RELEASE DATE: 4th August 2018
RECORD COMPANY: Saint Marie Records
'Vampires' is the latest four track release from German-based dream-pop (or dream-punk as they would like it known) musical project Seasurfer; the moniker which sole member Dirk Knight creates and collaborates under. Landing somewhere between their obvious influences of Cocteau Twins and the heavy new-age trap-like electronic sound of bands like Salem, Seasurfer present a small collection of well written and beautifully structured songs, dipped in a steaming vat of FX and left to dry out in the cold (or should I say Coldwave?). Knights instrumentation leaves enough room for a pair of female vocal talents (Änni Bird and Apolonia) and a bassist (Steven Burrows) to join the sonic wave that is 'Vampires', creating something emotionally deep while simultaneously dance-ably enjoyable. The EP had it's official release back on August 4th 2018 via the good folks over at Saint Marie Records and is available to buy/download right now on various formats from saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com
Vampires by Seasurfer
Vampires opens with perhaps the EPs strongest and most off the cuff track ‘Into Dust’ which begins with waves of synth and Burrows subtle but strong bass playing. The vocal track moves beautifully over these instruments before it morphs into something wholly anthemic. Immediately, the touch of the Cocteau Twins is evident; the sounds of the programmed drum machines sound eerily identical to the drums used on Treasure by Guthrie and Co. The vocals are presented in a very similar way. That’s not the reason that ‘Into Dust’ is an EP highlight though, its something much stranger. Lovers of the electronic genre 'witch-house' would be both confused and intrigued by this writers mention (and comparison) to the band Salem, but truth be told, ‘Into Dust’ features the same kind of underpinned weirdness that runs rampart on Salem’s brilliant debut EP - 'Yes I Smoke Crack'. Whether it be the heavy washing of FX or the chord progression of the music, ‘Into Dust’ holds some sort point of difference to other dream-pop tracks, one which draws the aforementioned comparisons to Salem and their equally bizarre electronic song writing tactics. It is this strangeness mixed with the catchy and beautiful vocals that make the song sound so great. ‘Sad Song’ has less of a catchy and memorable presentation; this time the band turn the tempo up and present much of the tracks first half in the cold depths of post-punk. In the second half the tempo is lifted, and the tracks intelligent inner structuring show at an interlude like refrain in the tracks second half.
The heavy beat-orientated sounds of post 90's shoegaze present themselves immediately on the slow burning track ‘The Calling’. A slow hi-hat lead drum track plays at the backbone of many layering’s of synth swells and textured soundscapes, over which the vocals float and sway. Somewhat comparable to recent releases by North Carolina-based shoegaze legends 'The Veldt' (especially their recent 'Thanks to the Moth and Areanna Rose') who have totally embraced the wizardry of electronic music, ‘The Calling’ utilizes layering (something that is, strangely, overlooked by shoegaze bands at various times) to achieve a textured array of sounds over which a song slowly but beautifully forms. The Cocteau Twins sound returns for ‘Bring Me His Head’, which offer up a less involved sonic palette. Lyrically the song is the most daring that Seasurfer practice on 'Vampires', showcasing the power of having tangible lyrics in sound heavy genres (such as shoegaze or dream pop). ‘Bring Me His Head’ is just as emotionally bizarre as ‘Into Dust’, but well into the second half of the song, one cant help but feel somewhat touched by the mixture of narrative, sound and vocal that are offered to the listener on the track.
