Observer: Secular Plague & Сумеречный Сад

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Secular Plague - Charred Future
Secular Plague
Charred Future
Vlad Tapes

It’s been a good long while since we heard from Secular Plague, and apparently in the interim the French act has moved to Finland. The change of scenery hasn’t affected the larger ethos of the project: they’re still trading in a deathrock/crust hybrid which should appeal to fans of Rudimentary Peni and d-beat alike. That said, a slightly more consciously low-fi and ghostly sound is used on Charred Future in comparison to previous releases. Jacques Saph’s vocal take on a more twisted yowl that matches the echo that sends it clattering about waves of grimy guitar. The influences are still clearly apparent – “Nuclear Winter”‘s chord progression bears a striking resemblance to that of “Spiritual Cramp” – but the simplicity and quick delivery of the EP never wears out the welcome of its classic deathrock mood. That mournful tone’s also well suited to the record’s broader lyrical themes: while the band’s anarcho-vegan politics were once squarely aimed at consumerism and animal industries, the all-encompassing fear of total annihilation in the face of climate change now holds sway.
Charred Future by Secular Plague

Сумеречный Сад

Saint Petersburg trio Сумеречный Сад (Twilight Garden in english) make darkwave of the slower more textural variety, shot through with touches of weirdness and whimsy. Interestingly one of their most distinctive elements is their use of bass guitar, which while bathed in the requisite chorus is extremely rubbery and is mixed right up front, carrying many of the songs along with it. A track like “Выйди из воды” works primarily because the warbling layers of synths and gentle vocals combine with the bass to create a dreamy hypnotic groove that flows over the listener. It’s largely ethereal as a piece, but that doesn’t make it loagy; check out the peppy half-time rhythm on the title track or the funky carnival vibe of the bell-inflected “Гори” for examples of the spritely energy Сумеречный Сад inject into their songs. There’s almost an air of the Legendary Pink Dots in the construction of their songs, a comparison that doesn’t do them a disservice given the strength of their material, and the atmosphere it conjures.
БЕГИ by Сумеречный Сад

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We Have a Technical 293: Rightly Snow

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In Strict Confidence

A rare Vancouver snow storm has the Senior Staff separated in meatspace, but that doesn’t stop the podcastin’. Records turning twenty this year are on the table, with In Strict Confidence’s Love Kills! and The Echoing Green’s Supernova. There’s also plenty of talk about the major North American tour announcements from both Ministry and Einsturzende Neubauten on this week’s episode of the Internet’s longest running vegan Canadian wrestling-friendly industrial music podcast. 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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White Light Monorail, “The Gravitational Field Of Oblivion”

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White Light Monorail

White Light Monorail
The Gravitational Field Of Oblivion
Grey Sky Recordings

The second album from Tyler Newman and Paul Savio’s White Light Monorail project could either reacquaint or befuddle erstwhile listeners of the pair, depending on when the last time they checked in. While Newman has shown off his chops at more varied scene-adjacent sounds in the past few years with his Zonekiller (soundtracking) and negative_crush (post-rock) projects, his work with Savio as White Light Monorail more clearly refers to the electro-industrial roots of their previous incarnation as Battery Cage. But while there are plenty of passages on The Gravitational Field Of Oblivion which ably recall Battery Cage’s core influences and stylings, it’s the way in which brighter melodic elements are woven in which allows the record to shing.

Don’t let the prismatic and spritely coloured cover art totally fool you: plenty of The Gravitational Field Of Oblivion is of a kind with Battery Cage’s slickly produced but often chugging electro-industrial and industrial rock. Check the seething use of mid-period FLA (or early Haujobb, if you prefer) markers on opener “Oblivion”, or the classic American coldwave of “Silence Transformed”. But more often than not those heavier moods are crosshatched with lithe melodies and clever harmonics which have been worked into the corners or are given free rein to run amok. Post-rock, downtempo, and synthwave are all used to add colour here and there, though sampling may be the record’s not so secret weapon, with Bollywood and Fever Ray being drawn into “Babul” and “Airwaves”, respectively (I can’t speak with complete certainty to the U2 samples I think I’m hearing on “Frozen Fire”).

It’s just as fast-moving a record in terms of emotional colouring. While there’s plenty of bile in the vocal tracks, the bubbling warmth and joy of the synths which comprise “Rods and Cones” or the chopped-up micro-rave of “Falling Apart” can’t be denied, nor can the irreverence which crops up throughout. The use of classic Internet detritus (Fensler Films’ infamous G.I. Joe clips on “Oblivion”) might seem at odds with the earnest and affecting feel of most of the music, but that’s really par for the course when you’re talking about a project who had a track called “How Is Babbylon Formed?” on their previous record.

