In an ‘internet’ era we’re litterally pleasantly overwhelmed by music from all over the world, I’d have never tought in the 90’s I could listen to bands from Indonesia or Costa Rica, the listen has become necessarily sloppy for lack of time and excess of proposals. I’m personally struggling with more than twice, favouring, maybe also due to my electronic roots, singles and EPs. Once we bought a record carefully selecting it and carrying it at heart with us for long, enjoying and exploring every nuance in a very conscious and even critical listening. Consequentely my ‘best of’ is a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’ of the year without any scientific method, in a blurry order of merit, plus lots of records I forgot lately and with several ‘excellent missing’ in a overall quality defined 2018.
1 BRAGOLIN “I Saw Nothing Good So I Left” (Young & Cold Records)
Stunning debut from Dutch duo Bragolin merging post-punk and darkwave moods, the suberb baritone vocals and the reverb-charged wistful and stark guitar melodies of Zwarte Poëzie‘s Edwin van der Velde combined with new-wavish keyboards of Maria Karssenberg distilled an extremely persuasive and unpredictable dark epic sound infectious as hell from first-to-last note.
2 PEINE PERDUE “Tokyo en Morceaux” (Electronic Emergencies)
Berlin-based Parisian ‘avant-garde acid wave’ duo of synthesist Stephane Argillet and vocalist Coco Gallo are back with their 4th album filled with their deliciously seductive and refined blend of evocative and alienating synth motifs and detached yet charming French vocals to drown us in their universe of cold emotions, hazy shadows and intriguing mystery, sinking into a pure, contemplative, sublime synth ecstasy.
3 VILLES NOUVELLES ” At The End Of Truth” (Detriti Records)
A very late winter delight is the third album from Paris born, Leipzig based, formerly Chambre Froide, duo Villes Nouvelles, worthy and modern heir of the ’80s French coldwave heritage of legendary bands like Clair Obscure or Kas Product with nods to Xmal Deutschland’s Teutonic darkwave minimalism. An aseptic, cold, dark, obscure miasma of sinister and disturbing soundscapes made of aloof female voice, robotic, stark drum beats, foreboding bass and alienating frozen synth stabs that will resonate deeply and linger long in your mind.
4 EQUINOXIOUS “Límite Voltaico” (Kernkrach Records/Hertz-Schrittmacher)
As a testimony of the strong and fervent Mexican minimal synth scene, along the usual excellence of the new album of synth mastermind Stockhaussen, the debut of the younger synthetist Rogelio Serrano under his Equinoxious moniker blew my mind with the stripped-down yet elegant use of analog synthesizers and vintage drum machines in a superb blend of propulsion and atmosphere laced with wistful melancholy. A spellbindingly retro yet simultaneously futuristic dark timeless synth brilliance!
5 THIS IS THE BRIDGE “Broken Sculptures” (TONN Recordings)
London-based prolific one man analogue minimal synth project This Is The Bridge has released two albums of stunning emotional, melodic and dystopian synth-pop. In the year of the brilliant return of Gary Numan, a worthy and modern perpretator of the legacy of late 70’s/early 80’s Synth Britannia. ‘we’re still living in the future…’
6 LITOVSK “Dispossessed” LP (Symphony of Destruction / Et Mon Cul C’est Du Tofu / Abfall Records)
Minimalistic, edgy and passionate melodic anarcho post-punk driven by fantastic sharp and angular guitar riffs underpinned with taut drums and full bodied bass, that coalesce beautifully with the superb emotionally punky vocals. Brest 4-piece Litovsk overtake the ‘difficult second album’ syndrome in slightly a ‘poppier’, not less fierce, mournful and heart-wrenchingly poignant way.
7 CREUX LIES “The Hearth” (Cleopatra Records)
It’s amazing witnessing the full flourishing, in few months, of Californian 4-piece Creux Lies out of Sacramento, fronted by experienced multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and songwriter Ean Elliot Clevenger. The band’s passionate and distinctive 80′ influenced dreamy goth-synth-pop sound casts spells over the listeners with hypnotic and luscious synth incantations, pulsating basslines, sparkling reverb-infused guitar melodies and hollow saddened vocals, creating something haunting, gloomy and achingly beautiful.
