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.
While I usually reserve the first few column inches of Shadow-Plays to selfishly wax nostalgic on some important piece of music history, or a selfish note on my own personal back-story, this month’s news is far to stacked to commit that kind of word count to my bullshit. Hoping you appreciate the crucial nature of the emerging releases and news below instead.
Los Angeles based darkwave band Ashrr released a brand new single titled “Otherside” on March 12. Ashrr has been on a steady, upward trajectory lately. Since their inception a few years ago they’ve released a self-titled EP, a live EP and full length album, Oscilator, and followed it with a single in December called “Dark Eyes.” Fans of Future Islands, Cold Cave, Peter Murphy, and Gary Numan should direct their attention post haste.
Drab Majesty will make their first two transmissions, their debut Unarian Dances and the Dais Records debut Unknown, available for the first time ever on vinyl. These milestone cassettes were released in 2012 and 2015 respectively, along with inclusion on the 2015 CD compilation Completely Careless, but were never committed to vinyl. The 12-inch re-issues finally bring the entire catalog to the vinyl format and will be available on May 21.
For the uninitiated, Drab Majesty is the project started by multi-instrumentalist Deb DeMure. With their combination of reverb-drenched guitars, synth bass lines, lofty vocals and rhythmic drum machine beats, Drab Majesty eloquently blends classic new wave and hints of early 4AD with futuristic originality. Since joined by Mona D on keyboards and vocals, Drab Majesty elevated their sound and presentation and released 2017’s landmark LP The Demonstration to great critical acclaim. Drab Majesty would write, record and release their most recent full-length Modern Mirror in July of 2019 and headline a massive North American tour in support of it. Marking the band’s most collaborative effort to date, Modern Mirror was produced by Josh Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv), mastered by Dave Cooley, and includes appearances from Jasamine White-Gluz (No Joy) and Justin Meldal-Johnson (NIN, Beck, M83, Air).
Lisa Gerrard and Jules Maxwell from Dead Can Dance have teamed up with James Chapman from MAPS for their eagerly-awaited new album Burn, which set to land on May 7 via Atlantic Curve. Channelling the same rich aesthetic that they are known for, broad and colorful textures run throughout. Although this record is a new release, its beginnings go all the way back to 2012 during that year’s Dead Can Dance world tour. Originally brought in as a live keyboard player, Maxwell helped create a new song with Gerrard called ‘Rising Of The Moon’, which was performed as the final encore of each show. By the time the tour finished in Chile in 2013, a strong affinity had begun to develop between the two of them and further opportunities to collaborate with each other resulted over subsequent years. In 2015, when Maxwell was asked to submit songs for the Bulgarian choir The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices (Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares), he approached Gerrard to co-write material and travelled to Australia to work with her in her home studio. The pair came away with four new songs for that release, as well as the building blocks for this new venture together. With Chapman joining the duo as producer, ideas began to be generated freely and over time a distinct sound for their work began to emerge. The result is the intensely hypnotic Burn.
Glaare‘s 2017 debut LP release, To Deaf & Day, was a split release between a boutique domestic label and European indie label, Weyrd Son, that won the group a devoted following both at home and internationally. Now Glaare returns with their sophomore full-length album Your Hellbound Heart out April 30 via Weyrd Son Records. Your Hellbound Heart, just like the book it’s named after, is the embodiment of pleasure granted to someone after a time of extreme torture. Founding members Brandon (Ancestors, Buried at Sea, Black Mare, Soft Kill) and Rachael, an experienced vocalist who spent her formative years demoing pop songs for major labels form the central songwriting core. They are joined by Rex (Black Math Horseman, Animato) and Marisa (Wax Idols, Bizou) on guitar, bass, synth, percussion and backing vocals respectively. It’s no surprise then that you’ll find a collective who is cherry picking the best elements of darkwave, dream pop and goth-rock.
This past January saw the release of Golden Street’s of Paradise’s brilliant LP2 Throes (Steadfast Records). Last week they released a follow-up three song mini EP. The Throes companion is centered around the next single and album standout “Collide (Bury My Heart)” and features two previously unreleased mixes of album tracks. “When This Light Burns Out’ (Hotel Room Mix)” reincarnates this somber elegy as a swirling post-punk dirge. Closing out the EP is a dreampop tinted rendition of “West Side Dives.” Remixed by Los Angeles’ Let ‘Em Riot, who redirect the songs anthemic hooks into a gauzy, soft-focused new place altogether.
OK, I will take a minute to discuss a personal anecdote related to Copenhagen’s Iceage. A few years back I was asked to interviewElias Bender Rønnenfelt and Jakob Tvilling Pless. In doing my research I found a body count of eviscerated journalists they’d left in their wake. Thankfully, the duo and I shared a pleasant exchange and some laughs instead, which has endeared me to them past their incredible artistic endeavors. Recently they announced their fifth album, Seek Shelter, out May 7 on Mexican Summer. Enrolling Sonic Boom (Pete Kember of Spacemen 3) to produce the record and an additional guitarist in the form of Casper Morilla Fernandez, Seek Shelter sees Iceage’s propulsive momentum pushing them in new, expansive, ecstatic directions. A decade on from their first record, Iceage continue to harness expressionist imagery as the flagship of their scorched earth approach. In my humble opinion, fifth time is a charm and this LP will turn some heads… in 360 degrees.
Nashvile’s Palm Ghosts have released “The Dead Inside,” a track that recalls Gang of Four and Joy Division as well as Peter Gabriel, as the latest pre-release single off their full-length album, Lifeboat Candidate out March 19. Palm Ghosts has a long history, as Joseph Lekkas has carried the name since his Philly days when the project had an indie folk sound. It is the current iteration of the band that sounds more like a clap back to the sound for which Nashville is notorious. Embracing their 80’s idols, like New Order, The Cure, David Bowie, John Carpenter and even Divine, these Nashville transplants released 2018’s Architecture. With a steady stream of singles and EPs, the band has continued to write music that sums up the lot of their ’80s influences, but Lifeboat Candidate marks their most cohesive effort to date.
Athens, Georgia-based quartet Vision Video released their latest single, “Comfort in the Grave,” which will be featured on their forthcoming debut album, Inked In Red (out April 16). I know I’ve mentioned them before, and for good reason; this track is composed of the same teen angst, ’80s Italian horror film influence, and lovesickness that caught my original attention. Simply, it’s a perfect combination of goth rock and post-punk with notes of ’00s emo hysterics (think My Chemical Romance). Also, any band that enlists producer Tom Ashton, of The March Violets fame, has my immediate stamp of approval.
Set your Spotify alerts accordingly and until next month enjoy this music for the masses.