Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crashblack Big Orange: Naked Man LP

     Sometimes you have to redefine your idea of a “prime” era of good music in order to find music you love. For the longest time I was extremely wary of records from the late 80s and early 90s. There was so much CRAP issued around that time, as hair metal extended its Aqua Net-doused tentacles and electronic music traded in its experimentalism for digitalized rhythms and its vocals for the sound of a thousand  ravers sucking on pacifiers in an ecstacy-induced fury.
     But I have been occasionally finding records from this forsaken era. It was, after all, a great time for shoegaze. And the French coldwave/touching pop bands of the time were quite good.. The Juju mini LP from 1989 is a masterpiece, and both records by Intelligence Unit from 1989 and 1991 are excellent and unique. Well, Chicago band (and Intelligence Unit labelmates) Crashblack Big Orange can certainly be added to the category of great post-punk from this time. In fact, I'd say they were one of the best dark post-punk bands of not just their era, but ANY era. Here's a sample:
     Crashblack Big Orange (don’t worry, their name literally does not mean anything) was a husband and wife duo that rose from the ashes of a couple other bands, The Hail Marys and Unknown Pleasures. I found an interview in which they cited Killing Joke and Xmal Deutschland as their biggest influences and, well, it shows (and that alone should get you to download this post haste). I’d also add Skeletal Family to that list; Crashblack’s guitars are often quite remisncent of them. Both members share drum program duties, and both sing as well. He sounds a bit like an early UK goth-punk singer (think Twisted Nerve or UK Decay) and she sounds a bit Siouxsie-ish. The combination of male and female vocals (both of whom are actually good) is one of the things that sets this band apart from so many others. And the extended guitar intros, outros, bridges, and solos could sound a bit jammy if they didn’t completely kick ass, weren’t chock-full of distortion, or did not have that perfect darkwave tone to them. Even the basslines are memorable (and is it just me, or does the bassline of the lead track “Trust” sound like the bass from Secession’s classic “Betrayal”?) Here's another song of theirs:
   The band released at least 3 demo tapes before this LP. Most of those songs were released on this LP, although I would love to hear them if they’re demo versions. And at least one Iain Burgess –produced tape has some exclusive songs on it. The band later shortened their name to Crashblack, although I have not heard anything from that incarnation. If anyone out there has anything else from them – or demo tapes from  Unknown Pleasures or The Hail Marys, I’d be interested in hearing them!

Crashblack Big Orange
Naked Man LP
1990, Cold Grey Matter Records

Monday, November 26, 2012

New posts and reuploads!

After a couple months of not posting, I’ve finally decided to make some more posts! I’m not going away any time soon… after five years (!!!!!) of this blog, there’s STILL loads of unknown music out there. The two posts below from The French and Electric Avantgarde are brand new, and I’m also (slowly) reuploading many of the expired links that people have requested over the past couple months. Starting with:

...and one record that kept on triggering a certain file-sharing site’s guard-bots to take the file down even though it’s a completely unknown record and I’ve posted other records of theirs with no issues, and which I will only refer to here as “some New Jersey synthpunk  band”: get it here.

Feel free to request any other re-ups on the original posts or on this post… I will try to get to them!

The French: The Model 7”

The French were a band from England (um...  where else?) in the early 80s who released a couple 7”s on their own label and then disappeared. Like many bands at the time they were a post punk band featuring angular guitars and stabs of synths and plucky basslines and even the occasional sax. While it’s not the most original style, it’s the type of sound that I love, and I’m willing to bet that many of you appreciate it as well. It’s always nice to unearth another nugget of post-punk gold.
Their first 7” features a cover of Kraftwerk’s “The Model”. It’s a bit of an odd choice – the song had come out only a few years prior – but they actually make it sound pretty great. In fact, it’s one of the best covers that I’ve heard in a long time, as it sounds very different from the original but still captures a raw urgency that seems to be lacking from the many rote covers that abound. The song is built upon a tinny syn-drum and slices of guitar and bass. The strangest part of the song are the synths that randomly are thrown on top of the entire affair – they are loud, haphazard, and sound almost exactly like the sound Pac-Man makes when he’s caught by a ghost.
The band’s other songs are originals. Set Me On Fire is a great (if thin-sounding) track with simplistic synth pulses and flourishes of sax on top of great guitar lines and vocals. It’s certainly a favorite in the house of Goutroy.
I’ve also included the A-side of their second single, The River Flows East. It’s also a pretty good song, trading in the angular and arty sound for a more groove-oriented sound in the style of bands like APB. Unfortunately my copy is currently in storage and I don’t have a rip of the B side, but from what I remember it sucked. So I’m sparing you a song that you’d just end up deleting anyway.

Electric Avantgarde: Lonely 12”

Hailing from the college town of Freiberg in Germany, where I obtained this 12” while travelling earlier this year, Electric Avantgarde was a duo who made amateur yet enjoyable synthpop. If the band is remembered at all, it is for a tape they released on the long-enduring Danse Macabre Records  in 1990. This 12” predates that tape by a few years, and has two mixes of a song called “Lonely”.
While the band’s later material (at least the songs that I have heard) are more guitar-oriented goth rock, “Lonely” is completely enjoyable – albeit unabashedly cheesy -- electro-pop/Euro dance. Think Mysterious Art or Dead or Alive or Secession and you’re halfway there. The group was led by a guy who mysteriously (or pretentiously) went by the name Mozart. He sings in a weird combination of a girlish falsetto and a forceful masculine style.
The B side is just a dub mix of the A-side, because every band apparently had to have a dub mix back in the 80s. It’s not as good as the original mix. This song may not be for everyone , but those of us who have a soft spot for the occasional unironic dance track will enjoy it!