Perhaps the greatest thing about 'Vampires' is both the directness and in-directness it takes emotionally and musically. There are no eight minute epics, no winding intros and fuzz driven solos and, perhaps most importantly, a well-suited amount of tracks. Similarly, the songs are deep and at times (positively) formless listens; in the space of four or so minutes, Seasurfer present deep, FX induced passages of what sounds like four or five synthesisers, guitars, bass and a structurally sound programmed drum for good measure. This mixture of explorative, journey-like songs that don’t delve into indulgent, over the top presentation makes 'Vampires' all the more powerful. Perhaps the only criticisms this writer would highlight are firstly, ‘Sad Song’, which is as close to a filler that 'Vampires' comes. It seems somewhat out of place, and while a good song, doesn’t stand as tall as the other tracks on the EP. The second criticism is that sometimes the line between influence and copying is blurred in regard to Seasurfer's sound. The at first obvious influence of the Cocteau Twins eventually evolves into the occasional passage that sounds as though the band are trying to replicate their sound. The drum patterns, the vocals, the sonic melding of sounds at times sounds like Knight and Co are alluding to more than fan-based influence and more into the realm of artistic un-originality. But this criticism is almost completely revoked when one re-listens to 'Vampires' a couple of times, for the truth is, Seasurfer's embrace of more modern electronic production and mixing techniques elevate them from a copy-like comparison to the Cocteau Twins. 'Vampires' is a great display of what this author would coin ‘contained exploration’ and presents a band pushing the formula of dream-pop into somewhere different and beautiful through great performances, production and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian-based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
by Primal Music
RELEASE DATE: 26th May 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Fuzz Club Records
Post-punk combines with coldwave, darkwave, a bit of ethereal wave and perhaps, arguably, most importantly; experimental music on the self-titled debut release by Swedish project NONN (the solo moniker of The Orange Revival's Christian Eldefors). Drum machines and programmed beats guide the way through reams of both light and darkness; to create something akin to classic 80’s style post-punk, but with a little something extra. Experimental music has always been a next-door neighbour of the music commonly associated with punk music, but NONN have decided to push it further, applying it deeply to the music as well as the production and mixing. 'Nonn' gets it's full release on the 26th May 2016 via the ever reliable purveyors of sonic discourse Fuzz Club Records and it is available to pre-order right now from www.fuzzclub.com
The album opens with the brilliant ‘Walls’ which features one of the greatest elements of the album; the attentiveness and experimentation with the instrument of voice. The song opens with heavy, darkly ambient program beats and noises that form into a airy and wide ranging soundscape backing for the song. The reminisce of a bass guitar churns away in the background before the fantastically obscure vocals ooze into the song, sounding like the vocalist is singing with echo and reverbed drenched effects underwater. There is a fantastic synthetic feel to the instrumentation and the kind of murmuringly weird musical backing that compliments and adds another dimension to the album as you listen more closely each time. ‘Lost’ begins with a similar kind of programmed frequency (which remains in the background of the song for the whole time) that is then given a backseat to the drum machine-laden post punk beat of double-snare tapping. The vocals this time are more recognizable and the song itself sounds like a kind of darkwave tune; re-fitted into a post-punk context by the coldwave like guitar that enters the song just after the intro.
‘Stay’ omits a similar feeling and stylistically does not really leap from where ‘Lost’ left off, although it's significantly darker. The bass lines, thick and consuming, guide the robotic-vocals along to the beat of another post-punk drum beat that seems to be taken straight from the eighties. ‘Gone’ is a brilliant track that slows things down, returning to the programmed beats, wizzes and noises of the first few songs. The drum beat borders on trip hop while the whole structural elements of the song sound like the echoing sound of an 80’s synthesizer guiding a character a film along a dark highway. ‘Cold’ takes this even further, offering layers and layers of moody but somewhat danceable synth FX and the churning slow beat of programmed rums in the background. Up next, ‘Need’ injects more of the airy soundscapes of the albums earlier tracks, while maintaining a similar style drum track. The synth within the track steps in for what would have been the guitar; creating a wavering effect that truly pushes the tempo and rhythm of the song strongly. ‘Hills’ is a very similar track, but alters things with the inclusion of small passages of what could be samples held within the music; mostly in the form of background whizz and churn and the synthetic sounding hi-hat of the drums. The vocals feature more visibly within ‘Hills’ as well; differing from other tracks on the album. ‘Time’ borders on a time of warped disco; altering between the dance-induced rhythm of the drums and the even further warped vocals on the track. The song truly shines just after the half way mark; highlighting the engaging production properties of NONN’s music. ‘Fear’ is by far one of the most experimental tracks on the album; it acts as one big long crescendo, backed by an alternating tempo and a wild ringing in the background. The vocals, hushed and wild, fit well with the context; harkening back to the hey days of acid house and other forms of electronica music that relied heavily on the FX of the voice. ‘Wait’ concludes as a fuzzingly loud outro of sorts; a ringing synthesizer hums in the background of some keys being played slightly and softly.
