March 4th, was the release date of Naples band, Dead Rituals‘ single “Prisoners“. This post-punk/shoegaze trio consists of Andrea Caccese (vocals, drums, bass, guitars, synth), Paolo Cotrone (guitars) and Brita Penfold (vocals).
From the beginning there is something light and curiously uplifting about this track. Maybe it is the energetic beats or the flourishing guitar work or perhaps the sonorous vocals. But beneath it all is the lyrics that speak of the other, ruining a relationship, however they would do it all again as their prisoner. A happy masochist me thinks.
The guitars are wonderful and ring out, while the vocals are clear and melt with the music as it soars and dives in swirling shoegaze richness and in true punk style it only goes for just under three minutes. You can find this Dead Rituals little gem on Bandcamp, where it is name your price.
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.
….And talks about the new album, bad band names, our shared love of Bobby Gillespie.. . .. . and a whole bunch of other shit with Kate and Simon from Bitumen.
Ever wanted to paint and draw? Because Bitumen do. They want to paint your world dark and draw you into an electronic, shoegaze-y industrial bliss that feels like it could become the soundtrack to the best nightmare you’ve ever had at any second. I seriously can’t get enough of this new album of theirs, their sophomore effort, Cleareye Shining, which I should mention is out now [as of the 26th November 2021] on Imprint Records, who clearly have good taste if they’re signing bands like Bitumen.
Bitumen are: Kate on vocals, Simon on bass and drum programming, Bryce on guitars and Sam on guitars and synth. They’re originally all from Hobart but one by one they made the pilgrimage to the greener pastures of Melbourne. They’re good people. I know this because I got on the phone with Kate and Simon for over an hour talking about our love of Primal Scream, The Birthday Party and so much other crap because I was drunk ….More on that later. For now you have to understand that if you like any genre on the darker or heavier or more electronic side of things you should check this out.
It’s just satisfying on so many levels…or layers. You can’t get away from the layers to these songs. The mix job is fantastic, giving room for every part to do it’s thing and blend perfectly. The album starts with their second single Paint and Draw, followed by Moving Now Now Now, which is my new favourite song right now now now. There’s 7 more songs after that one, making it 9 tracks in total on the album. There’s not a single wasted second, every track could become your favourite. The last one, Luxury Auto is another stand-out in my opinion. It starts with this minor second guitar motif that kicks in the suspense and tension, and the part relentlessly weaves in and out of the rest of the track; by the end you realise that it’s been going on the whole time and the only conclusion you can draw is that it was definitely the right thing for them to do. And as a closing track, it leaves you wanting more. Always good.
So they’ve released two singles so far, and both have accompanying videos. Out of Athens was the first to drop, even before the album came out. It’s a great first single – it captures attention by simply being a banger of a tune. The video features Kate dancing in front of a flashy-starry backdrop while Sam laughs at her and she tries to keep a straight face and not trip over the microphone cable. Although you wouldn’t know about that if I hadn’t just told you – Sam’s off-screen. Being, um, supportive I guess? But their rationale for the video concept is totally on-point “The internet likes dancing girls”, as Kate tells me. She isn’t wrong, from my observations at least.
Paint and Draw is the second single, and the better song in my opinion. The band agree with me. “Drop the better single second” Kate says. This track is more complex than Out of Athens; starting with a pulsating bass line before kicking into gear with layers of guitars that build the verses to the most perfect of zeniths before crashing back down into the suspense and tension of the choruses. The video is great too. This one features Sam in the lead role, and there’s a bit of a story going on in this one, although I forgot to ask what it was all about because I was drunk. But it starts with Sam, who is sporting a very fancy leather jacket, loitering by a Telstra Payphone until he answers a call on it, 1980’s style. He tells the caller that he’s on his way. Right now. Then he jumps in the car and there’s ghost lady when he gets to what I assume is the place where he said he was on his way to. Sam seems like a bloke who knows when he’s in over his head, and he makes a bolt for it. I would have done the same. Ghost lady was asking some pretty personal questions for a ghost I’m assuming Sam has only just met. And she has an umbrella. Although how did she have his payphone number if they were strangers? It all raises more questions than it answers, so I have to go watch it again to try and make sense of it all. *watches video again* Nope, gonna have to keep trying. Let me know if you figure it out.
