The myriad of spooks liberating from the album art alone for Chelsea Wolfe’s “Hiss Spun”, accredited to Bill Crisafi’s visual imagery strutting the fine line between macabre and absurd makes it fall under the umbrella of goth but you’re definitely in for more. What looks like a pitchblack silhouette of a sorceress curled up like a bat ready to flit out of her cave, if anything, validates the serpentine analogies and the staged dark arts typography. The sludgy mélange of riffwork scrambled with industrially-tinged bass & drum strobes and staccato shreds of sirenic echoes condenses into haunting, moth-eaten melodies. This 48 minute long erotic cabaret is reinforced by proto-gothic influences as the drone-laden arrangements painstakingly intensify the fixation to the occult.
“Spun” suffocates in the fumes of menacing doom and riff-heavy strings as the overall instrumental setting flatters the arch taste for the bizarre. “16 Psyche” unfurls into a dramatic opus under the allure of grisly ambient vibrato from dampened guitars. There’s something exceptionally sensual about Wolfe’s agitated humming on almost every song which sponsors the emotional vulnerability along with its theatrical morbidity. “Vex” rings with legion of vintage horror movie tune paradoxically defining a fresher take on gothic music. The abrasiveness of a noxious bassline in “The Culling”, “Particle Flux”, “Offering” and “Scrape” is greased with pale synths yet take nothing away from their formless glory. “Twin Fawn” and “Two Spirit” open with dirgelike meditations draped in nightmarish melancholy which only seconds later get charred by pyres of explosive soundscapes before phasing out.
“Hiss Spun” in its entirety is a job well done making it one of the best releases from 2017. Expressing a forward adoration for the supernatural, it pays an out-of-the-textbook tribute to the techno-horror, darkwave techniques as it swoons with the resounding cannon of doom.
This time around, the album in question is rather a very precise package of gothic/coldwave and minimal sounds. Surprisingly enough, it’s my new favorite genre which I can’t help squeezing into my playlists all the time now. The album is “Pleasure Symbols EP” by Pleasure Symbols released in 2016. This Australian darkwave duo comprises of Phoebe Paradise and Jasmine Dunn. The EP is merely 16 minutes long but induces a pitch-dark, hallucinating spell with every new listen which hardly subsides. The biggest disappointment for me was to discover their re-recorded version of the album released under the label called “AVANT! Records” which is all over the major streaming sites and make no mistake, the songs on it are like some flimsy and degenerate clones of the originals. On the other hand, the original versions of the songs specifically, “Control” and “Ultra Violence” have a cold-blooded, gloomy atmosphere which swathes in the dense stench of electronica and drone. The concept is basically the big sounds of the 80’s i.e. post-punk, electronic, industrial and synth-wave calibrated in a dramatic way to successfully capture the essence and menacing aura of perhaps, a Dario Argento’s classic horror/thriller dating back to the 80’s. So there’s your justice.
The album kicks off with “Underneath Your Skin” which is somber yet makes you sway with its jittery and down-tempo rhythms. The vocals are perfectly warm and sensual for a cabaret setting. The synths remain a highlight for being audibly diverse. The second track “Above All Else” concurrently runs its playtime before you can notice anything poetic and then comes up “Ultra Violence”. It’s layered with hazy guitars, low-pitched humming and crude electronic percussions. The song reeks of contempt, dissonance and everything bizarre. The grey clouds of melancholy remain persistently hostile throughout the album which is only fair. The last song “Control” is truly mind-blowing and a personal favorite. The hypnotic bassline reverberating with the ghastly, robotic sermons and an unrefined sound of synthesizers makes it raw yet so profound that it’s almost divine.
I still repeat, steer clear of any material from the re-released version because it’s unimpressive and bland beyond belief. Goes on to prove how unnecessary tinkering with even the minuscule of details in music can disrupt its appeal entirely. Still, I’ll definitely look out for their future releases as long as they stick to their explicitly original and perverse sound.
Being a goth rock/deathrock/post-punk enthusiast I try to dig up all kinds of (new, old, obscure, popular etc) relevant artists and bands to satiate my aural appetite. Two years back, I came across a French gothic rock band “Saigon Blue Rain” and was somehow very impressed how their first album “What I Don’t See” successfully highlighted the “darkwave etherealism” in a very elegant way. Ophélie Lecomte’s velvety, soprano vocals were the cherry on top.
Released in September 2014, the record features spaced-out guitars and roomy soundscapes. The prominent bassline adds a generous post-punk vibe which in turn makes the songs more upbeat making them potential dance numbers to be played at a gothic nightclub (Hint: The main category) with its audience swaying to the rhythmic beats. The opening track “Queen Ephemeria” sounds moderately coldwave and essentially gothic with its futuristic sound effects. The record is centered around the surreal, dreamy and otherworldly atmosphere in its entirety. “So Cold” has a catchy beat that later diverges into the synth-pop and new wave variants of gothic rock. “Corps Astral” deals with the redundant nature of electronic music with minimal synths and slow-paced guitars. I especially liked the hypnotic arrangement of synths towards the end.
“Borealis” starts of with an enigmatic intro and evolves into a subtle darkwave track that is inspired by the basic gothic repertoire. “I Wanna Be You” and “What I Don’t See” also incorporate that consistent darkwave/coldwave technique we are all too familiar with by now. “Beyond The Stone” is my personal favorite. It has just the right proportions of synth-pop, new wave and gothic rock combined to maintain the overall dark ambient essence of the record interspersed with dance music aesthetics contributed by the inherent post-punk influence. “Lovelorn”, “Break the Disease” and the closer “L’Offrande” are seasoned with down-tempo, electronica and melancholic undertones with more delays and transient echoes calling this cryptic sonic delight a wrap.
Saigon Blue Rain will definitely ring a bell or two about bands like The Frozen Autumn, The Cure, This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins and Love Spirals Downwards all of which rejoice the deep-seated darkness and an elusive song-craft. The record explores the various ethos of gothic rock, darkwave and the related sub-genres. The vocals are a beautiful celebration of the feminine allure of a sirenic voice. The symbolic lyrics and the gothic rock dynamics deviating towards the electro-pop and darkwave/coldwave styles are infused with mellow and haunting lovesick melodies.
(Goes without saying) Do check them out if you haven’t!