Here we are at the end of a year personally spent not at 100% with the usual focus on music, committed to resisting an increasingly intrusive and oppressive, under every point of view, ‘liberal democratic state’. In addition to my repulsion, due to my political mindset, towards any form of ranking or vote more or less on merit, I think I do not even have the right qualification for the truth…so to make it short, here are some records with which I spent more time with, leaving aside the highly appreciated Dry Cleaning, Yard Act, Porridge Radio and Fontaines D.C. which are at the top everywhere. Happy festive period to You all and thanks for your attention. Ciao!
- MISFORTUNES “Brilliant Endings” [TONN Recordings]
After having successfully passed the fateful second album, Thessaloniki based musician and composer Ioakim Vasiliadis returns, after two years, with his third effort always nestled in the safe hands of the Belfast label, with the contribution of a bunch of friends to the poetic storytelling, arousing emotion-filled vertigo of shimmering Synth Wave shaded with haunted Darkwave, in constant tension between warm and cold, combining with a distinctive subtlety, melody, melancholy and at the same time pulsing crisp rhythmic energy, as close to introspective shadows as to giddy futuristic journeys. Eleven “brilliant endings” of an immersive and gripping triad, ready to revive towards new electrifying dark romantic horizons.
- THE SECRET FRENCH POSTCARDS “Life Got Claws” [Cold Transmission Music]
Another act that we’ve seen grow from its enigmatic beginnings, embodying and rejuvenating the Post-punk aesthetics drawn from The Cure, U2, Echo & the Bunnymen and the most atmospheric trailblazers, to depict nocturnal, mysterious and visionary scores of rare intensity and melodic flair with a mesmeric psychedelic bent, for nostalgic Darkwave romantics and moody Coldwavers, enveloped by Pedro Code’s production of a flimsy gothic veil. “Just another post-punkish band” the duo dub themself, more than good enough for us.
- PARADOX OBSCUR – “Morphogenesis” [Metropolis Records]
The constantly evolving minimal electro-wave duo based in Athens, Toxic Razor & Kriistal Ann AKA Paradox Obscur, as usual utilizing hardware synthesizers and drum machines, explore multifaceted shades of darkness scratched by glittering and buzzing electronic nuances in their latest opus, heady and lush elements of Electro, Trance, Industrial, Acid, Techno merge into a swirling throbbing sonic vortex, heightened by crystalline alluring mercurial chants, which spill over on the listener, irresistibly shaking the senses in a striking ‘morphogenesis’ of dancing.
- INCIRRINA “Lip Led Scream” [Cold Transmission Music]
Having followed the duo since their early inception, grabbed by their highly intriguing analog, minimal Darkwave sound, I’m indelibly amazed by a sophomore album that increasingly shines in the darkness on its own, for heartfelt passion and gripping intensity, without ever losing sight of the rhythmic energy, definitely a thriving jewel for the already vibrant dark alternative Greek scene.
- THIS ETERNAL DECAY “Nocturnæ” [Trisol / Soulfood]
Released at the very beginning of the year, the third LP from the experienced Roma based Italian 4-piece (members of Spiral69, Spiritual Front, Date at Midnight and Avant-Garde), initially born as a side project, now a full-time band, has inevitably awakened the post-holiday torpor of even the laziest and distracted with an intriguing and rousing combination of Darkwave and Post-punk dusted with elements of Electro-Goth, Synthpop, and Industrial. Inspired by the infamous chaotic world events of recent years in hopes of finding forgiveness, or at the very least understanding, the band delivers 10 magnificently produced and arranged tracks, urgently propelled along by relentlessly crackling and crisp drum-machine-pulses, while a vibrant concoction of rumbling basslines, melancholic synth strains and shimmery evocative guitars, to instill eternal spirals of haunted gloom and existential angst into agonized vocals, steeped in scathing windswept darkness, invoking death, love, insecurity, and separation through a visceral dissection of the fallen human mind.
