April, 8th was the release date for the single “Montreal (Watch Me Bending)” by UK act Sean Grant And The Wolfgang, on the label Vandalism Begins At Home in conjunction with VBAH-Recordings. The single heralds the release of the new album, 333, on the 9th of July.
Maybe it is the low, ground out electronics that give this a dirty feel, which is not in complete contrast to the vocals, that purr out to you, invading your senses. It culminates in vortex of guitar fury and synths, only to become peaceful once again.
Grant has said that this track was inspired, by his being able to conquer self destructive bad habits. This has translated into a song about find yourself, rather than going along with everyone else. It is a post-punk, darkwave, synth/guitar affair, with some seriously good vocals that will creep up your spine and having you play this on repeat.
If you are lucky to be acquainted with Alexander Leonard Donat, you would know that he has to be one of the most busy people in the alternative scene. He works full time, family and on top of that, works on multiple music projects, both solo and with others. This interview was originally written for the Vlimmer album Nebenkörper, Alexander has released in this time, an album with the Fir Cone Children and another solo project ASSASSUN with the album Sunset Skull, which we will discuss in another review (and there was the sound of your reviewer banging their head on the computer because Donat can put out albums faster than she can review them).
Alexander Leonard Donat, welcome to Onyx for this interview about your project, Vlimmer.
You have been releasing music under the moniker, Vlimmer since 2015. How did this project come about?
In 2015 I was in a state of disappointment in respect of the music I had made and how it was received. I guess, you shouldn’t expect anything from the music listeners out there, especially not that they feel the same as you. Seven years ago I released an indie rock album called “Jagmoor Cynewulf” which, for me, was the perfect blend of alternative and pop music. Really, I would have sold my soul for this album, and after four or five years in the making, a lot of time on the road, playing the songs live, and more than a couple of thousands of Euros invested I thought this is either it or I’ll stop making music. It wasn’t it, yet, luckily, I didn’t stop, I’d rather develop a “Ah, fuck it” attitude and go back to the original question: “What kind of music do I really want to create?” I didn’t really have to think about it for too long, the answer was: a bleak version of shoegaze, not the dreamy head-in-the-clouds kind. Dark and hopeless instead. Without any audience I could just concentrate on creating music, and the songs kept pouring out of me – they still do! – it was absolutely revitalizing. Since 2015 Vlimmer has been undergoing several changes in style, and now it isn’t much of a shoegaze-influenced project anymore. Trusting the music reviews, I do something in the darkwave, industrial, goth, post-punk fields. In retrospect, Vlimmer was born out of frustration, and now it’s become one of the most important things in my life.
Before your debut album Nebenkörper was released in 2021, you had released a lot of EPs. What inspired you to produce a full album?
When the songs I wrote kept on coming, I quickly realized an album wouldn’t be enough, and a double album wasn’t an option. Who listens to a 20 track album these days, anyways? With a handful of exceptions maybe, not me. The concept of a series of 5-track EPs sounded perfect to me. Why five, you may ask? The above mentioned “Jagmoor Cynewulf” album was accompanied by an 18-chapter book, an existential narrative, and I simply used the words I’d already written, and – it was more of a coincidence – it turned out one chapter was good for five tracks. It also set the goal: releasing 18 EPs. When I released the first two parts in November 2015 I had already written songs for three more EPs. A couple of months before the final part I, of course, thought about what I’d do after that. There actually was only one option: recording the debut album. I loved the idea of working on that very format after having released 25 EPs in total. Working on an album felt entirely different, you can do so much more than with a 5-tracker. Also, creating an album’s tracklist is one of the most exciting things for me, it’s like a big puzzle. Looking for the perfect position of all the pieces is the part I enjoy the most. I believe that the right tracklist can create something that is bigger than its individual parts. For “Nebenkörper” I had recorded some 20 songs and the process of choosing which ones to put on the album was fun.
Did you find the format of an album gave you more scope to play with as far as choosing different styles?
