Portland’s Xibling (Sibling) are a synth lead duo on the experimental edge and on March the 1st, the label Young And Cold Records, combined two previously released EP’s, Yesbody and Maladjusted onto one vinyl. Moriah West and Julian Thieme have so far released four original EPs, plus other livestream material.
“Hello Stranger” exudes the enthusiasm that this band seems to be all about with a rhythm that thrusts you forwards, glitching with the howling vocals replicating a wolfs’s call. The single, “Butterfly Curbstomp” is a brutal space oddity of having your teeth kicked in, with an strangely B52’s feel while “Fold” could have come from the early 80s with its manic robotic intent. To be a model, you might have to be made of “Plasticine” to keep your looks and figure, which is exactly about what this song is about, sung with such passion. “Schadenfreude” or the pleasure gained by someone else’s failure, the male German style vocals in staccato, all over this piece and this mixes so well into “Maladjusted“, with the rap inspired spoken word that melt into beautiful, silken tendrils of singing and who can say no to lyrics like a maladjusted little shit, dropping the bass. There is a slow burn to”Slow Fold“, as it curls around you, fingers digging into your throat.
“Butterfly Curbstomp IV” is possibility what it is like to be on speed in a formula one vehicle, an insane ride for a remix. The darker allure of fetish and sexual angst is “Latex Gloves“, which is going to stalk you with those commanding beats, though this all hits the brick wall in “Vine“, with the echoing, glossy attitude. The bleeps and electronic distortion vie with the vocals for control with “Contract“, while “Puppet” has an air to it like the Siouxsie/Budgie project, Creatures, especially vocally. There is this beautiful synth line that runs through “Reflection” and though the lyrics are not a happy affair but the music itself whirls around you. The last track is one of the title tracks “Yesbody” and it had an amazing vibrancy and a pop like perfection.
Bloody marvelous and such a fun collection of tracks. I love how they manage to pull so many different sounds out of their electronic equipment and it is all about the passion behind the music. You can hear the enjoyment Xibling exude when they play and while they might play electronic music, but they really have a very punk attitude behind it all.
Melbourne based, synthpop/darkwave act, Suburban Spell, have released the single “Fools And Clowns“, with a lushly produced music video. This latest single, comes from the Split Levels album that was released in February and the video was shot and edited by Adam Calaitzis, of Toyland Studios.
From the very beginning there is the shoegaze electronics, that swirl and envelope your senses in a gorgeous blanket of sonic emotion. It is about being out in the wee hours of the morning and the temptation of a one night stand, perhaps also the regret of the aftermath too.
You are taken to spots along Victoria’s Great Southern Road, which is a truly beautiful trip, though I must say in black and white, can look almost menacing at times but also shot in inner Melbourne. Peter Endall has taken his song and pared it down from around six and a half minutes, to a neat, just a smidge over four, yet the track has lost none of what makes it quite beautifully tragic and is only enhanced by the video.
Berlin based, Paradox Obscur, are soon to drop a new album, MORPHOGENESIS, on May, 6th but the first single has been lifted, called “Animal Reactor“, out on Metropolis Records. A video directed by Sheng-Yang Su in what looks to be in one take, has been unleashed, which to my mind is very much in Paradox Obscur’s style.
From the very beginning this grabs your attention and you feel it in the pit of your chest. There is a brilliant array of electronic sounds that assault your senses and make you want to move your body. Fingers of synths drag across your senses in a scintillating fashion.
The duo from Paradox Obscur, Toxic Razor and Kriistal Ann, pride themselves on playing everything in real-time, which means no sequencers and the like. A cross of synth pop and dark electronic music which culminates in an absolutely delightfully danceable track . Bring on the album!
The post-punk/goth single, “Heartvine” was released in March 2022 by the New Mexico project, Blood Relations. E. K. Wimmer is the man behind Blood Relations, as he plays all the instruments, vocals and even created the video for the single.
Between the gentle guitar and the delicate synths, there is a light touch here. The vocals are actually a slight surprise as Wimmer’s voice is melodic and graceful as it sits above the music. Plaintive and sorrowful without being suffocatingly heavy.
The track is name your price on Bandcamp but I digress. This is a song of what is meant to be love eternal, though death will eventually slow and stop all hearts. Sweet and darkwave candy. April sees the release of the second single, so it will be really interesting to see how this sound develops for Blood Relations.
