I am not here in vain to dwell on how bad, strange as so on 2020 has been. As always, music has been at our side, a faithful and essential companion for our days, be they good or bad. Surely the absence of live concerts is the most penalizing issue, which any streaming of this world is not able to replace. As usual, the offer has been overwhelming, certainly, we missed a lot of interesting stuff, something else would have deserved to be further investigated, unfortunately, time on hand, like life, is short. Anyway, here they are some of the records I enjoyed, keep on being always curious, open-minded, independent and never trust authorities.
- SWESOR BHRATER “Sick Rose” [Idio[t]phone Records / Einz : Zwei : Acht]
Obscure and edgy, as well as melodious and persuasive, constantly poised between calm and chaos, organicity and abstraction, acoustic and synthetic, in the same way as the ancestral struggle and harmony between the different forces of nature that govern the earth. Thus the diverse sonic elements, varying from post-punk, wave, synthpop, accordion-lead acoustic dark folk, assembled in the new album entitled “Sick Rose”, just like William Blake‘s poem from 1794, shaped by the creative artistic, spiritual and also vocal connection of Victor-Yann and Yule, in an intense fervent excursion through rich pulsating and emotional multi-chromatic soundscapes, pervaded by solemn epic, passionate elegy, archaic mystery, esoteric invocations, romantic poetry. A deep, heartfelt and visceral symbiosis between two artists, their music, and mother nature that nurtures and resounds in an album we absolutely felt the need for in these times of lost beauty and eclipse of the sense of the sacred.
- KALTE NACHT “S/T”
On the wings of imposing pre-COVID19 live performances, the Dark // Minimal // Synth Wave duo from Athens, bewitch and transfix with their debut LP replete with steady obsessive rhythms and ominously oscillating basslines, wrapped in chilling and swirling analogue synth intensity, to dispense cold and sinister breath around haunted and emotive, dazzling commanding vocals brimming with heartfelt emotions straight from the contorted and obscure edges of a tormented human soul.
- VUKOVAR “The Colossalist” [Other Voices Records]
Come to light from the darkness of the sad demise of one-time band member Simon Morris (Ceramic Hobs), the reborn English experimental post-punk NeuPopAct’s new 8th chapter, probably their most accessible so far, albeit in a Vukovar‘s meaning, of a journey that unravels, in a careful game of joints, towards enigmatic and visionary rich sonic horizons, always oblique, unsettling and indefinite, but absolutely intriguing. A fascinating immersion into an elusive, dissonant and discordant mesmeric dimension, from which emerge drops of absolute warped and dazzling pop beauty with distant echoes of Bowie, Roxy Music, Magazine, early Human League, Soft Cell, Current93, Coil just to name a few… As always, a record that circulates slowly and spreads like an invigorating virus, growing listen after listen, revealing new details.
- NEON LIES “Loveless Adventures” [Cut Surface/Wave Tension Records/Cosmic Brood/Black Verb Records]
We do love Goran Lautar, his precious home-crafted sheer DIY lo-fi synth-punk embedded in minimalistic darkwave with industrial leanings, even if no more noisy and raw than before, that shines straight from the convulsive beating of a solitary heart in perpetual turmoil through his muffled voice, underpinned by crispy, bouncing beats, droning hypnotic repetitions, sometimes raw and clanging, and menacingly oscillating bassline, stabbed by whirlwinds of glacial bright synths, in a dizzying emotional spiral of restlessness where life finds no peace, nonetheless is able to find glimpses of beauty within loneliness.
- THE GLASS BEADS “Therapy” [fabrikarecords]
Mechanical drum machine, dismal throbbing, gurgling bassline, plaintive aloof deep voice, twinkling music-box chords and icy synth strings weave poignant and crestfallen odes of profound sorrow and harrowing desolation, drowning in sublime melancholy, at the same time bleak and beautiful, somber and sweet that will resonate and shatter your dark heart for the months to come. Following the band from its beginnings, I’m bedazzled and admired on how the pair have amazingly developed and perfected their heartfelt sound in a sober and organic way, without unnecessary clamours and exhibitionisms.
- KORINE “The Night We Raise” [Other Voices Records/Born Losers Records/Data Airlines]
Philadelphia duo, of Morgy Ramone & Trey Frey, keep on raising the bar of their refreshing take on synth-pop, increasingly memorable and addictive in its deceptive simplicity, rippled of darkly restless tinges, but it is invigorating nonetheless with a distinctive bittersweet melodic sensibility and a nod to the 80s new wave past that makes for an endearing combination, at times nostalgic and melancholic, other times obscure and elusive.