It seems even if I try to create something coherent sound-wise, I end up with a product that reviewers see as diverse with no clear genre tags. Still, I’m very satisfied with how I managed to bring my initial “Nebenkörper” idea to life: recording an album with a focus on a brutal, post-apocalyptic, industrial sound outfit, tribal drumming, faster songs – in contrast to the dreamy and often catchy 80s wave pop/post-punk which I had more and more focused on. If it weren’t for my wife, “Meter” which is the album’s most popular song, wouldn’t have landed on the album as it actually seemed too pop-oriented. Luckily, I trusted her and made my peace with it. “Meter” very much belongs to “Nebenkörper”.
Did you find writing and recording a full album more of a challenge?
No, not at all. Having recorded some 20+ albums with my other projects I am used to either format, albums, EPs, singles… Okay, one exception, so far there’s no double album, ha!
Are there themes that inspire you when you write?
Vlimmer songs are almost always about the human being and their position in society. Living among other people is a constant challenge for everyone, this has even become clearer since the pandemic started. Creating music helps me not to lose my mind in today’s mad world. In general, I am a lucky and happy man, I can’t complain at all, but still, no one is free of the everyday struggles that unexpectedly await you around the corner. Putting negative experience straight into my music helps me getting rid of them.
The latest single Erdgeruch/Space Dementia, sees you using more clean vocal techniques rather than distorted via electronics. Why did you decide to try this style of singing?
That must have happened automatically, as the song is super catchy, even my little kids sing the “Erdgeruch” chorus. Additionally, the arrangement is rather sparse compared to the full in-your-face “Nebenkörper” mix which, in parts, drowned out the vocals. Originally, it was recorded in the same album sessions, but even now that it has had a lot of airplay, I think it would not have fit on “Nebenkörper”. However, I consider putting it on the second album which I will release later this year.
How would you say that Vlimmer has changed since the first release in 2015?
The first 30 or so songs were all based on recurring drum loops which I created with a guitar delay pedal and wouldn’t change at all during a song’s progression. It therefore even had a motoric krautrock feel to it. I also, purposely, didn’t use any hi-hats or cymbals as to achieve a more layered sound result that was intended to wash over the listener without any distracting sounds. When I began including hi-hats it really was a big deal for me as it meant I was ready to write proper songs again which included a verse-chorus structure and more prominent vocals. Suddenly – but indeed accidentally – I had found myself in the goth and post-punk scene which was and still is very supportive.
I have noticed you seem to be involved in a few projects. Can you tell us about these?
In a way, Vlimmer is my main project as it’s the closest to what I like about music. But it wouldn’t work if I hadn’t more projects that balance everything out. Fir Cone Children is my dream punk thing, a mix of punk and shoegaze, here I focus on the experience my daughters make, mostly writing lyrics from their perspectives. In the beginning it was all about naïvety, fun, discovering things, playing, running about, but hey, the older you get, the more you adjust to the world around you, therefore it contains melancholy and occasional desperation, too. In general, I see Vlimmer and Fir Cone Children as a dark/light dichotomy which is necessary for me to keep it all in order. Additionally, Feverdreamt is experimental oriental/electronic music with its own invented language. My latest incarnation is ASSASSUN, a purely electronic creation in the darkwave/synth punk sector. Other projects of mine even include a second member: WHOLE is a mix of indie rock and electronica based in Berlin, Distance Dealer is a pan-Atlantic synth/goth project with my friend Thiago from Brazil.
Do you enjoy the collaborative process as much as being able to do your own thing? Is there a completely different dynamic?
There’s an absolutely different dynamic, yeah, and I fully enjoy it as it allows me to have others decide stuff for me, ha! Don’t get me wrong, I love having full control over projects, songs and their mixes, artwork et cetera, yet it can be a kind of relief to go with what your musical partner has in mind if you know you can trust them. It’s lovely having the chance to do both, though, with a preference, maybe, on doing my own thing because it speeds up everything immensely and allows me to be the productive person I naturally am.
What bands or type of music first caught your attention when you were younger?
I was born into a musical family which was all into classical music. The first bands that made me want to be in a band were alternative rock bands like Deftones, At The Drive-In, Linkin Park, Tool, Jimmy Eat World and Sigur Rós.
What acts and music do you find yourself drawn to now?
