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April Shower Soundtracks: Hollywood's Featured Goth / Industrial etc. Releases

Posted by Aaron Detroit, April 7, 2010 06:30pm | Post a Comment
 
California, for all its famed sunshine, has historically fostered some pretty dark and cloudy musical ventures. From the original Christian Death and Von on to The Vanishing and Leviathan, this state has produced some of the greatest and most well-known Dark musical acts. That tradition strongly continues today, as all four of our featured releases this month are from quite excellent, decidedly shaded, California-based artists. The Crystelles' Attach and Detach is a wonderfully raw, gothy & garagey blues LP featuring the wildly soulful wail and musings of former Christian Death member Gitane DeMone. The Los Angeles-based band’s lineup also features Demone’s daughter (who is also a reknowned and quite amazing surrealistic painter), Zara Kand, on drums. The vinyl-only release is composed of 12 dirty and volatile tracks that Gitane herself calls ‘Death Blues’ and also includes a gorgeous 28 page Lyric & Art book. This is an essential release and is stacking up already to be one of our favorite releases this year.

Another current “local to L.A.” favorite of ours is Minimal-Synth project Frank Alpine. Alpine released a 7” this past year via the always superb Dais Records entitled Night Tripper, and also just self-released a CD version of the previously cassette-only release Keyboard Cassette. Frank Alpine’s mastermind is former New Collapse drummer Rich Bitch, however Alpine’s cold atmospheres are far-removed from his former band’s spastic synth-freakouts. Tracks vary from spare, chilling ambience to full-on John Carpenter-worship (like B-side “Another Land”). Both Night Tripper and Keyboard Cassette are only available in limited quantities, so don’t slack!

The Bay Area’s Worm Ouroboros features Amber Asylum, The Gault and World
E
ateralums and its self-titled debut CD (via Profound Lore) mixes Doomy riffing, Dark Ambient, and ethereal Folk harmonies fluidly into a dazzling and crystalline pool of sound. The album also features beautiful Digipak and booklet art by bassist/vocalist Lorraine Rath, revealing her to be an equally soul-stirring visual artist and vocalist. The only thing that isn’t perfect about this release is that it is not available on vinyl. Please get with it, Profound Lore!

Back to L.A. on our final featured release, the darkly experimental and always excellent Habitat is already on their third release in less than a year! The new CD, You Can’t Argue With Nature, is their first release to prominently feature vocals. Their two previous releases – the extremely limited Habitat and Code Gray -- were largely ambient and nebulous; however YCAWN is a structured song-cycle of eccentric, apocalyptic pop with a sly sense of humor occasionally peeking through.

So stop in the L.A. store’s Goth/Industrial section for all the above releases and more. The forecast is for rain this weekend and these are the perfect soundtracks for the grey weather and April showers! How’s that saying go? “Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain?”

Continue reading...

BIRTH! Relights the California Synthpunk Torch

Posted by Aaron Detroit, February 28, 2010 03:30pm | Post a Comment

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.




Halbert brings BIRTH! To LA's Silver Factory Studios tonight (February 28th) for what he promises will be his last LA show for some time. Amoeba Music Hollywood has quantity of BIRTH!’s I Will on CD for the bargain price of $6.98.

Getting to Know...Xeno & Oaklander

Posted by Aaron Detroit, February 15, 2010 02:15pm | Post a Comment

In the tradition of the DIY Minimal Wave and Synthpop bands of the 1980's, Xeno & Oaklander make music with strict guidelines: no digital instruments or recording. The New York-based duo of Sean McBride (of the quite excellent synth-project Martial Canterel) and Liz Wendelbo implemented the exclusive use of analogue synthesizers, instruments and equipment to write and record their darkly brilliant debut full-length, Sentinelle (one of our 20 Dark Music albums of 2009,on the always-superb Wierd Records). Recently, I got the chance to have the band expand on these principles as they were preparing for a series of upcoming globe-trotting live dates in New York, Rotterdam and Paris. Please, get to know...Xeno & Oaklander.

Black Light District: First things first. Why is analogue better than digital?


Liz Wedelbo:
Analogue is immediate and raw. Sean McBride: It's alive -- a current which can be shaped in infinite ways. It's quite elemental, like fire.

