This week’s pick stems a lot from my love of the 80s and the gig I went to on Tuesday was one of the biggest bands from the era, our own Depeche Mode. Despite only knowing about 6 songs of the entire set, Black Celebration was one of the highlights for me of the whole set. If you could cram any more unsettling, menancing vibes into five minutes, you could have a successful short horror film. It’s not terrifying, but it will certainly chill your spinal column to no end. The keyboards are erratic and icy in their execution, vocals echo for eternity, haunted bells chime in the empty wilderness and drums keep procedings at an incredibly tense pace, all these elements add up for a unforgettable listening experience that pays tribute to the massive alternative crowd they are still adored by to this day. After Tuesday, I have a new found respect for Depeche Mode in the sheer diversity of their material and Black Celebration is one of the most uneasy but deliciously dark songs I have heard this side of the 80s.
If some of you think this may sound a little familiar, you may be right if you’ve heard of a little band called Animal Alpha. This is the same Agnette Kjolsrud and her scathing vocal demeanour fronting Djerv, a Norwegian hard rock supergroup formed from the ashes of three formerly up-and-coming bands. The very same hard-hitting riffs, unforgettable attitude and sheer madness are on full display in Headstone, taken from their self-titled debut, with a touch more theatricality. As memorable as it is dangerous, Djerv will tie you to a chair and mercilessly colour every spot on your body black and blue.
If there ever was an award for music most associated with your band name, then Texas’ instrumental post rock quartet Zombie Western would surely be in contention. In favouring the more quiet, atmospheric nature of melodic guitar echoes and striding drums that add character to the whole song narrative, Wasteland tells the story of a desert but in no words and all ambience. As the first full track on second album The Great Migration, this is an excellent introduction into a band with truly gripping sonic landscapes.
I’ve decided not to go for a drum ‘n’ bass song this week, in favour for this beautiful synth-heavy pseudo-industrial dance number. From the immediate synth that phases in and the barrage of keyboards that follow, everything flows like liquid ecstasy, the taste and sensation becomes such an overwhelming experience that your body simply moves like the various waveforms used in its production. In spite of everything being so electronic, the due care in making this song entrancing rather than aggravating is true bliss and commendable in an age where the entire electronic dance music scene is becoming vastly oversaturated. A gem well worth exhuming.
(Last week’s track of the week)
Just to get this out in the open, the new Upbeats album is amazing. I’ve had it on repeat for a fair while since it was released and despite the likes of Beyond Reality, Undertaker and Tangerine being completely mind-blowing, this is on another level of addicitive. What New Zealand’s favourite neurofunk sons have made here is a whining ambient beast that literally goes on a rampage in a heavily populated city and devastes everything in its sight. Buildings topple, citizens are crushed and everything is scorched away in a laser burst from the monster’s mouth. The true icing on the cake is the drums. Oh my goodness, the drums. In a jungle throwback kind of way, the drums sound as possibly as natural as I have ever heard in a drum ‘n’ bass song for quite sometime (which is perhaps why I would like to see a drum cover of this song), finding the perfect balance to either bust out your most aggressive skank or launch limbs in the direction of inanimate objects. Or people. Either is mostly acceptable. Primitive Technique is out now on Vision Records, and I highly reccommend you look into it.
I always say I find order in chaos, and this Knife song is an indication of what that phrase could be literally translated into in music. Chosen because I have seen The Knife this week and it has reminded me what an awesome tune it is and how striking it was to see it in a live environment. What you’re going to listen to here is 9 minutes of industrial strength techno beats that get more and more menancing, as landscapes surrounding twist and distort. All with Karen Dreijer-Andersson’s signature wail layering everything making it all the even more uncomfortable. I’d call this tribalism at its finest as it sounds so primitive yet so now at the same time, it’s an incantation for the post-modern condition, not to mention rapturous and terrifying in equal measure. I love The Knife and long may they continue to make music together.
(Track of the Week, last week)
Yeah, it’s that guy who did the Harlem Shake and I’m late to this song’s party because I only recently heard it in a Noisia set that I’ve really had chance to apreciate it properly. As an ode to the humble marijuana joint, the whole song is a myriad full of wonky percussion, air raid sirens, lighters and what sounds like a yapping dog. Did I mention the drop to this song is just someone coughing? Gives true meaning to the word coughdrop. But the song is a beast of sub-bass (should only be listened to with decent headphones or a monstrous soundsystem, your subwoofer will love you, honest), impossible not to move to and ultimately just a real good fun tune to dance to. I may not understand much about what on earth trap music actually is, but if this is any indication, then I just might like it.
Stemming from the late 90s influx of industrial is the American power couple of Kidneythieves. Although Comets + Violins is from 2007’s decidedly more streamlined Trypt0fanatic, the trademark of unmistakable female vocals upon turbalent guitars and striking synths that ploughs through the generic tide with ease, remains as strong as when they began. An excellent balance of grace and destruction.
How sad I am this band is no longer around has to be seen to be believed. But Westminister’s Pure Reason Revolution crafted a combination of spacey prog rock with some folk influences and electronic bursts, all punctuated by beautiful vocal harmonies. The sound was nearly truly their own, and Black Mourning from their final album Hammer And Anvil, showcases the best of what PRR was all about: memorable choruses, epidemically catchy synths, killer vocals and stellar guitar work.