Battery Cage fans will likely be happy with the at hand “return to form” sounds on The Gravitational Field Of Oblivion, but for my money the real art in the record lies in how Newman and Savio have blended in the much broader range of sounds and moods they’ve been trading in in the interim. Recommended.

Buy it.

the gravitational field of oblivion by white.light.monorail

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Rosegarden Funeral Party, “Martyr”

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Rosegarden Funeral Party
Moon Sounds Records

It’s amazing what a slight adjustment in approach can do for a band. Up ’til recently the book on Dallas’ Rosegarden Funeral Party was that they were a serviceable post-punk band, drawing influence from classic acts college radio acts like Echo & the Bunnymen and The Smiths. They were good at it, but the material never seemed to really grab hold, in spite of the trio’s obvious talents. 2019’s Martyr is a different animal altogether, harnessing the remarkable presence of vocalist and guitarist Leah Lane in service of some extremely catchy tunes.

The change in approach isn’t hard to discern, from the opening strains of “Fade to Black”, a speedy rager that expertly shifts between a rolling new-wave groove and a straight ahead big rock attack. It’s a hell of a tune to start a record with and fully communicates what Rosegarden Funeral Party are all about on Martyr, which is rocking out hard without leaving the dancefloor behind. The basic toolset of big basslines, high keening synths and alternately jangly and crunchy guitars are mixed for maximum pop appeal, all in service of some very hooky choruses. Whether it’s the speedy “Martyr”, the organ-infused “Gaslighting”, or the wistful “Streetlights” no song present lacks for a memorable melody.

All of which is to say that these are good songs, but the thing that really sells them is Leah Lane’s exceptional voice and delivery. While the immediate comparisons – Siouxsie, Chrissy Hynde or Johnette Napolitano – are easy to peg, she’s got a very distinct charisma of her own that shines hard when she leans in on a song. You can hear it clear as day on the verse to chorus transition of “AMC” or in the way she imbues the twinkling “Pills” with a potent mix of emotion; when she sings “Haven’t you taken enough of those pills to know better by now?” it perfectly communicates the song’s mix of longing and disappointment. They’re songs that make you want to listen to them again when they’re over, and no small part of that comes directly from Lane’s force of personality.

As a general mix of new-wave and vintage alternative rock sounds Martyr delivers across the board, energetically and with conviction. It’s a gem of a rock record with just the right amount of goth DNA threaded into every number, and should appeal to those seeking something catchy, lively and heartfelt.

Buy it.

MARTYR by Rosegarden Funeral Party

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Tracks: January 13th, 2020

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Now that 2020 is well underway and we’re starting to get back into the swing of things, it’s probably time to start looking ahead at the year to come. We talked about some of the stuff we’re amped for this year on last week’s podcast, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t also get the hype train rolling for this year’s Verboden Festival here in Vancouver. The fest has gradually become one of the highlights of our year, growing by leaps and bounds over the course of the last few events. Go to the website and check out the line-up for this year (TRANS-X???), then maybe consider coming up and hanging out with us for Verboden 2020!

SDH lookin’ exactly like a band who makes the music they do should look.

SDH, “No Miracles”
Semiotics Departments of Heteronyms charmed us a couple of years back with some stripped down and chilly coldwave tunes, but the Barcelona duo know there way around more uptempo stuff, as the first sample of their Against Strong Thinking EP shows. Still clean and economical, it shows off the less-is-more style that makes Andrea Pérez and Sergi Alejandre’s work as SDH so distinct from their lusher stylings in Wind Atlas. Against Strong Thinking is out on Valentine’s Day: expect further thoughts then.

V▲LH▲LL, “Restye (Save Us All)”
Okay so maybe we’re a bit late on this one, but fuck it, we’re posting it anyway. For Christmas our favourite ghost-vikings V▲LH▲LL posted new track “Restye”, which as it turns out is a reinterpretation of X-Mas classic “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. We’re definitely feeling the more upbeat feel they went with on the track, giving it more of an electro feel in the latter half. Solid stuff from the mysterious Swedes as always, get an early start on your 2020 X-Mas playlist with it why not?
RESTYE (save us all) by V▲LH▲LL

