Madeline Goldstein’s use of saturated synth tones and her own wide-ranging, sultry vocals on “Seed of Doubt” is completely engulfing in a way you’d want to hear more often in music in the darkwave and synth pop spectrum. Fans of Patriarchy (the song has the same engineer, Matia Samovich, as Patriarchy’s excellent 2022 album The Unself) will find much to like in the perfect fusion of futuristic disco and Gary Numan-esque soundscapes. It has a similar emotional resonance as Tor Lundvall’s A Strangeness in Motion record in that it taps into a retro pop sound but sounds so modern in its dance beat sequencing it has as much in common with Goldfrapp as it does something in the realm of electronic Goth. With lyrics seemingly about conflicted relationships, desire and identity, “Seed of Doubt” is immediately compelling and riveting from its opening moments until the end. Goldstein is the front person for Portland, Oregon’s long-running synth punk band Fringe Class. After relocating to Los Angeles in 2019, Goldstein launched her solo project which has continued in an experimental vein but leaning more toward a pop sensibility that should be in the wheelhouse of anyone into the ways in which Electric Youth’s music synced so perfectly with the mood and atmosphere of Come True. Listen to “Seed of Doubt” on Spotify and follow Goldstein at the links below.
BÜNNI sounds like he deconstructed a New Age self-help video in crafting “A Helpful Guide.” The song with samples that are like a list of suggestions for deprogramming oneself from standard cultural conditioning and calling into question a personal complacency feels like an independent film short from the 1990s that would have appeared on cable access but shot to VHS. The music has a haunted quality with modern hip-hop rhythm style off the standard pop music time signature and processed vocals as a an instrument and a moody, slightly swirled melody that carries throughout in a dreamlike procession. The song works precisely because it is a subversion of expectations of what vocals should sound like in a pop song, how pacing needs to be to hook you and what the elements of melody and harmony is supposed to sound like. In challenging the listener to disconnect from everyday complacency and do something to make one’s life more meaningful now with even a small gesture that derails standard daily rituals the song’s sounds take one out of standard issue emotional responses. f Harmoy Korine makes another film, this music should be considered for the soundtrack. Listen to “A Helpful Guide” on Spotify and follow BÜNNI at the links provided.
Almost impressionistic tones incandesce throughout Elskavon’s “North Sole,” floating in cool drones, textural white noise fluttering like the breath of the musician crafting the track caught incidentally exerting the controls. But then ethereal voices come in with the bright melodic waves of melody. The music video appears to show an aging industrial seaside town and the music matches the slow and organic pace, fading out before a curiously black and white piece of footage of fireworks ends the visual presentation of the song. As ambient as the track is overall the presence of struck bells and other objects gives the song a grounding in the physical world that gives a tangible context to the drift of moods that is what draws you into its contemplative energy suggestive of finding comfort in familiar patterns of life that we take for granted and sometimes come to resent in our pursuit of what we think of as our life’s trajectory only to at some point seek out the experiences that shaped us in ways not so obvious until life experience erodes the filter of ego enough to reconcile the various strands of your lived experience. This song is a soundtrack to that process. Watch the video for “North Sole” on YouTube and follow Elskavon at the links provided. The full album Origins is due out February 17 on Western Vinyl.
Doom Flamingo do a lot of stylistic time traveling on its single “303 Love.” Ross Bogan’s pulsing, ascending, distorted synth is like something out of a Daft Punk song and the commanding, sultry vocals of Kanika Moore are reminiscent of the R&B/soul of Sheila E. circa The Glamorous Life. The rhythm is all swinging, powerfully accented funk but the sound might be in the realm of synthwave especially with Thomas Kenney’s bombastic, processed guitar like the tasty licks from a 1980s pop song. It could all border on cheese with some of the throwback sensibilities because the musical alchemy works perfectly and the song feels like something very much in the moment and made for the modern dance floor. Listen to “303 Love,” might we assume it’s more a reference to a Roland bass synthesizer rather than the Colorado area code though that works too, on YouTube and follow Doom Flamingo which includes Ryan Stasik of Umphrey’s McGee fame at the links below.
The Holy Fawn remix of Heron’s 2019 song “Moon Data” takes the smooth, unearthly ethereal track and adds some haze and grit. It also turns an organic post-rock style song into something with a more electronic aesthetic, enhancing the synths and adding in a melodic arpeggio all to put some momentum behind the inherently majestic beauty of the original. Holy Fawn colored in some of the spaces without losing a sense of expansive wonder and mystery that Heron crafted. And in the last half Holy Fawn injects a distorted intensity that amplifies the dramatic aspects of the songs beyond the red, feral vocals burning through and buoyed by the pulsing synth before burning out into motes of tone and warping melodies echoing into the cold darkness before fading into abstract sounds. It’s the kind of remix that more or less transforms the work into something with a new resonance rather than enhance and augment what was already in place and in doing so imbues it with a musical life of its own. Listen to the Holy Fawn remix of Heron’s “Moon Data” on YouTube and follow Heron at the links below.
Dephree employs an eclectic and evocative beat for “Start Again.” Moody and chilly synths in the proper moments, hard hitting percussion and in the beginning a touch of guitar to provide a bit of both texture and rhythm. It’s a song about hoping he hasn’t gone too far down a path of self-destruction that has impacts for the people around him to make the proper amends by first breaking out of a vicious cycle of substance abuse and the unfortunate behaviors and activities that almost always support being caught up in that habit. Whether being in that moment of life came out of not having the proper coping mechanisms to deal with emotional trauma, in the song we hear a desire to make a break with it and to not keep on making apologies no one wants and to take the pain and self-hatred and not so self-hatred to overcome the personal demons that keep one unable to be consistent in living a proper and healthy life. The production on the song is clearly out of a more old school hip-hop approach and the alternative end of that and one hears what might be shades of an homage to influences here and there throughout the track but in embracing an aesthetic out of step with many tropes of the genre now prevalent it makes the point in not only word but sound and sure it’s a bit of a gimmick but wait until the end of the song for a nice symbolic exclamation point of intent. Listen to “Start Again” on YouTube and follow Dephree at the links provided.