That’s a tough one because there are so many. I have my favorite bands, and they usually mix genres because that’s something I enjoy rather than listening to bands that set themselves clear “scene boundaries”. When bands incorporate a certain atmospheric, layered and melancholic or dark sound component, they are most likely to get my attention, no matter if it’s black metal, indie pop or hip-hop. While I enjoy a truckload of genres and styles, I think often it’s a certain indie rock element that has me put on a band’s record on my record player. My favorite bands and artists are No Age, British Sea Power, HEALTH, Radiohead, Flying Saucer Attack, Hood, Trail of Dead, The Hirsch Effekt, Converge, Deftones, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, The Icarus Line, Xasthur, Motorpsycho, Diiv, Deafheaven, Deerhunter, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Daniel Menché, Sufjan Stevens, Touché Amoré, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Low, Liturgy, Algiers, Aphex Twin, Torres, Bosse-De-Nage, Sonic Youth, ANONHI, Tim Hecker, Nine Inch Nails, Black Country New Road, and I definitely missed some more …
With covid still very much controlling what we do, are there any plans to do anything live with Vlimmer?
As much as I’d want to perform live with Vlimmer there are no current plans of doing so. The song arrangements would require a proper band, and it would need an insane amount of time to find band members, learn and practice the songs, and do the booking. It would also mean less time for writing new songs which is the most fun part of making music.
You also run the label Blackjack Illuminist Records. How do also manage to fit this in and what is it like to run your own label?
Running a record label and making music are my favorite things to do, although I’m super happy with my daytime job as a teacher in an elementary school in Neukölln, Berlin. The latter pays the rent and I don’t need to generate any income with my music which gives me enormous freedom. I probably manage to do both because I need less sleep than the average person and I have an unstoppable urge to be creative. I guess the limited time we have on earth also is a major motivation, I want to at least try to leave behind something that stays when I’m gone. Not that it changes anything when I’m dead, but the feeling calms me in a way, it gives me a purpose which is something we all seek, right?
So with your debut album under your belt, what is in the future for Vlimmer and Alexander Leonard Donat?
I’m finishing up the second Vlimmer full length, “Menschenleere”. It’s different compared to “Nebenkörper”, catchier, less aggressive and menacing – yet with the unmistakably claustrophobic Vlimmer vibe.
Anchorage, Alaska, is the home to gothic duo, Cliff And Ivy who released the single, “Bloody Ghost” on March 10th, 2022. Cliff Monk (guitars, drum programming, songwriting, production) and Ivy Silence (vocals, lyrics, percussion, piano) are the musicians that make up the band
The very start seems a little off kilter, only for the guitars to come booming through with Ivy’s staccato vocals about the bloody ghost. There is a psychedelic quality to this track the way the guitar swirls in the mix and it could be the spectre at the end trying to join in. The message is that there may be liars, nay-sayers and things might not be easy but you should believe in the good of others and actions speak louder than words.
This track was inspired by someone Cliff And Ivy had known and now have passed beyond the vale plus their own life experiences. “Bloody Ghost” is both verbose and quirky, and actually very fun to listen to. I am still in awe how Ivy manages to get all those lyrics out so quickly. So enjoy this life and live it to the full because we are only here for a short time.
The Neuro Farm have been in existence since 2011 with founders Rebekah Feng (vocals, violin) and Brian S Wolff (vocals, guitar), later joined by DreamrD (drums, percussion) and Tim Phillips (keyboards, textures). This gothic quartet released the concept album Vampyre in 2021, with the tale starting in a grand ancient acclaim with the father of vampires, “Cain“. It follows a woman who is tricked into becoming a creature of the night eternal but struggles with the loss of her humanity and leaving behind the husband she loves. The bloodsucker that sired her, acts as a despot, so she gathers the others like herself to over throw this King of Vampires and then ascends to become Queen. Throughout, there is drama and dark beauty. Feng’s vocals are gorgeous and really give each track such profound grace. You can hear her classical training and “Vampyre” is a perfect track to showcase not only her violin playing but the vocals. Wolff is no slouch with his singing either while Phillips abilities on the synths has enriched their sound and DreamrD is the beating heart that holds it all together. A goth rock odyssey that could only happen when you have a group of talented musicians.
I think the moral of the story is in the end there is a little bit of Cain in each and every vampire that stalks the world from the shadows. So, we decided to have a chat with these ephemeral creatures that make up The NeuroFarm before the break of dawn and find out about this latest offering and what makes their synapses spark…..