8 KILL SHELTER “Damage” (Unknown Pleasures Records)
I knew Edinburgh-based Pete Burns for being the co-founder of the brilliant ‘Rule of Three’ Facebook blog, didn’t know he was such a talented musician too. The Scot started in great shape the year remixing other band’s track while ‘secretly’ refining his debut LP and what a late surprise! A dark, urgent and powerful bursts of post-punk energy and darkwave brooding goth-fueled intensity, blurring the line between past and present, with the collaboration of some of the best underground artists from all around the world. Even the late release didn’t stop a fully recognition.
9 ACTORS “It Will Come To You” (Artoffact Records)
Finally the definitive worldwide and worthy consecration for Vancouver’s finest Actors fronted by Jason Corbett with their impeccable, elegant and infectious blend of post-punk and new-wave rooted in the past, steeped in the present with a vision of the future…Well, I’d say justice is served.
10 BUZZ KULL “New Kind Of Cross” (Avant! Records)
Melbourne‘s darkwave mastermind Marc Dwyer in every guise you take him, from his remixes, collaborative projects, to solo moniker Buzz Kull and even dj mixes hardly disappoint, consequently he couldn’t overcome the pitfalls of the sophomore album with ease. Pulsing, steady drum machine rhythms mixed in with harsh sinister drones and raw, menacing oscillating synth texture in a heady mix of EBM and electro synthwave, as it is pop and experimental as challenging and visceral that make for a modern Fad Gadget without razors, foam and feathers.
11 DEN “Deep Cell” LP (Paradise Daily Records)
“A miasma of dark sounds” Finally the debut album for Sidney‘s post-punk 4-piece Den and they don’t disappoint. Inventive, energetic, emotional and an overwhelming collision of hard-core punk, darkwave, goth rock, with space rock, kraut and psych undertones. An unlikely marriage between Magazine, Black Flag, Stranglers, Can and Roxy that will leave you breathless and strikingly satisfied.
12 D.U.D.S. “Immediate” (Opal Tapes / Red Wig Records / Et Mon Cul C’est Du Tofu)
An electrifying and compelling development of last year’s Castle Face Records‘ cult debut LP “Of a Nature or Degree” for the Mancunian 5-piece D.U.D.S. Jittery and jagged guitar riffs, groovy syncopated rhythms and an excruciating brass section in a freeform and groovy, at the same time sinister and unsettled, combination of NYC’s no-wave of James Chance & the Contortions with the “mutant funk” of early Gang of 4, the desolate and fractured melodies of the Fall and the ‘avant free jazz dadaism’ of Ted Milton’s Blurt. A breath of fresh air!
13 AUS “Demo” LP (Static Age Records)
“The new DIY cold post-punk sound of Berlin right now” I wrote with enthusiasm back in January. Elusive power trio AUS, with out social media exposures, debuted with an mournful and minimal, bleak and dissonant, icy cold sound following the glorious heritage of Malaria!, Neubauten, Carambolage, Die Tödliche Doris. The best kept secret of the year! I hope they’ll back soon in the new year…
14 CRUEL REFLECTIONS “One Year” (Self Release)
An early discovery that stuck with me throughout this year is the debut from Californian duo Cruel Reflections. Filled with dark and genuine, intense and jarringly immediate, late-70’s and early-80’s influenced British post-punk with new wave suggestions, made of suberb driving, bouncing basslines with minimalistic guitar textures and compelling hardened baritone vocals, fuelled with unbridled energy, dismal passion and emotional urgency. Reminds me of those refreshing and undervalued, albeit ultimately relevant, 80’s new wavey/post-punk bands that linger indefinitely on you.
15 MOLCHAT DOMA “Etazhi” (Detriti Records)
Detriti label has dispensed ecleptic high quality releases all over the year. From its quality roster shines “the Belarusian New Order of our generation” 3-piece Molchat Doma with their infectious blend of bleak and mournful coldwave laments and minimalistic synth-pop rhythms that amazingly exceeds sophomore expectations.
16 DELPHINE COMA “Leaving The Scene” (SwissDarkNights Label)
The debut by, ‘could be’ Texas based, veteran musician/DJ/promoter Ashe Rüppe with the guitar twists of Amendoa Lizzbeth Tamburri, under the moniker of Delphine Coma crafts a genre-blurring and heavily textured electronic-laden amalgamation of atmospheric yet stark dark sounds. Ashe’s sombre and emotional vocals over icy dense droning synths and layers of reverb-induced shoegazey guitar shape a dun and shadowy atmosphere both soothing and unsettling, harnessing visceral feelings of sadness, anxiety, and alienation.
