New Dark Age

Nights Out
Sunday, Feb. 18
  Sunday night need not be a stay-at-home and vegetate in front of the boob-tube night. At least one Sunday per month can be salvaged by attending the uber-goth dance night called Procession — held in Manhattan’s Soho, at Home Sweet Home on Chrystie St.

  DJs Joe Hart and Mark Cage Knight host this monthly event that draws a crowd of black-clad locals and out-of-towners. Doors open around 10 p.m., and the festivities last into the wee hours. Home Sweet Home has been renovated, but not actually spiffed up since the last time New Dark Age attended about a year ago. A previously broken floor has been repaired, so there are no longer any puddles of condensation, but the cement pavement remains charmingly — er –wavy.

  This night the music agenda began with DJ Joe Hart in the booth, followed by Mark. Mesmerizing, irresistible dance tracks — many from newer, more obscure bands — prevailed at the outset. It was a distinct pleasure to hear selections by Ladytron and by Turkish darkwavers, She Past Away and to see those selections energize the dance floor. There was no neglect of great classics like “Isolation” by Joy Division and “She’s in Parties” by Bauhaus, nor was there a shortage of Depeche Mode or Sisters of Mercy. The crowd included stunningly beautiful models of goth grooming and fashion in ghastly as well as clerical attire.

  The atmosphere is still dank and dungeon-like at Home Sweet Home. Disturbing video images flicker on a peeling-paint-surfaced brick wall. Vicious-looking taxidermy specimens are still present, and the bar is illuminated by kitschy chandeliers. The restrooms are cleanly and serviceable, but the feel of the place remains that of a dive bar where all conventions and inhibitions go out the window, or — more appropriately in this space — down the drain. The gothic, punk and industrial clientele wouldn’t have it any other way.


Sunday, Feb. 18
  Xris Smack of Mindswerve Studios and STIMULATE hosted a Valentine’s celebration titled “Valentines Blood Massacre” at the Delancey, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, taking over all three floors in consideration of the Monday holiday that was to follow. Besides presidents’ birthdays they were celebrating beautiful-but-bad Ashley Bad’s and that of DJ Cliff Cage. What’s more, the party was livened by the presence and participation of NY Fetish Tribe who conducted, well, fetish play including suspension on the top (third) floor of the venue.

  Entertainment was by ZGRT and Hot Pink Satan. DJs included Xris Smack himself, Paradox, Annabel Evil Zvetschka, JeffO Bang and Johanna Constantine.

  Stimulate is a recurring performance-and-dance entertainment night and will be holding seven more events in the city, including their 10 Year Anniversary in September; Halloween, near the end of October; Black Friday in November; and the Triple-XXXmas Ball in December. The schedule is easily accessed on Facebook and their website or by contacting Xris Smack.


QXT’s Cure Tribute Night
Friday, March 2
  Periodically, QXT’s — the all-alternative music club in Newark, NJ — runs a special night dedicated to, or in tribute to, a great artist or band. On March 2, the night of the nasty nor’easter, the theme was “The Cure Party.” Few, if any bands in the alternative scene, can claim the significance, the devoted following or the unparalleled recognition that the Cure commands.

  Up on the main floor DJs Ash and Damian poured forth the hits by this celebrated band and similar artists from their heyday. Siouxsie, the Smiths and Joy Division tracks were interspersed with beloved works of the Cure including — but by no means limited to — “Lovesong,” “The Walk,” “Hot Hot Hot,” “Lullaby” and the monumental “A Forest.” 

  Downstairs in Area 51, DJs Mykill Plague and Wintermute churned out industrial pandemonium with the likes of Eisbrecher’s “This is Deutsch” in the aptly-designed techno-industrial environment installed by diesel punk artist, CharleSilas Garlette.

  Over in the Crypt, DJ Helixx enhanced the gloom of this shadowy cavern with dark dance tracks by the Sisters of Mercy, Peter Murphy and London After Midnight.

  Considering the inclement weather, the turnout was good, owing to the zealous following of QXT’s and the appeal of a theme night filled with sounds of the most revered of all alt-rockers, the Cure.


Saturday, March 3
  Father Jeff’s big-draw, monthly dance night takes place on the first Saturday of each month at Windfall. This installment of the venerable New Wave/dark dance party is the spiritual and cultural descendent of the foundational event Necromantic, Father Jeff’s early entrant into the NYC goth event cycle. His stand-up crew of DJs included Patrick, Templar and Aengel. As always, it was $10 at the door, $8 with pre-distributed flyer.

  This special night as featured CD giveaways of last year’s Empire Hideous’ Remixes Through Time, a variety of sweet desserts by Annabel Fagan and crafted soaps and the like by Kitty.

  Mandana manned the gate, Gerard was absent behind the bar, but Julia bravely endeavored on. Hilda cheerfully handled coats and Chris Savo oversaw the efficient running of things with his usual charm and hospitality. Songs heard included Siouxsie’s “Happy House,” “Transmission” by Joy Division and “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash.


The Red Party
“Welcome to the Reptile House”
Saturday, March 10

  A special edition of the Red Party dedicated in tribute to the Sisters of Mercy and billed as the 10th Anniversary of Welcome to the Reptile House took place at Mercury Lounge on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The name comes from the second independent EP by the Sisters of Mercy, released on 12″ vinyl in May 1983. Never released as a stand-alone CD, it was included on the Some Girls Wander by Mistake collection.

  There was live performance at midnight by Rhode Islanders Way Out, a hard rocking and appropriately paired post-punk trio. A fabulous night of dance and socializing went on into the night. We left around 2 a.m., but then Daylight Savings kicked in, tele-transporting those who stayed later straight into the mid-morning of Sunday, March 11.

