A couple from the poppier end.
MESH: “Kill Your Darlings” (Dependent) – I still have “Just Leave Us Alone” from 2013’s Automation Baby on loop: trancy EBM angst pop (my word Mesh do the angst, and always have) with 32-bar verses; the rightful soundtrack to teenage heartbreak. So “Kill Your Darlings” isn’t as good as that, but then what is. Triplets, shout-along chorus, I bounced in my seat to it. A tight and effective single with all darlings duly disposed of. A good start for the forthcoming album.
LIQUID NEWT WITH FRANK M. SPINATH: “Walk With Scars” (Dependent) – yes, they’re called “Liquid Newt”. Sounds like people heavily into beats trying to be a bit more atmospheric. The song feels a bit understated for a single — it’s a grower — but this is just really nice.
Dependent Records seem to be progressively putting selections from their catalogue up on Bandcamp, presenting new and unparalleled opportunities to bung them a few quid. Mostly quite cheap too.
- The last video cassette recorder will be manufactured some time this month. And good riddance.
- MIT scientists come up with a new form of 3D! Comparable to a Nintendo 3DS but for everyone in the room, apparently. Let’s see if it induces the proper amounts of headaches and vomiting, and if anyone can be found to care.
- Hollywood director Paul Feig explains why men just aren’t funny. (May help to have read Christopher Hitchens’ low point in opinionation.)
After yesterday’s wonder of the pop video maker’s art, we have a couple more. Here’s Russian rap act Little Big, whose dick is very very big.
And here’s Little Big working with Tommy Cash from yesterday. Of course Estonians and Russians working together are going to rap in English.
Estonian rap. The genre is “trap-pop”, apparently. The video itself is probably not worksafe, though technically within YouTube rules. 2:10 is the high point, for some value of.
“I repeat my earlier question: who decided it was time to start re-creating Chuck Tingle covers in a moving-image medium?” — aberranteyes
Strap On Halo are a goth rock band from the goth scene. This is unfortunate, insofar as not even current goths are interested in current goth music — it’s a subculture of new clothes and old music.
As a musical form, goth stopped developing in the late ’80s and new bands past 1990 are a niche interest of a niche interest, judged on how well they recreate the old sound; what little evolution occurs and what little breaks through to the wider world comes from its nonidentical conjoined twin subculture industrial bothering the minor charts. Though even that’s been in a loop the past fifteen or so years. Metal keeps crossing back and forth with goth rock too, but that crossover works out … variably, because anything plus metal equals metal.
That said, they’re good enough at this that you won’t be wasting your time paying them attention. They know what they want to do and apply themselves to it with a much wider range than you’re probably thinking of from that description. “Perish” is a bouncy A-side, Layla Reyna’s voice (which doesn’t immediately invite comparisons to historical goth rock stars … though if I had to pick one, I’d pick Anja Huwe of Xmal) carries the band very effectively. The guitar work invites rather more comparisons, but carries them off. They don’t use unprocessed Roland sounds for drums. This is good independent music worth paying attention to. Though if they want said attention they probably need to hit the metallers harder than they’d like. Prayers for the Living and Altar of Interim; they also have some demos and a nice seasonal number.
SHINY DARKNESS: “You Can Travel The World/Dirty Morning” — shouty Ultra-ish Depeche Mode. Reasonably executed. Above video: “Dirty Morning”.
PSYCHICOLD: Rebirth — sp00ky goth EBM with nice sounds and a decent beat. Takes clichéd elements and mostly does pretty good things with them. I particularly liked “Electroshock”, “Rebirth” and “Tant de Peines”. Warrants repeat listens.
ALEXANDER FETUEKOW a.k.a. 2AF: Before Advent: Landmark Zero: The Best 2008-2013 — really very good homemade instrumental futurepop EBM informed by a whole lotta techno from the last twenty years. Its only problem is that it’s pretty clearly the sort of “instrumental” that’s “I can’t find a singer.” But he shouldn’t have trouble with this quality of tracks. Also check Landmark I: The Best 2013-2015.
(78, not 68. He lied about his birth date for decades. The ten-year discrepancy was quite the topic on the Wikipedia talk page back in the day.)
First time I heard Suicide was on 6NR Late Nite in the early ‘80s. 10pm-1am weeknights, that show was. I of course listened religiously, and never mind chronic tiredness at school the following morning.
