House”. Even leaving aside the stuff we think makes Male Tears such an interesting quantity (their ability to situate goth and darkwave alongside pop and mainstream dance music markers with ease), it’s a track that actually speaks to a real phenomenon, namely the way that life on the internet allows us to disassociate, and the ways that that might not be the best thing for an already anxious and prone to panic generation.
you are your posts by MALE TEARS

Ex-Hyena, “In Slow Motion”
Coming out of Boston, Ex-Hyena are bringing some serious drama to the dancefloor this fall with this lead single from their forthcoming third LP A Kiss Of The Mind. Simple but solid programming casts blacklight beams across the darker side of electropop, while the undertow of the beat keeps drawing you in. A nice combination of emotive maximalism and compositional minimalism which bodes well for the rest of the record.
In Slow Motion by Ex-Hyena

XTR Human, “I Want More”
We’ve been taken with Johannes Stabel’s work as XTR Human ever since the project went from post-punk and darkwave over to full on electro and body music a few years back. Stabel’s own work and that of his label Wie Ein Gott displays a solid understanding of how to execute music that doesn’t veer to far away from clubbability and dancefloor appeal while still injecting some solid songwriting ideas and choices. New cut “I Want More” puts us in mind of comparable material from Arnaud Rebotini if that helps situate it for you.

SØLVE, “kvikks​ø​lv (CENOTYPE REMIX)”
It’s been a full ten years since Brant Showers started his SØLVE project, bringing together his tastes for cinematic, dark ambient, industrial, and witch house production styles with the flair for the dramatic and symbolic which he brought to ∆AIMON. In celebration of a decade of that work, the project’s first single svovel | salt | kvikksølv has been remastered and reissued with a slew of extras, including new mixes from the likes of Harsh R and Red Meat. This mix from Cenotype does a wonderful job of linking Showers’ own tastes for ritual industrial to Cenotype’s linking of that style to classic powernoise, while also keeping the high-def soundscaping of the project in full focus.
svovel | salt | kvikksølv by SØLVE

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We Have A Commentary: The Birthday Party, “Junkyard”

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The Birthday Party - Junkyard

For this month’s commentary podcast we asked our patrons which release by Aussie enfents terrible The Birthday Party they’d like us to discuss, and 1982’s Junkyard was the resounding answer. We’re talking about how the record captures a band which forever seemed on the verge of collapsing inward upon itself, the emergence of the themes and fixations which have gone on to define the next forty years of Nick Cave’s art, grooves, spasms, Americana, Shakespeare, and oh so much more. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or download directly or listen through the widget down below. 

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Observer: Pol & Wants

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It’s easy to look back at the New Romantic movement and view it as a purely fashion-based subset of new wave aesthetics, but as Dutch duo Pol are reminding us on their first EP, there were plenty of musical markers which distinguished Visage, Ultravox, and the like from their broader field of synthpop and new wave peers. That elevated and austere approach can easily be clocked on “Sentimental Figures”, which seems to lift from Japan’s “Taking Islands In Africa” and Ultravox’s “Serenade”, complete with some ARP Odyssey noodling. “Modern Strange Love” links Moroder programming to the anthemic refrain of Animotion’s “Obsession”. If those influences read as a bit arch or poised (did I mention that brothers Ruben and Matthijs Pol are also fashion models?), the speedier “Boys Are” and “Comme Ca” have a bit more bounce and punch, with the particulars of the synth programming taking a back seat to the beat. It’s lead track “L’Amour Fait Mal” which ends up taking the cake, though, finding the delicate balance between atmosphere, harmony, and drive which so much original coldwave lived and died by.
Pol by Pol


The music on the self-titled EP from Calgary’s Wants speaks both to artist Jeebs Nabils’ previous association with that city’s idiosyncratic synthpunkers Melted Mirror, and some very au courant melodic darkwave sounds. Where the smooth guitars and vocals of opener “Decline” place it in the company of club oriented cuts by ACTORS or Twin Tribes, there’s a liveliness to the drum programming that gives it its own flavour. Follow-up “Divine Promises” leans more heavily on Nabils’ vocals, allowing his forthright delivery to add dynamics and give the song body, as does “Fate and Fear” with its more halting arrangement and melancholic mood. Closer “Mention” proves to the most interesting track, working a small amount of playful funk into the rhythm arrangement, porting it over from post-punk to new wave without going full glossy neon.
Wants by Wants

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We Have A Technical 474: Industrial Bowlcut

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A group where we all pretend to be boomer goths.

