Here we are once again. It’s finally Sunday, it’s finally time for another round of recommendations. For avid Repartiseraren readers, you might’ve noticed that bonus-content was written for Friday – as a taste of what’s to come tonight. They were not the same bands I’m going to write about in this article. I delved into coldwave and darkwave, picked out the best of the bunch that I had researched for this round of recommendations. You will be able to read three of them via Post-Punk.com and the full article will be readily available for reading via Repartiseraren.
European Ghost – Pale and Sick
Imaginitive, out of this world, esoteric to the core – completely within the strict confinements of the darkness that is coldwave and darkwave. Originally released by Unknown Pleasures Records in May, this gem shines darkly on the world – a weird but nice touch for a debut-album. Usually, the debut only explores the basics of what a band, artist or group really is, but when it comes to European Ghost, this does not apply.
When the first song “Trip On Mars” resounds through my headphones, the calmness lures me into thinking it will be something else then it was originally tended to be. Then, after a few seconds, I am smitten by the atmosphere of almost orchestral synthesizers, a sullen piano clinking away and the ultimate carelessness of the vocalist. The lyrics fills you up with emptiness, a certain melancholy, it’s psychotic to a degree – with outdrawn laughs, and chants in the background. Add to that a nice rhythm, cold beats and a soundscape that is filled to the brim with instruments.
When the more beat-oriented song goes over into “Preset“, a sliver of post-punk is added into the mixture. In comparison, a more straight-forward song with set melodies and a chorus to die for. Adding the best of the influences from German, Swedish, Danish and American post-post-punk – with that I mean the new generation of post-punk – albeit I have no idea if these influences are there directly, or indirectly – I’m just reminded of them. The only bad thing I feel when listening to this song is that it ends too quickly, the pace is increased and therefore it becomes harder to enjoy the multitude of layered, delightful, ambitious post-punkish dark and cold wave.
Now for the epitome of the whole album, the title-song “Pale and Sick“, which for me is essentially what make an album stand out of the crowd, at least aesthetically and intentionally – from others. Here they set a whole other tone, it transgresses with all the aforementioned genres, into an industrialized and harsher state of mind. What I love about this song is how it gradually progresses, rather then slow-and-fast, into a perfect representation of what I’m thinking of European Ghost at the moment.
It is careless, but at the same time cautious, as it flies into an even darker mood, a paranoid and mesmerizing sound. I’m hypnotized by the time more non-electronic instrumentation is set to take the stage, about two minutes and a bit more into the song itself. What a perfect ending, as well. It ends when it is on top of the world, when it feels unbeatable, and it surely is the best song I’ve heard so far, of the three I’ve listened to.
Enter the “lost Highway“, where the synthesizers in conjunction with one another, create a gloomier and more brooding atmosphere. Where the non-electronic instruments have to stand back, making it “not just another post-punk release“. Hear how eloquently the synthesizer sweeps from one position to another, how exotic drums sound off in the distant – closing in. The melody that stands out is one that enters the sound-scape at 1:26. I’m starting to feel really emotional. Later on in the song, it is enhanced and paired with more exquisite instruments, giving the whole atmosphere that kind of emotional feeling that you just can’t shake off. Here’s where you get hooked, for real.
“Unreal Space” – minimalism returns, enough with the splendour and maximal sound. Minimal cold-wave, deathrock and post-punk vibes, complex rhythms and thoughtful melodies. There are more shifts in the soundscape here then in the entire album so far, it changes into so many different choruses that I don’t really know which one to pick. Even though it might possibly be one or two choruses, they multiply by the minute, or so it feels. This is an overly ambitious song, and I don’t really like that. However, it holds the same quality that I’ve witnessed when hearing the album up until now, and the song is definently a good one. It’s just something, like that, which seems off about it.
Drummachines, more drummachines, please. It’s clear in “The Spiral” how we’re spiraling down now. It’s an OK song, not much more. The vocalist outdoes himself in this song, though. It is a crystallized effort, a colder one. Only other thing I like about it is near the end when it transgresses into beautiful melodies, a simple and easy song structure, but the house of cards quickly implode on itself and I’m not satisfied with the ending. I’m just hoping the album isn’t declining.
