Late January and early February offered nightclub goers plenty of events to attend. Those within striking distance of Brooklyn attended DJ Cyclonus’s night, Arkham and saw a return of DJ Jose Francis. The setlists rocked — which covered everything from Ian Hunter to Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails to Covenant and Project Pitchfork — while classic horror movies played on the main screen as well as the brick wall, including The Shining and Devil Takes Five.
DJ, writer and historian Andi Harriman’s Synthicide, a monthly Thursday EBM night at Bossa Nova Civic Club in Brooklyn, was held Feb. 1, hosting — as is the mission of this project — a group of DJs that might not always have a platform to spin their magic, namely Squarewav, Rexx Arkana, Zvetschka along with the erudite promoter herself.
Jan. 26, 2018
Every second and last Friday of the month QXT’s — the metro-area’s singularly dedicated alternative dance club — holds an ‘80s night called “So80’s,” following their weekly Happy Hour Karaoke. DJs Ash and Damian Plague play every danceable genre of music from the 1980s in the upstairs, main floor. On this So80’s night the theme was nostalgia, with hours of such iconic remnants of that era as Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” and Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life.” Also heard were “Old” Ministry’s “Everyday Is Halloween,” Gary Numan’s “Cars” and Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran.”
The moving image of Molly Ringwold in cinema classic Pretty in Pink played silently on the big screen and was conducive to transporting the dancers on the utterly packed floor back to three decades ago, when the whole world of music seemed to have moved in a new direction. VJ TM5 curated the nostalgic visuals.
Meanwhile, down in Area 51, special guest DJ Stalagmike of Defcon at the famous Pyramid alternated with DJ Mykill Plague playing industrial powerhouse tracks such a Combichrist’s “This S— Will F— You Up” to a crowd of serious pavement pounders. Eerie electronic wall designs in unworldly hues outlined their animated silhouettes as fabulous beams of laser light cut wildly through the darkness of this post-apocalyptic vault. DJ Victrola in the Crypt — the other downstairs hall — played classic goth, darkwave and alternative tracks.
Iron Garden 3rd Anniversary
QXT’s – Iron Garden
Jan. 26, 2018
Iron Garden held a celebration of its third anniversary earlier in the evening, just prior to opening Area 51 to dancers. This is a NJ-based organization providing a social setting for discrete, mature denizens of the dark demimonde calling themselves “Nightkind,” and their various allies in the pagan, vampire, witch and other esoteric communities. The idea is to promote and provide conducive haven for those pursuing creative lifestyles which include metaphysics, philosophy, arts, poetry and scholarship of various sorts.
Iron Garden’s founder — Primus and Matriarch — Madame X, of the House of Dreaming, is a major figure in all aspects of nightlife and related culture in the Greater New York/New Jersey dark scene, and she opened the meeting with a discussion aimed at orienting participants to the terminology of covens, houses and guilds that they may encounter in this subculture. This was followed by invocation and triumphant celebration of the anniversary led by host Jabbar Martin in his role as Trismegistus Aga Khan, a title signifying his literacy in sacred texts.
The walls were decorated with the artistically designed announcement flyers from the past three years’ Iron Garden events. Various consecrating ceremonies and the yearly renewals of citizenship in Iron Garden took place. Entertainment was provided by violin virtuoso Liz Gonzalez who treated those in attendance to masterful performance of pieces by Bach, Irish reels and original compositions.
Jan. 27 saw another iteration of the long-standing, recurring, Fr. Jeff Ward dance party, Ward 6. As ever of late, it was held at the upscale bar/dance hall Windfall on East 39th St in NYC.
Besides Jeff’s and collaborator Patrick’s providing the very best selection of New Wave, Dark Wave and Industrial tracks to which to dance, this night they hosted a solo performance of Caroline Blind of the band Sunshine Blind. Starting around midnight, she took the stage and performed her set of folksy acoustic Goth rock, relying on guitar strumming as the only accompaniment to her extraordinarily beautiful voice. Opening with a blues-inflected version of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Caroline proceeded into a number of original songs from back when Sunshine Blind performed regularly as a group which included Caroline’s then-husband, now occasional collaborator, Charlie as well as members of Faith and the Muse. To wrap up the well-received set, Caroline concluded with the late Dolores Riordan’s tour de force, the Cranberries hit “Zombie,” that left the crowd satisfied.