The aesthetics of cringe, that is to say, the reasons why people within and without darker music are likely to view certain examples of it as profoundly embarrassing or amateurish, is the subject of this week’s podcast. The Senior Staff end up talking about social identity, our perceptions of quality, and how and why goth and industrial music are specifically judged, fairly or unfairly. We also have some talk about recent sets from Ms.Boan and Nuovo Testamento. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or download directly or listen through the widget down below. 

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Blu Anxxiety, “Morbid Now, Morbid Later”

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Blu Anxxiety - Morbid Now, Morbid Later

Blu Anxxiety
Morbid Now, Morbid Later
Toxic State Records

Having moved well beyond the ostensible deathrock origins of the project (and of its members’ history before its formation), New York’s Blu Anxxiety have been careening through a funhouse full of effectively every subgenre and neighbouring territory of goth music for the past couple of years, dishing plenty of pithy political sneering and bitchy ripostes along the way. Electing to call themselves “dark freestyle” is a nod to the band’s distinctly NY latino take on goth, sure, but it’s just as much an acknowledgement of just how many different musical motifs they’re capable of welding to goth’s already heavily mutated corpus. New LP Morbid Now, Morbid Later, while amplifying the electronic quotient of the band’s sound, cinches what’s made them such an irrepressible part of the current North American scene.

If you’re new to Blue Anxxiety Morbidy Now, Morbid Later‘s rapid fire moves through current lo-fi EBM (“Macabre”), classic Suspiria-styled goth rock (“Sister Maria”) and fog-machine-on-the-fritz darkwave (“500 Years”) in its first half. When frontman Dracula Orengo refers to himself as “an alien sex fiend”, you get the sense that it’s that band’s omnivorousness and uncanny ability to transmogrify anything they touch into goth that he’s connoting more than their legendary status. If you’ve been keeping pace with the band for the past few years (or are just a quick study), it’ll be the canny swing on the more electronic and hip-hop flavoured tracks with which you’ll be most taken. As per their own labelling, yes, closer “Running” sounds exactly what you’d expect a latin freestyle track topped by second wave goth rock crooning to sound like, and I’m having a hard time remembering the last time a goth band made a dancefloor bid sound as legitimately funky since Shriekback.

Orengo’s Rozz-isms are still woven through Blue Anxxiety’s music, but sitting in contrast to his synthpunk yowls and rapped verses, it all feels much more like a small part of the stylistic pastiche Morbid Now, Morbid Later. Factor in the clean and melodic darkwave synths and damn-near “Don’t Fear The Reaper” type riffing on “Fog”, and it’s hard to accuse anyone in the band of staying pat for even a minute, let alone biting anyone’s style in an extended fashion. “Goth rules everything around me,” Orengo moans on “Negative Fantasy”, and one gets the sense that he’s maniacally driven to cram as many different shades of that muse into every corner of this record, a la one of Nick Blinko’s horror vacui drawings. There’s even a version of the century-old “Hearse Song” to boot, recast here as if were an ominous threat being read by an antagonist from “Judgment Night” or “The Warriors” (and yes, you’d best believe this record has at least one “can you dig it?” sample).

Irreverent but never empty-headed, Morbid Now, Morbid Later‘s thematics and influences are a reminder that goth’s always had a political streak, it’s always been as much about sheer, riotous fun as miserablism, and perhaps most importantly that its exact musical parameters have always been malleable. Recommended.

Buy it.

Morbid Now, Morbid Later by Blu Anxxiety

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Xingu Hill, “Grigri Pavilion”

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Xingu Hill
Grigri Pavilion
Subexotic Records

While Quebec ex-pat John Sellekaers’ legacy at this point is probably more related to his several decades of work as a mastering engineer for his own Metarc Studios, his numerous industrial adjacent projects were a going concern for listeners around the turn of the millennium. The most well-known of these was probably Xingu Hill, which released several well-regarded LPs on rhythmic noise mainstay Ant-Zen and it’s Hymen sub-label. The sound of the project is what was broadly referred to at the time as technoid, an industrialized form of IDM.

While Sellekaers has remained busy with numerous other musical outlets in the years since that particular style’s heyday, the return of Xingu Hill with Grigri Pavilion is somewhat unexpected after so many years laying fallow. Interestingly many of the sounds that seem characteristic of the project now have become far more commonplace. The reverbed synth stabs and rubbery pings of “Electrographic Dreams” are vintage Xingu Hill, but they also bring to mind the celebrated soundtrack work of Haxan Cloak, via their intricate design and stereo placement. Similarly, the slightly arrhythmic shuffle that drives “Moving Mirrors” has more than a little in common with the dubbier end of hyperpop, and by extension the mainstream pop that has drawn influence from that style. You might even imagine hearing the playful twinkling melodies of “Conjectures” in a Youtube video of lo-fi beats, complete with studious anime girl.