Electric Avantgarde: Lonely 12”
1988, self-released

Monday, August 13, 2012

New Law Nightmare: S/T EP

New Law Nightmare was a project from the late 80s fronted by a guy named Rik Savering. The act is probably most notable for having two great darkwave songs on a couple of the excellent Grindstone Compilations (um... re-upload to come soon, I suppose). There is almost no mention whatsoever of this 1988 EP, aside from some store that has a copy for sale on a couple online sites. This has completely escaped notice from pretty much everyone. Now, we can’t let that continue, can we? 
                When I found this in a local store recently, I was immediately grabbed by the somber dark “touching pop” style of the first song, Witch Trial. With some truly remarkable synth lines and perfectly emotive vocals, it’s a wonderful song. Other songs mix a bit more guitar into the sound – in some cases I’d prefer the songs without it. “Upper ten”, for example, is a great dark synthpop song, but the short guitar solos stand out a bit too much, especially since they are so loud in the mix. Even so, the guitar-heavy songs aren’t bad… it’s just that the instrument is more prominent than necessary and stands in sharp contrast to the melancholic synthpop with which it’s paired.
Fortunately, the formula does work wonders on the final song, “Only As”, with an unstoppable beat and synth line, and whose shrieks and wails of guitar actually work to enhance the track. Overall, this is a good EP with a couple excellent tracks, and several valiant attempts that just didn’t quite get the right balance of sounds. I’d be interested to hear if he released anything else under this moniker – hopefully more songs on the caliber of Witch Trial are waiting to be discovered.

New Law Nightmare: S/T EP
1988, Vuv Records
A1 Witch Trial
A2 Upper Ten
A3 Say
B1 Déjà vu
B2 Fifteen Shadows

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Gallery: S/T LP

The Gallery were a Belgian band whose generic name has rendered them pretty much impossible to search for on the web. I don’t believe this has been shared or blogged about before, but who knows… I have found out that, quite confusingly, the band’s guitarist/keyboardist /producer Stephan Kraemer was in another unrelated band called Gallery in the early 80s. However, he is probably best known for his work as the guitarist/drummer of Zwischenfall. That group’s style of dark synthpop focused more on noisy but danceable electronics; The Gallery balance their synth use with more guitars. In this five-piece darkwave group, Kraemer worked with vocalist Iben Larssen and bassist Thomas Kuersten , both of whom worked with him on a few Zwischenfall songs (Iben Larssen provided the vocals to the 1984 English version of Flucht and Sandy Eyes), as well as contributing to tracks by Snowy Red and A Split Second. Keyboardist Nicolas Mansy later went to record with the short-lived alt/synth group Wasteland .
With such bona fides, the band has a lot to live up to and while the LP is a bit uneven at times, for the most part they do not disappoint. The vocals are usually haunting, with plenty of reverb and atmosphere. They suffer a bit on a few early songs when the band treads into more alt-rock territory replete with strained, yelled lyrics. Fortunately not too many songs take this stylistic deviation, and the best songs are reserved for the second side. The closing song, Nuthouse, is a midtempo track whose gloomy, beautiful chorus almost comes as a surprise. Crime Time is a full-force darkwave track that would sound perfect in any goth club set between Skeletal Family and The Veil. My favorite track on the album is the slow, stark “The Warning”, a vaguely Cocteau Twins affair which starts with sparse bass and drums before they’re followed up with cold synth chimes that sound like they’re channeling The Exorcist.

 The Gallery, S/T LP
1989, 150 BPM Records
Your Skin
 Better Days
Ballad of a Suburban Night
Fade Away
 The Warning
Crime Time

  Click here to listen!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Intelligence Unit

This week I’m quite happy to share a couple very underrated records from a Chicago band called Intelligence Unit. They were around in the late 80s and early 90s and featured a wildly original and diverse array of sounds. There is certainly a lot to absorb here – there are elements of goth, synthpop, post punk, experimental, and gypsy folk music. This is one band who cannot be accused of lacking creativity or originality.
The group was a quartet made up of multi-instrumentalists who played guitars, bass, percussion, synths, e-bow, keyboards, and more. They featured an extremely unique singer – he escapes the trappings of emulating vocalists of more established bands and lets his distinguished voice carry many of the songs. Nowhere is this more evident than on the killer darkwave masterpiece Havens Amoung Wastelands, the first song on their debut EP. It starts with an ambient soundscape before the guitars, synths, and punishing drum fills kick in, followed by his forceful vocals pushed up front and center, full of dragged vowels and occasional over-pronunciation. It took me a few listens before I began to really appreciate this style, and now I cannot imagine it sung any other way. I posted it to youtube as well... check it out here: 