Suburban Spell is Melbourne based, Peter Endall. He released his second album, Split Levels, in February, 2022. He creates 80s inspired, synth music with sparkling electronics and lyrics that points to a far more murky depth to everyday ordinary life. There is a sincerity within each song covering aging, beliefs and living in the modern era. So with that in mind, Peter graciously spoke to us about things that create a Suburban Spell.
Onyx welcomes you to the dark side of crazy, Peter Endall of Suburban Spell. Make sure your seat is in the upright position and trays away for take-off please.
We like to ask the hard questions. You are from Melbourne but we have no information on any previous bands you might have been involved in other than Schizo Scherzo in the 80s (although I did find a Peter Endall in a group called The Spinners and their thing was sea shanties). Musically what were you doing before Suburban Spell?
Hiya. I was keeping my hand in musically, and played lots of piano for the enjoyment of my dog and son for many years! Immediately after Schizo Scherzo, I played in another incarnation of the band called Love and Dr Forrest: a new wave pop band, really good fun. We didn’t release anything, but had a blast playing live. Following that, I got sick of lugging around loads of keyboards and decided to play guitar, so played in a band called Dive, and did a few gigs, demos, and appeared on some promotional compilation albums. I’m not a very good guitarist. I also did some songwriting with local cinematic writers John Bartholomeusz and Colin Swan, in an outfit called The Candle Makers. Following that, I decided to learn the Double Bass and played it for a number of years. The highlight from that was a stint with local Bluegrass band The Stetsons.
Your second album, Split Levels, came out only a year after your self-titled debut. That is a rather quick turnaround in writing. So, do you find writing music easy?
I find musical ideas do come relatively easy. The work comes in trying to refine those ideas into a cohesive and interesting song. I was never really into lyrics that much, but since I’ve pushed myself into that space, I’ve really enjoyed the process, and find it quite cathartic. Writing lyrics has crystallised my thinking. Previously, I’d had lots of loose butterfly concepts that didn’t amount to anything. Having to create a narrative around those concepts has been a revelation; it has helped me articulate who I am, and I love it.
Both albums are kind of like your covid babies, aren’t they?
I must admit Covid did give me the time to conceive the baby. But now the baby is growing up, and turning out be quite a formidable force that is now wonderfully consuming me.
Split Levels refers to the architectural style of house, so what convinced you to name the album this?
The term Split Levels resonated with me on a couple of… levels. The initial thought was its link to the veneer of suburban life, and how if you have the opportunity to look deeper into the everyday, there will always be multiple layers there. And quite often those layers that are revealed are dark and sinister. Every day there is an awful story on the news of domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide and I suppose I wanted to write about that. I find it really interesting to understand what motivates and drives people to do the things they do. There is no one size fits all here, but I’m a bit of a bower bird, as I’ll observe, look, and listen to people on public transport, at the market, at concerts, political rallies, TV etc, etc… there are so many stories… and most of these people go home into their suburban life at the end of day. We all go home at some time.
Peter, your music is rooted in the late 70s and early 80s electronic style which of course was before the onset of fast computers and mobile phones and most musicians wrote about life and what was around them. Do you feel that simplicity in a way has shaped the way you see things and write?
Without question it has. I’ve always loved the bravery of un-cluttered and direct music; that style of songwriting is a constant battle for me, as I think it requires great confidence to write in that beautifully simple way. I’m learning to trust myself more and more as I develop my taste and musical confidence. As a musician / songwriter who has probably had the benefit of many years of life experience, it surprises me how much more “complete” I’ve recently become as result of this process.
Do you find it easier being a solo artist or are there disadvantages as well?
At the moment, I’m really enjoying being a solo artist. There are disadvantages, of course, as it’s good to be challenged and to be pushed by working with others. But right now, I’m enjoying the indulgence. If I met a fellow musician who I felt I could work with, I would certainly be interested in following through with that. But I’m not going to push the issue. If it happens, then that would be great.
The synths are often bright and mesmerizing while the lyric content can be a little dark. It this intentional?
YES, it ties back the to the suburban life, and how what is presented to you isn’t always what it seems. And I’ve always been attracted to grand melodies (sometimes not to the greater good though). My wife is a great sounding board for this, as she was (and is) a hardcore punk who is often reminding me to toughen it up a bit… and I listen to her.