While those commonalities are fun to trainspot, there’s still a distinctly old school vibe to the LP. Perhaps its the genre agnostic use of big emotional pads on bookend cuts “Byways & Tunnels” and “Nightcraft”, or the nods to 90s breaks on the rhythm programming of “Eye Contact”, but the record has an almost wistful nostalgia to its construction. Setting aside the pleasing digital clarity of the mix (an area that Selleakers has always excelled in), the record could just as easily have hailed from the early 2000s musically. The emotional by-product of that feeling comes through as a kind of vague melancholy, as heard in the ghostly drones that float through “Hi-Fi Stimulant” and “Ghost Satellite”.

Grigri Pavilion is low-key affair by design, as befits the style of the project’s original run of material. It’s easy on the ears and doesn’t overstay its welcome, both qualities that make it a pleasant if not especially essential listen. Its charms will find purchase with those who still visit the artist’s classic era, and can enjoy a further exploration of its nuances and ideas.

Buy it.

Grigri Pavilion by Xingu Hill

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Tracks: September 18th, 2023

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Hey friends! It looks like the recent batch of shirts which we printed and mailed out are starting to make their way into the hands of those who ordered them. Again, we’d like to thank Mason of Ringfinger for the great design, and everyone who ordered one of them. It’s still pretty crazy to us that people find this whole endeavour of ours not only worth listening to and reading, but also voluntarily representing in public, no doubt leading to all manner of halting conversations with baristas around the world. Let’s get to this week’s Tracks!

Generation Askani’Son, er, Cable.

genCAB, “The Badge (Flesh Field remix)”
Okay, this is a real twofer inclusion here at the HQ; we’ve been pretty sweet on David Dutton’s work as genCAB since he reactivated the song-oriented electro-industrial project a few years back, so a new single is always gonna perk our ears up. That “The Badge” also comes with a taste of new Flesh Field (who as we mentioned on the podcast have recently reactivated and have a new album due very soon) is equally enticing – we’re getting noted of the latter project’s classic orchestral oomph along with some very prominent guitar chug, all a fine accompaniment to genCAB’s emotional delivery.
The Badge by genCAB

Antigen Shift, “Where Is Your Rage”
The return of Ottawa’s Antigen Shift continues apace, with the sixth in a series of hard-hitting and hooky singles from Nick Theriault and Jairus Khan. Hearkening back to classic dark electro (an appended Leaether Strip remix ), the current wave of melodic EBM, and maybe even a little bit of the more tasteful sides of synthwave, “Where Is Your Rage” is flashy but also well-considered, with the duo’s skill for crafting instrumental pieces with real movement and progression on full display.
Where Is Your Rage by Antigen Shift

Red Meat, “Providence”
When friend of the site DJ Gilly Woo reached out to let us know about the new single from Manchester based act Red Meat, she described it as “like Filth Pig, in the best way”. That description proves to be accurate, as double a-side Providence/Remission is chock full of mechanized riffs, distorted vocals, and samples, all delivered with some of that uniquely UK flavour of bile and cheek. Not an act we were checking for previously, but certainly one we will be going forward.
Providence by RED MEAT

Blac Kolor, “Zerschmetterling”
Hendrick Grothe’s Blac Kolor found a new kinship with the legendary Ant-Zen label on his Roots EP last year, and it’s a pairing that makes all the sense in the world for new LP Weltenbrand. Sure, the tense and brooding style of dark techno Grothe has been plying since before TBM blew up is still in place, but tunes like this which underpin the beats with a bit more rumbling, metallic clatter owe as much to Ant-Zen’s rhythmic industrial legacy as anything else.
weltenbrand by blac kolor

Meshes, “No Rules”
We haven’t been keeping close tabs on Meshes of late, which is a lapse on our part. When the Russian project (now based in Israel) first came to our attention during the pandemic, it was due to how their hard-hitting body music fit so nicely with the then-current wave of techno-EBM crossover; the tracks felt like pretty pure EBM, but gelled well crossover club DJ sets. The project has never strayed from that ethos, as new EP Always Against testifies with lead-off “No Rules” – it’s pure EBM in terms of bassline and atmosphere, but you could drop this in a hard tech set and have it go off any day of the week.
Always Against EP (Incl. Bloody Mary Remix) by Meshes

Mesmer’s Ghost, “The Dark”
A cross-Canadian project with whom we’ve been checking in here and there over the years, Mesmer’s Ghost trades in a minimalist and atmospheric electro-industrial/dark electro hybrid. The title track from forthcoming new EP The Dark positions a haze of classic atmospherics against tight and tense programming in a manner not unlike that of recent site favourites Kurs.
The Dark by Mesmer's Ghost

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