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BIRTH! Relights the California Synthpunk Torch

Posted by Aaron Detroit, February 28, 2010 03:30pm | Post a Comment
Birth! Synthpunk
California’s music underground has had a certain strain of Gothy Synthpunk running through its veins for over a decade now. In the late Nineties and early Aughts, bands like San Francisco’s Phantom Limbs and Subtonix and LA’s New Collapse delivered heavy doses of frenetic, trashy and dark Synth-based punk heavily influenced by 70’s seminal LA groups like The Screamers and Nervous Gender with liberal dashes of O.G. LA Deathrockers Christian Death, the UK Batcave scene, and a noticeable pull from 90’s West Coast Post-Hardcore and Punk. Picking up this torch left dwindling for some years is the LA-based one-man band, BIRTH! AKA Douglas Halbert (also of Industrial noise-purveyors Elephant Skull). BIRTH!’s full-length debut, I Will, is an exemplary addition to the pantheon of California Deathrock and Synthpunk – raw yet compelling anthems soaked in funeral organ and cutting old-school Hardcore vocals.

I Will’s opener, “Value,” is a classic Deathrock stomper in the vein of Christian Death’s “Face” or Subtonix’s “Black Nails In My Coffin” with an extra dose of bile. On “Arms Crossed,” Halbert simultaneously skewers the apathy of a prospective lover and the affected apathy of punk-show spectators over a filthy Sci-Fi dirge. However, despite the throat-destroying, incendiary vocals, there is a sensitivity and creeping light at the heart of this seemingly vicious animal of a record. “My Home To Keep” is what one might call a “Deathrock power ballad,” -- if one can imagine such a thing. Over a downright pretty synth melody, Halbert characterizes childhood traumas following a mother’s death, but even with such intense subject matter and the general crestfallen atmosphere, Halbert’s lyrics still have a defiantly positive outlook. On “Value” he ends his rant with the line “I'll look inside myself and find a life I can value!” and one can truly believe his insistent tone on “Free of This” when he bellows, “I am free of this!” I Will, indeed, seems to be Halbert’s will --his sigil--for a better life.

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Black Light District's Best Dark Music Albums of The '00's

Posted by Aaron Detroit, December 23, 2009 12:45pm | Post a Comment
Last week, I posted Black Light District's year-end best of list, which was a breeze to compile compared to reviewing the last 10 years for this week's post -- the 20 Best Dark Music Albums of The Decade. I had to whittle away many great titles, but I believe these records have proven to be or will prove to be dark classics for years to come. See ya next year, kids...

1. Coil – The Ape of Naples / The New Backwards (2005/08)


John Balance’s passing was one of the great tragedies in the music world this past decade. It was especially sad to see one of his greatest works be released posthumously. The recordings on The Ape of Naples and its (later-released) sister album, The New Backwards (collected together in the limited Ape of Naples LP box set), date back as far as 1993 when the band was briefly signed to Trent Reznor’s Nothing label, but went unfinished until 2004 when the group returned to the abandoned material for their new album. Gorgeous Funeral-Folk, third-eye electronics and captured transmissions from beyond The Threshold.

Jessie Evans, The Vanishing Lady, Returns To California

Posted by Aaron Detroit, July 23, 2009 11:23am | Post a Comment
Greetings and Salutations!! Welcome to the inaugural post of Amoeba’s Black Light District, a new weekly(ish) blog where we shall traverse in the darker realms of the musical & subcultural universe (i.e. Death Rock, Industrial, Dark Ambient, Transgressive Fiction, Dark Wave, Apocalyptic Folk, Goth, Black Metal, B-Movies, Doom Disco, Synthpop, Ethereal Nu-Gaze, Neo-New Beat, Death-Twee, Infernal Drone and all manner of night-friendly sounds and darkly delights! *cue Evil Doctor laugh). Come forth, for we own the night!

This week, California’s prodigal dark queen,
Jessie Evans, jessie evans is it fire?returns for shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles to promote her debut solo LP, Is It Fire? (Fantomette Records). Jessie spent nearly a decade in the California Punk and Death-Rock scenes honing her chops singing and wailing James Chance-style on her trusty saxophone (as well as a few other instruments!) in bands like The Vanishing and the now rather legendary Subtonix.

The Vanishing relocated from San Francisco to Berlin in 2004 but split up soon after, leaving Jessie free for new ventures.
Autonervous, initially a solo project, blossomed into a collaborative project between Evans and Bettina Koster (of the '80s German band MALARIA!). The duo released an LP and toured in 2006. Autonervous marked a heavy shift in direction for Ms. Evans -- her songwriting became more sultry and less incendiary, her lyrics more minimal and focused. Also bubbling under the dancey beats was a new sense of joy. Egads! Her grimajessie evansce was turning into a smile!

On Is It Fire? that smile has turned into full-on laughte
r, and audibly s
o! It’s not an evil-kind of laughter either, on the interlude track “Micheladas,” Evans can be heard clinking glasses and laughing joyously. The album is indeed a celebration of dark glamour, love and sexuality, from the daring come-on of "Scientist of Love" and the House-y statement of intent, “Let Me On,” on to the horn-y swing of the Autonervous re-take “Golden Snake” and the dark and dreamy sway of “Black Sand” with its chant of “It’s time to get into your body.”

Evans didn’t party completely alone though; in fact, she brought in some heavy-hitters, literally. Both
Toby Dammit (Swans, Iggy Pop), and Budgie (Siouxsie & The Banshees) share time behind the drum-kit on the album. Evans’ arrangements focus heavily on beat and rhythm, which adds greatly to the primal and sexual mood of the album, whilst Budgie ‘s presence definitely lends to some Creatures-esque moments. Also under Evans' employ is horn-blower Martin Wenk (Calexico), and an International Children’s choir. This lady throws one crazy shindig!
jessie evans and budgie
Half of Is It Fire? was recorded at home in Berlin while the other half was recorded in Jessie’s newest beloved city, Tijuana (Evans pays tribute en Espa├▒ol on 3 tracks). Evans’ ridiculously long list of credible contributors gets longer with production and mixing duties handled by Thomas Stern (Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, Crime and The City Solution) in Berlin and Pepe Mogt (Nortec Collective) in Tijuana.

Secret Society of the Sonic Six Saturday March 8th (L.A.)

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, March 6, 2008 11:05pm | Post a Comment
Our first performance of the year.  Also appearing is Dame Darcy's Death By Doll & SF legend ObsoleteDJ Scottish Andy is making his way down from the Bay as well....