- GRANDEUR “The Illusion of Power” [4LT4RS]
Finally, the proper debut album for our beloved duo bursting with their sharp, powerful, and soulful dark post-punk sound, made up of minimal yet effective arrangements and sparkling, epic melodic songwriting, enhanced by the distinctive husky, romantic voice that croons his way through 10 emotional-ridden tracks simply overwhelming with their edgy attitude, lyrical honesty, and sonic intensity, It’s not a record you can approach without mentioning urgency, love, passion, pain and despair, as a cathartic relief from today’s impending doom.
- THE SEA AT MIDNIGHT “S/T” [Self/Released]
At the start rather mysterious when we highlighted his debut single, one-man project, The Sea At Midnight, imprinted with greyish and rainy 80s British soundscapes, largely Mancunians, expatriate under the California sun, embodies in his debut album all that was fascinating from that beloved period, perfectly balanced and delivered with a modern twist: sparkling guitar, icy synth, hypnotic beats, emotional vocals, enshrouded in a dense bittersweet haze of cold romance, somber introspection and nostalgic moods. ‘We share the same stars’…
- MISFORTUNES “The Isle of Tomorrow” [TONN Recordings]
In his second album Thessaloniki-based synthesist deftly combines ’80s influenced compelling darkwave and cold minimal synth, infused of post-punk flair, with poetic lyrics by guest artists, building elegant and sparkling electronic constructions made of incessantly obsessive, pulsating rhythms, emotional swirls, and epic gusts of icy and bright synths over rich vocals, to create a dizzying ‘imposing mountain of darkwave’ bliss.
- AUS TEARS “Levelled Directions” [Self/Produced]
The long-awaited debut, after years of persistence, from the Helsinki based Italo/Finnish duo is an equally groovy and cold, high energy take on the electro-wave, interspersed with post-punk gloom, fueled by a strong DIY punk attitude, through crackling and crispy mechanical rhythms, swirling glacial synth, and deep haunting vocalizations make for a solid heartfelt debut whose simplicity is also its strength, clearly showing how you do not need artifices and complexity to mesmerize and intrigue.
- IAMTHESHADOW “Pitchblack” [Cold Transmission Music]
A seductive and poignant album imbued with hopeless passion and dark romanticism, crafted with boundless fatalist allure and sheer sincerity, generating moments of spine-tingling crystalline evocative beauty in which echoes of the past are indissolubly moulded in an enveloping driving unsettling present, enhanced by Pedro Code‘s rough and silky baritone croon, as strong and magnetic, as it is ambiguous and dangerous, swaying amid an obscure harsh reality and dim-lit, sore, melancholic introspections. Soul-stirring, visceral and disenchanted darkwave at its best.
- PARANORMALES “Contra” [Cleopatra Records]
The quartet’s poignant, moody and dramatic sound is a heady distillation of the most intense dark elements from 80s post-punk and new wave, intersected by shoegaze sharp guitar distortion and rhythmic industrial chrome, fueled by ominous electronic undercurrents and magnetic female vocalizations, drowning the listeners into a dense and stifling, at the same time mesmerizing and enticing, dim atmospheric strain of dangerously hypnotic haze.
- MARY “Die Before Death” [Cold Transmission Music]
Along with a fresh take on a bunch of ‘old classics’, as well as vibrant and poignant new favourites, swirling guitar chimes, piercing synth and emotional dreamy vocals chase sparkling flashes of light into the pulsating and restless darkness impressed by the rhythm section in an atmospheric wandering into the depths of a tormented soul. An album we were waiting for so long from Toronto artist, he couldn’t help but give us shimmering glares of dismal beauty.
- CLOSED MOUTH “Conversation Piece” [Icy Cold Records]
The third album from the French one-man-band wholly captivates with its perfectly balance of forlorn vocals and mesmerizing 80s UK tinged cold and emotional-ridden post-punk, poised between gleaming, haunting, and dramatic progressions with a mechanical yet impetuous drive, and doom-laden, introspective, agonizing textures, to spread a thick enshrouding grey mist of despair, angst and desolation over a suffocating nightmare of lost humanity.