I feel like the next song, “August In Winter“, hold up better – but it’s still in the same category as the aforementioned song. There’s nothing new brought to the table, there is not the same intensity that once was, like it were with the other songs on this release. I’ve, however, taken a liking to the changing vocals, how it is getting better and better on that front – not to mention the sublime nature of the atmosphere, as some moments of the song holds this up to the same standard as the other, better songs.
Here’s where it quickly shifts into the right gear once again, with “Sex In Kepler“, an industrious sound and electronically sounding atmosphere forms out of high-pitched sounds. Shackles are rolled on the pavement, they’ve let go and are concentrating on making up for what I’ve lost earlier. Concentrated guitar-riffs shape a melody that goes well with the intro, it feels like being contained within the confinements of the genres, which is completely fine – without letting the experimentalism take over. After hearing slow synth-jabs blur out everything else, we’re drilled into the emotional aspect of European Ghost again – as the baseline, guitars, percussion – all come out of the woodworks at the same time. A perfect timing, an almost pristine song. Intense.
The last two songs, “Trip in the Night” and “European Ghost” vary in quality. After I’ve heard “Sex In Kepler“, they do not sound even remotely as interesting. It’s a shame they didn’t put the aforementioned song last, because what an ending that would’ve been. All-in-all, I’m satisfied with recommending this album and having listened to it. It’s a great album, but it is unfortunately put down by some of the songs, which makes it better then good and not as great as it would’ve been otherwise.
EΛEVEN – Black Sun
This artist almost goes into the neo-folk category, but the overlapping genre that can be heard is coldwave. EΛEVEN is a Moscowian artist, his newly released album “Black Sun (version)” is a work of art by itself. Hearing the title-track sends cold shivers down my spine, simply because of how much that can be done with simple percussion, synthesizers, a beautiful voice and other instrumentation. It is eerily atmospheric and has a melancholic touch to it. If the lyrics could be understood, had I learnt Russian, it would probably have an even bigger impact on me. This is a song that really sets the tone of the album itself and I’m hoping the other songs will hold up, because this one is definitive.
You’re not let down, “Into the Woods (version)” has a female back-up singer that gives the main singer’s voice another boost. She doesn’t let anything through the cracks and they, together, form something almost as good as the first song. This one is more of a ballad or lullaby, the other one had a subliminal fury behind it. There’s something very simple about it, but it feels rewarding listening to it. The colder it gets, the further into the song you get.
For the third song, “Requiem“, I hope it is as bombastic as the name alludes to. There’s something darkly medieval about this, it’s a very suggestive song at the start of it. As the acoustic guitar blares out long, outdrawn melodies, the vocalists add a colder, more electronic touch to the atmosphere. There’s something bombastic about it, for sure, as the snare and basedrum drums up a whole other atmosphere then the more calm, semi-acoustic one. It goes on like this until the song is ended. After having the acoustic elements blended well in together with the more bombastic ones, it makes for a great song to listen to and it is very thoughtfully planned, as every instrument is used to the maximum.
“Bifacial Angel (version)” is beautiful on its own and feels like an ethereal trip into nothingness. When you hear the callous sounding riffs paired with the desperate vocals, it creates an atmosphere on its own, that alongside the baseline – makes you want to venture further into the phenomenon that seems to be EΛEVEN. How is it that even in this time and age, something like this can surprise one so much? I don’t really know, but there’s something about this song that stands out of the album itself, almost deserving its own spot as a single for something forthcoming.
Next up is “Away From Here (feat. A. Minister)” – where the other vocalist has a more noticeable presence. She sings so beautifully that it feels like it is out of this world, even though it is quite simple. It’s like the best bits of darkwave mashed into the coldwave sounding environment. Everything’s sullen, everything’s sweet – there’s something not too dark about this – but essentially about beauty. The simplest of things are oftentime the most beautiful.