Welcome to the psych ward where we conduct aptitude tests looking for Onyx’s new Renfield!
Brian: Thanks for inviting us in. 😉
The name of the band comes from Rebekah being a neuroscientist and Brian’s interest in neuropharmacology. How did the band come together?
Brian: Rebekah and I met in grad school at Georgetown University working on PhDs in neuroscience. We both had solo music projects going, and somehow didn’t know this about each other until a couple years after we first met. But we did eventually find out, and it turned out our projects were fairly similar, so we started a band. It wasn’t very serious at first, just kind of a fun spare time thing, but we got much more serious about it in 2017 when Colin joined and we started working on our Descent album.
Rebekah: I agree, the band was more like a fun side hobby at first, and was nothing like what it is now. In a way, The Neuro Farm only became a real band when we met Colin in 2017. Colin brought our rhythm section to a whole new level. The 3 of us played shows for a few years with quite a few bassists, but we had wanted a synth player for a very long time. Tim is one of the best synth players around. We had wanted to ask him to join our band for the longest time. To our surprise, he said yes! With Tim joining the band last year, we were able to create all these new sounds for Vampyre. We are now the Neuro Farm 2.0! 😀
Neuro Farm is based in Washington DC, so can you tell us what the goth/industrial scene is like in the nation’s capital?
Rebekah: Under the polished suit-wearing facade of Washington, DC, there’s an unexpectedly active underground goth/industrial scene! I bet everyone thinks they have the best goth scene, but I really do believe ours is special. Everyone is genuinely kind and supportive of each other. We have Vanguard and Dark & Stormy, which are both amazing dance parties. If you ever visit DC, you’ll have to come to one of these! Another super cool thing that happened in DC is the emergence of Procession Magazine. It was founded by our pal, Chris Canter, and has grown into a super popular print magazine in the US. So definitely check them out!
Your music is heavily based and influenced by vampire lore. What is it about this genre that inspires your music and creativity?
Rebekah: Vampires are misunderstood. They are often portrayed as monsters to be slayed. But they have memories of humanity and are tortured by eternity. They have loved and lost, and can be a bit jaded as a result. We wanted to tell the vampire’s story from their perspective, and that became the story of the album.
Brian: Vampires are also about power. Power is something they crave, something they covet, something that sustains them, but at the same time it’s quite literally a curse, and something that estranges them from those they care about. It’s great symbolism, and fun to explore from a songwriting perspective.
Congratulations on your latest album release, Vampyre, which comes with a story-line. Can you elucidate and give us a bite of what this epic tale is about?
Brian: The album begins with “Cain”, a song about the biblical figure who was cursed by God to wander the earth for eternity as a vampire. The main story is set in modern times, and the heroine of the story is made a vampire by an evil man, an egomaniacal cult leader who is the subject of the song, “Purity”. But as she grows to hate her maker, she lures vampires away from him and makes them loyal to her. Eventually, she slays her former master in the “Midnight Massacre” and declares herself queen. Mastermind ends the album saying the kings and queens aren’t really in charge, asking, who is the real mastermind? Then in a subtle touch I’m probably a little too proud of, you hear the theme from “Cain” start to play, answering the question.
Rebekah: Right before “Midnight Massacre” there’s a pair of songs, “Vampyre” and “Mortal”. Part of the tragedy of becoming a vampire is the inevitable farewell to their mortal loved ones. “Vampyre” portrays the difficult choice of breaking the bond. And of course, “Mortal” is the story told from the mortal lover’s perspective. You sense more of a trace of humanity in “Vampyre” before she abandons her humanity in “Midnight Massacre”.
How important was it for there to be a story-line for this album and who was the one to come up with theidea?
Brian: Rebekah came up with the vampire theme by writing the song, “Vampyre”. We had a few songs already written at that time, but we realized we could easily form a story about that vampire character, so we decided to turn the whole thing into a concept/story album. The song “Cain” was actually originally written about the Norse god Loki, but we adapted it into a song about the world’s first vampire.