They played “Frankie Teardrop” very last thing. 1am, in the dark, over the AM airwaves. Scared the shit out of young me.
This is the official clip, which I didn’t know existed until I found it on YouTube just now. If you’ve never heard it before, play it in the dark last thing at night tonight for Alan.
“we’re all Frankies we’re all lying in Hell”
Origin unknown. Also in large for suitably pixelated printing.
Why does the history of punk rock seem so relentlessly white and male, when that’s nothing like how it happened? Well, you know why. And so does Viv Albertine of the Slits, who showed up to talk at British Library exhibition Punk 76-78 last night and had to apply corrections to their glib erasure of people like her from the history she was literally there to talk about.
Averaging one studio album every three years, the classic math rockers, 65daysofstatic are right on time with their latest release, the official soundtrack to the video game No Man’s Sky. The multiplayer game itself is quite a fascinating and much anticipated production which, apart for being a thematically rich survival game of exploration, survival, trading, and (of course) combat. Diversity in the setting is generated from procedural generation for a massive open universe.
Comparisons between this album and their 2011 soundtrack of Silent Running is inevitable and accurate. This is mainly not like their early complex guitar-driven sounds, such as The Fall of Math, but with some notable exceptions. Following the game’s design, the soundtrack itself uses generated music. Unlike that one would expect from generation, there is significant variation, with many tracks including a fair amount of classic 65dos feedback and white noise.
The opening track, ‘Monolith’, is a new turn for the band with a significantly darker and more industrial sound to what is normally provided, a style which is somewhat repeated in an initially slower tempo and a keyboard overlay with ‘Red Parallax’ before traditional guitars and drum make their powerful discordant attack. The highlight of album however is most certainly, ‘Asimov’ which starts off initially lighter, then faster, then into lots of feedback, then into a powerful dirge, and the final track ‘End of the World Sun’, which is an extremely energetic piece that sounds very much like the old 65dos. They contrast with ‘Heliosphere’, which despite a quirky beginning, is a little too organised for 65dos, and ‘Hypersleep’ which is a heavy keyboard piece that doesn’t really develop.
The ten tracks of Music for An Infite Universe are complemented with a six-track second album Soundscapes. There are all longer and combined experimental pieces. The dominant adjective is ‘otherwordly’, a style especially relevant in the first two tracks, ‘NMS_exterior1Atmos1/ False Suns’, and ‘Tomorrow / Lull / Celestial Feedback’; these are largely deeply brooding sounds. However one track (‘Departure / Shortwave / Noisetest’) although starting with excellent heavy confused discordant sounds, falls into some weird, experimental bleeps and farts in the latter part, reminscent of the worst of 1980s electronic bands.
This album constitues an interesting foray and technical development for 65dos and it certainly has several instances of tracks that are powerful or highly evocative of the science-fiction settings for which it has been developed. Likewise however, it is also designed as a game soundtrack, when means that a great deal is a type of aural wallpaper – very good aural paper, one hastens to add, but aural wallpaper nonetheless. It is restless and relentless, correctly described the album’s promoters as “what does forever sound like?” The attempt is bold, and perhaps it does not completely succeed, but it certainly is an thorough attempt within the new musical genre and technology.
PSY’AVIAH: Seven Sorrows, Seven Stars (Alfa Matrix) — EBM with a good pop sensibility and various guest vocalists. Psy’Aviah have never quite grabbed me previously, but this new album caught my attention. Heavier on the pop angst than the dancefloor thumping; some tip over into slight cheese, but not fatally. The video above is “Frozen”, and here’s a track by track interview.
GAMMA 10: Listen To Me — instrumental EBM with samples. Does a pretty good and interesting job, actually. There’s way too much synth instrumental that’s clearly such only because they didn’t have a singer; this does rather better than that. He’s got a few more albums of this stuff too.
L.O.T.I.O.N.: Digital Control And Man’s Obsolescence (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos) — one from last year. I am only putting up with these Cookie Monster vocals because donjuan-auxenfers rates it. Aaaand it’s pretty good even given the vocal effect (I think it’s an effect). Like if hardcore punk had gone industrial at the end of the ’80s rather than industrial going metal — a trick I don’t recall hearing done quite this way before. (I mean, Atari Teenage Riot and much of the late ’90s, but this is much punkier.) They describe themselves as Nitzer Ebb meets G.I.S.M., which sounds about right. Or maybe FLA, but today I suspect you could play me anything and I’d say it was Canadians from the ’90s.
