Posts Tagged ‘Goth’

Frank Ene on Bambou – Made In China

On his own undersung gem of an album, Frank Ene put together a collection of songs that are deeply scarred, yet radiant. It’s a sound, that like his bandmate and producing partner Wymond Miles, references ‘80s aesthetics without becoming beholden to or bogged down in them. The goth slash across the album lets off a burn like dry ice — intense and cold, leaving a lasting mark on the listener. I asked Frank to pick out a gem of his own and he’s let us in on an ‘80s pop LP that likely slipped by us all. Check out below for Frank’s take on the sole ’89 LP from Bambou.

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Frank Ene

A compact, but powerful release from Frank Ene (Fresh & Onlys, Pure Bliss) gives rise to his darkened vision of pop. The songwriter paints songs in deep-blue tones, approaching the total darkness of the abyss, but becoming more radiant within his dour trappings. Ene has a delivery that feels perpetually stung with the numbness of drink. It’s weary, as if he’s been beaten emotionally or physically and is merely looking for that even keel to get him away from the pain. Longtime friend Wymond Miles assists with the production and his own penchant for creating works that are reverent to niche tones within ‘80s pop and post-punk can be felt reverberating through the record’s wires.

Its disingenuous, to nail Ene to the velvet crush of the ‘80s, though. There’s little that ties this record to any time or place. Instead No Longer exists in womb of feelings — scarred, caustic, lost, and appropriately for 2020, secluded. There’s a streak of Lynch in there, but maybe something even more discomfiting. There’s a sense that Frank’s trying to shed his own skin, to swim in the tides of despair looking for the self. If he’s come through the murky waters and out of the other bank, it’s hard to tell by the time the EP finishes. Perhaps his upcoming full-length will tune in a fuller picture. Still for those looking to the ache of Scott Walker or the slow-clot crawl of The Angels of Light, look no further than what Ene has prepared here.



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Exploded View – “Raven Raven”

Enticing title’s aside (for this site anyway) the first taste of the upcoming album from Exploded View is a sinister pop gem. The band’s previous outing for Sacred Bones, their 2016 eponymous debut, was delightfully disjointed, embracing dissonance as a key element to their off-kilter pop, flickering through sounds like a broken slide carousel. Here, though, they’re smoothing things out – welding ‘80s goth atmospherics to ‘90s industrial pop machinations – echoing the infectious, bittersweet shake of Black Box Recorder and the buttoned-down darkness of Portishead. The Mexico City leans into pop’s embrace but leaves rough edges peeking out from their cavernous cardboard box beats. The track slinks its way through the headphones with a gnawing urgency that places the track among their best. I have to wonder if this foreshadows a dark drape of an album that’s sliding into the velveteen sound they’re pursuing here, or if like last time, they’ll break up the shimmer with a few twists of the knife every know and again. Either outcome, I’m intrigued.


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John Maus

Maus has always been something other – an enigma bundled in unassuming strands of Oxford cloth, baiting your expectations and then blowing past them with an acerbic beauty. In the past he’s issued albums that cut to the bone, gnawing on the gleaming remains of your toughest sinews. His synthpop was spare and his shows even more-so – a man with a CD player publicly crumbling at the seams for the audience’s benefit. His songs were intense, but not altogether without a shining shard of pop lodged in their throats, a scratch that was never quite satisfied but always present. Now he’s crossed out of the catacombs of solitary, tortured synth and brought on a band, but his vision remains consistent as a bleak acid bath of sound.

He’s working his way out of a hiatus of sorts, Maus is back and while at heart he’s his same old self, he’s racheted up the production surrounding his dystopian stranglehold. As his recent gig at Basilica Soundscape proved, his addition of a full band has stoked the fire present in his songs full force. Where once he was an aching nerve, raw and scraping at the subconscious, now he’s taking the minimal wave vision of sinister synth to a new level. Screen Memories is Maus blown up into massive retro-futurist heights – throbbing with distended basslines, surreal synths and Maus’ own voice echoing around the sphere, equal parts dream-struck (“Decide Decide,” “Sensitive Recollections”) and perturbed (“The Combine,” “Pets”). Something tells me there’s a larger patchwork at play in the fact that the universe has delivered a new Blade Runner and John Maus record in the same slice of time, but we’re all probably best to stay out of whatever wormhole opened its maw to deliver tandem poles of glistening futurist melancholy anyhow.

The album arrives just as the idea of sinking back into an oil slick of anxious, seething irritation seems like the only option. If there were an artist for our times, it’s Maus. The album is twitching, roiling, and constantly assaulting the senses. It’s as much a reflection of daily life in a world where the news cycle one-ups itself with horrors for clicks and pain for pay as anything might claim to be. Maus’ brand of disembodied pop is a kind of salve, but only so much so in that you know that he’s feeling the slow, anxious burn run up the back of his spine as well. He’s a compatriot in anguish who can sometimes remind you that there are slight slivers of beauty in that polluted sky, but more often than not he punctuates the pain with a reminder that on top of your petty list of worries, your pets are going to die before you. Maus gets it. We’re all screwed, lets dance out some pain.