Rebekah: It’s more fun when an album reads like a book rather than a collection of loosely-connected songs! We first came up with the song “Vampyre” and built a whole storyline around the vampire. There’s a cult, a love story, a rebellion, and the takeover in the story. We added the origin story of the biblical Cain, the first vampire, because we do everything from start to finish. That’s how we roll! 😀
DreamrD: Fortunately, during the pandemic, we had the time available to devote to the project. Making and releasing albums is a tremendous amount of work under any circumstances, much less a concept-based undertaking that communicates a compelling story. We’re familiar with what effort is involved though, because our 2019 release “The Descent” is also a concept/story based album.
I believe Vampyre is your fourth studio album. How do you feel your sound has changed since that first release in 2011?
Brian: In 2011 it was really just a side project with Rebekah and me, and pretty amateurish. You can definitely hear us develop with each album, with the songwriting and production improving considerably over time. And we added Colin for “The Descent” (2018), which improved our sound pretty dramatically, and then added Tim for “Vampyre” (2021) which once again gave our sound a huge boost. I feel like we’ve found a really great lineup for the band now where we all contribute a lot to the sound, and we really like working together to make music we’re all proud of.
Rob Early of 11 Grams/Retrogram did a great job mastering Vampyre, so how do you know the fabulous Rob?
Rebekah: Haha! You know Rob too? Isn’t Rob a great guy? A few years back, we played a show at Black Cat in DC with Red This Ever (another great band from our area) and Rob was the synth player at that show. We started chatting then and have been good friends ever since.
Brian: Rob was absolutely fantastic to work with, and just a great guy as well.
DreamrD: Rob also happens to live right down the street from me so we’re neighbors as well, though we only recently discovered this fact. Knowing this, I’ll be dropping by his place often for a spare cup of baking powder or sea salt. 🙂
Rebekah, you are a trained classical violin player. Does this make it easier or harder to integrate into a rock style for you?
Rebekah: Like everyone else, I grew up playing an acoustic violin and didn’t even know about electric violins until later in life. As you know, classical violin training focuses more on techniques rather than artistic expression. I get bored easily, so perfecting my technique or playing sheet music was not as fun. I’ve always been more interested in creating new sounds and coming up with my own music. Fast forward to 2010, I bought my first electric violin and the world of effect pedals opened up to me. The rest is history. 🙂 Now I have so many effects pedals and somehow keep acquiring more. So, to answer your question, integrating violin playing into a rock style actually felt quite natural. It was meant to be! 🙂
The whole band comes from a lot of different musical backgrounds. What are the bands that influenced you all in your youth?
Brian: My biggest influence growing up was Pink Floyd, who gave me a deep love for the concept album. And Dave Gilmour was probably the main reason I decided to learn guitar. Otherwise, the way Radiohead writes and arranges their songs has definitely been a big inspiration for my own songwriting over the years. And I love how Portishead had a really cinematic vibe to their music, which is something I’ve always pursued in my own music.
Rebekah: I was actually really into classical music when I was a kid. My first cassette was a piece by Schumann. I got it when I was 6 and I remember being moved by the music. String harmonies still give me goosebumps. Then there’s Bach who made me fall in love with Baroque arpeggiation patterns. Nowadays, I notice that I incorporate these influences when I write music without realizing it. If you listen to the song, Vampyre, you’ll see what I’m talking about. 🙂
DreamrD: Having come up in the 80’s (think “Freaks and Geeks”) a lot of pop music and MTV in particular were inescapable. So all of that rubbed off on my musical interests at the time, and much of which I still enjoy. The Police, Devo, Missing Persons, Duran Duran, Ministry, The Cult, Prince, and The The were all bands that really captivated my youthful ears. I recall much later seeing Cirque du Soleil for the first time and being impacted by the music, but also just the overall performance and theatrics, the creation of distinct show characters, the acrobatic and physical prowess, and the fantasy of it all. It was impressive and stuck with me as an elevated piece of artistry. The Blue Man Group show also made a similar impact from a unique live performance perspective, as did U2’s Zoo TV tour in the 90’s. Amazing productions! Unrelated to musical influences, but with additional personal insight, DreamrD is a nickname that’s been with me in some form (DreamR, Dreamer, Dreamer-D, etc.) since my teens and just never went away. It works in a musical/band/performance setting, however my dearest Mum still calls me Colin. I also answer to “schlagzeuger” for our German followers since we seem to be making inroads there. But maybe Australia is next for The Neuro Farm to really infiltrate? 😉
Tim: I became a fan of Duran Duran in the early 80’s and when I saw a live performance on MTV, I saw Nick Rhodes behind a glorious stack of synths and computers and I knew instantly that I wanted to be him. My tastes expanded when I got into Pink Floyd and early Peter Gabriel solo albums, but hearing The Cure’s ‘The Head on the Door’ was the moment I wanted to compose songs. This also led me down the college and alternative radio path and fell in love with Depeche Mode, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc. Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead then enforced the fact that writing and performing music was the path I wanted to follow.