17 TWIN TRIBES “Shadows” (Manic Depression Records)
18 GRANDEUR “Singles Vol. 1: The Great Famine” (4LT4RS)
New Englander 2-piece Grandeur flew under my radar early in the year with their distinctive take on post-punk defined by the scratchy groovy and seductive vocals of Matt McIntosh over layers of razor-sharp guitar, wistful synths and hypnotic rhythms that add a unique emotional intensity and dark magnetism to the excellent strings of singles across the year lately compiled in the album.
19 LA PROCESIÓN DE LO INFINITO “La Era Oscura” (Gothic Music Records)
Possibly the best personal twist to the classic gothic rock sound comes from the debut of Colombian duo La Procesión de lo Infinito. Winding pulsating bass lines, mournful crystalline guitar melodies and forlorn male and female vocals amazingly chase, harmonize and overlap each other, creating a darkly beautiful, aching and melancholic aura of spellbinding gothic intensity.
20 SDH “Semiotics Department Of Heteronyms” (Avant! Records)
Barcelona based project of Wind Atlas members and Cønjuntø Vacíø label founders Andrea P. Latorre and Sergi Algiz under the SDH [Semiotics Department of Heteronyms] moniker is marked by a distinctive take on synth-wave-pop, interspersed with industrial hints, with a decidedly dark and minimalist streak. Beautifully distinctive, sensual, at times romantic, vocals of isolation, sadness, and underlined tension over pulsating hypnotic and ominous bass lines, pounding beats and cold wistful synths enhance a mysterious and cinematic aura that is as energetic danceable as it is introspective and deeply melancholic.
21 MARTA RAYA “Hidden Emotions” (Sick Suck Records)
Both Berlin-based members of darkwave duo Monowelt, in addiction to their final chapter as a band unmistakable titled “The Last Cup of Sorrow”, have released albums as solo artists. Poland-born Marta Raya with her self-described ‘obscure, bizzare, gloomy wave triste’ depicts, through her strikingly spellbinding vocals and intriguing dark synth melodies, spectral and mysterious, emotional and intense soundscapes that ooze mournful melancholy and sensual enchantment in a catharctic journey into her inner torments and obsessions.
22 DANCING PLAGUE “Pure Desperation” (Black Verb Records)
After an excellent 2017 demo, the goth-instilled darkwave talent of Spokane‘s, now relocated to Portland, Conor Knowles under his solo project Dancing Plague comes to fruition with his compelling debut. Rousing basslines, foreboding hard hitting drum machines and overwhelming icy sinister synths fueled by the Conor’s huge mournful baritone vocals will blow your mind and you can’t help but dance utterly infected by the ‘Plague’. Conor is also half of the, just as amazing, goth-dreampop duo Psychic Guilt, not to be missed.
23 GREY GALLOWS “Tears” (InClub Records)
The first full-length from Greek darkwave duo Grey Gallows based in Patra is proof of a constantly improving band, not shy of their 80’s influences, crafting hazily seductive and gloomily intense brooding atmosphere overflowing with epic and romantic dark emotions.
24 NEON LIES “II” (Black Verb Records)
Blurring the lines between darkwave, synth-punk and minimal synth, Neon Lies, the DIY solo moniker of former Modern Delusion guitarist Goran Lautar based out of Zagreb, embodies genuine brooding tension and stark intensity. With minimalistic set-up of vintage analogue synths and beat boxes generates murky, tightly wound, anxious, hallucinatory synth-laden soundscapes, capturing the inner essence of late 70’s NYC synth-punk and shedding further light on the Croatian synth scene’s longstanding vibrancy.
25 ANTIFLVX “Platonic Perspectives” (InClub Records)
Debut album from Bogota’s darkwave duo Antiflvx establishes a strong growing underground music scene in Colombia that is worth mentioning. Thirteen tracks of a dark minimal synth-driven blend of darkwave, coldwave, and post-punk with slight industrial overtones combined with memorable lyrics about love, longing, and fear make this album engaging, relatable, and highly danceable!