Being in the Australian music industry since the 80s, you would have seen a lot of changes. Has it changed for the better or worse in your opinion?
I don’t want to sound like every other old fart by saying “oooo you know things were so much better in the old days”, ‘cos it’s not true!! There is a lot of rubbish out there but there is a lot of good stuff too, you just gotta search it out. I’m really enjoying this band called Plague Pits atm, they’re wonderful.
Can you tell us about all the bands that influenced you to take up keyboards and play?
The old faves really; Klaus Schultz going way back, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kraftwerk, YMO… then leading into Ultravox, Human League and Depeche Mode. My first ever band was called The Underjives, who were a bluesy guitar band – not sure why I joined them… I just wanted to play in a band. I was 17 and they let me join ‘cos I had good equipment!!
Who do you listen to now?
Bandcamp is my friend, so as noted before Plague Pits, Fragrance, Verdaine, Solar Fake, Solitary Experience to name a few, I could go on and on…
You have a great voice. Originally the first album was not going to have any vocals… WHY?!!
To be honest, I didn’t think my voice was worthy when I first started. But I’m getting better and more confident with my vocals every time I record, and I love that, so am going to keep going (thanks btw).
Are there any intentions of playing live?
Yes, there are, insofar as I have a concept in mind of what the Suburban Spell live experience would look like. I would need to commit to a show before it would happen though. If I could find likeminded people and I created the time, I would definitely be into it.
The next question is very important. Who do you choose – John Foxx’s Ultravox! or Midge Ure’s Ultravox?
The last international act I saw live before Covid locked everything down was Midge Ure.
What is in the future for Suburban Spell and Peter Endall?
World domination and a nice cup of tea. Seriously though, I’m very, very excited about my musical journey. I have so many musical thoughts and concepts that I want to explore, so I just want to keep creating. Having UTM on board as my promoter has been critical in the inspiration too: having my music pushed out into the world is a dream come true.
Thank you Peter for flying with Onyx airlines. We hope you enjoyed it even with the lack of snacks and fluid delights. I won’t hold it against you for choosing Midge Ure………or will I?!
A Cloud Of Ravens have released the single “The Call Up” and all sales are going to International Rescue Committee who will disperse to organisations in support of the people in Ukraine. “The Call Up” was originally released by The Clash in 1980, off their fourth album Sandinista!. The single was written as a voice against the institution of conscription for the purpose of war and that no one wins in a war, the last at that time being in Vietnam.
Well this is a much different version. Performed only with electronics changes it completely. The vocals are subdued and compassionate while the synths make the song feel much more fragile, glass like reflecting the words at you. It is strange to hear the drum machine in this but it then it fits in perfectly with the rest of the track.
Okay, it was strange listening to The Clash go electronic and yet it was delightfully enjoyable all at the same time. The Clash wrote damn strong songs which is why they became classics and you can feel this in A Cloud Of Ravens version. Those four British punks wrote that song because they believed that it could make a difference and now we seem to need their essence with today’s music. Though never out of vogue, A Cloud OfRavens has re-freshened the track and given it new purpose. Check it out this classic song, buy it and feel good about getting a great song and supporting others.
Some people out there are just so talented musically. One of these is Gold Coast based musician Jed A Walters with his newest project, Chiffon Magnifique. We previously looked at his debut under that moniker and it seems a shame to not display the wonders of the second single, “Ice Witch” which was released the 3rd of March, 2022.
Just a few seconds in, you can tell this is going to be good with the cold electronics and the unfaltering drum machine. Walters has said he has started to enjoy playing more guitar and it used to spine tingling effect here. The versus are in German and almost spat out with near poisonous contempt about a woman whose heart was as cold as the tundra she came from. The synths are scintillating as he proclaims in English, you’ve done it now and in an extra twist there is a near manic saxophone towards the end. And for those that have not guessed yet, it is about a relationship gone sour and a bad breakup.
It is really worth watching the video because there is the translation of the German and also you get the pleasure of watching a well made shoe-string budget video of Walters being chased across the Robina parklands by the evil ice witch (which I will tell you is no mean feat in Queensland weather being an ice witch!). ChiffonMagnifique showcases the growing prowess in electronic/post-punk music that I can only see Jed A Walters growing stronger in. Hurry up with the damn album. We need it!