What make’s GLOSSER’s single “The Artist” particularly effective and standout is how its musical elements establish undeniable melodic hooks but with the emphasis in the rhythm. A clipped bass line in sync with the spare percussion accompany vocals with the most light of effects to give it some glow is the foundation but then the song drops off into spaces of warmly ethereal synths as though free falling slowly before the rhythm picks back up and a simple keyboard melody eases the song back into its verses. Keynotes of background tonal harmonies and the most minimal of drones add a moody detail the lends the track a complexity of soundscaping that is subtle and tasteful and again enhances the main feature of the vocals lyrics about the struggle to balance one’s humanity and genuine emotional life and that of engaging in creative work that will meet an inevitable public. But in order to make resonant work the sensitivity and vulnerability that can’t be faked, that must come from a core, genuine place in order to really reach anyone or be a an expression worth putting into a coherent form which can be more raw for some people to really appreciate and too real and that risks a rejection or critique that doesn’t match that sensitivity and emotional nuance. The song’s lyrics vividly depict that internal process in a way relatable whether or not you’re an artist because just to get through life we often have to present a mediated version of ourselves which can create a tension inside our minds that can feel like a perpetual attempt to appeal to people or a situation that is more demanding than nurturing. GLOSSER was just able to distill the ordeal and reconciliation into a soulful, unconventional earworm of a pop song. Listen to “The Artist” on YouTube and follow GLOSSER at the links below. Look out for the full album DOWNER out January 27, 2023.
A “hoon” is a person that drives a vehicle in a reckless and dangerous manner or simply a hooligan in general. Not necessarily a bogan but the identities aren’t mutually exclusive. So a band adopting the name HOON might embrace the terms the way punks did and to that effect the Australian band ahead of the release of its debut studio album Australian Dream has released the video for its song “ACAB.” It starts off with some choice graffiti imagery and gives way to a relentless and pointed fusion of punk and noise rock with the joy and menace intermingled. Bursts of distorted guitar splay and gouges of rhythm over the course of little more than two minutes like a deconstructed Dead Kennedys come up through the grunge era is the perfect setting for a song about what the title suggests. There are marginalized groups (ethnic minorities, the indigenous etc.) in most societies that garner attention from police forces by their very existence and anyone who has ever run afoul of the law often ends up in the system and it can be challenging at best to get out despite your best efforts otherwise and to avoid attention and abuse by the agents of enforcement. Channeling that frustration and anger into a song is a classic worldwide and Hoon’s song is an especially potent, cathartic and to the point example of that spirit. Watch the video for “ACAB” on YouTube and follow the band from Wollongong, Australia at the links below.
The intricate guitar work of Paul Spring’s “Beetle on a Blade” fits well with the delicate flute work and the brisk pace of the track. The simple rhythm and percussion feels like the kind of pace one might count out for a campfire song if that campfire crowd included Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The song also has a quality that sounds like something one might expect to hear on a soundtrack to a movie about a medieval minstrel or troubadour. The lyrics seem to be a meditation on the nature of life cycles and cosmological time and how they intersect and influence each other as well as the precious fragility of existence as made poetically real to one by little details that strike one in moments when you have the time to consider deeper meanings beyond surface level experiences. As acoustic and organic as the music sounds its interesting to note that the pulsing beat is likely generated by an 808 rather than a traditional drum suggesting that the mathematical backdrop to the structure of the universe as we experience it interconnects the rhythms of music and the frequency of existence itself. Listen to “Beetle on a Blade” on YouTube and connect with Spring, collaborator with Mary Lattimore, Blackthought, Sasami and Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes as well as serving as lead singer of Holy Hive, at the links below. Spring’s album Thunderhead of which “Beetle on a Blade” released on December 16, 2022.
The Psychotic Monks sound like they’re using the sounds of industrial civilization colliding and collapsing to craft the main riffs of “All That Fall.” You can hear bass but it’s so blunt in its pulse it’s like a machine sound too as are the accenting drums. It’s fitting given that the song sounds like it’s about the collapse of the the world we know. The stretching sounds and the vocals bordering on the chanting and ritualistic in the din of unfolding events as the whole big mess winds down into the first third of the song. But the song is nine minutes fifty-three seconds long and if this can be considered something like a post-punk noise rock song for those who want familiar frames of musical and aesthetic reference, something of that sprawl in length and structure is more in the art realm of that music. The middle of the song is quiet with widely splaying percussion and a sound like a huge metal can being struck periodically. As touchstones one recalls perhaps This Heat or Liars in its few concessions to conventional musical style and arrangement in favor of the more conceptual in its emotional expression of mood. This middle part of what might be considered a triptych gives way to a furious, industrious clash and wild distortions that endlessly escalate until hitting a plateau that fractures and not giving one much of a stable musical footing but all the more thrilling in its projection of unease and frustration and anxiety given a direct and dramatic sonic release like something one might more expect from a The Jesus Lizard record. Listen to “All That Fall” on Spotify and follow The Psychotic Monks at the links provided. The group’s new record Pink Colour Surgery drops on February 3, 2023 via Vicious Circle/FatCat Records.