Sonsombre, “Lights Out”
A late to the party discovery for us, Virginia’s Sonsombre are striking while the iron’s hot after a rapid-fire string of self-released records won over the most hardcore of goth rock purists. Forthcoming LP One Thousand Graves‘ll be getting a release on Cleopatra in a couple of weeks, and lead single “Lights Out” shows just how close Sonsombre can cleave to that venerated label’s roots.
One Thousand Graves by Sonsombre

Blu Anxxiety, “Negative Fantasy”
A tip of the hat to our friend Andi at Synthicide, who hipped us to her next release, a split between NYC acts Anatomy and Blu Anxxiety, with each act offering up a sound we don’t know that we’re hearing anywhere else. Where Anatomy seems like a mix of 90s breaks, industrial and hard-bitten vocals, Blu Anxxiety is doing a strange but very promising blend of death rock, freestyle and electro, which is exactly as cool and fun as it sounds. Order the release now via Bandcamp, and listen to the track embedded below for a teaser.
Anatomy & Blu Anxxiety Split EP by SYNTHICIDE

Fee Lion, “Blood Sisters (Kontravoid Remix)”
Have you familiarized yourself with Fee Lion yet? The Chicago-based producer/performer’s EP was a suprise hit for us last year, and signs certainly point to 2020 being a big follow-up year. Hell, even leaving aside the fine quality of her moody, danceable darkwave originals, you can tell Fee Lion has vision by virtue of who she has remixing her on her new EP: Silent Servant, Minimal Violence, Multiple Man and Kontravoid is as good a line-up of contributors as we’ve seen recently. Peep this hot remix from Kontravoid and grab the EP now on Bandacamp.

NNHMN, “Der Unweise”
Here’s some smooth darkwave out of Germany that should appeal both to classicists and fans of newer crossover material. We get the sense that this isn’t the quasi-anonymous duo of Lee and Laudarg’s first rodeo, but either way there’s lots to enjoy about a tune like this from new EP Shadow In The Dark that brings the gauzy, druggy disco sense of acts like The Cosmetics into line with more overtly goth sounds and moods.
Shadow In The Dark by NNHMN

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Observer: Visceral Anatomy & Pod Cast

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Visceral Anatomy
Modern Aguish
Oráculo Records

Viseral Anatomy is a side-project of Chicago’s Wingtips, although those seeking that excellent project’s dreamy guitar-infused darkwave won’t find it on Modern Anguish. The EP is largely made-up of gritty EBM adjacent techno-electro, all engineered to the dancefloor. At it’s most straightforward the delivers rapidly cycling 16th note basslines and heavily reverbed vocals from Hannah Avalon; “Solution” and “Flowers in Wax” are almost entirely made up of those two elements, the variation coming from some light percussive embellishments and synth modulation. “Rout” plays with that formula somewhat, bringing the rhythm track in and out of focus as Avalon’s pre-delayed voice slides between chunky, detuned stabs. Opener “Lipswitch” is perhaps the best look at what Visceral Anatomy can do with the sounds they’re playing with: while not especially structurally different from the following tracks, it possesses a tangibly larger feeling, using maximal bass and drum programming to create more momentum and impact. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of European dancefloor killers like Schwefelgelb, it’s an EP that shows an intriguing side of artists we’ve become familiar with in an entirely different context.
Modern Anguish by VISCERAL ANATOMY

Pod Cast - Saving Throw
Pod Cast
Saving Throw
Brave Mysteries

2018’s Dead King’s Dream marked the arrival of one of the year’s oddest new acts. Comprised of members of various members of metal, neo-folk, and dark ambient acts, Pod Cast don’t just release music suited for your next D&D campaign, they deliver the campaign itself, complete with narration and sound effects. New tape Saving Throw carries the project forward, and while it’s not necessarily a continuation of the same story as its predecessor, it expands on the chiller and more calming side of the project’s sound. Half dungeon synth and half reconstituted electro-folk with the occasional dash of space rock, the music scoring the campaign and combat is by turns naive but oddly hypnotic. Low-rez string patches blend with warmer analog pads, while the odd pitching and manipulation of the campaign’s narration by various dungeon masters and characters has an unnerving effect, almost as if one is playing a haunted Pools Of Radiance cartridge right out of some creepypasta. While the previous record put its GP where its CHA was by recording the sound of dice rolls, things take a turn for the digital here, with the clicks and beeps of navigating a purchase menu of an in-game shop being ably recreated. Deeply strange, geeky, and compelling, Pod Cast remain worth checking out, especially if you, say, came of age playing a lot of Might & Magic and listening to a lot of Enya (hi, there).
Saving Throw by Pod Cast

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