  During the dance sessions before and after the live performance, videos of Andrew Eldritch and the Sisters of Mercy played silently on the back screen. DJs Sean Templar, Jarek Zelazny & James David spun out goth and deathrock, finding time during the early festivities to play “Sex on Wheelz” by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, and “Bad Trash” by Switchblade Symphony. I estimate that every third song played was by the Sisters of Mercy, which is — let’s face it — the best band to dance to.

  Celebrities present at this Red Party included Ana Vice, Xris Smack, Ashley Bad, and Paradox were joined by the usual suspects who will remain nameless at this time.


Desenstized Parallels
(Cleopatra Records) – March 2
  North Jersey-based industrial duo, Xentrifuge, has released Desensitized Parallels, a new album — their third — on Cleopatra Records.

  Ten tracks are contained in this all-platforms release, each in its own way fulfilling the reputation of Xentrifuge for harsh, techno-goth dance music. Many a track will start slowly, then inevitably will pick up the pace as increasingly complex percussion beats will speed things toward a frenzy. Angry, hissing vocals allude to “darkest decay” and “nothing to believe in.”

  Some tracks feature ethereal, minor key string melodies that contrast but integrate with electro-mechanical, rhythmic percussion. One example is track seven, “Unknown Divine.” A couple of tracks proceed in jerking, start-and-stop rhythms, but generally the cadences are steady, mechanized and relentless. The eighth track plays off the pronunciation of its title “N.M.E.”

  The ninth track, “Circles of Dust” employs synthetic, erratic arpeggios that mingle along with rapid, repetitive percussive beats that intervene.

  This album, like previous work by Xentrifuge succeeds in creating an alternate reality of a deliciously dismal, sci-fi world, driven by electronics and sunk in pessimism. The grim lyrics are poetic, carefully chosen and artfully composed. Their message is delivered, not in full-throated vocals, but in a raspy, theatrical whisper — as if in desperate protest by a dehumanized, computer-like being. I only wish that it were easier to discern the lyrics by close listening.

  In any event, these tracks and this album are available from many sources. Several tracks can to be viewed in creatively visual YouTube videos. The album can be obtained from Bandcamp, Cleopatra Records and various internet sources.


Grant Wood and “American Gothic”
Whitney Museum of American Art, March 2 – June 10, 2018
  “American Gothic,” is the most recognizable of American works of art, painted in 1930 by 39-year-old Midwesterner Grant Wood. It portrays a serious, no-nonsense farmer — and contrary to popular misconceptions, his daughter, not wife — as icons of America’s traditional agrarian roots. It is the centerpiece of an exhibition at the Whitney down in Manhattan’s Meat-Packing District, where it is surrounded by nearly 120 of his works that extol the charm, beauty and character types of Wood’s Midwestern world. His accurate, low-key portraits are starkly realistic and capture the honest simplicity of people from the American heartland, including a telling self-portrait and one of the artist’s mother (shown nearby). By contrast, Wood’s farm landscapes offer bird’s eye views of idealized, fantasy dreamscapes that are studies in curvaceous three-dimensionality.

  The exhibition clearly demonstrates the supreme artistry of this master artist. Most importantly, it shows that Grant Wood was definitely not a “one-hit wonder,” but excelled in all aspects of his art and his craft. Monumental stained glass designs and found-object pieces are on display along with stunning paintings in every medium. The iconic portrayal of the farmer and his daughter is so powerful, however, that it will overshadow all the rest of Grant Wood’s work for the foreseeable future. A tiny sample of the countless parodies inspired by “American Gothic” is shown nearby.


Goth Culture/Literature
Revisiting Frankenstein
“Victor Frankenstein is the Real Monster” – or – “Mary Shelley’s Misunderstood Masterpiece Turns 200” By Ronald Bailey
  Science correspondent Ron Bailey has an important five-page essay in the April issue of Reason Magazine asserting that complete distortions have been imposed by the innumerable retellings of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel. In the original book, Frankenstein’s creature was anything but a monster. At 8 feet tall, with “beautiful features,” more agile, “able to [bear] the extremes of heat and cold” and far more intelligent than human beings, the creation is wantonly abandoned by Dr. Frankenstein and meets with uncomprehending revulsion despite these favorable traits. This turns him to a life of vengeance and violence. It was by the irrational revulsion of mankind and by Dr. Frankenstein’s irresponsible behavior that his creature was turned into a thing of horror.

  When Mary Shelley’s cautionary tale of irrationality and irresponsibility got inverted, Frankenstein’s creature was portrayed as monstrous. This began in an 1823 play and continued through some 400 movie adaptations that, contrary to Mary Shelley’s proposition, render a narrative of dangerous and uncontrolled science. Countless spin-offs have further reinforced the slanderous notion that science is immoral, out-of-control and meddles in things that should be reserved for God.

  This meme, Bailey asserts, has poisoned the popular discourse against advances in science and technology that offer the promise of immense good for mankind. He cites historical opposition to artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, cloning, egg donation, gene splicing, recombinant DNA, disease resistant biotech crops, vaccines and the potential to delete disease genes from humans as ongoing scientific endeavors that can benefit individuals and populations at large. He points out the example of genetically engineered strains of rice that are made to produce precursors to Vitamin A so as to prevent blindness in developing countries. Childless couples and families burdened with serious genetic diseases might be relieved of certain ailments through gene manipulation in the future. 

  But these advances often meet with what Ron Bailey sees as knee-jerk opposition and irresponsible revulsion from activist opponents. Those who seek to hinder such efforts do so mainly on moral grounds. That, in his opinion, deprives individuals and populations of potential benefits that newer technologies can afford them. Bailey insists that the lesson of Frankenstein is not about the peril of science loosing a monster upon the world, but about the danger of failing to recognize and nurture new technologies that can benefit mankind.