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Flesh World

Seems to be a week for goth stomp around here and Flesh World know how to streak the drawn curtain dynamics with enough jangle and dreampop to give Into The Shroud is own space at the table. Their sophomore album only cements their foray into the sound, proving that Jess Scott’s melange of influences can all sit perfectly alongside one another in a nostalgia daydream. They dip into the jangle-pop that informed here former band, Brilliant Colors, but don’t hang on the genre as a defining trait. Instead, with a new rhythm section in tow, the band takes swooning romanticism and muddies it with hollow-eyed synths and a breathless pound that sweeps away the streaks of sun that try to find their way into the mix.

Though, that’s not to say that Into The Shroud isn’t without its hooks. The title track alone steps out of the haze for a fawning chorus that would almost crack a grin if it weren’t white-knuckling its way through a post-punk deluge. The spring-tight aesthetics pair well with Scott’s exploration of the Bay Area’s gender politics, literary history and musical history each flung into a whirlwind rotoscope and sketched out in shades of black and white.

With their pairing it becomes clear that Scott Moore has proven to be the muse Scott always needed, thickening her sound with a wave of perfectly smeared synth and exploring the darker reaches of her songwriting. With their Dark Entries debut, the band steps up to take a swing at the upper reaches of the ’80s cult pop pantheon and they come out feeling like they’ve connected nicely.



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Zola Jesus

If, at this point, you’re on the fence about the greatness of the new Zola Jesus record, then you’ve clearly not heard any or all of Okovi. Nika Rosa Danilova’s codifying moment comes in the form of 40-minutes of pleasure and pain that wrench the very soul from the listener. She then douses said soul in a harrowing darkness that explores loss and mortality, while showering it in the light of one of this decade’s most powerful and uplifting voices.

The record shows a marked return to Danilova’s darker instincts, she blends her exploration of personal tragedies with a shift from Taiga’s pop aspirations and back towards the body flattening atmospheres of the Stridulum EP. However, she incorporates lessons gleaned along the way, injecting the darkness with a stadium sized feeling that’s full of a hope that peeks from the walls of despair. She’s also taken the soaring orchestral swells of her re-interpretive album Versions and applied them liberally to an album proper, giving Okovi a grandness that’s angelic in its exploration of life’s consistent lean towards heartbreak and loss.

Again, I’m by no means going to be the first to tell you this is a monumental achievement by an artist who has spent a career consistently crafting high water marks. If the top 40 was too blind to see what they had in her turn towards accessibility, then they’ll likely miss out here as well, but they’d be remiss. Taiga was accessible in its move towards the light, but Okovi is universally touching in its dive into the dark. We’re all besieged by the despair of familial loss, the hairpin turns of life at any chaotic moment, the overwhelming face of the cosmic inevitable. However, Danilova has distilled those feelings into a glowing beacon of an album that we should all be able to relate to, and deep down, that we all need.




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Zola Jesus on Magdalith – S/T

There have been a lot of artists that have popped up repeatedly on RSTB over the many years, but few with the consistency of Zola Jesus. Nika Danilova’s first appearance was in 2008 on a year end list of 7″s, marking her “Souer Sewer” cut as one to watch in the coming years. Seems like she’s not only been one to watch, but one to anticipate with great hopes as each release nears. Her work has set a high bar not only for those enamored with the dark strains of industrial and goth but for any electronic or pop record in a given year. Her latest, Okovi is one of her most personal albums and a stunning reminder of her power as a vocalist – confronting tragedy with a strident battalion of sound. For her entry to Hidden Gems, Danilova has picked a record far from the beaten track, the 1973 eponymous work of French Gregorian singer Magdalith, whose works echo Zola Jesus’ own balance of desolation and heart-stopping vocals.

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Zola Jesus – “Exhumed”

With a new Zola Jesus release on the way this fall, the horizon’s grown invitingly dark. In the clip for “Exhumed” from the upcoming Okovi Nika Danilova channels The Ring with a shallow wooded grave escape and a multitude of VHS glitch effects provided by Corey Johnson. The song itself hits as hard as any of Danilova’s best – pounding, leaden beats push against the soaring cello work of Shannon Kennedy and over the it all Danilova’s voice beckons, an angel of destruction and redemption in one. It’s a powerful track and given the sense of loss that she’s exploring throughout this album, it winds up one of her most overtly powerful statements.

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James Jackson Toth on Japan – Tin Drum

The latest installment of Hidden Gems comes from a longtime RSTB favorite. I think it’s fair to say that without Wooden Wand, Raven wouldn’t have shaped up the way it did in those early years. When I happened on a great set by James, billed to open for Jack Rose in a cramped bar in Greenpoint back in 2005, Harem of the Sundrum and the Witness Figg quickly became a fixture on the turntable and a desire to spread some of the WW gospel was born. Below Toth shares a record that’s made an impact in his own life and how it crept in and took hold.

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