Former members of Finnish indie pop and alternative rock bands/projects of the 1990s and 2000s like Chickenpotpie, The Pansies, Montevideo and Mia Darling formed Treemer in 2019 when one of the former Chickenpotpie cohorts revealed he had a backlog of twenty some songs he needed help in bringing to fruition. The latest batch of songs from the band is the Septembre EP which released on the final day of September 2022. All six songs should appeal to any connoisseur of the kind of dream and indie pop that one might have heard out of the Sarah Records or early Slumberland catalog. But the final track “Septembre Bloom” perhaps launches most fully into the realm of a shoegaze song and sprawling out to seven minutes fifteen seconds of an expansive, joyful melody and winsome vocals. There is a touch of Americana tonality in the guitar work but that just lends the song a quality of nostalgic warmth. Think like an improbable collaboration between Mojave 3 and Cocteau Twins especially in the sections where the vocals seem to be on the verge of layering. It’s a song that seems to be one from a perspective of looking back on an old romance that was passionate and may be over or may have evolved as all relationships worth having do. But the sheer exuberance of the song suggests that even with some of the bittersweet sentiments, the memories are fond and affectionate even in this moment. Listen to “Septembre Bloom” on Spotify where you can listen to the rest of the EP and follow Treemer on Instagram.
A slow roiling background drone establishes a dreamlike atmosphere in Gillian Stone’s “Raven’s Song.” Metallic percussion rings out and clatters creating a deep sense of space, psychological and otherwise. Stone’s vocals echo slightly with a touch of reverb singing in mythical terms of carrying the weight of guilt and self-oppression in the line “I hold a torch for a devil” and later about taking that torch to the river and how it casts a blinding light but drowing “in the river to snuff its life.” And yet “Drowning in the river to stay alive.” It is a delicate tangle with a spirit of self-destruction that has settled into your psyche and finding ways of casting it aside or at least diminishing its hold on you and establishing habits and practices to keep it in check. The symbol of the Raven is a complex one whose meaning is similar in both Native American spiritual tradition and in that of European cultures, particularly in Norse mythology. The aspect of prophecy, insight, transformation and as a link between the physical world and that of spirit and as a symbol of a primordial existence from a time before the only world we’ve ever known also points to truths of life and cognition that flow back from a time when there was no formal language and how that has manifested in culture and civilization in forms approximating that understanding and the song draws upon that knowledge that is one of the foundations of consciousness and mythology. The song in establishing an almost meditative feel with the musical arrangements and Stone’s ritualistic vocal delivery links into those associations to resonate on a level beyond the accessible, experimental pop format that draws you into its more layered content. The music video for the song directed by Emma Buchanan, Amir Heidarian and Stone herself is appropriately mysterious and often a white haze field is in frame with a transparent silhouette of, presumably, Stone singing and gesturing like she is connecting with an archetype in the process of finding guidance through the challenge of the journey presented in the lyrics. Watch the video on YouTube and follow Stone at the links provided. Her new album Spirit Photographs released on November 18, 2022.
Seraphim Shock has been spinning its tales of the dark side of American society informed by themes of the occult, Satanism, hedonism and resistance to a puritanical culture that often causes the trauma and neuroses that drive dysfunction. Seraphim Shock’s music is an expression of solidarity with living with that legacy and purging it. It’s second full length album Red Silk Vow released in 1997 to great local fanfare in the local Goth scene with shows in which lead singer Charles Edward garbed as a Victorian Vampire, top hat and all, orchestrated a stage show with bandmates in corpse paint. Whether one was fully into the music or not the spectacle was undeniably compelling to the point where it helped to elevate the music in its Goth-industrial aesthetic. Generally snubbed by the local press and a good deal of the local scene in Denver, Seraphim Shock has forged a path as a band untethered to the usual local scene politics and its limitations. The group’s second ever show in 1994 was in Phoenix and most of its Denver shows since the mid-90s have been at larger venues like The Aztlan Theater, The Ogden Theatre and The Gothic Theatre rather than the gauntlet of dive bars and small clubs in no small part due to Edward not seeing his group as simply a local outfit. As the years went on the band’s style adopted a more hard rock sound and Edward’s stage appearance evolving into that of more a sinister yet benevolent glam rock professional wrestler look than a lord of the undead, think a body sculpted Goth super hero. In 2022 Edward and Seraphim Shock celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of Red Silk Vow as a continuation of Edward’s creative vision as he ushers in the next chapter of the band with its impending release of the second chapter of The Fairmount Chronicles which launched in 2020. The stage show is back to being as theatrical as the early days with Edward exuding the undeniable charisma and commanding presence that has been a feature of the live show for decades.