In a clear example of practice making perfect, the production values have increased markedly from 2019’s Discipline Reaction when compared with the new one, Cleareye Shining. Not that Discipline Reaction isn’t worth your time – it totally is. It’s just that Cleareye Shining is a massive leap forward both int terms of production values and songwriting craft. Yes, Discipline Reaction is a pun, but it’s one that both the band and myself agree holds up even after the three years that have elapsed since it’s release.
Anyway, like I said, I caught up with Kate and Simon on the blower recently. Kate and I built a rapport over Bobby Gillespie straight away as I knew she owned a Primal Scream T-shirt with the Screamadelica album cover on it, as I saw it in the promo photos the band kindly sent me.
Johnny Ryall : Kate, I notice in your pictures you’re wearing a Screamadelica T-Shirt: that is fucking awesome..
Kate: [laughs] Yeah, I got that at um, there’s this like, I don’t know if you have it in Queensland…there’s this like, discount kind of store called [inaudible] and they have like just the most random clothes, I think that like, they’re one of those shops that buys stock from other shops that are closing down…
Johnny Ryall: Oh yep.
Kate: So like a real random mix of stuff and yeah I was in there once and they had like a rack of the…I think it was like the ’94 Screamadelica Australian Tour.
Johnny Ryall: Yep…
Kate: And I was like “This is sick, I wasn’t at the show, but I can have the T-shirt!”
Johnny Ryall: So ah, you’re a bit of a Primal Scream fan I take it?
Kate: Oh absolutely, yeah.
Johnny Ryall: Oh same! How good are they?
Kate: Oh! So good! I love Bobby Gillespie…
Johnny Ryall: Same!
Kate: I love their whole trajectory as a band…
Johnny Ryall: It’s been fascinating hasn’t it?
Kate: Mmm, yeah, because they’re [sic] like transitioned into being a more dance kind of band while still being…I don’t know, still being the guitar-y kind of rock band that they’ve always been.
I could have talked about Primal Scream all day, and while we did carry on that conversation a little longer, I’ll pull myself back into line in this, the editing part of the writing phase, so that we get back to concentrating on what we were supposed to talk about.
Johnny Ryall: So what are we drinking?
Kate: I’m drinking aspirin in a big glass of water because I went out last night and I’m hungover [laughs]
Johnny Ryall: [laughs] Now you know the best thing for that is to have another drink, don’t you?
Kate: Yeah, well, yeah. I’ll get there.
Johnny Ryall: Oh well, no pressure from me. I’ve been drinking since 9am, but I’m a madman.
Kate: [laughs] Truly?
Of course it’s true. Then I remembered we were doing a ‘band interview’…and thought I should talk about ‘The Band’….like as in Bitumen, the band I was interviewing two members of.
Johnny Ryall: I really love your band, I just found it randomly about a month ago; I was watching RAGE….and I was like, HOLY SHIT, THIS IS REALLY FUCKING GOOD….. PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS BAND!
Kate: Oh man that’s so good. I’m glad RAGE paid off for us.
Johnny Ryall: Yeah I’ve got to ask, how did you manage to get them to play it, like is it an easy thing to do, or….?
Kate: Um, I think because we’re part of that Flash Forward program, where like the City of Melbourne gave like bands a bunch of money to make an album like, through COVID times.
Johnny Ryall: Oh really?
Kate: Yeah so we got like, like they’re pressing the album for us and they like um, yeah gave us money to make the videos and shit; it was an excellent deal for us.
Johnny Ryall: That is super cool!
Kate: Yeah! And they had like, sort of their own PR people working for all the Flash Forward bands, and I think they had a hook-up at RAGE.
Johnny Ryall: Oh ok…..
Kate: Yeah, they just sent it off and..I’m really surprised it got on but….
Johnny Ryall: Well, it did.
Johnny Ryall: So how did you come up with the name Bitumen? What’s that about?