Their debut EP continues with more gems – Perimeter sounds somewhat influenced by the Chameleons; The Visionary is instrumental darkwave at its finest, and Venice is basically romantic Venetian gondola music with synths. The only misstep is Cinecila, which sounds a bit like a warmup session by a coffee shop jazz band.
The band’s full length, Foundation, is an even more diverse affair. It starts with a great midtempo darkwave song, Lilith, which reminds me of late 80s/early 90s kindred spirits like Mute Angst Envy or Autumn cathedral or any number of the bands on the Lively Art label. The next song is another generic jazz retread (why?!) but it’s the only misstep on an otherwise solid and original album. Other gems include the slow, somber “Distance”, on which synths and sax kick in during the chorus for a wholly melancholy soundtrack to a midnight drive; “The Black Death” is a surprising melodic turn, with a more focused pop sensibility; “The Prison Ship” is a dark, unstoppable dirge, full of reverb and synths and guitars that fade in and out amoung any number of unknown and mysterious sounds; Reinette and Mirabel in Paris is a complete winner, sounding like a Parisian folk-waltz with layers of synths, twinkling gypsy guitars, and accordions.
I don’t know if the band ever released anything after Foundation. I’ve gleaned that they may have written some songs after the album, so if anyone has anything else from them I would certainly love to hear it. In the meantime, satiate yourselves on these two wonderful releases!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Die Rote Fabrik: Incident EP

Here is a piece of Belgian darkwave from 1986 that has been long, long forgotten. Self-released and hand-stamped for an underground DIY feel, this is a record that is sure to please the hardened goth and DIY post-punk fan.
The record starts with the song “Murder”, which grows quickly from a few samples to a barrage of scratchy guitars and synth-drums start up, backed by a steady bassline. It’s a lo-fi but blistering goth track falls squarely between Screams for Tina and Section 25. “Give Me Your Love” is a much slower song that wallows in gloom and self-pity as the singer desperately pleads and begs for companionship. The song starts with a barebones structure of metronomic drums, single-note-bass, and lazy guitars until the last minute, when the guitar picks up, synths kick in, echoing the urgency in the singer’s voice. Side B starts with Pain, which features syncopated drum machines and layers of noisy guitars. Finally, the record closes with “Fast Living”, which is all stuttering drums and yelling vocals that compete futilely with a sheer wall of tinny no-chord guitar noise.
Two of the three members of Die Rote Fabrik later would later form Starfish Enterprises and add more electronics to their barrage of noise; later that group broke up when one of the members went on to record (quite prolifically) under the moniker Starfish Pool. The record is the one remnant of Die Rote Fabrik’s existence that I know of. It’s one of those records that feels a bit out of place – when it was released in 1986 it was too late to find an audience amongst its kindred spirits in the early post-punk scene; it was a bit too noisy to be popular in goth clubs, and it certainly was not poppy enough to garner any radio play. Hopefully people out there like this one… it has certainly grown on me. As an added bonus, a few copies can currently be found on discogs for relatively cheap!

Die Rote Fabrik: Incident EP

1986, self-released

A1 Murder
A2 Give Me Your Love
B1 Pain
B2 Fast Living

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Prophet O’Haphazard: Cabaret Nostalgia EP

Here is the obscure second release from the somber German singer Prophet O’Haphazard, called Cabaret Nostalgia.I originally thought O'Haphazard was a girl, but it was actually the pseudonym of one  Oliver Gerling). His debut EP  - which is a must-have for underground synth fans - can be found on Capa Nostra Syndicate and is highly recommended.. The record’s album title gives a hint of what is in store on this record – gothic cabaret music mixes seamlessly with electronics and effected guitars and O’Haphazard’s wonderfully sullen, deadpan voice. At times his forceful but somewhat feminine voice recalls early efforts by contemporary artists like Molly Nilsson and Zola Jesus, but he’s less poppy than the former and more dynamic than the latter.
You and Me Covered in Silence plods along like gyspsy funeral parlor music, while Sum Up To Suicide is a beautiful mesh of aching synth strings, stabs of guitars and sparse drumming that sums up to one of the most bleak songs ever. Side B kicks off with Prophet O’Haphazard proving his bona fides with an excellent cover of Thomas Leer and Robert Rental’s Monochrome Days. Magic Mushroom Kingdom starts off aimlessly before it turns into perhaps the first gothic minimal synth-psych song, sort of like Astaron mashed up with Red Temple Spirits. Sadly, despite being about a Mushroom Kingdom, it does not mention Mario or Luigi at all.
Finally the album ends with a reprise of a song from her debut EP, Till I Hate You. Fittingly, this song is called Till I Hate You 2. You know, in case you weren’t sure he hated you the first time he sang it… well, he still does. Interestingly, while the title implies that it will be a bitter tirade against a lover who wronged him, it’s actually a slow, melancholy track with lyrics that drip with thoughts of heartache while the music retains an almost sweet hopelessness.

Prophet O’Haphazard: Cabaret Nostalgia EP
1989, Minstrel Records
A1                           Moon Over A Town And A Yellow Flowerfield Behind
A2                           You And Me Covered In Silence              
A3                           Sum Up To Suicid
B1                           Monochrome Days
B2                           Magic Mushroom Meadow       
B3                           ´Till I Hate You ´2

Click here to get it!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Commercial Music: Volume 3

It’s been a few weeks since I last shared something on this blog (that Spiff record is one of my recent favorites though). So I think the third “Commercial Music” collection of odds and ends – obscure B sides, demos, or good songs on otherwise mediocre albums – is certainly called for.
This one is by far my favorite of these compilations. It’s the most diverse, and almost every song is solid, whether it’s an unheard demo song demo, a new band, or classic post punk. Here’s what’s in store for you:

