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.
As I prepare Shadow-Plays for this, the second month if 2022, I’m reminded of the words of Depeche Mode from their 1990 hit, Enjoy The Silence. “Words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm.” So as I face off with a column bursting at the seams with extraordinary news from across the post-punk, new-wave, darkwave, EBM, industrial landscapes, I’m embracing the sentiment and diving right in…
After a quarter century of nearly nonstop activity, dystopian Detroit synth-punk trailblazers ADULT. (Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller) recently shared a new single “I Am Nothing,” inspired by Detroit Techno circa ’92-’95, Alan Vega (Suicide), Michael Gira (Swans) and Gundrun Gut (Malaria!). The single comes from their forthcoming LP, Becoming Undone, which sees its release via Dais Records across all digital platforms on February 25. The album finds them reconnecting with legacy influences like the politicized industrial percussion of Test Department and the queasy miscreant synthetics of TG’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats sparked a series of fruitfully frenetic sessions, centered on themes of impermanence and dissonance. The album is also freighted with a more personal pain, as Kuperus’ father passed away during the height of the pandemic, just before the album took root. As his hospice caretakers, she and Miller faced the banality of finality, surrounded by objects drained of meaning, “the joy of having a body, but also the drudgery of having one.” ADULT. also hit the road this Spring on an extensive North American tour with Kontravoid and Spike Hellis following a UK and EU run.
New York-based queer darkwave/synth-pop artist Brian Michael Henry has officially released his new EP, The Horror! The Horror! (January 28). When one thinks of horror movies, there are a few things that immediately come to mind—vampires, ghosts, knives, and blood-curdling screams. But for Brian Michael Henry, the genre carries with it a powerful romance, an outsider’s perspective on love, and a profound sense of longing. To explore the genre’s romantic facets, Henry created his latest EP, The Horror! The Horror!, a five-track collection of new wave-inspired alt-pop tracks that examine love and desire from the perspective of classic horror characters. Throughout The Horror! The Horror!, Henry examines the humanity of monsters and the monstrosity of humans atop pulsing layers of cold electronic production that call to mind both John Carpenter’s signature synth scores and modern darkwave artists like Cold Cave in equal measure. Henry’s vocals, however, are reminiscent of Stephin Merritt’s signature croon and lend a notable warmth to each song, creating a more three-dimensional portrait of his characters and heightening the emotional resonance of the EP.
Los Angeles by-way-of-Australia’s Death Bells have returned with a new single, “Passerby” (Dais Records). “Passerby” is another soaring, stunning offering from the collaborators Will Canning and Remy Veselis, following “Intruder,” which premiered last December. Formed in 2015 in Sydney, Death Bells has proven to be a mainstay in the alternative underground musical landscape both in their homeland and overseas. Blurring the lines of post-punk and garage rock, Death Bells has morphed and transformed as the two members have matured. Revitalized and re-centered, more news and music will be surfacing soon from Death Bells. In the meantime, catch the band on tour in the UK in late February and early March.
El Paso, Texas’ Lesser Care [disclosure: Lesser Care is a client of Sweet Cheetah Publicity] recently shared the first single, and accompanying video for “Meadow” from their forthcoming eight-song debut, Underneath, Beside Me. With production assistance from Chris Common (Minus The Bear, Pelican, etc.) the full-length sees light of day via à La Carte Records on April 1, 2022. Although they’ve only been in existence a short time, Lesser Care released a four-song EP, titled True Burden in the winter of 2020, singles “Palm/Acquired Taste” back in the spring of 2021, and several weeks of U.S. tour dates between pandemic peaks and new variants. As they continue to define their perceptive line between pop and new wave sensibilities, their nods to current and veteran post-punk staples remains ever more present on Underneath, Beside Me.
Sweden’s Rotten Mind combines elements of 77’punk, post-punk, dark wave, and garage rock into their own brand of melodic and alternative punk. Effortlessly moving between gloomy, epic, bittersweet, punchy, and energetic soundscapes, the band brings vintage-sounding punk to the modern age with a timeless attitude and palpable verve. Existing somewhere in the dark wastelands where ’80s UK acts like The Vibrators meets U.S. bands such as Christian Death and T.S.O.L., their fresh and modern contribution to the genre makes Rotten Mind comparable with contemporary acts such as Crusades, Iceage, Radioactivity, Metz and High Tension Wires. Formed in Sweden in 2015, they are one of the four original bands affiliated with Lövely. In 2022, the band launches their fifth studio full-length; Unflavored, which hits the streets on March 18.
Secret Shame’s enthralling new single “Hide” didn’t slip through the digital ether upon its recent release as the bands’ first official single since 2020’s Dissolve/Pure 7″. Hide” is an absolutely blistering, weighty confessional — the bands’ lead singer Lena Machina tackled its context in a brave, albeit triggering statement that touches on her personal struggles (mental illness, eating disorders, suicide).
“I’ve seen people who have been sober for years get thrown back into drug addiction, and people consider suicide as the only option. While my partner and I were stuck in a series of small rooms throughout 2020, I was consumed with self-hatred unlike I have ever experienced. ‘Hide’ is about the self hatred that I have continued to experience every day since, and more specifically so, about the eating disorder I was diagnosed with in 2021.'”