NONN as an album is at times an uphill wander; several tracks sound similar to the one before and the general song structure of several tracks sound thrown together or still in draft form. Still, I believe there to be an interesting focal point to it all; washed somewhere deep within the influence and the context of the music’s background. Listening to the whole album is like a conceptual walkthrough of one lengthy devoted song, where the tempo alters and then resurfaces back within itself the music stays honest enough to keep the listener interested. The production is clear and does the instrumental and lyrical elements of the album many favours. Its an interesting listen, achieved through performance and design, but perhaps most obviously through sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
ARTIST: Painted Mirror
RELEASE: Painted Mirror EP
RELEASE DATE: 3rd March 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
Baltimore, MD-based Painted Mirror have just issued their self-released and self-titled 6-song debut, a statement made all the more impressive by the fact that its release signals the band's first anniversary. Vocalist/keyboardist Sam Morgan, bassist Brian Fee, drummer John Theuerkauf, and guitarist Jake Smith formed the band in March of 2016, with a mission statement to create pop songs with an undercurrent and atmosphere of post punk and darkwave music. To that end, their sound is very much rooted in the darker alternative sounds of the mid- to late-80s, complete with keyboards playing a prominent role, as opposed to taking their inspiration from the more guitar-centric bands of the early 90s as many of their contemporaries do. The EP can be purchased via paintedmirror.bandcamp.com
Painted Mirror by Painted Mirror
The lead track on the EP, "Hearts", begins with a shimmering, cascading guitar line and icy stabs of synth strings, supported by a strong bass tone and the steady percussion of drummer John Theuerkauf. The song immediately harkens back to those dark, 1980s dream pop ballads we slow-danced to while clinging to our cherished sweethearts in a dimly-lit middle school gym; wanting so much to be loved and understood, but fearing that this time will be exactly the same as all the others. Sam Morgan's voice here bring to mind the emotive vocals of Duran Duran's Simon Le Bon, particularly in the impassioned pleas of the chorus. The complexities of relationships and the longing for connection are the focus here, and this song ends with the lyric "hearts aren't always on display / we buried the truth in the dark". Sometimes the dark is the only place left to leave our feelings when it all goes wrong. "Crystal Clear" unfolds layers of '80s New Wave, its loping drum pattern and funky, throbbing bass line recalling the New Romantic-era, while Smith's guitar shimmers in reverberating bell tones and Sam Morgan's Gahan-esque vocals flourishes round things out nicely. "Inside Out" brings the band's post-punk influences to the fore, featuring a very prominent bass line and harder-driving drum beat than the band had thus far utilized. Jake Smith's guitar work creates a hazy-gazey atmosphere that snakes its way around Morgan's lofty vocalizations, which again harken back to their roots in 1980s alternative music, when nearly everyone on both sides of the Atlantic seemed to have adopted an English accent.
The second half of the EP opens with "Rumors", a song that dials back the forward-driving momentum of the previous track and creates a softer, sensual atmosphere thanks to some very emotive guitar dynamics from Smith. The tone of the song is the perfect support for Morgan's vocals full of heartache and lyrics that explore the pain of a love that is falling apart. "The Fix" again brings Duran Duran to my mind, particularly their 1982 single "Save a Prayer". The rhythm section lays down a dancefloor-friendly framework, while exotic keyboard flourishes and a straight-from-the-'80s guitar tone create an otherworldly quality that might be the high-point of the EP for this reviewer. The closing track, "Tell Me Maybe", is pure dream pop slow burn. The longest track on the EP, it starts off languid and dreamy and in its final moments builds into a wall of sound powerhouse that any modern shoegaze band would be proud of, all feedback squall and driving, post-rock rhythms.
With its darkly personal exploration of love lost and love gone wrong, Painted Mirror's self-titled EP is a very impressive debut from a band barely a year into their career. I look forward to hearing where the next year will take them.
Marc Dooley is a Nashville-based writer, musician, visual artist, freelance video editor, indie comic book collector, film buff and lifelong music connoisseur with an ever-expanding music library of nearly 6,000 CDs, 250 vinyl records and over a TB worth of music in digital formats, in a multitude of genres ranging from alt- and classic country to underground hip-hop and electronica, shoegaze and classic indie/alternative rock, 1960's and '70s psychedelia & pop (domestic and international), post-rock and metal to classic jazz, blues, soul, funk, reggae and afrobeat.
RELEASE DATE: November 18th 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Cleopatra Records
Programmed drums, dream pop guitars and the deep contextual influence of 80’s post-punk and ethereal wave combine with absolutely brilliant song writing on the debut album of Californian shoegaze/darkwave/post-punk band Echolust. 'Veldisa' is a sprawling, dark yet beautiful musical journey through moods and places, sounds and lyrics and contrastingly vivid soundscapes. Upon almost every track the band exercise some sort of gaze back into the past; but this act surpasses nostalgia and more offers commentary on thought and pondering. It’s beautiful and dream pop inspired guitar riffs support the slow and swinging music to fantastic degrees; expressing emotion through music with some wild sort of ease.