Listen to our interview with Charles Edward on Bandcamp and go witness Seraphim Shock’s Twenty-Fifth Anniversary celebration of the iconic album Red Silk Vow at the Oriental Theater on Saturday, November 26, 2022 (doors 7 p.m.) with Dead on a Sunday, Whorticulture and DJ Celebrytie as hosted by the always enteraining, sardonic raconteur Sid Pink For more information on Seraphim Shock and to find music and merch, please visit the links below.
“The Poison Tree” from Katharina Nutthall’s 2022 album The Garden engages in the mythological themes of the album with the poetic imagery found in the lyrics which seem to explore themes of losing one’s path and sense of self and rediscovering all of it on a new foundation. “The Poison Tree” finds Nutthall sounding a little ragged with the urgency of emotion as carried along by what feels like an outwardly spiraling flow of emotion. It begins and ends with the sound of a piano seeming to come apart but in the middle of the song the piano melody anchors the song even as violin accents the dramatic tension and synths, ghostly backing vocals, droning strings, rattling percussion and luminescent keyboards in its ever descending tones create a sense of dramatic confusion. “In the morning rain I found myself lost in the garden” is the first line of the song and it sets the stage for images of natural forces taking on the role of energies and situations beyond one’s control that carry you beyond the contexts you knew. But during the course of the song the narrator of this folkloric story finds herself “out of place and time” but finds solace in the garden shelter even though there’s a “poison tree where the birds flew low and the grass was green.” The metaphor of water as one’s identity that can be drunk while an excess of water drowns a “precious flower.” The aspects of ourselves that make us experience the vitality of life can also become the things that undermine our lives in excess. But the symbolism of the song is never on the nose, its more a dream logic that informs the imagery and emotional resonance and the music itself is reminiscent of the kind of energy one hears in late 80s Kate Bush where a grounded yet dreamlike quality gives some of her most pop songwriting a compelling sense of mystery. Listen to “The Poison Tree” on Spotify and connect with Katharina Nutthall at the links provided.
The imagery in Marianne Skaarup Jakobsen’s video for Quiet Sonia’s “In My Arms Many Flowers” is like a collage of negative images super imposed on others with colors manipulated to look like something from decades past. And with the images in motion it flows with an organic drift like the way memories are stored in the mind. The music itself in its intricate web of melody and texture, acoustic guitar, strings, swells of tone. Impressionistic lyrics spoken/sung by Nikolaj Bruus in a weary matter of fact, thoughtful tone are offered in short poetic sketches. Like a piece written inspired by urban decay and the neglect of culture as manifested physically in the landscape and in the lived experiences of people as if everything can be plugged directly into a system to drive short term profits and barring that limited and ever changing utility cast aside. Lonely piano notes seem to mark the time throughout the song but especially as it heads toward the fading outro. But there is a reprise wherein the song proper ends on a note of hopeful resignation. An underlying theme to the song appears to be how we are all part of one big, interconnected cycle of being and that our individual place in the impermanence of being is as actor, as witness and as quantum impetus for what comes after. One might liken it to a post-rock song but it seems to have more in common with the likes of experimental jazz/ambient composers like Steve Tibbetts and John Hassell among other such artists on the ECM imprint in the 1980s with its crafting of tone, pacing and texture. Listen to “In My Arms Many Flowers” on YouTube and marvel at how it’s more than ten minutes seem to pass so quickly and follow Quiet Sonia at the links below. The All Black Horses Came Thundering EP from which “In My Arms Many Flowers” is drawn is out now on Pink Cotton Candy Records.
Happy Hollows leaves plenty of space and clear tonal lines at the beginning of “Summer Is Over” before introducing a touch of guitar sketching the edges of melody. Most prominent are Sarah Negahdari’s vocals singing words of reflection on a season of fun, love and adventures. What makes the song work other than Negahdari’s soaring and winsome vocals is the way the guitar parts, the bass and percussion are arranged to be almost more textural and pointilist rather than largely tonal or in the case of the percussion in a traditional drum pattern. These simple elements create a more dynamic whole while allowing the impressionistic images of the lyrics to flow unimpeded and spontaneously. In this way it’s reminiscent of an even more minimalistic Rubblebucket song with unconventional sounds placed subtle in the mix especially in the percussion and conveys a sense of nostalgia without an excess of sentimentality. After all the good times of summer may be over but this song suggests that even though the initial wave of excitement may be over but the romance certainly isn’t. Listen to “Summer Is Over” on Soundcloud and follow Happy Hollows at the links below.