     Atoms for Peace were a Gainsville, FL based new wave band who self-released one album in 1985 and then.. nothing. The record is pretty obscure, and for the most part it has not held up as well as other new wave records. But the second song on the album, Pictures, is a total classic that builds intensely from a few acoustic guitar strums to a crashing Bunnymen-esque post punk song with some pretty cool vocal delays during the refrain.
   Next is an extremely obscure Belgian band who self-released one LP in 1987 on the ominously-named “Mahomet’s Holy War” label.  Apparently only 50 copies of it were pressed, and it has been pretty unknown (obviously due to its scarcity) for many years. But their sole record is becoming more and more of a holy grail, and this song is a killer post punk song that sounds very similar to the great Dutch band Mecano – huge thanks to Lesypersound for this rip!
       Next up is a forgotten UK new wave band. This song is the B side of their sole 12 inch from 1985. While the A side is really nothing special, the B side is excellent and falls squarely in the Flock of Seagulls vein of synthpop (admit it, you like it).
     Work of Fiction released one song on one of those hundreds of local band compilations that were so prevalent in the 80s. They were from upstate New York. The vocals are quite cheesy (imagine Robert Smith crossed with Rick Astley), but the great synths on the song make it worthwhile.
     Next up is a Missouri-based band who released one 12” EP  that contained three pretty standard AOR pop songs and one quite good new wave song with a nice repetitive synth rhythm.
     That new wave song is followed up with a Florida-based goth band who had a few songs on various compilation records but have otherwises remained quite obscure. These guys were unapologetically, humorlessly goth. And while their earnestness may sound a bit cheesy now, this song inexplicably holds a place in my heart. My cold, black, unbeating heart.
     Many of you will be familiar with the next band, whose style of industrial is heavily influenced by early Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, et al, with all the leather fetishism that comes with the genre. This song is from one of their extremely limited (13 copies only!) demo CDs that were sold on a 2008 west coast tour, when the "band" was just one person singing and thrashing around to prerecorded music.
     We follow that song up with a Detroit band who, had one song on a completely unknown compilation the late 80s, and that’s pretty much it. It’s a shame, since this track “You Make It Hard” is a pretty great synthpop track somewhat in the vein of late-80s Depeche Mode.
     Next is another Michigan band, Clambake, who recorded a couple extremely limited cassettes (including a Christmas album!) and faded into obscurity. Their music was synth-heavy and somewhat industrial, sounding very similar to bands like Gelatinous Citizen. This song became better known after it was re-recorded by the industrial band Shock Therapy, with whom they collaborated.
     Jezebel and the Nudes were your average female-fronted new wave/disco crossover band. They had one 12” EP in 1983 that has three somewhat forgettable songs, and then ends with this great dramatic disco-wave song chock full of synths and electronics.
     The next band was a trio active in the early 80s who released two very limited albums (only 500 copies were pressed of their debut, from which this song Chasing Moroder was taken). For the most part, they played a mix of new age and improvisational jazz, but analog synth nuts will absolutely freak over this song, which features a steady kr-55 rhythm and pulsating, gurgling and crashing electronics and stabs of effected guitar noise. It truly sounds like its namesake – if Moroder was being chased in his nightmares.
     After a deranged electro song, what's more polar opposite than an extremely underrated Manchester indie band active in the early 90s. Their music was a mix of Britpop, shoegaze, and bits and pieces of the Madchester sound.  Virtually everything in their small catalog is excellent, and this is one of my favorites.
     Next is a Texas band who released a very obscure 7” that contained one somewhat bland bar-rock song, and this song, a blistering and absolutely killer blast of post punk fury that sounds like an aggressive version of For Against or Lung Overcoat. VERRRRRRRY great
     Next up is another new-ish band with many hats. Some songs are industrial dance, some are more electro, but this song (my personal favorite), taken from their demo CD, is a post punk tour de force with a wonderfully thick bassline.
     The next band released a demo tape in the mid-80s, with songs that paid a generous homage to The Cure. It’s not too surprising, as the band would soon change their name and release an entire album of Cure-esque goodness. This song was exclusive to the demo tape.
     Day & Age were a San Francisco area band from the mid to late 80s who self released one LP full of midtempo jazz-pop songs and one great (but definitely cheesy) synthpop song. Their bio states that they were proud to announce that it was played on Live 105 during a midday program, so perhaps SOMEONE else out there heard it.
     After that is a UK new wave band who released a couple extremely obscure and  LPs. Their first one was a dark, if amateur, Joy Division-inspired album; their second LP (from which this song was taken) found them a lot more matured but still with a dark edge. I’m only sharing one song of theirs because you can buy their entire recorded output at CD Baby  –it is highly recommended!
     Unless you collect Christian ska compilations , you’re quite likely to have missed the next band's only recorded output. Contrary to the rest of that compilations, this band played a dramatic and quite dark synth-heavy post punk full of reverb.
     The last band is filed under “freestyle” pretty much 100% of the time they are mentioned on the net. Freestyle fans apparently know a good thing when they hear it, but I have to say that this is “freestyle” the same way that 90s synthpop bands like Cause and Effect or Red Flag were “freestyle”. Which is to say… not really that much. But no matter how you want to label this song, it is pretty much the best synthpop song of the early 90s – an absolutely beautiful, epic, melodic and perfect synthpop masterpiece. HUGE thanks to Lesypersound for this one!

Where can you hear this treasure trove? Right here!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spiff: Music At Last!

