Here we go again, with the personally not cherished year-end list. A 2023, more than any other, flooded by a sea of ongoing releases, perhaps too many, and distracted by external factors, in which I struggled to keep the right pace of listening and insights in order to have a clear and detailed mental map of what happened in music for the last twelve months, besides being too lazy to take note. Consequently here is the usual imperfect list of what I listened to the most, without distinction of merit, with a lot of holes that will always come to mind in the next few days, avoiding the most established names which I leave to much more important and followed sites. I wish you a Happy New Year everyone, even if there wouldn’t be much to celebrate with the ongoing West-fueled genocide. Anyway, again, all the best for the new year!
- NNHMN “Circle of Doom” LP [Young & Cold Records]
Mirroring the state of the world we are living in, the Berlin-based duo’s latest album serves up a sublime instance of the shapely interplay between Michal’s surgical mastery of meticulously chiseling sharp-edged beats, simmering throbbing-and-punching low ends, and lush icy-cold multi-faceted synthetic textures with Lee’s seductive vocal magnetism, rife with depth and nuance, amid heart-aching romance, escapist fantasy, and metaphysical introspection, to underscore one of the current most intriguing and daring dark-electro-body-music acts to get lost in.
- YEARS OF DENIAL “Suicide Disco Vol. 2″ 2xLP [VEYL]
Though I have followed and constantly appreciated the French–Czech duo Jerome Tcherneyan and Barkosina Hanusova, I have hardly listened to a track from them, amid remixes and originals, that didn’t hit the mark, curiously I’ve never had the opportunity to write about them, lucky people. The pair’s rich and electrifying second double album best captures the essence of their both visceral and sensual, poetry-charged modern electronic sound oeuvre, on the tightrope of the Gothic scene and Rave Culture, which combines Goth, Darkwave, Post-punk, New Beat, EBM and Techno, finding the ideal balance between infectious and compulsive sharp-edged slabs of beat-driven EBM electro, bursting with dance floor energy, and dangerous immersions in pitch black pit of chilly and sensuous enveloping Darkwave introspections. YoD’s “Suicide Disco” sound embraces shadowy ominous dungeon soundscapes filled with finely abrasive swirling mists, driving slashing drum programming, doom-laden buzzing low ends and hypnotic sharp-around-the-edges icy synth melodies, to submerge bewitching lusty vocals, in a haunting subconscious realm of macabre despair.
- MARTIN DUPONT – “Kintsugi” LP [Meidosem / Infrastition / Minimal Wave]
Marseille’s longtime lingering New Wave cult pioneers Martin Dupont, originally established in 1980 and led by Alain Seghir, after several decades of hiatus, return with a bunch of old acolytes and new comrades, to a revamped take of the band’s distinctive, equally multifaceted and imaginative, as well as cold and emotive song-form, while sublimating old reminiscences, pulsing on the (cracks) fractured lines of time and life, as the title suggests, to healing ceaselessly amid past and present, shining, powdered gold dusted, more resonant, more ravishing, and more precious than ever. The LP undergoes an introspective poetic exploration of themes about doomed love and personal struggle delivered by intense heartfelt vocal histrionics against a giddy and phantasmagorical backdrop carousel of swirling bright orchestrations, brassy romantic rapture, tense guitars, icy vibrant synth tones and an array of evocative atmospheric backup voice support, giving the listener the feeling of being at a theatrical live play with a cast of dramatic characters.
- ZACK ZACK ZACK “Album 2″ LP [Trost Records]
Building the bridge between Mitteleuropa and Anatolia, Vienna-based Synth Wave / Post-punk Turkish collective, led by Yigit Bakkalbasi and Cemgil Demirtas, keeps on breaking through genre boundaries with their succinctly titled “Album 2”, adding an EBM-charged menacing and driving punch along with murky droning industrialized tones to their already throbbing and dancing rhythm section while their distinctive captivating yet haunting exotic use of traditional string instruments like Cümbüş Saz, enforced by a spiky violin, inject dire, gritty and piercing shades, augmented by layers of abrasive and jagged guitar riffs, to create dark, hypnotic and urgent cinematic soundscapes on which ominous baritone vocals, release both disturbing and beautiful esoteric poetry, amid an atmospheric sax/violin-laden, both poignant and shivering, seductive lush final part, sure to tug your heartstrings. A remix album is scheduled early in the new year, don’t miss it out.