- MAYFLOWER MADAME “Prepared For A Nightmare” [Icy Cold Records]
Enveloping dark and nocturnal tones, lysergic introspection, obsessive rhythms, and ethereal and impassioned guitars, the Oslo based band deliver their most intense and personal record so far, mixing together elements of post-punk and psychedelia with darkwave and shoegaze leanings, able like few to metabolize a variety of classic influences from the past, infusing them into an absolutely unmistakable modern style, alternating incendiary and tense rock’n’roll moments with more introverted and moving parts. Painful, deep, and romantic.
- DIAF “Weida” [Self/Released]
A cinematic and emotional journey filled with raw, uninhibited Bavarian vocalizations, from the flashing icy bright synthpop/gothic rock rambunctious high-energy dancefloor concoction, to sparse neo-classic/folk wanderings, weaving in organic strings and romantic melancholia, along with an intense exploration of self, society, and unforgiving systematic oppression. A flamboyant burst of red-laden dark creativity.
- STEREOPOLINA / Стереополина “Институт культуры и отдыха / Institute of culture and leisure” [Sierpien Records]
How not to love the home-brewed, 100% DIY one-woman-project from Kazan strewn of nostalgic and cinematic flair from the pop heritage of the 80s, as the beats uplift to ecstatic swirling and uplifting crescendos, while her vocals are tinged by sadness and yearning, dancing beneath a strobe-lit mirror ball, like enduring postcards from the past that speak to our present moment in time.
- THIS IS THE BRIDGE “Statues” [TONN Recordings]
Powerful and edgy, but moving and uplifting at the same time, steeped in analogue melancholic, geometric precision, delivers brutalist synthetic architectures rooted in his bold uncompromising vision of heartfelt minimal synth primitivism. Pounding and metallic rhythmic patterns, buzzing basslines, charming dazzling synth lines and fluid bright melodic expansions, fueled by emotionally detached vocalizations ceaselessly hit, straight to the heart first, later the brain.
- PAAR “Die Notwendigkeit der Notwendigkeit / The Need for the Need” [Grzegorzki Records]
Munich power trio refine their ominous and magnetic cold darkwave sound, swathed in post-punk aesthetic, delving deep into the modern philosophical realms of dystopian desire with urgent and abrasive industrialized, driving rhythms, rumbling bleak bassline, awash by icy synths, penetrated by blistering chiming chilly guitar riffs, to toss powerful haunting female vocals into a churning tide of chaos and pain in an alluring, intense, rambunctious release of rebellious suffering that pierces dangerously into your eclipsed heart.
- PEPPY PEP PEPPER “Granny Chic” [Modern Tapes]
Machine-crafted, cold and minimal, reassuringly uncanny and futuristic synth designs from Vienna‘s finest Violet Candide (1/2 of Mitra Mitra and Violetiger), swaying amid frozen, glowing, wandering synth progressions that expand sinuously, full of lusciously frigid attraction, over buzzing bassline and crispy, mechanical analog rhythms, whilst aloof spoken vocals bend ephemeral harmonies into a hypnotic layer of dismal, melancholic contemplation, suspended on the shadowy edges of a wintry chilly realm.
- NÜRNBERG “Paharda” [Sierpien Records/Death Shadow Records]
Hopelessly nostalgic and emotional-ridden melodic post-punk weaves glistening spidery guitar riffs and serpentine, wandering bassline’ melancholy, swept by swirls of airy synth, seamlessly expanding, dense and agile, in a mercurial sonic drift seeping deep feelings in perpetual conflict, amid glimpses of light, laced with lyrics of existential discomfort, from which to get carried away to its icy, ultimate hissing dissolution.
- ECHOBERYL “The Awakening of a Mutant Girl” [Cold Transmission Music]
Italo–French duo draw fantasy from the Sci-fi B cinema of the 1950s and 1960s to deliver an imaginative and fictitious movie spanned in twelve-episodes, while still maintaining and actually accentuating their cold, dark and melancholic quality, they add a heavy dose of electronic and synthpop additives and rhythmic drive around the flawed beauty and melancholic grace of Cecilia Dassonneville‘s atmospheric vocalizations, breathing cathartic release from the lonely fringes of fear and limited perspective of self. You’ll wind up blissfully and freely dancing through the void of space.
- JACKSON VANHORN “After the Rehearsal” [Manic Depression Records / Icy Cold Records]
The solo venture of former TV Ghost post-punk artist from Indianapolis, Jackson VanHorn, reveals himself increasingly intriguing and elegant in his immersive and chilling sophomore outing. Mysterious, cinematic dark atmospheres drift eerily combining tormented male vocals with glistening guitar melodies and hypnotic rhythms to wander curiously through a surreal and brooding universe of fear.