Words by Tim Anderl
Tim Anderl is a Dayton, Ohio-based writer whose work has published in Alternative Press, Strength Skateboarding, Ghettoblaster, New Noise Magazine among other alternative weekly newspapers, magazines and online publications/blogs. He’s the former host of the Sound Check Chat podcast and runs a boutique PR firm, Sweet Cheetah Publicity. Growing up in the rich culture of the ’80s lead Tim to a life-long love of music, including post-punk, new wave, darkwave, goth, dream pop.
The Cold War, and the fear of mutually assured nuclear destruction, had a prominent influence on goth, new wave, industrial and post-punk music for several decades. As such, there is no shortage of apocalyptic songs that seem especially timely in the wake of this COVID-19 pandemic. Kate Bush’s “Breathing,” Souixsie and The Banshees’ “Cities In Dust” to Nine Inch Nails’ “The Day the World Went Away,” are a miniscule representation from dozens and dozens songs of this ilk.
While it would be easy to chase these mournful anthems down a long, dark rabbit hole these days, perhaps now is a better time to concentrate on hope, compassion and the well-being of those in our local, national and global communities. If you have the means to do so, please support your local musical ecosystems and bands that you love by purchasing music and merchandise during these trying times.
In this spirit, Shadow-Plays isn’t going to lament the myriad of cancelled shows, tours, etc. Rather, we’ll concentrate on a handful of artists whose forthcoming releases are sure to provide an exciting distraction from the worldwide chaos.
From Oakland, California, Ötzi recalls both the commanding presence of Souxsie and The Cure, as well as the anarchy-punk position of bands like Crass. Ascribing to punk and feminist ethics, and comprised of non-binary and trans people, bassist/vocalist Akiko Sampson credits the band’s “dark” tendencies to sociopolitical realities that they’ve faced their entire lives. For sophomore album Storm, Ötzi joins Artoffact Records offers the addition of lush synth, bright saxophone by latest addition Winter Zora, and violin without sacrificing any of the radical energy that they’ve become known for. The album hits the streets May 22.
Another Oakland act, Houses of Heaven announced their debut for Felte and shared the album’s first single “Sleep” in early March. Layering synth, guitars, electronic percussion, and live drums, Houses of Heaven fuses early industrial and techno rhythms shoegaze melodicism. According to the band, Silent Places explores the intimate experiences that transpire within the chaotic confines of modern living (at least as we remember it). Silent Places is sure to delight fans of New Order and Nine Inch Nails when it hits the shelves and streaming platforms May 1.
Peppy Pep Pepper the project of incognito Austrian artist Violet Candide released its second album, Granny Chic, on Friday March 20 via Modern Tapes. Preferring to record in anonymity rather than perform live, Peppy Pep Pepper is a formidable presence in the European DIY synth/wave scene. The songs are constructed using drum machine, icy synths and minimalist vocals resulting in a sound that recalls the style of ADULT. or Void Vision.
Like other late-‘80s bands like Cause & Effect and Camouflage, San Diego-by-way-of-Liverpool synth-pop duo Red Flag offered a mix of synthesizer-driven dance pop that clearly owed a debt to Depeche Mode. Their goth-pop dance floor club tracks, like “If I Ever,” “Russian Radio” and “Broken Heart,” were regularly played on MTV’s 120 Minutes and Los Angeles’ KROQ Radio. The band’s Naive Art album, which celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2019, and became available again as a two LP vinyl set with help from Pylon Records on March 9. A double CD release, featuring 18 bonus tracks, will become available via Pylon this Spring as well.
Atlanta-based new wave/post punk provocateurs Picture One shared the second single from their forthcoming album, Across The Depths of Seven Lakes, out April 3 via Deanwell Global Music. The throbbing synth-heavy track, “Love Spell,” tackles the subject of wanting to be proactive despite things being completely out of one’s control (appropriate considering these crazy times, right?). The previously released lead single, “Cycle of Belief,” is electric with icy analog synths and packs a power-pop punch. This is the kind of crisp and accessible record that offers enough left-turns into darker cold wave territory to make things really interesting.
Last, but certainly not least, The Psychedelic Furs continue to roll out tracks from their forthcoming eighth album, Made of Rain, their first new album in nearly 30 years. “Although the Furs, of any band, could certainly rest on their laurels as one of the foremost influences in the post-punk genre, the two singles they’ve released thus far signal a band whose creative torch is still blazing. “You’ll Be Mine” is a stark and anthemic rocker that pushes Richard Butler’s distinctive baritone to the forefront. Don’t be mistaken, the instrumental landscape of this song is lush with Rich Good’s ample guitar work, and a woodwind solo (oboe maybe?). It remains to be seen, but if the singles are a good indication, this could be a contender for my favorite album of the year…
With that, I’d like to leave you with a reminder to support your musical ecosystem where you can, order take-out from small businesses, look out for your neighbors and families, and where you can, stay the eff home.