Veldisa by Echolust
‘1799’ opens the album with a dreamy guitar riff and a drum machine inspired by the double tap of the French coldwave and the early 80’s programmed beats of post-punk bands. Mixed within the song is the screech of a slow and winding synthesizer that seeps out when the soaring and wide chorus opens; offering a neat a song writing counterpoint to the language and sounds used within the verse of the song. The track retains a slow and winding quality which somehow never gets boring; an indication of a well written and instrumented song. ‘Cherry Dancer’ showcases the bands more shoegaze tendencies with its largely reverbed opening. The echoes of dream pop still linger however, so much so that ‘Cherry Dancer’ seems like a next door neighbour or companion piece to the more up tempo ‘1799’. From there the band leaps forward into a fantastically disco-darkwave inspired track titled ‘Dark Hair Girl’. The backing of the song sounds similar to an EDM/Dance style track; which contextually mixes well with the more alternative rock aspects that the song holds. The vocals remain deep and full of FX, which makes the singing sound like a direct instrument in the landscape of all of the instrumentation. ‘Dark Hair Girl’s best moments are when the vocals go higher and the band follow, showing off their talent of creating soaring style dream pop.
One of the greatest tracks on the entire album ‘Decor Blonde’ displays the band in full shoegaze swing; reverb drenched guitars and a slower and darker tempo. I believe it to be one of the greatest on the album simply for its fantastic wall of sound styled production; a form and style that adds a whole other dimension to shoegaze music. The lyrics also practice exactly what I mentioned before accompanied by the fantastic guitars and bass, they add an emotive element to the music and sound of the song. Praise also to the fantastic outro on the song, which takes on a whole brilliant sound of its own. ‘Doublespeak’ returns to a more post-punk formula but retains elements of the shoegaze sound explored on ‘Decor Blonde’. This song also takes the disco beats explored on ‘Dark Hair Girl’ a step further with a tight bass and drums section that sounds exactly like a R’n’B inspired track. ‘Doublespeak’ also relies more heavily upon the gradual tap of the programmed drums in the back of the mix. Perhaps the weakest song on the album is the darkwave heavy ‘Electric’; a lengthy and indulgent track with lyrics that seem like they were written by a completely different band than the previous tracks.
‘For Least Resistance’ brings things back into the bands sphere; featuring a synthwave drum and soundscape style of tone with the fancy shoegaze styles of the dream pop guitar. The track even features an experimental-trap influenced style drum machine beat throughout the song which melds into the music in an interesting and engaging way. The strange lo-fi/alt-rock genius of ‘This Blurry Kill’ shows another side of the bands talent of song-writing; tied off magically with the experimental soundscape stationed in the mix. The title track is another contender for the albums weakest song. It sounds somewhere between a B-side and a draft; featuring comedically confusing drum patterns and boring mid-tone vocals. Thankfully the band turn everything around with the fantastic ‘Velvet Holiday’ which rehashes all of the bands fantastic post-punk songs into a dark, more straight forward and heavy song. It’s almost as though Echolust wanted to connect the more synth and darkwave influenced side of their album with the more post-punk side and speaking of which, the atmospheric ‘Zombie Birds’ connects both sides together in sound with the dance influenced drum machine beats and the shoegaze styled bass, guitars and synth. Together this mixture creates something that sounds almost on the borderline of industrial music, something I suppose the band have constantly toyed with on the entire album. ‘Zombie Birds’ features a fantastic and mesmerizing intro that leads into the lyrically diverse verse and chorus in which the fantastic backing soundscapes and sneaky production sneak back into the song.
A few songs into Veldisa I wondered why the band wasn’t going pro; the songs were well-written, thoroughly beautiful, experimental and original pieces of brilliant music. After the opening few songs I was a little less mesmerized and by the second half I showed little-interest to the music, but the second half of the second half managed to turn it around and recapture some of the magic of the beginning. And that, in essence, is how Veldisa could be summed up. The album as a whole drags on and on and on (there are too many songs) and with less engaging songs in the middle, the listener just becomes more bored as the album plays through. In said mid-album area, the songs begin to sound more and more like clichéd and distant dance tracks thrown together to fill album space… But Veldisa doesn’t need album fillers. The band should have stuck to their guns and produced a more compact album with the same sharp and fantastic song writing skills displayed at the albums opening. For that reason Veldisa as a whole seems tiresome in structure, even when a lot of the songs are so well written.
The production is good, the mixing is great and the performances should also receive praise. Together these elements carry the album in its more paint-drying moments and prove that, although not throughout the total album, Echolust can produce a fantastic quality of song writing. I believe the opening few tracks are so good they almost carry the albums more weaker points and for that reason one should definitely listen intently to Echolust’s fantastic skills. These are achieved through mixing, production, performance and sound.
