Tag Archives: Goth

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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Six Gloomy Gems From the Dark Punk Revival

Arctic Flowers

Arctic Flowers.

In 2013, during an interview with Danny Gallegos, singer of gloomy Chicago punk group Cemetery, I asked him how he’d categorize his band. I wondered if he thought the term “dark punk” was appropriate. It was a term that was coming into currency at the time, as a way to describe a new community of former hardcore bands who were playing music closer in style to deathrock and post-punk. “I hate the term ‘dark punk,'” Gallegos responded, “because to me that’s redundant. Punk should already be dark. There’s always been a message behind punk that is very bleak and dark in nature.”

But the “dark punk” designation stuck, and not just for Cemetery. It’s jockeyed with other genre tags—goth-punk, deathrock revival, the tongue-in-cheek “G-beat“—to identify a style of darkwave-, post-punk- and anarcho-influenced punk that’s grown out of the hardcore scene since the late aughts, and which gained intensity around 2010-2012. It still continues today. The revival’s early years saw important releases by acts like Lost Tribe, Belgrado, Spectres, Arctic Flowers, Bellicose Minds, and Bluecross.

During the latter part of the last decade, many groups operating in the underground DIY hardcore punk scene found themselves moving away from political D-beat and thrash, and started to explore slower tempos, different effects pedals (the Almighty Flanger, for instance), and moodier or more introspective themes. “You can only play a D-beat so many times,” Brian Gustavson of Spectres said in an interview with Austin deathrock site No Doves Fly Here in 2012. “For me, it was rediscovering ’80s U.K. peace punk that made it seem all right to be into post-punk, new wave, and ‘harder punk’ simultaneously.”

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Advanced Art’s Futurist Legacy

Advanced Art

The mustahuuli, the synkkis. Literally translating to “black lip” and “gloomers” in Finnish, these were words used to describe the yet-to-be-named movement that followed punk in the 1970s. A subculture gripped by the dramatics of melancholy, it was a rendezvous with darkness that eventually came to be known as goth.

Up until 1988, “goth” was a word that didn’t exist for Pasi “Jana” Janhunen, the vocalist of Advanced Art: “Jyrki [Witch, of the band Two Witches] was being interviewed for local radio and all of a sudden every other word he used was ‘goth’ or ‘gothic’,” says Janhunen. “What the fuck was he talking about? Nothing changed, and he still liked the same bands. I liked those bands, too—Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, stuff like that. But all of a sudden it was labeled.”

Janhunen grew up in Finland in the mid ’80s, a time when the country felt the shadow of the Soviet Union, whose borders were just a short distance from his hometown of Tampere. “It was a precarious time, because we had the Soviet Union just around the corner and we were never sure what they were doing. Politically, we were West, but we didn’t want to provoke the sleeping bear, so to speak,” he says. The desire to remain on the right side of the Iron Curtain emanated through all of Finland even after the Russian troops retreated.

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Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus on the Value of Mystery and Sacredness

Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus

Photo by Maria Aua.

It feels cliché at this point to describe the music of the U.K. group Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus as a “shared secret,” but in the early ’90s, that’s exactly what it was. Their albums seemed to materialize out of nowhere. You heard about them from a friend who heard about them from another friend, who happened to have a burned CD that they’d loan you for a week so you could make your own. (To wit: I was a fan of the band for decades before I knew what the cover of their haunting 1987 masterpiece The Gift of Tears even looked like). Not only were there no interviews, the band wasn’t even written about, not even by the fledgling alt-music press. If you travelled in Christian circles, as I did, they had an almost occult aura; their music drew on Christian and religious themes, but their name came from director Luis Buñuel’s film That Obscure Object of Desire, and they could just as easily have been witches as saints. The lack of any kind of public presence only caused their eerie mystique to grow.

Listening to the group’s two albums—the only works to their name—only added to the mystery. Mirror, from 1991, recently reissued by Occultation Records, felt like the soundtrack to some unsettling ritual, taking place in a deep wood late at night. Their songs were built around ominous, chant-like vocals, full of chilling acoustic guitars, baleful, minor-key synths, and melodies that drew heavily on Medieval modalities. Nowadays, we might call their music “folk horror;” in the ’90s, it felt almost forbidden.

And then, just as quietly as they appeared, they vanished. Even after the arrival of the Internet, information about them was scant—just a few bare-bones fan-created websites (which usually employed white text on a black background), which generally contained brief summaries of their history with no concrete details. But all of that changed in 2015, when the band reappeared after a 20-year absence with Beauty Will Save the World, a record that is just as gorgeous and harrowing as any they made during their initial run. The news of their reactivation travelled much in the same way their music did the first time: via emails from friends, or posts in small-ish Internet interest groups. And while it’s certainly easier to learn about the band now—they even have a Facebook page—their music has retained all of its spectral beauty and glorious ambiguity. We sat down with Jon Egan who, along with Paul Boyce and Leslie Hampson, form the group’s core membership, to discuss their history, and how creating mystery isn’t just a PR stunt—it’s the very core of their art.

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A Guide Through the Haunting World of “Folk Horror”

Comus-by-Mike-Rose-600

Comus by Mike Rose

Folk horror is a contemporary term coined to describe a cultural strand running through film, art, literature, and music. Appropriately though, its origins are as old as the hills. The term appears to have entered the lingua franca in Jonathan Rigby and Mark Gatiss’ 2010 BBC documentary Home Counties Horror, where it was used to describe three British horror films—1968’s Witchfinder General, 1970’s Blood On Satan’s Claw, and 1973’s The Wicker Man. Each of these films posited the English countryside as a place of ancient traditions and malign forces, dangerous to outsiders and the unwary. In his essay “From The Forests, Fields And Furrows,” Andy Paciorek notes folk horror’s proximity to psychogeography, the Situationist concept which draws lines between landscape and the human psyche. In folk horror, evil is stamped into the very soil.

The term “folk horror” might have sprung from cinema, but this is a world from which music and sound is inextricable. The Wicker Man—director Robin Hardy’s horror about the pagan community of Summerisle in the Scottish Highlands—was musically driven, with Paul Giovanni’s soundtrack locating a traditional magical undercurrent in English folk. The film’s most famous track, “Willow’s Song,” is a sort of pagan spell of seduction, as a sultry barmaid named Willow tempts the straight-laced Sergeant Howie through the wall of his room.

But it feels important to point out that the music of folk horror is not merely “dark folk music.” Nigel Kneale’s influential ’70s TV programs Quatermass and the Pit and The Stone Tape featured audio effects by Desmond Briscoe’s BBC Radiophonic Workshop. And many contemporary musicians working in the realms of folk horror—often based around concept-driven boutique imprints such as Reverb Worship or Ghost Box—pick up on this strand, employing analog electronics and concrete techniques that invest their music with an occult power or a sense of the uncanny.

Read on for some of the best folk horror releases that Bandcamp has to offer.

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