- EUROPEAN GHOST “No Peace, No Sleep, No Shelter” [Icy Cold Records]
4 years after the compelling sophomore LP “Collection of Shadows”, the Italian Dark Wave 3-piece continue their visceral and intriguing investigations into the most sensitive and fragile caverns of the human soul. In their third, concept album of sorts, nocturnal, mysterious, and evocative soundscapes shift through an array of psychological ailments, extracting dread, vulnerability, and melancholy from an inquisitive exploration into the stages of human sleep. The 11 songs sync the perceived depth and consistency of subconscious energies through thick, turbulent, penetrating textures drenched in dark and droning chasms, sublimated in oneiric ethereality, built by obsessive throbbing and punchy bass lines, sparse pain-filled searing guitar glares, crisp, hypnotic drum machines, sinister synth swathes, and aching, haunted vocal emotionality. Embodies the struggle of being bound by uncontrollable fear and desire, lying in wait, beneath a veil of consciousness, trapped in eternal nightmares of unfathomable imaginations. A truly immersive and all-encompassing listening experience.
- THE SERFS “Primal Matter” [DREAM]
Southwestern Ohio‘s art punk troubadours drop a more cohesive and focused sophomore album, blending a groovy mishmash of tautly sharp Post-Punk and stark estranged Coldwave, amid bursts of crackling dance-floor catharsis, through a busy, heady environ of metal-dusted clanking and bouncy mechanical beats, heavy warped and jiggly bass tones, lively icy bright synth configurations, mechanical repetitions, and obsessive wandering guitar strains, to expand deconstructed horizons into barren forlorn landscapes torn apart by frozen introspections around dire angsty vocal prowess, at times joined by evocative back-ups, to awaken nostalgic outflows of high energy combustions into an alienated lyrical realm of oppressive powers, burdensome monotony, and modern dystopic melancholia.
- PLAGUE PITS “Transnecropolitan” [Self Released]
Hailing from the fairy-tale medieval mists at the foot of the Swiss Alps, the Bern-based collective ‘inspired by the D.I.Y. electronic tape underground of yore’, turned out to be one, already foreshadowed by the debut 4-tracker at the very end of 2021, of the year’s most invigorating, unpredictable, and even prolific best newcomers. A crackling, unforgiving and seething sonic cauldron, ably built with a distinctive personality, that seamlessly conjures the clatter and the clang of industrial wastelands, Kraftwerk-like clinical machine-funk rhythms, the stripped-down polyrhythms of Cabaret Voltaire, the surreal unpredictability of the Residents, the adrenaline pumping dancefloor New Beat of DAF, Neon Judgment and Front 242 combined with a not insignificant Euro Synthpop-style wistful melodic appeal almost to lighten all, where anger, convictions, and defiance often overlap onto the lingering anguish and alienation, along with post-apocalyptic dimensions of obsession, paranoia, and oppressive doom.
- SHAD SHADOWS “Prismatic” [Wave Tension Records / Young & Cold Records]
About two years after the previous full-length “Toxic Behaviors”, the Italian unit of Luca Bandini and Alessandra Gismondi returns with their 4th album “Prismatic”, chock-full of an energetic and rousing, mostly club-ready, nuanced dark electro sound. A murky electronic fantasy of stone-cold seductions and desire-ridden dreams surrounds sensual, ghostly male/female vocal interplays with hypnotic, bewitching dance-driven delight. Mysterious, dangerous, and alluring emotional alienation opens alternate dimensions of perceived reality with modern, edgy and dramatic moods.
- DELTΔ KOMPLEX “Veils” [Unterschall Records]
German trio debut with an intricate and seductive 8-track album of hauntingly introspective Goth-clad Darkwave. Obscure, daunting moody cinematics drive haunting, obsessive textures of emotive guitar reverberations, undulating basslines and hypnotic rhythms around bewitching female vocals, channeling Siouxie-Sioux’s intoxicating incendiary vibrancy in both French and English idioms, whilst an immersive chiming array of dimension-expanding synth layers give slight slivers of hope over doom-laden rivers of sentient organic stringed reflections, setting the stage for an eerie shadow-self journey through cold, bleak, macabre forests and modern dystopic isolations, left waltzing whole-heartedly into an aching romantic duet of expectant horizons.
