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.
In 1987, I attended a junior high school in Southern, California. Like many school campuses in the area, lunches were spent in an outdoor area of the open campus. By some administrator’s grace, a group of ninth graders were allowed to set up a sound system each day and curate the music we consumed while digging through our sack or school lunches and trading snack packs. This is an especially formative memory for me, because it was during these lunches that I was first exposed to Love and Rockets, Public Image Ltd, Bauhaus, Howard Jones, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, General Public and the like.
One of my revelations came by way of Depeche Mode, in particular the second single from their sixth studio album, Music For The Masses’ “Never Let Me Down Again.” “Never Let Me Down Again” was released on August 24, 1987, offering Led Zeppelin-influenced drum patterns and Martin Gore’s distinctive guitar riffs. While NME’s Jan Solanas labeled the track a “masterpiece” that conveyed the feeling of “drug euphoria,” I had no reference point for that. What I did know, was that the song slammed, becoming an instant earworm for me, and a staple of the lunch DJ sets as many of my peers anticipated and then returned from the World Violation Tour stop at the Rose Bowl.
Even on the darkest of days, a memory like this serves to remind me that the world would a very sad place for me if it weren’t for the lasting impact that the joy of musical discovery brings. That said, the songs, EPs, albums and videos Shadow-Plays has uncovered this month, exactly 33 years since I began my love affair with the music that paved the way for this little column, have provided danceable distractions and the potential for future, long-lasting obsessions.
In mid-August, Black Marble released an EP of cover songs titled I Must Be Living Twice via Sacred Bones. Black Marble recorded and mixed the EP following the process of writing and recording the Bigger Than Life LP and it offers his satisfyingly hooky, lo-fi treatment of songs from Wire, Lives of Angels, The Field Mice, Grouper, and even ’80s pop icon Robert Palmer.
On August 21, Blaqk Audio, the electronic duo featuring AFI’s Davey Havok and Jade Puget released Beneath The Black Palms via BlaqkNoise. Released in two parts, the album includes the five songs that dropped July 28. The entirety of the record is a dreamy and danceable thrill ride through ’80s synth shadows and industrial flourishes that is sure to resonate with fans of the band’s previous efforts, as well as fans of dance and electronic music in general.
Dais Records is set to reissue Coil’s celebrated Musick to Play in the Dark on a double vinyl LP that includes the complete, unedited versions of each song. The album is remastered by Josh Bonati, under the supervision of Drew McDowall and Thighpaulsandra, Coil inner circle associates that aided the ambitious original sessions. The album, which still feels remarkably brazen and unpredictable, conjures evocations of desire and decadence that are mystifying, otherworldly and resplendent in their goth/industrial ambiguity.
Experimental post-punk artist CrowJane is set to release her debut album, Mater Dolorosa, on September 15. CrowJane, who comes from a background in surrealistic visual art and a career as a professional horror effects makeup artist, offers an often times voyeuristic and haunting approach that follows well worn punk and death rock back roads and byways and illuminates her as an artist to watch in 2020.
NYC-based dance/synth-pop trio Couch Prints released the video for their track “Tell U” recently and announce their debut EP by the same name, which will drop October 30 on House Arrest. The video follows a Telenovela-esque love triangle of Couch Prints through a Betamax camcorder, and creates a world filled with love, jealousy, and heartbreak that pairs perfectly with the dreamlike soundscape of the song. The ease at which this group moves from quiet ambience to sing-along bliss is full-formed, and frankly, breathtaking in their execution.
Australian four-piece electronic act Cut Copy released their anticipated sixth studio album, Freeze, Melt, via Cutters Records and The Orchard. The record builds upon their body-moving back catalog, offering a full-bodied electronic meditation of machine melodies and high-end synthwork that is as soothing as it is stunning. The record’s sense of place was further enhanced by the mixing contribution of Swedish legend Christoffer Berg (Robyn, The Knife).
On the evening of July 28, 2019, Drekka joined Mykel Boyd (Somnimage / The Anti-Group Communications) onstage at The Empty Bottle, Chicago, for an improvised collaborative set to celebrate the release on Drekka’s Beings of ImberIndus album. The recordings of the performance were then manipulated and sculpted a new piece, titled “Globes and Ledges,” which finds Boyd’s betawave trance inducing industrialism fluidly melding with Anderson’s ritualistic, intuitive portal conjuring. Two distinct mixes of the piece were created, and one in mono has been released on 12″ lathe cut on Somnimage in an edition of 33 copies.
Perhaps the biggest ripple in the Shadow-Plays pool this month came from Jónsi Birgisson, frontman of Sigur Rós, who released “Cannibal” featuring Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. “Cannibal” is the third single released ahead of Jónsi’s sophomore record Shiver (Oct 2, 2020 via Krunk). The “Cannibal” video is the vision of both Jónsi and Giovanni Ribisi, who previously directed “Exhale.” Like that video, “Cannibal” also places focus on a singular dancer. Jónsi’s vocals are refreshingly openhearted, featured alongside the legendary Fraser.
On the heels of their jaw-dropping debut, Introduction, Presence, Brooklyn-based synth-pop triad Nation of Language has announced a limited edition 7″ single that features their take on Pixies classic “Gouge Away” and original b-side “One More Try.” “Gouge Away” is reworked in Nation of Language style although it lacks none of their original savagery of the source material. Additionally, record collectors will be pleased to find the opportunity to grab a limited, translucent sand, vinyl edition of Introduction, Presence is set for release via Rough Trade on August 28.
Finally, Midnight Oil fans were treated to a brand new song from the band on August 7 with the release of “Gadigal Land,” which is drawn from The Makarrata Project, a themed mini-album of collaborations with Indigenous artists. This single is the first new music from the band in nearly 20 years and it features vocal contributions from Kaleena Briggs, Bunna Lawrie, Dan Sultan and a lyrical section written and delivered by Gadigal poet, Joel Davison. It was produced by long-time collaborator Warne Livesey who also helmed Diesel and Dust, Blue Sky Mining and Capricornia.
Midnight Oil is donating its share of any proceeds it received from this release to organizations seeking to elevate The Uluru Statement From The Heart in particular and Indigenous reconciliation more broadly. After centuries of struggle for recognition and justice, 2017’s Uluru Statement called for the establishment of a ‘First Nations Voice’ enshrined in the Australian Constitution and the establishment of a ‘Makarrata Commission’ to supervise agreement-making and truth-telling between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Sony Music Entertainment Australia will match any artist contribution.
Thank you, as always, for taking this ride with Shadow-Plays. I hope we haven’t let you down.