It is also the first song ever recorded at Asheville’s brand-new recording studio Drop of Sun (Animal Collective, Indigo De Souza, Wednesday, MJ Lenderman), which the band re-entered recently to track their forthcoming, highly-anticipated sophomore album — the follow-up to 2019’s masterful debut, Dark Synthetics. Secret Shame has also announced a new round of live dates, including support dates with Iceage, Soft Kill and Choir Boy, along with a festival appearance at Dark Spring Boston and an East coast run with Child of Night.
Los Angeles based electronic duo Spike Hellis [disclosure: Spike Hellis is a client of Sweet Cheetah Publicity], comprised of Cortland Gibson and Elaine Chang, will release their first full-length, self-titled album in April 2022, under their imprint Over-Pop. Incorporating a wide range of elements from industrial, new beat and techno, to freestyle, electro and EBM, their dark, experimental pop is sure to make you move to the pain. It wouldn’t be EBM if the overtones of manipulation, submission and suffering weren’t prominent and here they certainly are. However, one of the many things that separates Spike Hellis from their contemporaries is the clever sampling and sound design. Their sequences are dynamically crafted and move effortlessly between all hard-dance subgenres. In February, they will embark on a two-week long west coast tour and will also be a supporting act on ADULT.’s 2022 North American tour alongside Kontravoid.
Anti Body Language, the debut full-length album by Trace Amount, will be released April 15 via Federal Prisoner, the label founded by Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Black Queen, Jerry Cantrell) and visual artist Jesse Draxler. Trace Amount is the solo project of Brooklyn-based producer, vocalist, and visual artist, Brandon Gallagher. First conceived in 2019, Trace Amount took shape during the early stages of the pandemic, inspired by the grim realities of life in New York City at that time, and has evolved at a lightning pace ever since.The sound is a harsh strain of industrial music, evoking apocalyptic dread through primal rhythms, layers of synth and noise, and Gallagher’s distorted moans and screams.
Of equal importance to the music is Trace Amount’s visual dimension, expressed through graphic design and video work created by Gallagher himself and by collaborators of his choosing, illustrating a mix of real urban decay and sci-fi fantasy that intersects with the sonic assault to complete the picture. Anti Body Language is Trace Amount’s first full-length but it follows a slew of other recent releases; Gallagher has been barreling forward in high gear for the past year: the release of Under the Skin, a remix collaboration with Pig Destroyer’s Blake Harrison, released via Deathbed Tapes; the release of Alien Dust, a collaboration with Qual (William Maybelline of Lebanon Hanover), released via Faktor Music; a U.S. tour with Black Magnet (20 Buck Spin); and the release of Endless Render 2.0, a redux of Endless Render, which features the drumming of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Billy Rymer, as well as a new B-side featuring remixes by Kontravoid, Qual, Michael Berdan (Uniform), and Misery Engine. A testament to the power of collaboration; an example of the ways in which sound and vision can complement each other; a beacon of sheer drive and work ethic; Trace Amount is an exciting new force in the scene of industrial music and beyond.
Rough Dimension, the latest from Andrew Clinco’s acid punk alias VR SEX takes its title from an architectural phrase but more importantly refers to the warped, wicked underworld the songs both chronicle and condemn. Donning the moniker Noel Skum – an acerbic anagram of Elon Musk – Clinco vents his scorn for and fascination with the seedy, surreal margins of low-life Los Angeles, doomed to dead ends of vanity, lust, and technology. Although initially launched as an outlet for “heavier sounds” beyond Clinco’s duties in new wave fantasists Drab Majesty, the project has ripened into a compelling exercise in world building, weaving themes of gritty city neo- futurist sleaze within a framework of driving, distorted guitars and cathode-blasted synths. Echoes of Chrome, Wire, Minimal Man, and Sisters Of Mercy ripple through the collection, but ultimately Rough Dimension charts its own twisted vision of “our unforgiving reality.” Pick it up via Dais Records on March 25.
VALI S.C (VALI pronounced Valley) [disclosure: VALI S.C is a client of Sweet Cheetah Publicity] is the project of Los Angeles’ Kenneth Elkin. Elkin, formerly of Sextile, delivers hazy, futuristic vapors, and weaves together a Golden State-inspired smoke that is nostalgic enough to be appreciated by the overlooked, unsentimental listener who recalls a sunnier, more mystical California. The To Set The Sea in Wolves Teeth EP, to be released digitally and on cassette February 28 via Cercle Social Records (Soft Kill, Chameleons, Asylum Party), Elkin brings a guitar saturated, five-song opus that builds a transformative sonic bridge from the dark path of crime and drug use of Elkin’s past into a new era of love, light, freedom and ultimately recovery. Taking influence from My Bloody Valentine, early 4AD and coldwave, the new EP is also dedicated to the memory of Eddie, a former Sextile bandmate who passed away from a drug overdose. Ultimately, VALI S.C is a rebirth and a proper burial of the past transgressions and an exciting reintroduction to the artist.