Tag Archives: Darkwave

Album of the Day: Clay Rendering, “California Black Vows”

Darkwave duo Clay Rendering left their longtime home Michigan for Los Angeles following their last record Snowborn, and the move is reflected in the name of their latest LP: California Black Vows. Even with a change of scenery, it’s still dark and icy, a record that feeds off what remains of seedy LA noir. Vocalist and guitarist Mike Connelly and his wife Tara, who plays synth and also sings, are still the Midwestern winter core, his strumming and crooning countering her cold touch and colder voice. New bassist Sera Timms (Black Mare, Ides of Gemini) and new drummer Joe Potts (Sollilja) flesh out California Black Vows’ rockier direction, adding a Cali goth assurance that they hate the heat as much as the Connellys do.

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The Transformational Darkwave of Psychic Eye Records: An Illustrated Interview

Annie Mok is a Philadelphia-based author-illustrator and musician. Here, she presents her interview with Akiko Sampson of Psychic Eye Records and Ötzi in comic strip form.

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Boy Harsher’s Deeply Personal Darkwave

BoyHarsher-by-Angela-Owens-1244-2

Photography by Angela Owens

“I can no longer run away from things the way I used to be able to.”

That’s Jae Matthews, vocalist of Western Massachusetts darkwave duo Boy Harsher, talking about the role of escapism in the group’s oeuvre at large. She and Gus Muller, who handles most of the synths and programming, have been making dark, soulful, synth-based music since 2013. The idea of movement, of leaving, of dropping everything, is a consistent theme throughout their catalog, especially on 2017’s Country Girl EP and their new LP, Careful. Careful is released on their own imprint, Nude Club Records, and it is a triumph; they’ve been through the fire, and have used those experiences to forge a testament to vulnerability and honesty.

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“Dark Ritual Ambient” Blends Haunting Music With Spiritual Energy

Dark Ritual Ambient

Illustrations by Sophy Hollington

The notion of pairing music with ritual practices dates back centuries. In traditional societies, singing and music-making was often a communal affair, and it served a number of purposes—like communicating traditions, or strengthening community bonds. In other cases, music is used to achieve more mystical ends: Native American and ancient Greek societies believe that music can have healing properties, and Buddhist and Hindu cultures use chants and mantras to aid meditation.

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Denver’s Darkwave Scene

Voight

Voight by Tom Murphy

Until it became a destination spot for cannabis tourism, craft beer enthusiasts, skiers, and tech jobs, Denver was lumped into that wide swath of America deemed by haughty coastal residents as “flyover country”—at least in terms of art, music, and culture. Sure, John Denver had his “Rocky Mountain High” in Colorado, but there wasn’t much else that made a mainstream impact before this past decade. The Lumineers cultivated their upbeat, well-crafted alt-country songs in Denver before finding chart success, and bluegrass/electronica jam band String Cheese Incident helped the worlds of Americana and EDM to intermingle with cool vibes and good times. With a supposed 300 days of sunshine a year, you might be excused for thinking the majority of the art produced by people in and around Denver would be upbeat and poppy, rather than introspective and moody.

The Denver area has a small but vital punk scene that’s been around since the late ‘70s, which has naturally flourished into various experimental outgrowths. By the early ‘80s, tape collage artists Walls of Genius had formed in Boulder, avant-garde prog rock band Thinking Plague was throwing warehouse shows, and deathrock band Your Funeral recorded songs for the Local Anesthetic imprint affiliated with Denver’s Wax Trax record store. (Yes, that’s the same Wax Trax as the Chicago record store and industrial label, sort of; Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher opened the Denver store first but sold it to new owners when they decamped for Chicago in 1978.)

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Album of the Day: Havah, “Contravveleno”

Italian post-punk group Havah are no trend-hoppers, though their crisp darkwave sound might come as a surprise if you were a fan of Michele Camorani’s previous bands, La Quiete and Raein—messy, emotive hardcore outfits. In Havah, Camorani channels his deep love of ‘80s forebears like Diaframma (the “Italian Joy Division”), CCCP Fedeli Alla Linea, and so forth. And though the style may be different from the groups he’s best known for, Havah’s intensity and melodic sensibilities are clear throughlines from Camorani’s past endeavors.

Chorused-out guitar hooks and nimble basslines abound on Contravveleno, Havah’s third album, and it’s excellently recorded and sequenced, with the A-side more on the blistering post-punk tip and the B-side tending toward more experimental, spacious, industrial-influenced new wave (“Un’Altra Strada,” in particular, uses its rhythmic and melodic interplay in a particularly appealing way). Havah’s previous efforts were a little bit less polished; here, the clarity and fidelity truly allow each element to shine, and there’s no loss of raw energy.