Rocknerd uses Kubrick, the most tediously basic WordPress theme that was all the rage in 2008. It’s possible we could do with an update.
So! I would welcome your valued suggestions on how to make the site look more like an interesting and perspicacious music magazine. Free themes by preference, we’re not big on budget resources around here …
- Google to the record industry whining about YouTube: bugger off, we’re making you a fortune here.
- A few worked examples of how the record industry synthesizes its completely BS statistics.
- Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service appears to be fully working to industry standards on its numbers and payment habits.
nTTx: Objective (WTII) — I don’t want to sound like I have stereotypes about ’90s Canadian industrial, but nTTx sure do. That said, they render it pretty darn well, curving back to where EBM does become FLA. The above video is “Bastion”, from this album. They also do a Michael Jackson cover that works alarmingly well.
FOOT SPA: Demos — the sort of mopey post-punk that isn’t even properly goth. Comparisons to Chameleons, Interpol (particularly the vocal) or Editors are probably facile but not inaccurate. Does it well, though. Rewards repeat listens. There’s nothing you can’t do with a good bass line.
KITES WITH LIGHTS: “Feeling Better” — had me well-disposed toward it by catching my ear in the first five seconds. It’s a really nice Pet Shop Boys crib (specifically the chords from “Being Boring”) and very likable. This is apparently a preview of a forthcoming EP; there’s a previous single “Motor Car” and album On the Edges that are also worth checking. They have a keen grasp of how to repay their listeners’ attention and you should watch for more.
STARS CRUSADERS: “Under Attack” (WTII) — pretty good EBM synthpop with a decent song. Could do with a better vocal melody and goes on a bit. Sounds great though. They have several others that are worth checking if you like this.
KEPLER: “French Toast” — of course, you can just use Bandcamp as hosting for your home demo. This is a really nice piece of indie guitar jangle pop whose tweeness is endearing rather than irritating. Makes some simple chord preogressions work really well. Give it a listen.
I named my old fanzine Party Fears after the hit single by the Associates, so I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Here’s a really nice interview with Alan Rankine, the musician member of the duo, going through the saga of their meteoric rise and fall — three hit singles in 1982, promptly imploding and vanishing from the face of the earth, Billy Mackenzie keeping the name going for some solo albums before moving to his own. (The only good Billy solo-era album was the “Associates” Perhaps, and Alan’s solo album was terrible.) All the records are available in various combinations of reissues, and Rankine and Michael Dempsey are preparing another round.
- A nice appreciation of Ringo Starr from last year by James Woodall.
- And a similar appreciation of why Frank Zappa was important. Of course, Ian Penman’s famous 1995 piece on everything wrong with Zappa remains valid in every objection, and personally I’m only interested in Zappa for his ideas and none of his music. Or that way too many guitarists I know have forty Zappa albums. But you should definitely read The Real Frank Zappa Book.
- David Stubbs correctly describes Record Store Day.
- One of the worst disco songs ever: “Here Comes The Night” by the Beach Boys. (See also its coverage in Andrew Hickey’s series of reviews of every Beach Boys album.)
- Nearly as bad as the other worst, “Hallelujah 2000”, which is pretty much a call to stadium record burning. See how long you can last; I have never managed more than five minutes, usually under one. Perhaps minutes 10-15 are actually brilliant! But nobody will ever know.
- Of course, disco improved in later years. I’ve just dredged up from the ancient rocknerd.org a 2003 interview with Jimmy Cauty from the KLF by Ben Butler. I mostly haven’t copied Ben’s old rocknerd.org stuff over to rocknerd.co.uk, but this one isn’t up anywhere else and I considered it well worth preserving.
Will York, in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, helpfully explains for us the cookie monster vocal in death metal. “It’s a mixture of several factors: habit, time-honored tradition, unoriginality, and necessity, in varying degrees.” And anyway, it’s at least as iconic as the heavy metal ümläüt.
(Worse when it starts spreading. Recent industrial is loaded with the thing, to the point where that’s a sure-fire way to fail the Rocknerd review pile. In that case it’s probably Suicide Commando‘s fault, though they actually do it with an effects unit.)
See that box at right of the front page saying “Subscribe to Rocknerd via email”? It does what it says. Sign up and you’ll never miss a post. Good, huh.
The new release pile on Bandcamp is more work than it looks.