When the main singer gets his spot back, “Remember (version)” is what it sounds like. Around here I grow tired of the whole concept of the album, as it sounds alike the others, but he includes new instrumentation into the mix which keeps it floating above the atmosphere, but also down below. The trumpet sounds off, the whole character of the song becomes different. It feels desolate, barren and abandoned. It’s certainly not one of my favorite songs, but as the melodies become better the more the song progresses – I’m intrigued to have finished hearing the song – continuing to “The Road (feat. Teatr Yada)” – another collaborative effort.
Here they utilize more of the guitar and the bass, creating a more industrial sounding coldwave, mixed with rock and an opera-like execution of darkwave. I must say that even though Teatr Yada sounds like Mr. Doctor in some bits of the song, oh what a great artist Mr. Doctor is, he doesn’t encapsulate what’s great about that particular artist. It is probably not the intention, but unfortunately his effort drags down the song somewhat – even though there are interesting parts of the song where Teatr Yada feels in place.
The most bizarre is “Dark Water (version)” – but in a good way. It feels like synthwave incorporated into darkwave and coldwave, with the massive acoustic elements playing a huge part in the development of the song itself. It is probably the most unintentionally orchestral piece of music on this album, with complex synthesizer melodies and perfectly laden guitars, alongside vocals (chanting) in the background.
A good piece on its own, as “Bifacial Angel (version)” also was – I’m feeling as if they should’ve been included in another release – a future double-single, instead? Now, the ending is probably what I dislike the most but it makes Teatr Yada shine – so that’s what is good about it. It feels very out of place, a doom-drone piece mixed into a fury of jungle/ drum’n’bass sounds by the middle of it. I don’t really know, but, it is not what I had expected. Maybe that’s for the better, as it ended for me on dark waters.
Alvar – I Cut Out All The Stars
Ironically, alongside another rehearsal also in its demo-stage, ALVAR might’ve released their best album as of yet. It doesn’t get harder then this, it doesn’t get more extravagant, it doesn’t get more blood-pumping – if you’re familiar with their earlier material. With the first song “Blodpumparmuskeln” (a demo song), you get a taste of their very great Swedish lyrical content. It is not so much about the text itself, but that it fits their concept better then their english-spoken material.
What I would like to hear is the other part of ALVAR to be incorporated as well, meaning: both chanting/singing. In regards to the whole song, it is very beat-oriented, with hammer-smashing beats that could crack skulls if it could. It is like some bizarre metamorphosis between Celldöd and the old ALVAR. As if they’ve been lent the underlying aggressiveness of the aforementioned artist, to be the foundation upon which the more ethereal, mystic incantation of this duo can be heard.
“To Give In” (also a demo) almost goes into electronic body music territory. If cold wave and electronic body music had been exectued properly, together, giving it that cold vibe that is sorely missed between the chantable singing and melodious rhythms. This is what I like with demo recordings, the fact that it showcases the talent of a band, artist or group.
This just goes to show that ALVAR knows their way through severeal genres, at times almost even venturing into minimal electronics, SPK-esque old style industrial and ambient atmospheres paired together. To do that comparision justice: I’m not saying just as SPK, but I feel like the resounding vibe is more memorable, more oldstyle industrial – then new-style, with no compromises that have been done to please an audience.
“Wunde” is also a demo, alongside it being a hidden song on the cassette-release itself, which is already sold out since a few days back. They’ve managed to incorporate the same kind of extremely cold atmosphere that only ARM has managed to do – at least for me, when hearing this song. It’s like the bastard child of ARM and Distel – all in one package – but at the same time something uniquely entwined into the whole being of ALVAR.
There are suggestive rhythms, subliminal clinks, a whole different setting then the more beat-oriented and brutal first tracks on this release. It is like something is brooding down below, begging to be released. A whole air of mysticism accompanied by noise, metal against metal, chanted vocals and a more uncompromisingly shaded atmosphere. I feel like I’ve waited for this.
