REVIEW: Dream Affair – From Now On EP (2012)

Fast, lush, and flushed with attitude abuse. If there was a plug-in and play certified sound for today’s wave of Goth fan music, it would be all over this record.

Originally released on February 7th, 2012, From Now On is a let down. After having become acquainted with and enjoying the algorithm’s favorite track The Porter, From Now On’s opening half is a banal cosplay of Joy Division featuring Cold Wave drum machines and greater layering.

The Porter itself isn’t anything particularly new either, but that’s alright. The Porter shines through with cold, brooding Synth Pop vigor. This new found display of vitality may peak here, but is carried through till the end of the album 2 songs later. Closing track Jasper is a lush instrumental effort reminiscent of The Cure’s earliest work. Even then, Dream Affair never do seem to find anything of themselves on this album.

For fans of: Lust For Youth, Parade Ground, Joy Division

Like Dream Affair? Give these a listen: Cold Choir, Eleven Pond, Meth Math

REVIEW: Knitted Abyss – Bad Lassies (2019)

Bad Lassies is the 2019 debut album by Australian experimental pop duo Knitted Abyss. Members Lucy Phelan and Anna John bring an ambitious level of creativity to darkwave and post-punk that their ‘nu goth’ contemporaries (I won’t call them peers) fail to deliver. Bad Lassies‘s quirky eccentricities distance the band from their contemporaries’ dismal artistic stagnation, yet these quirks never feel gimmicky. No, Bad Lassies’s emotional delivery is only ever enhanced by the artistic choices made.

Album opener Attention is a minimal post-punk track reveling in its loneliness. Squelchy synth bass and light drum machine work give the band an almost early-80s Bananarama rhythm section, blanketed in the more morose qualities of gothic post-punk classics. From here things get darker, less pop oriented, but never losing a distinct sound established from the start.

Inspiration and stylistic elements are lifted and fitted together well without ever falling victim to pastiche. Elements of darkwave, post-punk, shoegaze and Ladytron-esque electronic pop are prevalent and well mixed together to create something new. Knitted Abyss dismisses the queue of bands lining up for ‘cool factor’ authenticity by creating something distinctly their own. Lucy Phelan and Anna John created a well-crafted album, and therefor don’t need to mold to any perceived idea of ‘how things should be’ within a genre.

For fans of: Crack Cloud, Waitresses, Crash Course in Science

Enjoy Knitted Abyss? Give these a listen: Casket Girls, Cold Choir, Tropic of Cancer

REVIEW: Tropic Of Cancer – Stop Suffering (2015)

Somewhere between Portishead’s Dummy and Mazzy Star’s So Tonight That I Might See belongs Stop Suffering, the 2015 minimal darkwave EP by Camella Lobo’s solo project Tropic of Cancer. Opening track and album namesake Stop Suffering moves with such elegance as to make a ‘liquid’ analogy tedious. Given the gift of synthetic sounds, this album is able to rival the airy attributes of Art Blakey’s Drum Thunder Suite. Tropic of Cancer managers to smother any desire the listener may have for things to be faster. Like fractal patterns in nature, everything is set just-so.

I Woke Up And The Storm Was Over begins to take things slower. The album itself is sparse for percussion. Light drum machine kicks cloaked in reverb, machine cowbell and toms lightly blip in and out. Lobo manipulates the airspace with a distanced Morricone-styled guitar, acting more as a slipstream in the cold, windy climate cast upon the listener.

Peers of Tropic of Cancer tend to fall short by checking out of the artistic process mid-way through, almost as if they decided there was nothing more they could do with the long swaths of time between notes. Crafting and tailoring each note’s placement and timbre, Lobo is able to flood the space with intense emotion. Fortified, the album carries the listener from take off to landing without ever dropping us.

While many musicians treat it as the confines of genre, choosing tempo is an important step in sculpting the work you wish to create. Much like types of wood or stone, what attributes does it bring? What caveats come with it? What is enhanced and what is more likely to be overlooked? Some don’t consider the importance of their decisions, instead leaving it to the guiding hand of the universe. When tempo, timbre, and the like are treated as inconsequential genre conventions, a musician rolls the dice with every release they put out.

Stop Suffering is a cultural payoff of the mental and artistic labor that we all benefit from.

For fans of: Mazzy Star, Slowdive, Portishead

Like Tropic of Cancer? Give these a listen: Cold Choir, Sleep Research Facility, Bohren & der Club of Gore

REVIEW: Veruschka – The Secret (2001)

Released in 2001 on Ant.Zen Records out of Lappersdorf, Germany, The Secret is a 5 song EP by Australian singer Veruschka and producer David Thrussell (Snog, Soma, Black Lung).

The Secret thrives in its cinematic-centricity, degrees of warmth are faintly revealed with vinyl fuzz layers and occasional hand percussion. Slow swelling orchestral synths loom heavily behind the otherwise minimal instrumentation, topped with Veruschka’s neoclassical darkwave vocal styling. Where The Secret falters is in the end with vocal-forward tracks Boredom Kills and The Fruits. This isn’t to say Veruschka’s singing is bad, simply that the vocals aren’t utilized in a way that ultimately enhances the cinematic element as much as they could, which leaves the set-up of opening tracks The Secret and The Department unfulfilled.

What could be accountable for this a lack of post-production focus on vocal tracks, or simply a disconnect from producer to performer. Sure, this thinking may reek of cliche label-control, but what I propose is that when the artist is the producer, the producer needs to play a stronger roll in direction if the artistic vision can’t be reached in the already highly-synthetic post-production process that we hear in trip-hop, sampledelia, and other musique concrète adjacent genres.

Alternatively, it can be hard to say what the business arrangement was for this album and how that effected it. Maybe producer David Thrussell played a secondary roll, maybe there were financial or time restraints with having the album produced. Unfortunately we haven’t seen a second release from this duo, which could very well right the course with a stronger follow-up.

While The Secret may lack the vocal prowess of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, the cold, cinematic production and ethereal Dead Can Dance-esque vocals should win over most fans of Portishead’s Dummy or Tricky’s Maxinquaye.

For fans of: Portishead, Dead Can Dance, Dido

Like Veruschka? Give these a listen: Cold Choir, Theft Design Firm, Haircuts For Men

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