Aug. 4, 2018
This month’s edition of Father Jeff’s Necropolis truly lived up to its name by hosting an official book launch of Hippocampus Press’ New York State of Fright, an anthology of horror stories by New York authors featuring stories set mainly in and around New York. Before the first music began, there were readings, book signings and trivia discussions. Then, after the first set of dance tracks, Windfall manager Chris Savo called a pause. Brooklyn horror author, Teel James Glenn, attired in tuxedo, manned the temporary podium and read a creepy, humorous vampire short story with an unexpected twist to great approval by the necropolis crowd.
Also in attendance was film director Jonathan Berman, visiting NYC for the premiere of his documentary about the UFO-cults of the 20th century, Calling All Earthlings.
Despite the heat, the humidity and the absence of numerous scene sustainers who were away in Ireland, Father Jeff and Patrick pulled off a rockingly successful episode of Necropolis with the assistance of DJs Joe Hart and TJ “Tyranny” Lepore.
Aug. 3, 2018
Newark dance club, QXT’s nightclub hosted a free admission night called “2080” dedicated to ‘80s new wave, synthpop and synthwave, at which DJs Ash and Damian Plague served up the requisite fare from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. the following morning. Heard was the softer stuff on which the crowd grew up like Depeche Mode, The Cure, Duran Duran, plus Synthwave giants Lazerhawk and Dance with the Dead. About midway into the night, Damian concocted a beautiful mashup of Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot” and NIN’s “Closer” which set the dance floor into ecstatic frenzy.
Industrial Demos 1974 – 1976
Mataram Music (2018)
Cabaret Voltaire, the English industrial music pioneer group, formed back in 1973 before the era of digital media. Experimenting with cut-up technique, using audio tapes, sound samples, loops and the like, they introduced the world to a radical alternative to the conventional music based on rhythm and melody and helped create the industrial genre.
Still active in both performance and recording (although the personnel members have evolved) they just released a collection of their do-it-yourself works from the mid-‘70s entitled Industrial Demos 1974-1976, containing 10 tracks from the era when they were musical icons of the Dada art movement. As far as I can tell, each of these have been released before amidst the myriad studio, live, remix, and compilation albums and numerous singles and EPs.
This album starts with “The Dada Man,” an erratically cadenced series of speeded up tape squeaks, metallic banging and sci-fi noises. The next track, “Ooraseal” has no recognizable rhythm and plays with vocal samples run backwards while an electronic chirp drones on. “A Sunday Night in Biot” features distorted, tinny vocals that pierce the waves of synthetic roars, beeps and burbles. The sound of a kazoo breaks in now and then.
“In Quest of the Unusual” is a brief piece that produces a chaotic wall of sound with clicks and snaps occurring without any regularity. Echoic roaring sounds and vocals are heard through the rhythmic, percussive “Do the Snake”.
“Fade Crisis” utilizes echoic, foghorn-like samples to create a spacy, faraway feel without anything resembling rhythm. “Doubled Delivery” is characterized by a double-speed marching cadence that is relentless, over which are layered synthetic burps and buzzes.
“Venusian Animals” is the track that most resembles the soundtrack of an early sci-fi thriller with loopy mournful electronica and sweeping wind-like noises. “The Outer Limits” falls into the same category but employs a painfully high-pitched drone behind the repetitive sound of a machine sloshing through an electronic swamp toward some remote destination.
The album concludes with “She Loved You,” an eight-minute largely empty track with sparse pounding sounds, backwards recorded voices and quiet blasts of synthetic growls and horns.
Listening to these tracks is a less than pleasurable task, dated as they now sound. But, credit where it’s due — this group took what limited technology was available and put it through every conceivable operation, thus helping open our minds to a new auditory experience that led to where we are now. It was more noise than music, but it served its historic purpose, and from it has flowed industrial, techno, electronic, EBM and more.
All these tracks can be accessed on YouTube.
This is Panic Lift’s fourth album, to be released August 24, two years after Skeleton Key. There are 10 tracks of essentially industrial electronic rock with elements of symphonic, synthwave and Linkin Park-like rap. It opens with an electro-industrial track that has interjected spoken word. The next several tracks contain some nice, melodious singing that alternates with harsh, hissing vocals, always to a compelling, rapid beat. Several tracks are at a slower, more moderately pace and feature eerie strings and hypnotic, synthetic arpeggios. Staticky voice samples make an occasional appearance setting a post-apocalyptic mood. Some of the electronica has a pseudo-aquatic, new age feel even as it leads into a mechanized cadence and pleasant full vocal singing. Belching guitars form a frequent element that places the overall category of the album into hard, symphonic rock.
Sometimes the lyrics (all of which can be read on the included cover art) have an angry, accusatory sense, issued in a gravelly voice, but James Francis’s versatility is that he can switch to mellow crooning within the same track. The music is always inviting, pleasing to the ear as well as conducive to the dance floor. The appeal of this album was such that on first listening I was able to find each track immediately satisfying.
Panic Lift is on their ‘End Process’ tour in support of this album.
The Ink Bats
The Oakland, CA-based Ink Bats are touring the West Coast in support of their nine-track 2017 disc, Loss, and to promote the YouTube-accessible video of the album’s sixth track, “Caves.” The album starts right off with a rocking number with a driving beat and mournful, high-pitched wailing vocals. The pace slows a bit with the second track, but the beat is still compelling and vocals more controlled, though no less anguished. The third cut features a drawn-out, elongated electronic guitar droning and plaintive masculine vocals that evoke Fields of the Nephilim over a snappy cadence. The fourth track opens with an eerie, eloquent sample of a British patrician that contrast with the long instrumental intro and beautiful choral vocals supported by prominent drumming with — again — a driving rhythm.