Sequential Zero are back with a new single, released on the 28th of February on Mantravision label. “ThirdSequence” is not the name of the single but rather the third release in sequence for the three piece group. Australians, Ant Banister (Sounds Like Winter, Def FX) and Colin Gallagher (Burnt Souls) with American, Bruce Nullify (Orcus Nullify) are the nucleus of the band and each release so far has been a double “A” side.
The first track off this double single is “My Darker Side” and these guys are very open in the fact that they have a very early 80’s electronic sound with this gorgeous guitar glimmering through the synths. For a song that searches one’s self doubts, I find this track very heartwarming. The second track “Adjusting Expectations” is a truly interesting piece. Written during covid, when shows were being cancelled further and further into the future and restrictions were placed on where people could even go, keeping the live musicians wondering if they would ever return to what they love. Bannister does sound tired of it all with the glorious guitar work behind him, the piano as the disappointment and the synths the hope trying to break through.
There is a pure simplicity that evokes tremendous feelings of joy and sadness within Sequential Zero’s music. Both tracks are a little more bleaker in content then previous releases but there is no light without darkness. It really is a brilliant little darkwave project the lads have going and hopefully it will become a bigger project with the support it deserves.
The French have a very interesting history of coldwave/darkwave/gothic bands. Adding to that rich tapestry is the three piece band, JE T’AIME. If you were unaware of what the meaning of JE T’AIME, it is I love you. Yes, those smooth Parisian types have released an album on Valentine’s Day (14th February) called PASSIVE. This will be paired with the next album already named AGGRESSIVE to be released some time later this year by the guys, dBoy, Tall Bastard and Crazy Z.
The album starts off with “Another Day In Hell” and if this song is any indicator for the quality of the rest of the tracks, then I may have died and gone to a much better place. The synths bring in the percussion and the guitar lights up the track while we are treated to dBoy’s vocals. There is a certain amount of feeling of out of control in “Dirty Tricks“, as it speeds away without concern for the passengers, before we calm down a little with “Lonely Days“. and the chorus makes me conscious of this is how The Police would have sounded if they had been darker and makes me giggle a little. A great little track though with the classic line And she is dancing around my dead body.
“Unleashed” definitely is more foreboding in mood. A tale of a love that hurts yet unable to leave that power play because of the perception of losing that love. The vocals convey a certain desperation and longing. When you leave a relationship, certain songs will remind one of the other person, even if It reminds me of your shitty taste in music. This is “Stupid Songs” which features Saigon Blue Rain’s, Ophelia giving her sensual vocals in the maelstrom of conflicting emotions. The body of the relationship is “Cold” and dead. Really digging the synth lines versus the guitar as everything breaks apart. “Blood On Fire” has these really bright synths, I mean really upbeat which is nothing like the sentiments of the lyrics which tell of a man who has lost all interest in life and feels like the undead.
The music and vocals wrap around you with “Give Me More Kohl“. The joyous embrace of the night and everything that might be a bit vampiric in nature. The gothic anthem of the dark children. Talking of night children, “On The Phone” is about a rather awful gothic girl that is very cruel. The guitar is very beautiful and you can’t help but feel for the boy in the tale. Oooh yes, that bass wraps up the album full circle in “Marble Heroes“. The Cure influence is very strong, with rivulets of sound running down in an achingly gorgeous way.
There isn’t anything that I don’t like about PASSIVE and damn it, that bass alone is purely sexual post-punk candy. So much passion, unrequited love and the soul wrenching devastation of loss, all drenched in fabulous guitar and synth, with the agonised and honey dripping vocals. Now bring on AGGRESSION.
Jean-Luc Courchet is the man behind the experimental post-punk act called Spiryt. February the 14th saw the single “V” drop with guest vocalist Kimberly from Bow Ever Down gracing the track. Courchet is from Toulon, France while Kimberly is based in Maine in the United States.
From the opening piano, you can tell this is going to be an introspective number, as the notes seem to hold their own woes. Kimberly’s vocals break through, clear and full of the weight of the sadness in the lyrics. A tale of judgement and being left behind for not being able to be what others deem acceptable. Often the tale of alternative types or those that do not conform.
There is a simplicity in the music that makes it charming and very heart-felt. I know that Kimberly almost always writes her own lyrics and that they come from a place deep inside. While she has sung and played piano, Courchet has wound his music around her, like the coils of a serpent. It is a bitter sweet and darkly touching track in “V“.