- PLAGUE PITS “Creatures” LP [Transnecropolitan]
A crackling, simmering and electrifying synthetic cauldron cloaked in retro-futurist romanticism, seamlessly incorporates elements from Cabaret Voltaire, Information Society, Fad Gadget, Kraftwerk, Sparks, The Normal, Tubeway Army and Human League, while chewing Synth-Pop, New Wave, Industrial and Post-punk with a feverish pace, set in a hallucinated and desolate George Orwell dystopian scenario. Commanding vocal angst, scanning darkly the modern man’s oppressive struggle, penetrates and expands, injected with dramatic and robotic ebullience on the energetic feverish throbbing of vibrant, droning and funk-edged bass undulations along with shifting, clangoring and lashing drum programming, circled by icily swirling strobing synths riffs, flashing and pulsing with hypnotic, syncopated unremitting dance-inducing urgency.
- MALE TEARS “CRYPT” LP [Avant!Records]
An insanely infectious concoct of glittering glam grooving and industrial-dusted dark waving goth party jams, wreathed in intoxicating thrills of decadent Blitz club-fueled Electro-Pop hedonism and melancholic dystopian futurism, to evoke the bittersweet longing and pain of the nostalgic 80s where aching romantic broods and hypnotic back-up echoes radiate with warmth and sincerity from the cloudy grey mists of strobing dancefloor sensations.
- SCREENSAVER “Decent Shapes” [Poison City Records // Upset The Rhythm]
Melbourne/Naarm‘s unit, fronted by the magnetic Krystal Maynard, makes you get into an intoxicating space-time continuum headspace, harnessing all the good bits of the 80s-drenched alienated New Wave and menacing Post-punk while pushing them forward, with dauntless and gripping Synth-laden Punk experimentalism, into the turbulent anxiety of the modern age. An equally atmospheric and high-energy sophomore album crammed with screeching, barbed guitar riffs, mercurial thrumming synthesizer sweeps, along with a churning and driving rhythm section, to fuel angsty chaotic unrest and foreboding tension over urgent spunky female vocals, raging against materialism and power-hungry corporate greed with evocative heartfelt passion.
- LATHE OF HEAVEN “Bound by Naked Skies” LP [Sacred Bones Records]
A debut that burns and simmers, impetuous, impassioned, and tumultuous, overflowing with rowdy Punk anger, ominous DeathRock thrills and moody Post-punk alienation, not ashamed to nod to Killing Joke, Christian Death, Bauhaus Dead Boys, Play Dead and so on, amidst barbed and abrasive guitar riffs, fueled by unbridled tribal percussive spasms and thrusting punchy bass lines, ignite and burst on the howls of restless, angry, frustrated shouts, at times emotional introspection, all lost in the unescapable torture, emptiness, and confusion of post-apocalyptic insanity.
- GLARING “Void” LP [Young & Cold Records]
Long-time mesmerizing, gloomy and introspective sound explorer of the obscure, aching and disturbing underbelly that revolves around the unfathomable and unsettling arcane unfolding of the ‘ill of living’, German musician and songwriter sculpts, confronted with her own innermost fears and anxieties, a seductive fusion and interpenetration of an austere and visceral dark sensitivity with a hypnotic, ethereal and wintry Cold Wave, enriched by a diverse range of atmospheric sonic whiffs, varying between Darkwave, Psychedelia, Shoegaze, Dream Pop, and Ambient music, to glide amid mechanical sharp and crisp drum programming, echoing melting and piercing guitar reverbs, pulsating buzzing, broody basslines, wrapped in sweeping chilly ceremonial synthetic spirals, as vocals slightly shift from grey ghostly whispers to vibrant dreamy airs, always reaching deep into the heart of ecstatic and agonizing emotions and peaks of an unadulterated spell, and as the ending suggests, to cathartically ‘wash away the pain’, at least for just under 30 minutes.
- NO+ANA “S/T” LP [TONN Recordings]
Highly active second part of the year for the Montreal-based DIY musician and composer NO, purveyor of dark, raw, and cold synth electronics, who, fresh from dropping a few weeks ago his brilliant sophomore album, also teamed up last Summer with Colombian techno DJ and producer from Antioquia, Ana Gardner for an intoxicating collaborative full-length venture, intriguingly dancing on the edge between club-edged mechanical urgency and shadowy melancholic introspection. Relentless throbbing and clattering drum programming along with buzzing flickering low ends topped by somberly emotional synths swaths, build the background for dark urgent lovelorn dramatics captured seamlessly by the imaginative male/female vocal interplays, to elicit the turbulent push and pull of romantic restlessness and the pretense and roboticism driven by dread, wrapped in a cloak of decadent troubled beauty.
- TORCH “Leaving Me Behind” LP [Inåt Bakåt Records]
Through an array of driving mechanical beats, icy dismal sweeping synth swathes, tantalizing Mick Karn-esque fretless bass grooves and chilly piercing guitar lines, the young Greenlandic/Danish trio delivers an “extremely inspired and emotional debut album, equally frozen and atmospheric, as it is resonant and poignant”, ceaselessly threading dire, emotional Dark Wave soundscapes, to set a haunting cinematic backdrop for intense, suffering baritones, anguishing in a mental hellscape of trauma and deception whilst journeying painfully toward self-discovery.