We cannot always judge a book by its cover, nor an album on its artwork. I know this from experience, as all record collectors surely do. I’ve purchased countless cheap records completely unheard, based upon their promising cover art, only to cringe when my needle hit the wax and the hideous sounds of Air Supply-esque wuss-wave spewed from the speakers. Conversely, sometimes an uninspired cover can actually hide a surprisingly excellent record. This record by Spiff is a perfect example. Although its simplistic cover looks like it may have come from a mid-80s AOR pop band from Iowa that recorded an album of soft rock jams with lyrics about how much they want to rip off your teal jumpsuit and muss up your feathered hair as they rock your body (gently, of course… they’re soft rockers, after all), in reality the record is a completely unknown, Southern Californian one-man synthpop extravaganza.
While the prospect of late-80s synthpop leaves a very sour taste in most of our mouths, let me assure you that this guy was the genuine article. It sounds as if he worshipped in the church of Vince Clarke and Paul Humphreys. While other kids in his school band were learning to play Stars and Stripes Forever, he was trying to convince the music teacher that the composition sorely lacked a Jupiter 8 solo. And while other kids recited the US Pledge of Allegiance every morning at school, he probably sang Just Can’t Get Enough.
Truly, there is not a dud on this album. The only criticism I really have is that it is not a very dynamic record – most songs are about the same BPM and sound vaguely similar to one another, and the same drum fill is used on almost every song. Of course, given the choice between listening to a slightly redundant late-80s record heavily influenced by Speak and Spell, or a third-rate Quiet Riot clone singing their last remaining brain cells out, I certainly prefer the former. And there are songs that stand out from the rest here – Phon is eminently danceable, with silly lyrics and samples of telephones ringing. Follow Me has an absolutely killer bassline and is prefect for any synthpop dance club (especially since most of the lyrics simply say “get up, get up, get up and dance”).
The more I listen to this record, the more I appreciate the mysterious Spiff's completely earnest take on a style of music that was certainly passé when he released it. He was 10 years too late to enjoy any sort of renown with this record, and at least 10 years too early to take advantage of any sort of early-synthpop resurgence. In a way, I suppose he was one of the very first people to revive this style of electro-pop, albeit at the worst time possible (commercially, at least). At the beginning of “Clauge”, he declares “In the late 70s, no-one understood… there was a new age dawning. And this is what it sounded like” just before a barrage of (kind of cheesy) analog-sounding electronics smacks your ears. With this statement, you know that Spiff is trying desperately to recapture the sound of a bygone era. And I’ll be damned if he doesn’t succeed wonderfully.
Spiff: Music at Last EP
1989, self-released

Spiff is on the way to re-releasing his music digitally! Check out this page for more info. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Human Trapped Rhythms mLP

Here’s a release from 1985 that’s so far out in left-field that it has pretty much left the ballpark. Combining industrial noise with minimal electronics, mantra-like chants and primal screams, utterly unrefined singing and creepy tape loops - all of which come together in the most barebones of musical structures - this record is less a collection of “songs” than an amateurly sinister (or sinisterly amateur?) foray into avant garde atmospherics.

Many of the tracks here are little more than synth lines over which male or female vocals sing, talk, shriek, or all of the above. Some sound a bit ridiculous and cross the terrain into simple pretension, but there are some tracks that are both stark and beautiful. “No Words” is about two or three notes played on the low end of a synthesizer, with the female vocalist slowly reciting poetic lyrics. “The Message” is the closest this record comes to an actual song, with thudding sparse industrial percussion, hints of an ominous rhythm in the background, and male vocals repeating the words “roll back… and die”. “Blood Run” is nothing more than white noise and chimes, as a cacophonic chorus of ghosts tunes their vocals.

The title track is particularly odd and interesting, awash in sampled noise and echoing laughter, child’s-toy instruments, and vocals that vaguely recall traditional British folk music. It’s a pretty strange and slightly creepy track. It kind of sounds like those brief 5-10 seconds of hushed music played at the end of horror movie trailers. You know those trailers that begin with a narrator whose vocal tone implies profundity, but whose words are cliché, bordering on inane? They start with “In a world… where there is no line… between life and death”, and then there’s a minute of action and suspense scenes. Then the trailer cuts the sound to a minimum, and a quiet, spooky song (a song quite similar to the title track on this record) is the only sound in the theater, played at a low volume to build suspense, as the camera zooms in on a lone figure in an austere room illuminated by a moonlit window, and maybe the eerie music is accompanied by vocals of a little girl with a British accent, whose otherwise innocent and sweet singing sounds vaguely evil as the shadows of dying trees dance in the moonlight, playing across the mystery figure’s visibly trembling silhouette, and the camera moves slowly but steadily closer to them, and you wonder if the figure is perhaps the singing girl, or a monster, or a figment of someone’s imagination and then the figure slowly turns, and they're revealed to be a girl in her late teens, her vacant sheet-white face glowing a ghostly blue in the moonlight and the vocals fade and all music fades aside from a lone suspenseful shimmering note and then out of nowhere BAM!!!!! a sparkling vampire grabs the figure you realize it’s a trailer for a new Twilight movie. Goddamn it.

Listen to the mLP here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Black Box: Fetish#1 7”

Out of Australia comes this obscure and rare 7” by a band called The Black Box. Their influences are quite obvious – very Birthday Party and somewhat deathrock sounding stuff here. It’s grinding, screeching, noisy guitar rock, with vocals that seem primed for attack, drums occasionally pounded so hard you feel sorry for them, and short sax interludes. It’s actually the band’s perfect use of the sax that sets this release above so many similar “me-too” bands. The instrument goes from short aggressive bleats to tuneful melodies in the space of a few seconds. It makes both songs much more dynamic and interesting.