BLD: Sentinelle is available on CD and LP, but being an exclusively analogue band in a digital age, do you prefer vinyl? Your presentation as a band seems pretty complete in sound, concept and artwork – so in the age of downloads and streaming, how important is the physical piece to you?


LW:
I'm fond of the weight of objects. SM: The physicality of vinyl has some earthly origin. LW: ...with traces, marks and scratches.

BLD: The press release for Sentinelle expresses that the album's laments of industrialization are meant to mirror our fast-evolving and totally isolating digital age. With this bleak message, what are you hoping to incite/inspire in your Xeno & Oaklanderlistener?

LW: I would wish to inspire a new form of rebellion. SM: and a return to a craft and community.

BLD: Sean, you've been credited as the founder of the current Minimal-Synth revival with your other current project, Martial Canterel – what led you to synthesizers as an instrument and chosen tool?

SM: My college had an electronic music lab with all sorts of esoteric analogue synths. This was absolutely inspiring and I owe much to the many nights spent there patching the Arp 2600 and the Serge modular creating a music I couldn't quite describe.

BLD: What musical artist was the ‘one’ that made you want to start your own project?

SM: It’s a particular methodology in music that inspired me, not a singular band.
LW: Mozart.

BLD: Do you feel an affinity with any other current 'Minimal-Synth' bands of the moment?

LW: There is a great community of like-minded musicians around the world, who have a similar approach to music. Here in the US, there's the Miami scene with bands such as Staccato du Mal, Opus Finis, Ronin and Nina Belief -- Miami is the darkest scene in contrast to the sunshine. On the west coast, there are new bands like Frank Alpine in LA, and Futility in Portland. Here in New York there's bands such as Sleep Museum and Epee du Bois -- seminal first wave Wierd artists who have been working in the genre with great rigor and dedication – and Led Er Est; also more recently Light Asylum, Figure Study, and Further Reductions.
SM: And outside of the US this affinity is felt strongly in the Ruhr Valley, Germany, such as our friends Dirk Klein of Silent Signals / Echo West, Andreas Sippel from Second Decay, the lads from Epic Dreams, Automelodi in Montreal, Frank (Just Frank) from Nice; too many to name here.

BLD: Sean, is there something separate or different from your work you are trying to achieve or communicate with Xeno & Oaklander and Martial Canterel?

SM: There are a lot of similarities with X&O and MC, however with MC there isn't the fine art of cooperation which exists in X&O, the counterpoint, the fusion of two hearts and two minds. MC is quite isolating, which figures heavily into many of the themes I deal with. Naturally, there is a greater immediacy as I can just turn on few step-sequencers, patch them into a synth and the song has started.

BLD: Liz, do you also work on music separately from Sean? When can we look forward to hearing this?

LW: I'm a visual artist, so when I'm not doing Xeno & Oaklander, I make films, books and take photos -- that is my solo project. I'm a punk at heart though -- I like the idea of community and being in a band is that for me. I'm fond of collaboration, and have released music with other artists, such as Staccato du Mal in Miami, the 'Xeno & Staccato' 7inch, or Epee du Bois and Martial Canterel with our 'Three to Forgotten' Cdr Music for Ruins.

BLD: Sentinelle has been described as a “cinematic” record. What films or directors would you say helped shape the album or your music in general? In what way?

LW: I've been making films for many years. It's a kind of cinema I refer to as 'Cold Cinema', which is based on similar principles as the music of Xeno & Oaklander: one take, all live effects, no post-production. So it only makes sense that our songs are visually charged. Japanese directors such as Teshigahara and Ozu were formative during the making of Sentinelle -- dehumanized urban experiences, arid landscapes and the recurring character of the lone wanderer. The sparse aesthetics combined with great attention to detail and texture of 50s and 60s Japanese cinema are affecting. There's always a slight sense of menace lurking beneath the surface, an uncanny sort of tension.


BLD: Being such a “cinematic” band, are you interested in scoring a film or -- the next step -- collaboratively producing one yourselves?

LW:
Sean has been scoring soundtracks for my films from the moment we met (one can see a few on our site). We've also shot the video for "Rendez-Vous d'Or" on super 8, which was cut by director Jimi Patterson. Soundtracks are a passion of ours, and ideas often come from specific fixations on a detail, such as the sound of the wind in Fellini movies, or the sound of a door closing in Teshigahara's Face of Another -- and recreating that feeling with the specific sounds of a filter on the Serge, tubes rattling in the Arp 2600, or two oscillators coming in and out of phase. A new series of short films is in the works.