Kate: Good question; I think we were like we wanted it to be one word, we wanted it to be kind of, something industrial. I think the earlier there’s a lot of things that like…like we had a gig booked, our first show coming up, and we still hadn’t decided on a name and we just kind of like got stuck on bitumen and were like oh yeah, fuck it, Bitumen, like ….
Johnny Ryall: Yeah,
Kate: We didn’t think about it too hard. I think I even like, we were practising at Simon’s house at that time, in his shed and I think he had the like the fridge magnet letters and I think I put it on the fridge one practice.
Kate: Yeah, on the side of the fridge, and like we were….I think AstroTurf was also tossed up….Thank god we didn’t go with that!
Johnny Ryall: Yeah, nah I think you went with the better option there.
Kate: Yeah for sure. And oh that was the other thing: We thought it would be funny that Americans say it wrong, like they say “Bit-oo-men”
Johnny Ryall: Do they really?
Kate: Yeah cause they just call it asphalt, or whatever.
Johnny Ryall: Oh yeah they say “ASS-Fault”.
Kate: Yeah, yeah, and like “Bit-oo-men.” I’ve heard like a couple of times when we’ve got played on like American radio if you listen back they’re like “the band Bitoomen” it’s just…. I don’t know. It cracks me up every time
Johnny Ryall: Fuckin’ hell, some people, you just can’t help ’em hey?
Johnny Ryall: What is everybody’s role in the band?
Kate: I don’t play anything else [aside from singing] but we sort of are very collaborative in that we, like, write the songs together…
Johnny Ryall: Yep, yep…
Kate: Simon, you do more than it says on the piece of paper [press release]
Simon: Yeah, I guess. I mean I play bass and then do a lot of the drum programming….
Johnny Ryall: Oh yeah…
Simon: But with input from everyone else as far as drum programming…. and synths as well.
Johnny Ryall: Oh yeah cause I noticed you didn’t seem to have a drummer, um and I said to myself that’s sensible because I haven’t been able to work with a drummer in years, you know, I just can’t do it. I use drum machines…
Kate: well it makes it easier to get around
Johnny Ryall: yeah well that’s it – no lugging the shit everywhere
Kate: yeah totally
Johnny Ryall: yeah drum machines are pretty light! Yeah! So who else is in the band?
Kate: We’ve got Bryce on guitar, and Sam also on guitar
Then I asked them something about getting around Australia to tour, and they said this:
Simon: Brisbane have been so nice to us, I have to say.
Simon: I think Brisbane is our second home in a way.
Johnny Ryall: Really? So it even beats out Hobart?
Kate: Yeah…. we’ve played some really fun shows in Brisbane, I mean..yeah..
Simon: I think that people in Brisbane get what we do a bit more maybe it’s a bit of that kind of small town, Tassie thing.
Johnny Ryall: Yeah oh we are basically an overgrown country town..it’s yeah it’s who and what we are.
Simon: Yeah well we’ll be doing some good shows up in Brisbane when we get a chance to tour I think.
Johnny Ryall: Please do! I can’t wait to see yous, I’m spewing that I missed you last time but you know, I just didn’t know that you existed then..yeah, my bad I guess.
Johnny Ryall: What artists made you decide that “fuck yeah, I’m gonna be a rock n’ roller?”
Kate: I guess like ..when we first started…our tastes have changed a lot in the last..however many years we’ve been a band…how many years have we been a band? Six years?
Simon: Six or something, yeah
Johnny Ryall: Since 2016 according to your bio! So yeah you’re getting up to your sixth year now.
Kate: Yeah, so when we first started we were all absolutely like….The Birthday Party..
Johnny Ryall: The Birthday Party! I fuckin’ love The Birthday Party!
Kate: Yeah yeah all that like yeah, the Melbourne goth-y, punk shit and then like that was probably Sam and Bryce and me, were very obsessed with that.
Simon was like, you were a bit different
Simon: Yeah, maybe a bit more like Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, heaps of Godflesh….
Johnny Ryall: Ah yep, all good bands!