- SACRED SKIN “The Decline of Pleasure” [SYNTHICIDE]
Los Angeles-based duo Brian Tarney and Brian De Mert AKA Sacred Skin deliver a blatantly retro but at the same time absolutely genuine lush and cinematic synth-laden sound, that somehow blends all the essential suggestions that have innervated the most creative and memorable episodes of the ’80s New Wave/Synth-Pop, from a Post-punk moodiness and obscurity, a vibrant vintage crafted Electronica, to a never-too-flashy sensuality and romance paired with a suffused yet striking melancholic melodic flair. A hot mysterious seductive fantasy of daring desires ignites a dazzling haunted realm of sparkling spirals, excruciating, burning obsessions, and cool intoxicating mists around an aching agony and ecstasy of romantic vocal confessions, to take the listener on a dark emotional adventure inside the insatiable love and longing of a bleeding heart.
- CIERŃ “The Emperor Rx” [Self Released]
Berlin based international Peace Punk band give birth to a cohesive debut album, enthralling from the first to the last track, entitled “The Emperor RX”, comprises 10 emotional-ridden songs of raw, arousing, and haunting Post-Punk moods to explore global concerns for human rights, animal rights, and climate change. The common thread tying these tracks together is the timeless inverse image of the emperor tarot card whose abusive powers, totalitarianism, corruption, etc. always takes hold when the people sleep. CIERŃ’s powerful vocal emotions carried by the turbulent and resonant yet stripped-down instrumentation bring to mind the goth-strewn unabated defiance of Siouxie Sioux, Voo-Doo Church, and Skeletal Family battle calls from the ’80s as she hopes to rouse our collective soul with collaborative strength and change. The 4-piece break the modern dystopic conformities of selfishness, hypocrisy, and learned helplessness with a scorching tidal wave of edgy, eye-opening, head-nodding insight.
- IAMTHESHADOW “The Wide Starlight” [Cold Transmission Music]
Portuguese trio fronted by the stirring and magnetic crooner Pedro Code, IAMTHESHADOW reached with their fifth full-length album. Adding further intriguing deeper, melodic and rhythmic dimensions to his already compelling elegant Darkwave sound realms, injecting shadowy supernatural twilight moods into a pulsing, equally obscure and sparkling instrumentation, to immerse commanding and evocative atmospheric dark romantic baritones in murky doom-laden skies where wicked whispers, distant celestial cries, and bittersweet synthetic effects, cast slight slivers of hope over the brooding Gothic haunt, to set a dramatic stage for intimate, heartbroken lyrical confessions, lost in a truth-seeking realm of a revealed ruinous fate.
- GRIMDELUXE “Donker” [Tonn Recordings]
Amsterdam-based beat-driven synth storyteller Max Koppmanschap AKA Grimdeluxe slices through lights and shades of soft, immersive, at times urgent cinematic soundscapes driven along by drum-machine-pulses to build surreal crepuscular realms of cold grey dancing mists, whilst angsty and melancholic icy bright synth melodies light dim mysterious pathways of discovery, around a compelling baritone stoicism standing atop the grinding gloom. Revealing, raw, emotional dream-like stories to warm a frozen heart.
- MINUIT MACHINE “24” [Synth Religion]
Haunted by producer and musician Hélène de Thoury’s personal struggles, the Parisian duo’s 4th studio album “24” is consequently permeated with a deep strain and oppressive feel. Deftly thudding and throbbing mechanical drum programming along with deadly undulating low ends drive an edgy engine, bursting with mercurial fantasy, surrounded by brooding and trancey synth swirls, to inject dark, dreamy, disassociative moods of danger and intrigue through cool, airy futuristic expansions, soft sensual breathes, and depth-defying electronic configurations, unlocking mental prisons of aching desire and secret longing with an eternal twilight dance of thought-provoking confessions against all the odds.
- HARSH SYMMETRY “Display Model” [Fabrika Records]
California-based Julian Sharwarko AKA Harsh Symmetry stuns and intrigues with a homespun synth-driven debut album, “Display Model”, confronting dystopic ideals of consumerism, false personas, and social media in 8 dreamy and melancholic tracks built on ghostly, atmospheric vocals, icy bright synth melodies, obsessive guitar lines, and mesmerizing brooding passions. Soul-stirring realms reminiscent of some of the best ’80s Post-punk/Darkwave touchstones, lure the listener into a haunted dancing headspace veiled by shadows of a profoundly distressed and extremely seductive cold introspective aura, dealt with a genuine emotional weight and unique songwriting prowess, carved with hypnotic echoes of gothic romance, stepping out of time.