The record was self released in 1989 on Claude Records. There is not too much information to be found about this band – it seems they released only this 7” (although I’d certainly like to hear more if it exists) and then toiled in obscurity. It’s time to rediscover them now. This record is a bit scratchy, so excuse the static and clicks that are mainly at the beginning of each song.

Black Box: Fetish#1 7”

1989, Claude Records


Poison Shadows

Click here to listen!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nullset: Debut 7"

For some reason, my initial post of this record disappeared... Here it is again. This is the exceedingly rare and practically unknown debut 7” from obscure New Jersey synth band Nullset. In the past, I posted their Unisphere 12” and Forget You First 7”. Those records found the band in pop-ish new wave territory (although Unisphere is still has some pretty nice DIY sounding synthpop tracks). But this 7” is much more electronic, and features one of my absolute favorite synthpunk song.
The A side is a good lo-fi synthpop song that sounds very much like their material on their 12” released later in the year. It’s somewhat tinny and not recorded particularly well. The low production value adds to the song's charm, though.
The B-side is the truly kickass song though. Unfortunately, it is a live recording (begging the question, why could they not have recorded this song in a proper studio? Did they only have time for one song when they recorded the A-side?). Aside from being mixed VERY low (allowing for even light surface noise to be noticeable at the beginning), the sound is not that bad for a live track recorded in 1981 or so in a tiny club. And the song packs a punch – it is fast-paced synthpunk, with some great synth lines and loads of KR-55 drum machine fills. If there is somehow an unreleased studio recording of this, perhaps someone out there has it?
This record was released in 1983, shortly before the Unisphere 12”, and has been largely forgotten. I can imagine that only a few hundred of these were ever pressed, and I have only ever seen one copy in my life – which I grabbed without hesitation and have ripped here.

Nullset: Debut 7"
1983, JRM Records

Monday, March 5, 2012

Eleven Pond: Reunion show in Brooklyn

With this post, my blog comes full-circle, in a way. One of my very first posts ever was the Eleven Pond LP Bas Relief. That monster rarity contained some perfectly written synthpop and darkwave gems, and as the mp3s were distributed more and more, and as the record began to flirt with $500+ prices on eBay, the demand for a reissue was unrelenting. The album eventually became the inaugural release on the highly respectable Dark Entries label, and is well on its way to selling out multiple pressings.

Jeff Gallea, bassist and principle songwriter of the group, had continued to dabble in music throughout the couple decades since that record was released, and the idea of an Eleven Pond reunion show appealed to him as much as it did to everyone who ever heard the record. What was initially supposed to be a low-key solo show in Brooklyn with Jeff performing Eleven Pond songs soon morphed into a long-awaited reunion between him and singer/guitarist James Tabbi that culminated in a one-off performance on February 16. The duo had not seen each other (let alone performed together!) for almost 24 years. But when they took the stage after just one rehearsal with Abby Echiverri from Dream Affair and Barrett Hiatt from Revel Hotel on synths/violin and electronic drums respectively, it sounded as if they had never ceased being a band.

They barreled through 8 songs, including a couple covers and new/unreleased tracks. The sold-out crowd danced to every beat without stopping. The band was tight, energetic, and the mutual excitement shared by the crowd and band was palpable. Everyone in the audience left the show elated.

Jeff recorded the entire show on a small tape recorder – while the sound occasionally clips a little bit on a few songs, it’s a surprisingly good recording (Jeff's bass especially stands out). He posted most of the show to listen or download on the Eleven Pond soundcloud page. I’ve also consolidated the entire show for your listening pleasure below.

Check out a video of Tear & Cinnamon here:

I took photos of the show, including openers Plastic Flowers and Frank (Just Frank); you can find them all here.

Eleven Pond

Reunion Show @ Glasslands

Tear and Cinnamon

Moving Forward

Dancing Barefoot



Sitting on Chairs

Watching Trees


Click here to download the show!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ssleeping desiresS – Home Demos - July / Aug 2010 CD-r

...And now for something much more recent! The first time I saw San Francisco-based Ssleeping Desiress, they opened up for Sixteens at a small bar in the Mission District about 3 years ago. I had listened to a couple of their songs on their myspace page prior to attending, and my interest was piqued. There were no other bands doing such a straight-ahead synth sound in San Francisco at the time.
The band took the stage - two guys I had never seen before in the often insular city - and with a couple synths, a drum machine, and a live snare drum they barreled through a 20-minute set of vintage-sounding darkwave. The duo would alternate between synths, vocal, and drum duties; the live drum fills added a bit of a visceral and organic dimension to the barrage of electronics. They sounded spot-on.
While the band has gone through a few lineup changes since that time, Ssleeping Desiress has essentially remained the brainchild of Gabriel Ramos, who is now the sole member. This CD (limited to a scant 25 copies) is the only physical legacy of their earlier lineups, released in 2010 when Ramos was joined by Mona Martinez on vocals and percussion. The male and female vocals with gritty electronics recalls bands like Ronin, early Xeno and Oaklander, and even Nine Circles.
For a demo CD, the release is quite strong. While several tracks indeed have a bit of a rough "demo" quality, most of the them, including Tunnel, Passage, This Age, and Sleepwave (which I shared on the first Commercial Music compilation) are excellent.
The band has a few songs on various compilations - most notably the second Circuit D'Actes compilation . They also will have the fourth release on the excellent Flexiwave label in the coming months. Most of the songs on this disc are no longer part of the band's repertoire, but Ramos was happy to let me share them. Ssleeping Desiress is certainly a gem in the electronic underground, and it's great to hear these early sketches that run along the boundaries between minimal synth, coldwave, and electro.