BLD: How do you see Xeno & Oaklander evolving in the future? Are you firm on working within the confines of analogue synths or would you ever consider using or adding other instruments?

SM:
Certainly. The track "Another" features Liz playing live Indonesian percussion, Maracas, Flute, and I play trumpet -- my first instrument. With some of the soundtrack work I have done, I have incorporated non-synth instrumentation, such as using the voice to imitate raven song, drumming on an aluminum bread box, using SuperCollider to create 36 tone aleatoric clusters. Having said all of that, the synthesizer still affords us the greatest variability and breadth.

BLD: It took you nearly 3 years to release Sentinelle, can we expect a follow-up sooner?


SM:
We are already working on new material...

BLD: Excellent, so finally and just for fun, recommendations -- your guiltiest music/film pleasures?

LW:
Devil's Daughter
by Michele Soavi -- written by Dario Argento, a Horror film set in the provincial suburbs of Frankfurt, Germany, starring classic actor Herbert Lom and Kelly Curtis (Jamie Lee's Sister). Devils' Rain by Robert Feust -- a 'melt movie' set in a Western desert awash with sunlight starring Anton Lavey.
SM: Stuffy septuagenarian British Murder mysteries: Midsomer Murders, Inspector Morse, Lord Peter Wimsey (Edward Petherbridge), to name a few. For music I quite like smooth jazz and DC Go-Go.


Xeno & Oaklander's Sentinelle is available at Amoeba Hollywood on CD & LP. Also check out other great new Minimal Wave and Synthpop releases; Frank Alpine Night Tripper  7",  Led Er Est LP, Cold Cave Love Comes Close CD/LP and Death Comes Close 12" and The Minimal Wave Tapes, Vol. One -- all filed in the always awesome Goth/Industrial section.

Who's Really Listening?: The Minimal Wave Tapes, Volume One

Posted by Aaron Detroit, February 1, 2010 04:00pm | Post a Comment

Over the last few years, Amoeba Music Hollywood has stocked a slew of obscure but quite excellent and endlessly exciting limited-edition vinyl reissues of DIY European and North American dark and minimal analog synth-based music from the 1980’s -- all thanks to the stellar underground label Minimal Wave. Originally these recordings were released in ridiculously small quantities either on cassette or vinyl by the bands themselves or by equally-unknown labels local to the band. Albums by the likes of Spanish Industrial pioneers Esplendor Geometrico, the Belgian Linear Movement (featuring Peter Bonne of New Beat progenitors A Split Second), and French New Wavers Martin Dupont have all recently seen the light of day on quality vinyl pressings via the loving care of the Minimal Wave label.

Minimal Wave’s label head/überfan Veronica Vasicka struck a deal late last year with Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stones Throw label to issue a series of “best-of” compilations featuring choice cuts from the MW roster and beyond. Recently, the popularity of new minimal synth-based bands like Cold Cave and Xeno & Oaklander has heightened, making this the perfect time to issue the first in the series of Minimal Wave/Stones Throw team-ups, The Minimal Wave Tapes, Volume One (available on CD and 2LP). It is a wonderful thing to hear these rescued gems and decades-old transmissions mostly recorded in isolated bedrooms miles away from any bustling cityscapes. Volume One very much invokes a familiar nostalgic feeling, like a mixtape would from your way-cooler friend or older sibling did in your formative years. Vasicka functions here as that cooler friend or sister and thankfully, she doesn’t mind spreading her cool around -- making us ear-opening mixes from her even-cooler record collection.