What do you find yourselves listening to now?
Brian: Honestly, a lot of the same stuff I was listening to in my youth. But I’ve definitely had a recent focus on post-punk and industrial stuff like Joy Division and NIN. I like listening to all kinds of different music, though I think pretty much every genre has good stuff in it.
Rebekah: I go through phases with music. There will be weeks when I listen to Chelsea Wolfe nonstop. Then there are other weeks when I listen to a lot of German bands, Rammstein, Eisbrecher, etc. Currently, I’m in a Sigur Rós phase. They are going on tour this year and we all bought tickets to see them, so I’m quite excited about it! The ONE band I always come back to is Radiohead. They are incredibly creative and the music is both beautiful and so interesting!
DreamrD: In the “smaller band” realm, I have been enjoying Ritual Howls who are based in Detroit. They have a dark, mechanical, and minimalist quality to their sound but that is also infused with a Western twang to it. “Turkish Leather” is a good full-album starting point for their music. In the “bigger artist” category, I typically stop whatever I am doing if I hear Johnny Marr’s solo work come on or also Interpol (Antics!). Those sounds just never get old to my ears.
Tim: Other than revisiting all of the music I grew up with, I find myself listening more and more to bands like Deftones, Mew, Sigur Ros, and 65daysofstatic. Even side projects of some of those bands are in my heavy rotation such as Crosses (Deftones) and Apparatjik (Mew).
Due to the pandemic hitting us from 2020 to 2021, how has it affected the band? Did it make some things harder/impossible or other things easier?
DreamrD: The pandemic initially impacted The Neuro Farm by shutting down a planned 2020 tour and obviously separating us physically from gigging and hanging out together, etc. But we made a point of staying active and productive. The time away from performing really cleared the way for the Vampyre album to be our sole focus and brought it to completion without any particular pressure of time or imposed deadlines. It felt good to embrace flexibility and to be able to adapt to the unexpected.
What are the future plans for Neuro Farm?
Rebekah: Venues are opening back up in DC, and we recently began to play local shows somewhat regularly. When we wrote our “Vampyre” album, we had envisioned an almost movie-like storyline which warrants music videos. We are in the process of making them and hope to finish those this year. In April 2020, we were about to go on our first east coast tour, which didn’t happen for obvious reasons. So touring domestically is definitely on our agenda. Also, we’ve been gaining popularity internationally, so touring in Europe and maybe Australia is something we’ve been talking about as well.
If you were a character out of the role playing game Vampire The Masquerade, what clan would you be from and why?
Brian: My real life might most resemble Nosferatu because I’m reclusive and I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. But screw that, I want to be a Toreador because they’re much more attractive, and I want to be attractive, dammit!
Rebekah: I think I am a Tremere because of my day job. I wish I knew magic. But hey, science is like magic, but based on empirical evidence! 😀 Supposedly, Tremeres are hated by many. I hope that’s not the case. 😦
DreamrD: I would probably be part of the Ravnos. I’m often a little restless but also prefer not to fight about things when a smoother, more charmed approach can achieve the same or better result in life. 😉
Tim: I was going to say I’d lean heavily towards Ravnos, but we can’t have TWO charmers in the same band, right? I’d go with Malkavian as I can be a bit of a joker and may be prone to hallucinations when I’m hungry 😛
Thank you for being my willing thralls and giving your time to this experiment.
Brian: We have been enthralled. Get it? Because “Enthralled” is a song on our album. 😀
Mwahaha congratulations Brian, you are the new Renfield.