Interestingly, they’ve also made place for a demo song re-interpretation of a Bikini Kill-song titled “Suck My Left One“. I know that they’ve done other eclectic covers before, but hearing this one makes me wonder. I’m sorry to say that the original really sucks. ALVARs interpretation of it is much better, more subtle and ambitious. Smashing beats, industrial melodies, almost Youth Code-sounding. There’s that uncompromising side of them again and it feels great to hear the other side of them as well, as the other J (the duo is J&J) contribute with her vocals. Please, make another cover where you will have the ability to shine, because I really can’t make anything out of this more then that it has a lot of power behind it. I want to hear more of it.
“Terminal 5” is a good, near darkened ambient kind of goodbye – with ritualistic elements attached to it. Ritual ambient, maybe? I don’t really know, but I like what I’m hearing and its a good wrap up of an almost continually good album. It holds up and I feel like there should be some kind of addition to this release, something more. But maybe that’s for the next cassette-release.
Also, if you decide to have it properly mixed and mastered, please do not strip off what made it great. Apparently, the cassette itself was released on Kalabalik på Tyrolen – one of Sweden’s greatest electronic-festivals. It feels sad to not have been a part of it, not have been there, and missed my opportunity at owning this cassette. Oh, well, you lucky few know who you are.
Caeruela – The Mess of Love
Now, to something even sadder – Caerulea. A promising experimental synth-project, whom many months ago released their first and last album, via the label Perfect Aesthetics. How could one let this go to waste? I don’t really know, but we’re getting into it with “False Alarms (Version)” – the first song off this release. A nice combination of percussive elements, darkwave, coldwave and whatnot – alongside darkened vocals that are shrieked all the way through the song. There are some synth-pop vibes in there too, that will take your mind off the saddened news. Hopefully they will be in another group not too far from this. There’s some really interestingly sounding synthesizers, as the song progresses.
“Abuse Of Trust (Version)” sounds somewhat more hopeful, but then the hopelessness exceeds critical levels once again. It’s a shame that this song sounds alike, vocally, because here’s the time where there should be something different. The soundscape itself is terrific and held up with an underlying positivism, even though it is apparent how it is clouded by the negativism – which is perfectly displayed with a melancholic synthesizer melody.
Bizarrely enough the beat doesn’t really allude to the more ambitious parts of this song, like the percussion or the rhythms created in the different synthesizers melodies, plus baseline. There’s something out of place about it, like the joyousness is getting the upper-hand – but let’s not hope it does – and we do not, since the song quickly regresses and has its spikes out, for another round of melancholy.
It then fades into “She Hates The Way She Looks“, an almost Soft Riot-sounding track with ambitious synthesizers, layer upon layer, but not with the charming lyrics of J. Duckworth. I’m somewhat reminded about the clarity and sudden darkness of Keluar, but without the elements that make the heavy beats swing and splash upon the rocks, like the ocean itself. I’m impressed that they’ve stepped up their game when it comes to the beats, because they add so much to the sound-scape – making it sound fuller and less deprived of the neccessarry instrumentation needed. Controlled chaos, here we are, and now I’ve completely understood why she hates the way she looks.
The one and only collaborative effort on this album is with Perfect Human and Mála, titled “Hold Tight“. I’m not sure, but this reminds me of a Lust For Youth-song, from one of their newer albums. It’s got that kind of upbeat tempo of it, but almost melancholic undertones. This is the song which has the best vocals on the entire release, but the lyrical content is not something to strive for.
Not that it is clichéd or anything, but it could’ve used some more ambitious writing – because the music itself outweighs the lyrical content – and as this song is a lot more centered around the vocals, it makes it clear to see what is out of place and what is not.
“Collapsed Lung Syndrome” takes us to the more melodious parts of this release. An almost constant pounding beat, alongside creative synthesizer sweeps, darkened baselines that lay beneath, a landscape of differently sounding – but coherent – synthesizers, beats, percussion and vocals. There’s really nothing more to it.
I understand it perfectly musically, and I find it alluring to not understand the rest of it. I want it to be a mystery, because as mysteriously sounding as it is – I want it that way, unspoilt. “Purity and Exile” serves as a perfect goodbye, both conceptually and musically. It feels like I’m here to wave them off, wherever they may be going. It’s really been up-and-down, but it’s at least been an adventure, listening to this album. I’m ready to move on to something else now.