STOP THE WHEEL: Too Old For This Shit (Little Gem) — Guitar and vocal ensemble with heartfelt singalongs: “R&B played at a campfire,” as they put it. This is a seriously good one; expect to hear it around. The video above is for the first track, “Shape Up”.
NÖVÖ: The Shortwaves (Alfa Matrix) — An audio painting of the late 1980s: the cold war, radio samples, analogue synth sounds, untrustworthy and limited information, paranoia. And shortwave radio being a thing in actual use. Not a lot of it’s actually very catchy, but it does capture the feeling nicely. Back when this was the world, and capturing it was hard.
BINAURAL SILENCE: Vortex — the dystopian techno-pop end of industrial. This was edgy in the nineties. Cliche-heavy (the second track is called “$0LDI€R$LAV€$”), but decent melodies, clear instrumentation and doesn’t use a death-metal growl for a vocal (in the style where that’s a huge plus point; the guy’s voice is actually not bad). Stick to the first track, “A Song For Lovers”, and the last, “A Lethal Dose of Nationanihilism”.
Australian ‘80s indie rock band the Arctic Circles never made a huge impact and remain mired in obscurity, but their two records (the single “Angel” in 1985, the mini-LP Time in 1987 featuring “Wasp”) were well-received, did okay on an indie level and you couldn’t get away from them on public radio. The style is the ‘60s garage punk stuff popular in Australia at the time. Still sounds pretty fresh in 2016.
(There are at least two other bands of this name. This is the right one.)
The audio linked here is from Final Audio Blast, the swan song compilation LP put out by the label they were on, Mr Spaceman. They’re about the best of it.
They also had three tracks on Cooking With George Mark Too (a compilation that made its few good bands sound bad and that nobody appears to have bothered ripping) and did a 7″ in 2015, which I haven’t heard.
A wonderful 2010 documentary from BBC Four, covering the late ’70s synthesizer bands. Interviews with the (original) Human League, Depeche Mode, Orchestral Manoeuvres, Vince Clarke, Gary Numan, New Order and the Pet Shop Boys.
YouTube copies keep getting takedowns from Warner Music, so if all else fails there’s this copy of a broadcast with Spanish subtitles.
If you’re in the UK, a 60-minute compilation Synth Britannia at the BBC is on iPlayer for the next twenty-three days. Switch on the subtitles for the lyrics.
Quite a lot of music software comes with a random riff generator. This stuff isn’t hard. But now it’s convenient as well: DJenerator Random Metal Riff Generator by Ross McMillan. Be sure to click “Settings” (it’s a dropdown) and have a good play with it. You can also get the source code. Some people are already working on a techno version.
- Apropos to sociological conditions in the early 1990s, here’s Nirvana just after Nevermind hit big. A very tired interview with Antoine de Caunes, and their notorious Top of the Pops take on “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, in which Kurt sings an octave down.
- I’ve mentioned Ryan Richardson before. His site Fanzine Faves has a crapload of ’70s and ’80s punk zines. History before 1995! It existed, you know!
- When music is used as a weapon. Did they really think heavy metal would flush out Noriega? We had Whitehouse back then, you know.
Scooped from the new releases pile on Bandcamp, where independent music seems to happen these days. Go on, spend five quid.
TENTACLES: Arcade EP — Throwing all the electronics they can grab into the stew to do the ’90s right this time. Catchy, decent well-structured pieces that don’t overstay their welcome, good taste in instrument samples, actual rhythm and funkiness. None of this is hugely flashy, but it’s done well. It’s supposed to be about video games, but thankfully you can just think of it as the space disco it is. They’ve also put up all the stems.
MIMUS: Midnight EP — Synth indie pop with female vocals, some guitar and a couple of really nice songs. And a couple that are good but rather odder. This is a nice first release and I want to hear more.
BESTMAN: Big Sky EP — Authentically reconstructed ’80s new wave, American style. Syndrum fills and all. The songs have all the right parts but aren’t as compelling as they need to be yet. But if you told me this was on Burning The Ground I’d believe it.
Severed Heads’ actual hit single, “Dead Eyes Opened 1994”, in which ‘80s industrial — from the days when you had to get out the bloody soldering iron and build your bloody equipment — is whipped up into a ‘90s techno splurge. At least it was an actual nearly-member of the band (Robert Racic) doing the whipping.
(yes, another heavy on the strobe)