The rest of the night was spent dancing to the likes of the Cure and Cold Cave, whose little-played “Confetti” was a welcome rarity. The party was just heating up with Apoptyma Berserk when we left a little after 1:30 a.m., with a who’s who of NYC night scene celebrities still pouring in. Among the notables in attendance were (in no particular order) Sean Templar, his lovely wife Mandana Banshee at the booth, Erik Aengel, Sir William Welles, Matt V Christ, Joe Hart, Jane “Paradox” Smith, reliable clubber Jorge Obando, DJ Arsenal, Annabelle Evil and Photographer Dario Valdivia, accompanied by lovely veteran of the music scene, Roe Paolino. Coat check girl Hilda was looking as beautiful as we’ve ever seen her.
Some strikingly beautiful “Goth girls” (“girl” is not a put down!) remain unfortunately nameless at the time of this report. Likewise, there were some well-groomed and smooth dancing Goths of the male persuasion whom we never get to know by name. Bill, beret-and-pony-tail wearing, perpetual and omnipresent pencil artist Bill, sat drawing images of the participants of Ward 6 by the illumination provided by his small flashlight. Gerard and Julia saw to it that everyone’s thirst was quenched, and Chris Sabo saw to the details of running things and house hospitality.
Feb. 3, 2018
Jeff Ward’s other long-standing dark dance event was packed almost to Windfall’s capacity on Saturday night, Feb 3. The same staff and many of the same attendees as Ward 6 from the preceding Saturday, one week earlier. First-up DJ Sean Templar, had earlier that evening attended the Town Hall appearance of Norwegian group Wardruna whose music would seem to resurrect the medieval, runic sounds of ancient Scandinavia with ribcage-rattling, vibrating percussion and ominous, vocal duets.
Never one to get stuck with musical clichés, Sean enriched the setlist with “Helvegen” by Wardruna and with an early play of “Hate Us and See If We Mind,” a seriously powerful piece by brilliant experimental neo-folk group, Rome. Both Wardruna and Rome have met with spectacular success at Castle Party in Poland, I can attest first-hand.
Host DJ Jeff and regular DJ Erik Angel made their contributions to keep the dance floor activated with the likes of Wolfsheim, Chameleons UK, Sisters of Mercy and the Psychedelic Furs.
High-powered intellectuals huddled at the bar were overheard discussing the philosophical controversies of Nietzsche and Hegel as the music played on.
The Red Party
Feb. 10, 2018
A special edition of the monthly Red Party took place Feb. 10 at NYC’s Mercury Lounge to celebrate the weekend closest to St. Valentine’s Day, called the 10th Annual “Love Will Tear Us Apart” St. Valentine’s Ball. Featured were a night of tragic love songs mainly in the dance category.
DJs Annabelle Evil and Sean shared the booth with an assist by Matt V Christ. DJ Jarek was scheduled but hadn’t appeared by the time we left at around 2 a.m. Hospitality hostess Mandana Banshee circulated and took photos of the attendees, among whom were such celebrities as gorgeously decked out Kai Irina Hahn of The Sedona Effect and Ana Vice of Memento Mori. Xris Smack and the stunning-in-pink Ashley Bad made a late appearance.
Remorseful, romantic tunes such as “I Was Wrong” by the Sisters of Mercy played and the exceptionally dark dance floor was illuminated by a large, rotating, reflective disco ball that showered dim purple spots around the room creating an atmosphere of festive gloom.
The just-released new album by Project Pitchfork bodes well for the goth/industrial music scene in that this iconic band, no entering its 28th year and with 16 prior albums under their belt, has the creativity and ingenuity to produce yet another major work. Frontman and creator, Peter Spilles, has apparently taken inspiration from modern scientific concepts and applied that inspiration to the dark, rhythmic style of synthpop for which his group is famous.
“Akkretion” is presented as a 2-CD set with 15 tracks. The last four,- the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th – are remixes of four tracks earlier in the album. The eleventh is listed as a bonus track.
Science and science fiction, as well as morbid philosophy, play a role in setting the themes of this opus. The term “akkretion” in German — or “accretion” in English — is used to describe “the coming together and cohesion of matter under the influence of gravitation to form larger bodies,” i.e. the process of forming stars and planets.
Other tracks with suggestive titles include “Gravity Waves” (just discovered in 2017), “The Collision,” “And the Sun Was Blue.”