Contravveleno’s thematic meat couldn’t be more relevant to the present moment, too. While many of us are embroiled in online Discourse(™) over whether Nazis should be punched and what counts as an act of resistance, looking to near history for everyday stories of people standing up against fascism always proves remarkably grounding. Contravveleno spins around true survival stories at the human level passed down from grandparents to their grandchildren as they tell of their experiences in Mussolini’s Italy. Each song is a snapshot: there are no anthems for street protest, no public declarations to be found here. These are tales of unglamorous actions, decisions made under pressure by people without activist pedigrees.

Contravveleno is reverent to both the musical and social histories it explores, but it pushes away our tendencies to mythologize the past through nostalgia. Instead, its descriptive imagery and perfect post-punk pastiche encourages listeners to dig deeper into all of its references and think about the fact that resistance is rarely about sweeping speeches and big media moments and is most often about putting your average body on the line in the moment, when it counts.

—Jes Skolnik

A Guide To The World’s Largest Goth Festival

Saigon Blue Rain

Saigon Blue Rain

I am in Stasi Museum Berlin on the last day of the world’s largest goth festival when a thunderstorm hits. A flock of goths flee under a set of identical black-peaked parasols (rainproof, apparently). The rest of us are trapped here, on the first floor of the Runde Ecke, a nondescript office building in Leipzig, Germany, the former headquarters of the Ministry for State Security, once home to the East German secret police known as the Stasi. A man in a beige uniform ushers us in from the storm, “Kommen Sie, bitte.”

A teen girl in spiderweb tights rushes in, brushing back the lace covering her pin-straight black hair. A middle-aged couple with matching teardrop tattoos under their eyes drift over from the “Banality of Evil” exhibit. Inside, a set of round tables are spread with decades’ worth of neatly-bound typewritten pages detailing the comings-and-goings of teenagers under official state surveillance by the East German government. Gruftis punks and other negativ-dekadent jungen (“negative-decadent youth”) are the subject of the exhibit, a category which easily describes three-quarters of the crowd (minus, in many cases, the youth).

I turn back the plastic notebook cover on one such report and read, “Frage: Was besagt der Glauben des Gruftis?” (“Question: What do Goths believe in?”)

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The Bedroom Witch Believes the Dancefloor Can Be a Space for Healing

Bedroom Witch

Bedroom Witch. Photos by Kristin Cofer, part of “The Rose Project.”

Los Angeles artist Sepehr Mashiahof, who records and performs as The Bedroom Witch, uses catchy, danceable electronic music as a vehicle to explore—and to heal from—personal trauma. Her presence, both on and off-stage, is both soothing and quietly confident—she almost seems to glide instead of walk. Her performances, often accompanied by background projections she makes herself, are designed to inspire her audience to move. “I want all the struggling, beautiful freaks with whom I exist to find comfort in whatever way resonates with them individually through this other world that I designed for myself a long time ago.” she says, “This album is for them—it’s for us. and for our collective healing. Not for anyone else.”

As Mashiahof sees it, the sense of alone-ness that often comes with being socially marginalized can be both physical and metaphysical—which is why that dancefloor can be such a regenerative space. All of that feeds into the music she makes as Bedroom Witch. “My feelings of isolation from society definitely inform why I chose to set the Bedroom Witch [project] in a detached bedroom, floating somewhere in space and time,” she says.

The first full-length by The Bedroom Witch is set to come out on L.A.-based Practical Records, who have previously released work from Jeepneys, Julius Smack and Wizard Apprentice. The album, bluntly titled Injury, is due for tape release on April 21st. The album is a testament to Mashiahof’s fragility, vulnerability, and resilience in a world that sometimes refuses to make space for her. “My intention with this album,” she says, “was to source my own traumas and to confront them lucidly, in an attempt to make peace with the fact that they’ll never really go away.” The album feels simultaneously present, prophetically futuristic, and indebted to ‘80s dystopian cinema. Mashiahof’s dark electronics foreground her personal lyrics, where she calls upon those on the margins to imagine a future where they play a leading role. “When I think of Injury,” she says, “all I see is a vast land of volcanoes, statues, white balloons and shattered hourglasses scattered along seashores looking out into nothingness. That’s where I’ve been, and now I’m looking for the ones who dropped me off here and erased my memory.”

We talked to Mashiahof at length to explore this vision further.

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