Simon: Long time Justin Broadrick fan, so anything that Justin Broadrick does I’m very into…I think personally that I feel like I follow his trajectory and like…
Johnny Ryall: Yep –
Simon: Maybe almost in reverse in terms of like getting into dub driven techno and gabber, but [in] 2016 we were very much goths.
Anyway we talked about a whole bunch of other cool shit but that will have to come in Part II, because if I don’t at least pretend that I have a deadline on this article then Bitumen will have a new album out before I’ve even told you to go and listen to this one. Anyway it’s late and I’m drunk and tired and cranky, so don’t fuck with me. Just go onto YouTube and listen to Cleareye Shining by Bitumen. And love it as much as I do. I know you want to.
I am going to tell you a little about AMMO and then you will need to listen to her music. She is a director, photographer, a composer/singer/musician and a voice whom has been at the fore of helping women and LBGTQ+ people tell their stories. So AMMO has dropped the video for the single “A Cold War City“, this month, on the label Mourning Sun Records, which was co-produced and recorded with Alex Posell, whom also contributes on percussion.
“A Cold War City is an exploration of human memory and its fickle nature. We rewrite details of past experience over and over until eventually a fiction replaces our recollection. We are the authors of our own memoirs which are under constant revision,” says AMMO.
This track is so utterly beautiful and you can hear there is that nucleus of darkness and doubt, in this devastatingly ethereal track. Her soft and entrancing vocals glide effortlessly into the void of echoing and reverberating sound that seems ever so expansive. The layers of vocals are an added angelic sprinkling.
I think the metaphor of using the cold war is a clever one. The time of the cold war was marked by secret agents, spies, double agents, propaganda and misinformation, where people were second guessing themselves. In essence, this is what this track is about. Are you memories real or just influenced by everything around you, so can you trust those memories? Dreams become self perception. Definitely a song you should check out if you are a fan of shoegaze, dream pop and ethereal wave like Cocteau Twins. AMMO is hauntingly perfect.
London based, post-punk trio, BlackDoldrums are back with another single, “IntoBlue” to tease us with before the release of the album DeadAwake. The debut album hits us 11th of March, 2022 on FuzzClubRecords.
There is a sonorous beauty to “IntoBlue“. Gibbard’s vocals gracefully take centre stage while the sweet chime of guitars is pervasive, making the hairs on the back of your neck rise. How do you explain a piece of music that resonates at a primal level to your very core.
A slow burning shoegaze ballad. There are touches of Ride, Joy Division and Jesus and Mary Chain throughout. The video is a black and white extension of the music, that explores the play of dark and light. “IntoBlue” is yet another example of the skill of the band to craft guitar based delights. We count the days to the release of the album.
Purveyors of gloom and dead things that go bump in the night, VAZUM, are a very productive duo. It seems not that long ago we reviewed the album Rated V and now they have a new double single, that is not on the last album. “Gallows” is the name of the single dropped at the beginning of January and it is a double single in pixie point boots.
An eerie guitar swell that rolls into Sturm’s vocals, so is issued forth the warning to not to go to the Gallows, for a terrible fate will await you. Her voice is light and airy, bringing notice to the heavy done of the music, causing a sense of unease. The second song is the LostForestMix of “Gallows” with a wondrous far more synth spin which is equally spooky and a little electronically colder.
It is nice to hear gothic music that embraced both the more traditional guitar based music and evolving a more industrial sound as well. “Gallows” is an atmospheric deathgaze (goth +shoegaze) piece and dark synth affair you can indulge in.
In the last few years there has been a big revival of the post-punk scene, with younger bands emerging with the older stalwarts, proving they can hold their own. London’s Ghosts Patterns are one such younger band and September of 2021 saw them drop the album Infinite, which is their debut full length, after releasing the EP Oracle in 2020. Comprised of members Terry Hale (vocals/guitar/keyboards), Somrata Sarkar (vocals), Letitia Austin (bass) and James Walker (drums/percussion), they are going to lead you away with their shoegaze filled odyssey.