Ssleeping Desiress: Home Demos - July / Aug 2010 CD-r
2010, Self-released

1 Tunnel
2 Crown Of Flames
3 Bird's Eye View
4 Sleepwave
5 Entrance
6 Passage
7 This Age
8 Rose Hill

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Stars That Wouldn't Shine: Selftitled mLP

Occasionally an unknown record grabs you, even though the ingredients that it consists of sound a bit ridiculous. New York band The Stars That Wouldn't Shine are a perfect example of that phenomenon. First of all, take a look at the cover. Their style is a mishmash of goth, punk, greaser, and Clockwork Orange. Who wouldn't buy this record base on the cover photo alone? Fittingly, their music is a complete conundrum as well - it's a mix of heavily synthed-out gloomy post punk, Madness-style ska, gothic surf rock, jokey deathrock, and completely deadpan, monotone and British-sounding vocals with lyrics about murder, death, Nazis, and mice. This sounds like a completley inconceivable combination, but oh, how wonderfully it works on this 8-track mini LP. If the Addams Family were a band on 4AD Records, they would probably sound like this.
There are no credits on the record aside from a photo credit and the songwriter "SARJ". Mysterious and intriguing! Right off the bat, the band slams into two fast-paced gothic ska-ish songs, full of synths, random cymbal crashes, and polyrhythmic percussion a la Adam and the Ants. The third track, Tchiakovsky, really shows the band hitting their stride. Again, it begins abruptly. No fade-in, no intro, no full measure before the vocals.... just, BAM! you're hit with a wall of heavy synths and repetitive surf guitars. The vocals are perfectly monotone, almost spoken-word, with no attempt to even try rhyming. The final song on the first side, Mister Klaus, is a "live" song that, rather than sounding like a live performance recording, sounds more like a studio recording with crowd noises thrown on top for its entire duration. It also inexplicably contains an entire album's worth of "Oi" chants, all in a row, all stated in a completely monotone voice ("oi. oi. oi. oi. oi. oi."). It is also probably the best gothic party anthem about a Nazi war ciminal (presumably Klaus Barbie) that I've ever heard.
Side 2 starts with their best gothic ska-cum-darkwave track on the album. It's fast paced and reverbed, with two or three repetitive guitar notes that sound more like they are quickly fading in and out rather than being strummed, and refrains with great organ-sounding synths. The next two tracks sound quite similar to each other, except "Four Days" has a bit of a bright feel to it and is probably the only relative dud on the album, and the subsequent "Don't Stop Now" is darker both musically and lyrically, with a break in which the singer matter-of-factly states "And so I kill you". It would be a bit creepy, if it wasn't so charming. The closing song on the album, "The Mouse Song", is on probably my favorte - a complete deathrock gem full of heavy haunted-house synths, tinny, jagged guitars, and lyrics about... um, being a mouse.
I've listened to this album half a dozen times in the past few days, and it continues to grow on me. It somehow achieves the rare mark of simultaneously sounding completely campy and utterly unironic. The ingredients of this album simply should not work anywhere near as well as they do. Maybe I am the only person who loves this record this much, but I have the sneaking suspicion that there will be a few people who'll be adding this to their wantlists and seeking it out.

The Stars That Wouldn't Shine: Selftitled mLP
1983, ADI Records

A1 Lying On The Floor
A2 You Don't Love Me
A3 Tchiakovsky
A4 Mister Klause
B1 Anything #3
B2 Four Days
B3 Don't Stop Now
B4 The Mouse Song

Monday, February 6, 2012

Circle Seven: Suburban Hope EP

Now it’s time for some good crowd-pleasing post-punk. This is the sole release from Montana-based Circle Seven. It was released on the venerable Ruthless Records back in 1981. It was one of the very first releases on the label. The band is often filed under or mentioned as a punk band on the web, and while they definitely had a punk edge to them, their music was more dynamic than that label implies. Their songs were generally pretty fast-paced but their guitar sounds ditched the guitar noise of many of their contemporaries for a surprisingly refined tunefulness. The vocals are especially strong – emphatic and pretty powerful, bordering on goth on a few songs on the second side. It somehow sounds as if he is yelling in a hushed voice.

The record starts out with a midtempo burst of punk energy on the titular “Suburban Hope”. The second side certainly has the strongest songs. “Cover Up” is a trackthat drives forward without losing momentum. It doesn’t even contain a chorus, it just keeps a steady pace until the last 40 seconds or so when the it ends in repeated chants of “cover up cover up cover up…”. “Say One Thing” is another unrelenting track that barely pauses for air in its 1:45 length. It also contains some pretty great drum fills that are basically substituted in place of any sort of vocal chorus. The record closes with “Look What You Got”, on which the singer sounds more angst-ridden than on any preceding track. He progressively sounds more aggravated as the song barrels on.