- ABU NEIN “II” LP [Progress Productions]
Swedish Post-Punk/Darkwave trio’s sophomore album isn’t overly frantic in pace, but you’ve been taken into an insidious and hypnotic groove, sneakingly worms its way into the mind and body through its coils of clattering drum beats, bleak throbs of rumbling basslines, and enveloping moody synth meanders, to instill an intricate tapestry of shadowy sorrow on a haunting psychological exploration led by the deep dramatic vocal command of Erica Li Lundqvist that carries the listener through cold, stark doom-laden realms of desperation and fear where childhood memories, metaphysical symbols and oppressive relationships coalesce in a deeply evocative restless alienation and pain.
- RINGFINGER “In A Black Frame” [Negative Gain Productions/Verboden]
Walking the gothic-laden atmospheric tightrope between Post-punk and Darkwave, Vancouver‘s unit, led by Mason Morris and Hannah Dow-Kenny, finally dropped a refined and seductive debut, in which the distinctive dark, grieving, and deeply melancholic auras, Ringfinger had hinted at from their first interjections, fully flourish, crammed-full with pathos and doomy melodrama, attesting maturity, mastery of their means and genuine and intimate songwriting, without giving up to experiment with new suggestions. Throughout the LP broody basslines resonate darkly, chilly ethereal guitar echoes with fluid eerie chimes, and veiling keyboard traces unsettling yet elegant mournful expanses, whilst beautiful gothic romantic poetry, ushered by urgent baritone spoken words and cries of pain, travel back and forth through the silvery metaphysical veil realm, where shadow self explorations, cast in glittery cold metallic mists, reveal insightful visions to help a troubled soul ascend.
- HANGING FREUD “Worship” LP [Spleen+ / Tiny Box]
The Glasgow-based atmospheric genre-bending duo’s 7th studio album, was dubbed as ‘their most personal and emotive to date’, certainly their darker and experimentally daring. The pair assimilates and combines elements from Krautrock rhythmic repetition, UK moody Post-punk, early 4AD Wave ethereality, rough IDM abstraction, and bleak stripped-down Minimal Synth aesthetic, to concoct mesmeric and dark encroaching auras that expand and shrink with merciless determination through the wintry, desolate cracking landscapes of a torn soul, punctuated by martial, heart-pulsing and eternal metronomic percussion patterns, at times amidst sharp frequencies and barren lonesome piano keys, while disturbing and buzzing synths swell with sweeps of spectral sorrow, all wrapped in glacial essentiality, around tragically beautiful haunting vocal humility, radiating the warmth, pain, and trauma of the human experience into a sinister and unforgiving maze of claustrophobic gloom.
- GREY GALLOWS “Strangers” LP [Cold Transmission Music]
The Greek duo embrace their powerful and sober brand of modern Darkwave with pulsing and intoxicating electronic injections, to explore sinister, apocalyptic landscapes built on spiritual blindness, illusions, and shadows, swept in an intoxicating fusion of driving cold drum machines, ominous chugging basslines, swirling evocative glowing keyboards and resonant weeping guitar strains, to frame Konstantin’s compelling baritone broods, enriched, in a couple of episodes, by the haunting and evocative guest vocals of Kristal Ann and Incirinna. Throughout their fourth LP, Grey Gallows keep on capturing, with unyielding vigor, the resounding spirit of old-school Darkwave, while constantly sounding fresh and genuine, making you dance veiled in contagious shadows of melancholia, despair and nostalgia.
- ANTIPOLE & PARIS ALEXANDER “Crystalline” LP [Young & Cold Records]
The long-standing collaboration between the Norwegian guitarist Karl Morten Dahl, a.k.a. Antipole and the English singer, producer and musician Paris Alexander materializes in an immersive, captivating album written by both hands, while the usual, equally precious, Irene only makes, alas I say, an ephemeral appearance. With the experience of a well-oiled mechanism, the duo has perfected the ability to painstakingly blend the clear ’80s Mancunian moody and reflective Post-punk inflections with energetic New Wave sheen, just enough to create an unmistakable signature whiff. The evocative lush guitar lines weave winding mesmerizing webs weighted by profound emotional melancholy that blends perfectly with a swirling array of atmospheric synthesizers, to masterfully color the instrumental depth while harmonizing in unison with the sensual and magnetic Bowiesque vocal introspect on the human psyche with intense organic sentiments to wrap the listeners in a “crystalline” shadow and light seduction.