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.
One of the most recent COVID-era performances to come under scrutiny came via pop music’s most-watched annual performance, the halftime show at Super Bowl LV. Beneath a giant video screen at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, the Weeknd replaced the typical athletic bodies and smiling dancers with guys, or perhaps robots, wearing unsettling head bandages. Then, instead of offering a taste of classic rock, Weeknd gave them a bit of “Happy House,” by Siouxsie and the Banshees.
The spooky and bizarre spectacle, which is likely the first Super Bowl performance to offer an early-’80s goth flashback, ignited social media with questions and criticism. It also seemed to completely traumatize people my age with the discovery that their own musical experiences are subject to object permanence; Siouxsie and the Banshees are no longer an obscurity.
If you’ve been paying close attention to Shadow-Plays over the last 13 months, you’re likely in better shape to accept this reality, as we introduce new breeds of bands who (gasp) have access to the same rich musical resources and back catalogs we do. Be assured, it’s not my intent to trigger you or exacerbate mental health issues with the stunning sounds of the artists below. I’m here merely as a vessel of information.
Los Angeles post-punt quartet Blackout Transmission summon a psychoactive rush of sound on their debut long-player Sparse Illumination out February 19 via Etxe Records. Collectively, the eight tracks on the LP combine for a tight 34-minute dose of post-punk, shoegaze, and neo-psychedelia that evokes low-shutter-speed nocturnal journeys through desert canyons and winding coastal highways. Fans of Wire, Public Image Limited, and Echo & the Bunnymen will find much to appreciate here.
Experimental duo Crown are set to release their sophomore album on Pelagic Records on April 16. Dark and moody; bleak and sublime; airy and crushing; mesmerizing and engrossing; bold yet unerring; strident, danceable and suffocating, all at the same time, the album is oozing with tasteful, fragile hook lines flirting with the abyss they are hovering above.
Crown’s David Husser has worked as a sound engineer, producer and musician all across the globe with artists like Alan Wilder of Depeche Mode or at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio, and has toured with his industrial band Y Front alongside Rammstein in the ’90s.The other half of Crown is vocalist Stéphane Azam, who has worked as live sound engineer for French blackgaze pioneers Alcest for years. Stéphane’s low, soothing voice on The End Of All Things comes as a complete surprise to anyone familiar with the band’s previous two records, which featured mostly screamed vocals – a fact showcasing the immense versatility of the musicians at work here.
Ten years since the release of their debut album, New Brigade, Copenhagen’s Iceage release “The Holding Hand,” the band’s debut single/video for new label, Mexican Summer. Throughout the track, romance and desire are feelings that stretch torturously — a race without a finish line. Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s voice crawls over slow-marching percussion and glittering wind chimes, and as scorching guitar and Nils Gröndahl’s piercing violin layer in, the song rises to a noisey peak. The single offers the first in what is sure to be another compelling release from the intensely authentic group.
UK’s genre-defying Losers have released a brand new single – a reworking of Tears for Fears’ 1985 smash “Shout” – has been prominently featured in the hit show A Discovery of Witches (S2: Ep 4) and is not only rejuvenating their loyal fanbase, but also winning over new fans who heard their dark cover and fell in love. Dark and brooding, Losers take the poppy original and plumb it into the depths of minor chords and a contemplative tempo, turning the ’80s anthem into a sinister lullaby. “Shout” is available to stream/purchase on digital platforms at https://solo.to/losers.
LXVURI, the new project of Sara Timms (Black Mare, Ides Of Gemini, Black Math Horseman) recently released the official video for “Headlights” the band’s latest single. “Headlights” is the first in a series of singles in which Timms enlisted cohort Dylan Neal of the band Thief, to co-write and produce. LXVURI sounds a bit different than what you might expect; up until now, Timms’ body of work has been dark, heavy, existential and atmospheric. LVXURI is fronted by a glamorous, buxom, cigar smoking chanteuse called Aurora Dawn, an amalgamation of an idealized feminine identity, the wandering fortune teller, and the alien erotic dancer seeking to please her mate, the sun, her audience beloved, and herself, as servant of Love. This round of music and video singles still carries her trademark serpentine rhythms, and reflective lyrical themes, with a sleek pop production polish. This time we find ourselves pulsing to the beat of falling stars, celebrating our existence, and playfully dancing through a cosmic Twin Peaks carnival like world of strange wonder.
Louisville-based Funeral Party Records shared “Just One More,” the first single from the new Sculpture Club album, Worth. Existing in a place not normally associated with the darker currents of culture, the pristine valley backdrop of Salt Lake City is home to the moody and vibrant new romantic sounds of Sculpture Club. Featuring Chaz Costello (guitar and vocals), Madison Donnelly (drums), Halee Jean (bass) and Bret Meisenbach (guitar) Sculpture Club’s sound features the catchiest candy songs wrapped around a dark and tormented center, generating unprovoked optimism side by side with devastating disenchantment. An integral part of the flourishing post-punk and goth-pop resurgence, the band share members with the critically acclaimed Choir Boy, and Sculpture Club mastermind Chaz Costello also moonlights in a duo with Adam Klopp, the excellent Human Leather.
Writer Clint Gee perhaps said it best when he wrote, “Much like a dealer will place themselves on the fringes of social graces, Soft Kill operates outside of the industry laws with no care for opinions of genre cops. They run their business like rappers, tour with hardcore bands, and sound like a rock bottom Morrissey. If you are unfamiliar or curious about the seedy underbelly of post-punk, [Soft Kill] is your gateway drug.” In February, the Portland-based quartet was back at it with the surprise release of their latest EP, which featured the single “Sky,” alongside a cover of Charlie Megira’s “Tomorrows Gone” Additionally, the band released a captivating video for “Sky,” featuring Mark Benoza and was shot and edited by Sam Gehrke. Those in the Portland area can visit the band at their recently opened storefront/shop, R.I.P. City, at 5916 N. Greeley Ave.