Secret Shame formed in Asheville, North Carolina in 2018. Its members came from the local punk scene and the music they made together was, summed up by a quote found on one or more of its online accounts, “too punk for Goth and too Goth for punk.” But however its sound might be best described its style of dark post-punk struck an immediate chord with people that got to see the fledgling band and even the debut basement demo from 2016 revealed a band that was tapping into emotional spaces resonant with Siouxsie and the Banshees and Xmal Deutschland. Its songwriting quickly developed into the songs that would comprise its energetic self-titled 2017 EP and the 2019 full-length debut album Dark Synthetics. In that vital mix of death rock and synth-infused post-punk one could hear an emotional vulnerability that told stories of struggle and abuse sometimes couched in terms of cosmic horror. And yet there was a core of honest feeling that bled through the metaphors and abstraction. For the 2022 album Autonomy, singer Lena had been working from a place of wanting to not obscure her lived experience and emotional truth and one hears that reflected directly in the music too. It’s still beautifully moody and moving but less haze and more direct tonal expression. Also in the new set of music are more conventionally accessible melodies without sacrificing the grit and darkness that has made the group’s songwriting so compelling since its inception. Autonomy is an album by a band that has come into its own while also a demonstration of an evolution from where it’s been and hinting at further exploration of where the music can go when you feel like you can craft your art from a deeply personal place without needing to couch it in the stylistic terms of anyone else or their narrow expectations.
Listen to our interview with Lena on Bandcamp and follow Secret Shame at the links provided. The group is currently on tour including a date in Denver on Friday, November 25, 2022 at The Crypt with Voight, ilind and Verhoffst at 9 p.m.
“Very Body” is half of the new Lore City EP Under Way (available now digitally and on black 7” vinyl via the project’s Bandcamp linked below). We hear in the distance a hovering sound like distant aircraft passing by in the night. The resonance of distortion in the tone streams through the track as a background tone creates a sense of space. The feeling it conveys is not unlike seeing light over a horizon at night and feeling the sensation of a deep thrum felt in the body from the vibration of unseen machinery like a large engine too far to fully make out but close enough to create an ambient sensation and an aural effect both calming and mysterious not unlike becoming aware of the sounds of a nearby urban airport. Fans of The Sight Below will appreciate the tactile quality of the modulated drones here and how it indeed has an undeniable physical presence in the hearing of its orchestrated tones. Listen to “Very Body” on YouTube and follow Lore City from Portland, Oregon at the links below.
Kakuyon delivers a nuanced song about being present in your life with “Tomorrow.” The line “I’m thinking of tomorrow/And living for today” juxtaposed with words about how tomorrow can feel vague and like a distant future if you’ve not taken care of things in your life today, forever on a rat race of emotional paralysis. “Living for today cause it feels good to feel” points toward being present in your feelings instead of putting them on hold and in a perpetual state of an abstract experience that you think about rather than directly experience. The introspective vocals and melancholic, shimmery, synth lines hazy with a touch of distortion suggests a state of reflective reverie and acceptance. The sound is a blend of hip-hop, R&B and dream pop reminiscent of the evocative work of George Lewis Jr. as Twin Shadow. But Kakuyon sets the music to a trap beat that uses that electronic percussion to suggest a delicacy befitting the subject of the song. Listen to “Tomorrow” on Spotify and follow Kakuyon at the links provided.
Director Matthew Marino’s choice to bring the projected physical film analog quality to his treatment of the music video for S.C.A.B.’s single “Why Do I Dream of You” perfect expresses the song’s wash of nostalgic atmospherics. The pairing of circular, looping, guitar melody with expressively soaring vocals that shift from the earnest to the ethereal syncs so well with scenes from New York City and lyrics that place the bittersweet lyrics in a context rich with a sense of place that hits strongly at the end of the song as it fades out and we hear what sounds like a fragment of a journal written in the late night hours in a moment of vulnerability as a letter to someone expressing feelings maybe now usually buried and on the verge of saying he misses the person being addressed but struggling with finding the right way to say it and not botch the effort with clumsy or ill-considered sentiments. Fans of the aesthetically multidimensional guitar rock of Beach Fossils, Preoccupations and Parquet Courts will appreciate the way S.C.A.B. stretches out and winds the melodic path of this song. Watch the video for “Why Do I Dream of You” no YouTube and connect with the group at the links below.