The 4th of March is the day Brisbane band, Daylight Ghosts unleashed their latest single, “Golden Hour” which is off then soon to be released debut album Urban Umbra, Adam Dawe (lyrics, vocals) and Karl O’Shea (acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, sleigh bells, keyboards) are the duo responsible and Karl is so very lucky I didn’t know about the sleigh bells or that would have been questioned vigorously in the interview that will be available after Urban Umbra is released on March the 25th. A stalwart of the Brisbane music scene, Matt Dodds was involved in programming, production, mixing and mastering.
The acoustic guitar and glockenspiel are such simple instruments and yet they convey such emotion and warmth. The synths are like a virtuoso filler, giving the song a fuller feel as it proceeds. Dawes’ vocals are heart-wrenching and poignant as he sings about all beautiful moments will draw to a close.
“Golden Hour is a song about beautiful moments and the cruel realisation that they have to inevitably end” explains vocalist/lyricist Adam Dawe. “It’s a personal reminder to make the most of the moments as they all have an expiry date and nothing lasts forever. To enjoy the last rays of light before the sun inevitably sets for the day.”
Life is full of moments of realising that that particularly wonderful instant will fade and it is bittersweet but there is also the realisation that there will be many more of those moments in time. The video was created with director/DOP Rhys Tyack, with the band members in the bush looking completely wrecked and human crows waiting for their last moments. Even O’Shea’s bandmate from Ghostwoods, James Lees had a hand in making the video and it is jolly well worth a look. So, sit back and relax in the glow and gorgeous warmth of the “Golden Hour”.
New Zealand in the 80s, among its many acts, had Vietnam, who were active from 1981-85 and are back after a long hiatus, with a new album called This Quiet Room. Previously they had released their debut, self titled album back in 1985, so this makes This Quiet Room their second album ever, making it a long time between drinks but some things are worth waiting for. The guys are older, maybe a little more world savvy but still full of passion. Making up the band are Shane Bradbrook (vocals), Cranston Brecht (guitar), Barn Coren (guitar), Geoff Lerwill (keyboards, piano, organ), Joe Neufeld (drums, backing vocals) and Adrian Workman (bass, bass VI, guitar, modular synths, piano, backing vocals).
All up there are 12 tracks for your listening pleasure here…. well 11 as “Leon” is this odd bridging piece of what sounds like an audience in a pub. “In Another Desert” sets the whole tone really, where the raucous pace picks you up and those wonderful guitar lines ring out at you. I hear lots of influences within, such as the Billy Bragg like “I OnceSaid“, and a cover of “Kidney Bingos” by Wire, which also has a Johnny Marr edge to it. Magazine could have written “WhatHave I Done“, which is also one of my favourites, and the reflective “Do It for You” and “It’s All Around“, with its swelling chorus. There is the much more poppy “Always Hotels” and at the other side of the spectrum is the almost darkwave “Whispers To Ignore”. The plinking bar piano and smoky ambiance of “Lost In The Flame” could be Portishead, while the ghost of Australian band Hunters And Collectors inhabits “Truth Vs Love“. It is actually the last song on the album that is the latest single, called “Where Is My Happiness?“. A lament about being let down by those that never should, and yet the the guitars are light in opposition to the lyrics.
Australian and New Zealand music scenes in the late 70s and early 80s were very intertwined. There was the very Antipodean sound coming out of the post-punk purveyors of the time, with bands traveling the Tasman Sea to tour and many New Zealand bands eventually settling in Australia. At a time when most bands were coming from the South Island, giving rise to the Dunedin Sound, Vietnam were from Wellington on the North Island. Obviously in the 80s, the members of Vietnam were unable to keep the band together at the time but now, post-punk is seeing a great revival (though for some of us it never went away) and many great bands of the period are seeing people take interest in their music again, making it easier to reach an audience. This Quiet Room has the wonderful jangle and exploding with dark exuberance. The atmosphere created by Vietnam NZ is joyous nihilism with good solid songwriting and years of honed practice. Have a beer, a dance and turn up This Quiet Room.
In Milan, Italy, there is an act called HiddenHouse, an amalgamation of two local talents, FranCesco (vocals, guitar) and Giò (vocals, bass, programming). They have dropped the single “Hide” with a rather spooky video, off the album, InsideTheHiddenHouse, that was released last year.
The tone is set from the beginning with the synthesised harpsichord. This reminds me a lot of the gothic music that was coming out in the early 90s… muted vocals that haunt you over the dark vampiric styling of a dark dance room ball.