The musical features are of course similar to what fans of Project Pitchfork have come to love and expect, namely well-defined, mesmerizing cadences, minor-key melodies and occasional, spacey, ethereal elements. On most tracks there is an intriguing introduction, followed by slowly accumulating beats until complex rhythms are formed, then Spilles’ hoarse, growling vocals, sometimes broached by spoken word narratives. The second track, “Good Night Death,” offers a peaceful, resolute acceptance of mortality.
“Akkretion” is a must-have set for fans of Germanic darkwave and represents the continuing growth and accomplishment of this exemplary representative of the genre.
Goth/Rock Art, Fashion & Culture
The Salons – “Dressing the Underground: Fashion for Subculture”
The Beauty Bar, NYC
Jan. 25, 2018
Goth scene luminary and subculture historian Andi Harriman participated in a panel discussion hosted by Lady Aye of The Salons at Beauty Bar just off Union Square, “a series of learning and networking events dedicated to the history of beauty and fashion,” aimed largely at beauty-industry professionals. The topic of this night’s discussion was “Dressing for Subculture.”
Other panelists included Sonya Abrego, visiting assistant professor at The New School for design, who, in classic ‘40s pin-up style hairdo shed light upon hybrid rockabilly and mid-century fashion culture. Fashion designer and NYC nightlife legend Tobell von Cartier spoke about the evolving club scene styles that came and went, from grunge to the ascent of increasingly glamorous evening wear and over-the-top cosmetic application.
New Dark Age’s attention was focused on Ms. Harriman’s presentation. Asked to define Goth culture, she offered the insightful “Three Ds,” — namely Drama, Darkness and Death — as foundational. She went on to point out the origin of Goth style in the era of British rockers and the punk scene. When questioned about the “cannibalization” of goth style by mainstream entities such as Hot Topic, she further emphasized commitment to the dark music of ‘80s new wave and paying homage to the creators of the scene to distinguish authenticity from poseur appropriation.
In tracing her roots, Ms. Harriman pointed out that she had emerged from a rather stultified, Southern background, but had become enraptured by the music of Depeche Mode and the discovery of the look of goth on music videos. Her personal bio proved to be the most interesting topic covered that event.
There was much talk about the value of do-it-yourself attire in establishing the individual style in order to counteract the sameness imposed by mass production of clothes and accessories as available in mall outlets. The panel’s overriding conclusion gleaned was that the underground fashion evolves by building upon rather than abandonment of preceding style.
Jan. 25, 2018 marked the 40th anniversary of Joy Division’s debut performance under that name. Prior to that date, the quartet of Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris had performed under the name Warsaw. JD formed in 1976 by Sumner and Morris in a clumsy effort at emulating the Sex Pistols. Instead of continuing in the punk style of the Sex Pistols, with the drafting of vocalist Ian Curtis and bass player Peter Hook, the group launched the post-punk musical movement with its unconventional, slowed-down rhythms, amateurish command of the instruments and home-made synthesizers.
Joy Division is credited by many authorities on the subject as having been one of the two essential, post-punk bands to have spawned the genre of Goth Rock, the other being Bauhaus. Curtis – influenced by Jim Morrison of the Doors – gave voice to themes of darkness, pressure and crisis. Characterized by sparse, baritonal vocals, gloomy lyrics and a melodious bass line, Joy Division, is distinguished from the punk style by their use of electronics and by their emphasis on mood and expression rather than anger and energy.
Critically acclaimed – potentially the next Beatles — Joy Division was to tour the U.S. in 1980 when Curtis committed suicide on the eve departure.
The poignant sadness surrounding the brief life and untimely death of the band and its frontman mysteriously crystallized at that moment into a new musical genre and a new subculture built around darkness, introspection and death — that comes to us now, four decades later — and that we presently recognize as goth.
Mark E. Smith, singer and the only consistent member of Manchester based post-punk band The Fall, has died Jan. 24, 2018 at the age of 60. One of the earliest and most influential British post-punk bands, noted for retaining the repetitive, guitar-driven feel of original, confrontational punk while expanding the musical and lyrical armamentarium with challenging topics and literate lyrics as well as creative musical originality.
The Fall released 32 studio albums, most recently, The Fall Live in Manchester, in January 2018 on Cherry Red. Sadly, they were set to tour the US for the first time in twelve years.
Jeremy Inkel, keyboardist and programmer of Front Line Assembly, passed away on Jan. 13 2018 at the age of 34, due to complications from asthma. Inkel joined FLA in 2005 along with Jared Slingerland, and is credited with co-writing and producing the full length album, Artificial Soldier.