This is a pretty solid EP, and will certainly appeal to fans of no-frills guitar-driven post punk. The songs are quite well-written and the record is surprisingly refined, which is probably why it tends to be on quite a few wantlists. It’s a record that sounds good upon first listen, but slowly grows in potency over repeated spins.

Circle Seven: Suburban Hope EP

1981 Ruthless Records

A1 Suburban Hope

A2 I Woke Up

A3 Distant

B1 Cover Up

B2 Say One Thing

B3 Look What You Got

Click here to listen!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Julie Jumper: Rhythm Radar 7"

Here is a 7” from 1982 that’s ostensibly a one-woman vanity project by a Richmond, VA based girl named Julie Jumper. I think the best way to describe it is “outsider electro”. On the A side, Rhythm Radar, she sings in a super-poppy 60s girl-group style over gurgling, pulsating, screeching, and beeping electronics. It’s endearingly amateur, and also quite subversive in its earworm-like catchiness, especially as she exclaims “no-one wants to vegetate so GYRATE! GYRATE!”. If you’ve ever wanted to hear, I don’t know... Liaisons Dangereuses fronted by Cyndi Lauper, this is probably the closest you’re ever going to get.

The B side, Male Rites, is a decidedly feminist argument for stronger male roles in sex and reproductive responsibility. If I heard this on the radio or on a podcast, I would just assume it was a Le Tigre or Chicks on Speed song from about 10 years ago. The song is certainly a bit snotty (in a punk sort of way) and quite clever in its adamant political stance. It alternates between noodling electronics and full-on synthpop when the intermittent rhythm machine kicks in. My copy has a weird “haze” sort of defect on it that causes crackling on the B side. I cleaned it up a bit, but it’s still present, mainly at the beginning.

After she released this 7”, Julie went on to form a similar group called O.Boy with two other girls (two rhythm boxes, a synth, and vocals), who are still quite legendary in the local Richmond scene. While they recorded some tracks together, I don’t know if they ever actually released anything. I'd be interested if anyone has any info or songs from them, though.

Julie Jumper: Rhythm Radar 7”

1982, Restless Records

A: Rhythm Radar

B: Male Rites

Click here to listen!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tirez Tirez: Scattered 7”

Here is a record that will certainly please fans of early US and UK DIY post-punk. I’ve seen requests for this self-released debut 7” from Mikel Rouse’s band Tirez Tirez and after finally tracking down a copy I’m happy to share this rarity.

As indicated above, this record was self-released by the band, in 1979. Tirez Tirez initially hailed from that bastion of art-punk… Missouri. After opening for the Talking Heads there, Rouse packed his bags and moved to New York, where he found a more receptive audience. Tirez Tirez’s art-wave is extremely European sounding. Combine this with the fact that their first couple albums and singles were initially (or only) released in Europe and you’d be likely to think they were from the UK (I certainly did for several years).

This record is among the more sought-after and rare US DIY records, and for good reason. While the music on this record is a bit rough around the edges – a little lo-fi and less developed than their later material –it’s still a solid record. The A side, Scattered, is a drumless track filled with reverbed and fuzzy 60s-style guitars and almost crosses over into a “punk poetry” vein along the lines of John Cooper Clarke or early Patrik Fitzgerald. The B side, Scenery, is more accessible and full sounding, with an uptempo beat and loads of repetitive keyboards and synth lines - kind of like a less melancholy version of early Tuxedomoon. The record is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but fans of the raw DIY new wave of the Messthetics and Homework compilations will appreciate it.

Tirez Tirez: Scattered 7"

1979, self-released

A: Scattered

B: Scenery

Click here to listen!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Basic Scream: Tales of Intoxication LP

Here’s a pretty obscure LP from the Netherlands. It’s a self-released and self-produced record from a band called Basic Scream. It’s a bit surprising that this is so unknown, since it really is the type of record that goth and deathrock fans (myself included) would enjoy. It combines noisy Swans-ish guitars with deranged Lydia Lunch-style vocals. The band used guitars that almost sound like basses, and in turn their bass guitars are so low they sound like the ominous rumblings of angry monsters. The low-end-focused sound of the music lends a heaviness to the songs that perfectly couples with the creeped-out vocals and lyrics.

There are certainly some weak points on the album. Some of the songs sound a bit too similar to each other. And although the lyrics are certainly written with an avant garde poetic approach, they can tend to be goth-for-the-sake-of-goth. The song “Springtime” starts out with a plaintive wail that exclaims “Springtime / the season of decay”, and the song “Hunt” fades out with her chanting “Life is a place / that’s forbidden to live”, while the song “An Insane Queen” is entirely about the psychotic musings of its titular subject.

Still, I cannot fault the record too much. As a whole, it works very well. Standout songs like “Hunt”, with its machine-gun tribal drumming and washes and stabs of guitars, and “An Insane Queen”, with its absolutely delirious ambiance as the song builds into a tsunami of guitar effects and pure cacophony, certainly keep the album fresh. All of the songs flow from one to the next perfectly. The music will deviate from simple, repetitive guitar lines to full-on deathrock in the space of a minute, and that variety ensures that the album is listenable throughout its duration.

Basic Scream – Tales of Intoxication LP

1986, Basic Records

A1 A Dance Of Fire

A2 On The Edge II

A3 Rites

A4 Sixty-Seven Men And Women

A5 An Insane Queen

B1 The Shadow Of Man

B2 Springtime

B3 The Hunt

B4 Requiem

Click here to listen