This album from the get go puts you in no doubt of what the band is about. The almost instrumental,”Intro(Death Wish)” is the beginning of the sonic journey through reverb and sound sculpting with sighed ahhs. From there, we are launched into “Lie In Wait” where we are truly introduced to the vocals of Hale, that grace the guitars without feeling like a separate entity and the insistent idea of a person waiting to pounce and while they do, concentrating on their breathing. Intricate bass playing marks “Oracle” with the vocals of portent by Sarkar. Dark and brooding with glimpses of Siousxie And The Banshees both percussion wise and melody, as the mists of Apollo close in on you.
No one can live in a “House Of Lies” for it is bound to fall and this track wends its way as a snake would before it strikes, with it’s cold reptilian beauty. The guitar and drums are so perfectly in sync. There is the buildup of “Sway“, where the vocals waver between discordant and resolving, maybe imitating the unpredictable nature of walking between danger and safety. The guitars and drums never letting you lose your focus. A joyous exuberance in “Feel It Out” and everything screams out that one needs to twirl around to this, as the guitars sing out in such an uplifting manner.
“Safe” drones away and I’m not sure if they really feel any more safe with the crashing music followed by lulls and then repeated. Title track “Infinite” has an almost languid Middle Eastern quality which makes this piece even far most interesting. A warm and inviting soundscape that seems to portray an eternal factor. The final track, “Goodbye, False Dreams” swirls and pulsates with the disappointment of lost hopes then wiping them away with the wash of melodic overload.
The band have taken the tracks “Oracle” and “Infinite” from the EP for the album and honestly they are great numbers that deserve a bit more attention. The noise-scape quality is akin to the early years of Ride or The JesusAnd Mary Chain, of whom both have used wonderful melodies wrapped in sonic walls of noise. It is nice to see bands that share the vocal duties as this often can give their music a completely different sound. GhostPatterns have an obvious love of reverb and driving rhythms mixed with ambient vocals that are wistful But nothing is infinite, so make sure you check out this album..
Black Doldrums are from London and since their inception, self released their first EP, before signing to ClubC30 and releasing two EPs on that label in 2018. 2021 saw the duo sign to Fuzz Club Records, become a trio and now fans are eagerly awaiting the debut album, Dead Awake, but in the meanwhile the first single has been dropped this month called “Sad Paradise“.
I am just going to put it out there, these guys could have listened to a lot of Joy Division and lead singer, KevinGibbard’s vocals are a dead ringer for Ian Curtis. Like Curtis, his voice is deep and emotive which spoke to a legion of young people of the day and still does. A song about watching people float through life without really leaving anything remarkable to show for their existence. The music is glorious and pulls at your heart imperceptibly with the guitar chiming out and the driving rhythm section. Some of the progressions reminded me a lot of EchoAnd The Bunnymen or Jesus and Mary Chain which is never a bad thing with the psychedelic swirling guitar noise.
Jared Artaud of Vacant Lots, who are also on Fuzz Club, produced and mixed the new album, which is due for release in March 2022 and so far he has done a sterling job. So we wait to hear this debut album but if the single is indicative, it’s going to be a lush affair.
Zac Pliska and Emily Sturm make up the band known as VAZUM. Their music has been described as deathrock with shoegaze or deathgaze but on the latest album, there has been a paradigm shift. They released the new album titled Unrated V on October 22nd and the theme throughout seems to be the creatures and humans that inhabit the inky night and demonic spaces.
From the beginning, you can hear that his is going to be a different VAZUM album, a more industrial electro sound is creeping in and the “Jester” is a genuinely verbose and grandiose example. The nine minute epic will wind you up in it’s synth laden tentacles, enthralling you. The single “Lycanthrope” very much features Sturm’s vocals in this tale of werewolves and the animals men become. The chorus is a beautiful swirling gothic affair and speaking of gothic, vampires come hand in hand with the genre. “Vampyre” is probably a far more truthful examination of the blood suckers world, where everyone is just a food source to them. A nice heavy mood that smothers us in the dank blood-lust.