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
ARTIST: The Battles Of Winter
RELEASE: At Once With Tattered Sails
RELEASE DATE: 23 September 2016
Post-Rock, Post-Punk with a bit of Alt-Rock and Indie thrown in you say? Well, 'The Battles of Winter' reply swiftly and smartly with their brand new album 'At Once With Tattered Sails'. In what could be the most well produced album I’ve heard from a non-major label in quite a while, the band weave through many sounds to create a dark and atmospheric post-punk album; helped substantially by the amazingly deep and heavy vocals of the album.
'At Once With Tattered Sails' begins with ‘Falcons’ an eerie, post-punk laden track with an intro that uses a slower tempo styled post-punk beat that eventually leads into a hypnotically dark coldwave inspired chorus. ‘Falcons’ sounds like a twisted indie song, full of elements that you could imagine being bright and colourful, turned into a cynical, industrialised landscape. This morphed indie track suits the band profusely though, and a song like ‘Falcons’ does nothing but display the bands most talented tendencies. ‘Hale Seizer’ (see what they did there?) goes even deeper into a perverse darkness, this time with much more minimalist instrumentation, until the rollicking noise rock inspired chorus. This track begins to showcase the deep and thought provoking lyrics, which would not be so out of place if they were read as poetry. The rattle, twangy guitars at the tracks second half maintain a distinctive 80’s coldwave feel, connecting the band back with its musical and artistic roots. The brilliant, two minute punky song ‘Wrong Port’ shows the listener that the band are not solely tied to slow, downtempo, strumming… Rather they show their talent in pulling off what seems to be a much darker, sped up version of an Opera Multi Steel song.
‘Hare Hunter Field’ could be the best song on the album, its slow, quiet beginning seeps into an almost slowcore ballad… The vocals hover spectrally in the mix, as the slow tap of the drum slowly shift, the guitars echo slowly with a reverb style distant in the mix and the track shifts into a heavy, noise ridden track. Everything is highlighted further through the mature and brilliant production and mixing on the album, and occasionally the band show touches of post-rock that make them sound even better with 'Death in a Lemon Grove Part I & II' & 'Shot Down Over Tokyo' being prime examples. ‘Slow Burning Country’ turns the albums sound almost completely alternative rock, but occasionally the band mix this in together with post-punk elements, especially the vocals, which maintain the same profound delivery throughout the entire album. This track highlights the fantastic capabilities of the drums as well; the heavy beat punctuating into the mix, coupling fantastically with the heavy rock of the guitars. Towards the tracks end, the vocals transcend into a higher and impressive registry that gives the music a wild element of ‘surround sound’ quality. ‘Love’s White Thread’ holds back again on instrumentation and instead uses the vocals as the forefront of the sound and the song morphs around it. Although it may appeal to some listeners, ‘Love’s White Thread’ seems less fluent than previous tracks. It also doesn’t show as much of the bands brilliant song writing skills of as other tracks. But, anyway…
‘Sainted Galleries’ is also a contender for the albums greatest song, especially in its magnificent instrumental section in its centre, which slowly and surely brings vocals into the mix. The song brings together sounds touched upon earlier in the album (coldwave and alternative rock especially) and ties it together with the rat-a-tat beat of classic 80’s post-punk, the vocals maintaining their value for the entire entrancing song. 'At Once with Tattered Sails' is not so much an album about performance (although the performances are all brilliant) rather it is an album about sounds. For the listener, the band has conjoined and crafted all sorts of majestic and dark sounds together; thus the sounds on the album come across as truly great, but it is the band who have melded them together so very well to make them even better. Nothing but praise should be handed onto the production and mixing on 'At Once with Tattered Sails', which feels empty, open and echoed all at the same time. Similarly, the vocals are genius; a reminder that post-punk and coldwave music doesn’t have to have distant and low volume yelling to be fantastic. The vocals on the album fit well with the lyrics, displaying a tasteful throwback to the eighties alternative music scene.
While some may feel the album reuses itself too much, I feel that partially that is part of the appeal of the music. For example, pop music vocal deliveries vary from song to song so the average listener thinks each song itself is completely different because of the vocals (that’s pretty much mainstream pop summarised for you). But 'Battles of Winter' maintain the same, deep and echoing voice on nearly every track, which I genuinely feel makes the music ever more powerful. The album showcases everything that should be done in the genre, and how a band should go about producing and mixing an album; achieved cleverly through performance and sound.