The beat with the twang of the bass, propel this forward. Those fond of gothic lace, bats and such things are going to love everything going on in this. It reminds me of another Italian band called FlowerOfSin. Dare you “Hide” in the HiddenHouse?!
Vlimmer, German post-punk/electronic project for Alexander Leonard Donat, has released a split single comprised of “Erdgerurch” and “SpaceDementia” in January, on Blackjack Illuminist Records, which is also run by Donat.
“Erdgerurch” is a wonderful post-punk piece that has a retro feel with the sublime synths and deep vocals, matched with the drum machine that is spine tingling. Every so often you hear a fuzz of electronic noise creeping at the edges and this feels so warm and familiar that it is instantly likeable. The beginning to “SpaceDementia” is surreal and continues in that vein with the vocals. It is a bit like being on the deck of the Star Trek Enterprise, if they were a bit dark and flying to their doom. An impression of infinite space to be lost in forever as it wavers between soft orbits and growling flight. Originally written by Matt Bellamy and performed by Muse, Donat sings in his native German and it loses none of it’s impact, sung with such passion.
I really enjoy it when Donat sings and especially without electronics distorting his vocals and this is no exception. From the beginning, you are immersed straight into “Erdgerurch” and there is no escape from this beautifully crafted song as it captures your soul in sway while there is a crystalline quality to the cover, “SpaceDementia“, a reflection in the obsidian black of the expansive universe.
Post punk duo, The Cold Field, released the album Hollows on August 6th, on the label Cold TransmissionMusic which is famous for their darkwave retinue. Their debut, Black River, was warmly greeted and so Hollows has been much anticipated by fans.
The emphasis is very much on the atmosphere which is created by the echoing vocals, the deep bass plus jangle and buzz of guitar. The album is comprised of ten tracks and notably, two are instrumental pieces for the most part. “RideThe Breeze” is the intro to set up the feel whilst, “FloatingAbove The Wasteland” is filled with gorgeous bass lines and guitar work, whilst the faint ghost like whispers are seemingly unintelligible and beyond deciphering.
“Reaching For Things Things You Cannot Hold” is a great example of the style, with the low echoing vocals, delicate guitar work which is layered in synth. Other stand out tracks are Beauty Expired”, with its rapid pulse and its variance in tone, while “Into The Light” actually does have a slightly more airy feel to the music, a
From the get go, you hear the influence of Joy Division, Lebanon Hanover and Ritual Howls in their music and the common themes in post punk music of isolation, a longing for what is denied and the nature of addiction. There is the ever present spectre of existential dead that pervades all, for this is music that sits on the edge of dusk asking how did this all come to pass.
As we have slipped into another year with the spectre of covid, overshadowing everything, it can be expected that most music has been influenced by this current climate and the new EP by darkwave duo, Johnathan|Christian is no exception. together, we’re alone, is the latest offering from Christian Granquist (lyrics and vocals)and JohnathanMooney (composer, piano, instrumentation), who are based in Los Angeles, California.
First song off the block is the flag waving “MyDying Words“. This is the line in the sand number about never giving up no matter the odds and it is rollicking piece. Sung with conviction and gusto, it weaves and rolls with the punches.
The title track, “Together, We’re Alone“, is a duet and fractured ballad between Elisa Mammoliti and Granquist. The theme of loneliness, a life lived without trying to find love that could have been a hair’s breath away. Longing and sadness prevail, like a weight on the heart.
A fair ground organ opens the track, “MyBeautiful, Broken Butterfly” and it rolls on fantastically after that. An instrumental piece that is slightly disjointed, giving the impression of being broken and yet, still beautiful in its composition.
“Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face)” is classic Adam Ant from the 1979 album DirkWears White Socks. Who can resist a song about beings from space giving advice about men with chicken zygote, firmly implanted on their countenance? Not me. This is whimsical and oddly satisfying in a proper sort of way. I don’t think Stuart Goddard aka Adam Ant, would disapprove at all.
together, we’re alone” is a quirky and interesting EP. Complied of an anthem, a ballad an instrumental and a cover…. it works oh so well for Johnathan|Christian. They definitely seem to be influenced by the late 70s and 80s British music scene making them a bit darkly dapper and you should check them out.