Volume One will suit anyone longing for jams from the age of pre-Some Great Reward Depeche Mode, Visage, early Human League or OMD. Linear Movement opens the volume with some icy Euro-Electro warmed by disco guitar and a catchy, memorable chorus before the compilation really takes off with the heavy attack-and-decay noise patterns of Crash Course in Science’s “Flying Turns.” On the track “Radiance,” British duo Oppenheimer Analysis offers a dead-pan vocal delivery over classic Numanesque Synythpop blips & bleeps, evoking a slightly friendlier-sounding Camera Obscura-era Nico, while Mark Lane's “Who’s Really Listening?” provides propulsive electro that is a pot-au-feu of Fad Gadget and Soft Cell with odd Industrial drum fills and cool falsetto vocals. Later on the tracklist, French duo Deux is revealed as one of the most obvious ancestors of current analog-wavers Xeno & Oaklander, examining the feeling of isolation and disconnection in an age of rampant technology with Male/Female vocal interplay intoning what is now a not-so-Sci-Fi tale of ominous businessmen and computer programs lurking “in the shadows of the night.” Elsewhere, Turquoise Days ‘ “Blurred” features an “I Wanna Be Your Dog” bassline, Synthpop melodies, urgent post-punk vocals, and lots of jangly-yet-edgy guitar effectively keeping the tracklist surprisingly varied for such a genre-specific collection. There are no clunkers or duds here, just essentials.

Listen:
Deux "Game and Performance"


Listen:
Linear Movement's "Way Out of Living"

Amoeba Music Hollywood has copies of both CD and 2LP of The Minimal Wave Tapes, Volume One in stock now. Also check out our current Minimal Synth favorites; Cold Cave’s Love Comes Close CD/LP and Death Comes Close 12” and Xeno and Oaklander’s Sentinelle CD/LP, all filed in our amazing Goth/Industrial section!


Featured Releases This Week, Amoeba Hollywood

Roma Amor Femmina CD [Old Europa Cafe]
Sophomore album from Italian Noir-Cabaret project. 10 songs inspired by female figures of Mediterranean folklore that celebrate the feminine dark side. Awesome late night listening.

Florence Foster Fan Club Everyday Theatre CD [Wave Records]
Straight-forward old-school EBM and crisp, dark Electropop with heavy 80’s Belgian influences and a touch of darkwave atmosphere.

Osoka Caustic Smoke CD [Rage in Eden]
Osaka is an experimental dark rock group hailing from Russia. Caustic Smoke is one expanded track, 45 minutes long, slow, repetitive and crushing, with heavy sections of distorted guitars often interspersed with dark ambient and industrial interludes.


In Next Week, Amoeba Hollywood

Rome L’Assassin CDEP [Trisol]
Includes previously unreleased material plus string versions of 2 classic Rome tracks!

Nachtmahr Madchen in Uniform CD [Trisol]
Brand-new 13-track remix collection of Naughty Title-track and others.







Still Fresh…

Steve Stapelton & Tony Wakeford Revenge of the Selfish Shellfish CD [Robot]
Awesome reissue of 1992 collaboration between, essentially, Nurse with Wound and Sol invictus. Includes Bonus CD of remixes by Andrew Liles and others! Faithfully restored artwork in mini-LP package.

This Immortal Coil
Dark Age of Love CD and 2LP+7” [Ici D’Ailleurs]
Tribute to Coil and the late John (Jhonn) Balance. "The most extra-ordinary, beautiful, and moving, re-interpretations of Coil I have ever heard!" - Peter Christopherson. Includes amazing version of “Ostia” by Bonny “Prince” Billy! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swans Are NOT Dead

Posted by Aaron Detroit, January 11, 2010 05:20pm | Post a Comment

According to the group's official Myspace page, Swans are back! Michael Gira --who has most recently performed as Angels of Light-- has announced a reconfigured lineup for the group, as well as plans for an LP (their first in 14 years) via Gira's Young God imprint and a new tour.  Strangely, no mention is made of longtime Swans member/colloborator Jarboe.

From the Swans Myspace Blog:

principal players on the swans album are (and there will be many special guests):

Michael Gira / gtr / voice / mendicant friar act  (original swans)

Norman Westberg – Guitar (original swans)

Christophj Hahn – Guitar (mid period swans and most angels)

Phil Puleo – Drums, percussion, dulcimer etc etc  (final swans tour and most angels)

Chris Pravdica – Bass and gadgets (flux information sciences / services/ gunga din)

Thor Harris, Drums, percussion, vibes, dulcimer, curios,  etc etc... (angels, now also with shearwater)

Angels Of Light is temporarily on hold while gira pursues his “new” project...

Exciting and excellent news! Let's celebrate with video!!:

Swans' Industrial-era with the awesome Ted Parsons on drums:

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