By the fifth track begin to wonder if the Ink Bats are going to keep up the irresistible verve you have been listening to, and they succeed admirably. Luscious female vocals of rhythm guitarist Josie Dot have an operatic quality as they rise above accompanying mean-sounding instrumentation and male backup. Judge the deliciously dark sixth track, “Caves” yourself, by checking it out on YouTube. Rather than stand out above the other tracks, it rather epitomizes the richly textured gothic, post punk style of the rest of the album, which itself is a stellar entry into that beloved genre.
The last three tracks are three, four and five minutes long, respectively, and each presents a unique, work, consistent and well-situated within the traditions and conventions of the goth rock style. Except for the percussive elements, any of these ten tracks would make suitable soundtrack entries to mystery or horror cinema.
Find the album which is available vis Bandcamp in digital download, on CD or even in vinyl edition, and don’t fail to check the “Caves” video on YouTube.
Cinema – Goth/Industrial
Cyborgs Among Us (2017)
This film takes a serious look at the increasing interaction of humans with technology, with particular emphasis on implanted electro-magnetic and mechanical devices. The opening sequence seems, at first, to be a fantasy in which a young man with an antenna arising from the back of his head narrates his bizarre perception of the sights, sounds and aromas he experiences in a natural as well as urban environments. Shockingly, and amazingly, it becomes apparent as the narrative progresses, that he is in fact a real person, not an actor. Born without any color perception at all, he lived — prior to the implant — in a world of grays, blacks and whites. He had a real antenna surgically connected to his brain that allows him to experience the colors of the world – as well as electromagnetic wavelengths such as ultraviolet and infrared — in the form of sounds of different pitch and timbre. The implant collects colored light information and converts it to sound perception in his brain.
This is only one astounding example presented in this real-life documentary. A worker who lost his right arm in an accident is shown having had a high-tech, incredibly versatile arm connected to not only the remaining bone of his arm’s stump, but the actual nerves that allow him to control the movements — some of them quite complex – of his elbow, wrist, hand and fingers, and to actually feel the touch and weight of objects he is handling!
Shown is a sort of Olympics of paralyzed and amputated individuals with devices that replace and/or augment their ability to ambulate, control artificial limbs and perform tasks.
A deaf gentleman who has had cochlear implants to restore hearing directly to the auditory area of his brain discusses the versatility of his sound perception, and the options it provides him to focus on various sounds, to filter out unwanted noise so that he can understand conversation in loud environments and to shut out sound completely when he chooses to do so.
The film turns to a workshop run by a small group of piercings-adorned cyberpunks who are engaged in high-tech body modification: the surgical implant of electronic devices into their hands and fingers that enable them to operate electrical sensors and devices and to perceive electromagnetic fields.
Finally, the film calls attention to the growing political movement and in particular Mr. Zoltan Istvan, sometime-presidential candidate of the Cyborg Party, who expounds on his belief that immortality in some form or other will be coming soon as advances in technology make replacement parts and computer storage of brain functions a reality. The future — this film reveals — is now!
This film can be accessed on Amazon Prime and other sources.
Cinema – Punk
Nico, 1988 (2017)
Written and directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli
Manhattan’s Film Forum held the US theatrical premiere of Nico, 1988 — an unsentimental docudrama about the last years of punk-cultural icon, Christa “Nico” Päffgen. Model, singer, actress and Andy Warhol-designated celebrity, Nico gained recognizable status singing with the Velvet Underground on their 1967 debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Prior to that she had been a model and had acted in Fellini’s classic, La Dolce Vita, and Warhol’s experimental film, Chelsea Girls, roles earned in no small measure by her lanky 5’10” supermodel frame and exquisite, chiseled features. Musically, she is credited with a role in initiating both the punk and goth-rock scene.
This movie is not about those joyful years of celebrity and triumph, but the sordid last couple of years, when Nico expressed violent objection to nostalgic attempts by interviewers and fans to reawaken those memories. Sometimes she even tried to reject the stage name Nico and demanded to be called by original name, Christa. Except when the need to finance her costly heroin addiction forced her to revive her chanteuse performances before rock music-thirsting fans in Italy and in Eastern Europe.
Danish actress Trine Dyrholm masterfully portrays Nico — aging, dissipated, hoarse from chain-smoking and booze, numbed with methadone and hard stuff, reviving the stage persona that was Nico again.
We get a view inside her bitter decline during interviews and when she is interacting with her tour crew and her devoted, late-career manager, Rick, convincingly portrayed by Scottish actor John Gordon Sinclair.
The plot includes bizarre experiences touring in Italy and in dilapidated, police-state Eastern Europe. It shows her causing disillusionment of naive, nostalgic fans and making quick, necessary getaways from the law. It peers into the pathetic relationship she had with her estranged son. Thrown in are a couple of kick-ass, out-of-control and drug-infused band performances. Altogether, it is a lurid story line that serves as a vehicle for spectacular, stirring acting and brilliant cinematic direction.
Nico, 1988 acquaints the post-millennial generation with an historic cornerstone personality from the countercultural ‘60s, as she coasts 20 years later into her final demise.
In theaters everywhere.