Everyone needs a woman pieced together from other’s dead flesh so they can have a “Frankenstein Gurl” though she will more than likely kill you in the end and this tune is a stonking representation with it’s scintillating synths and uncompromising rhythm. The tone turns a bit stalkerish as we join the “Vampire Killer” on his quest to remove the parasites that plaque human kind. There is great purpose to the music and Pliska cannot be swayed by Sturm’s sensual words of ownership and death. The synths waver and Latin is invoked for this is the “Wytch Lych“. The track gives the impression of impending doom if you are not found worthy of the witch’s time and it is a fabulously powerful piece.
For the rest of the album, it delves into a more instrumental and experimental vein. “Fantoms” is full of bells tolling, dark bass tone and creeping synths like something you would find in a Hammer Horror movie as Christopher Lee searches for his next victim. The far more electronic “Wytch Tech“, with Sturm’s sighed vocals could be a modern summoning ritual putting you into a techno trance. Following up is “Summon Her” where there are industrial clanks and screeching, near metallic sounds. You can imagine a thick fog where disturbing not quite human voices can be heard.
There has been folklore tied to the Gypsy people that they have unnatural powers and you will have to make up your mind as you listen to the trap like “Romany Way“. I remember a dark, British children’s television show I watched as a child, where there was an old grandfather clock that would strike thirteen at night and everything would go back to a past life. “Thirteenth Hour” reminded me of this with it’s mysterious wending synths. Your final track is “The Abyss“, a place that is unfathomable and permeates the mind with dread at what lays within, the unknown and music gives it a science fiction overdrive.
Some bands go on and they often lose what drew you to them or the quality just cannot be maintained. VAZUM just seems to be going from strength to strength. They remind me of the wonderful Faith And The Muse except they have a dark gritty core mixing industrial into their music which is making them a hybrid beast of much beauty.
Anyone who is familiar with AlexanderDonat’s project, Vlimmer, might be be surprised to find that after eighteen EPs releases (yes you read right, 18!!!) , he has unleashed his debut album, Nebenkörper. The literal translation of Nebenkörper is secondary body or auxiliary body and maybe a part of this title refers to the fact that this is a full length album which was released on the 24th of September, 2021.
The dreamy, instrumental, “Farbenmüde” is the prequel to the album and in no way prepares you for the onslaught that is the angst filled “Fensteraus” and it is a bit like a Faustian epic in sensory overload. It has a wicked life of its own. Blasts of electronic beats mixed with tribal rhythms is “Mutem“. A sublime mix of metal shoegaze with industrial. There is a constant drone behind the “Restfall” as Donat’s vocals tether you to this reality and the guitars jangle and wail while it climaxes in a maelstrom. We have the single “Meter” which actually reminds me of Oomph! a little, if they had been more post-punk and it definitely deserved to be a single. “Minusgesicht” is full of foreboding atmosphere, a pall of darkness that is trying to drag everything into it and a sense of falling or fading away.
“I.P.A.” is truly a post-punk hybrid beast. Dark and brooding with just the right amount of noise to mix with the discordant voices while “Ad Astra” is like a wild ride of ecstasy and screaming insanity that bears you along, occasionally drops you, just you pick you up for the next part of the ride. The insistent “Wangendruck” is absolutely a gothic/EBM hybrid of beauty. It gloriously powers on with bursts of beats. There is a subtle change with “Kartenwarten“, slowing down things, a mellow shoegaze vibe before we vere off into noise inspired “Kron“. It is crunchy and sounds rather unhinged, though in a good way, as it ramps up. The last song on the album is “Nebenbei“. It is the wind down, giving a sense of introspectiveness and grief in a way, possibly full of longing. It is a lovely way to end.
Vlimmer is on Blackjack Illuminist Records and had the much-in-demand, Pete Burns of Kill Shelter handling the mastering. As a native English speaker, I am unable to tell you what the German lyrics are about and it is far more about the impression it gives and in the end, this is exactly what music is supposed to do. Expression in any language that still resonates with those who listen. Nebenkörper for the most part is a swirling amalgamation of gothic darkwave with shoegaze and a big helping of industrial. It is raw and at times won’t let you stop hearing new and unique things in the musical aether. At times you can almost swear you can hear a choir in the mix backing up Donat but this is an illusion and a rather masterful one. After eighteen EPs, Vlimmer have unleashed a beast of an album, so it was worth the wait.