A Murder of Crows / Aug 31 – Sept 1, 2019 / Brooklyn, NY
The fifth annual Murder of Crows Festival took place on the nights of Saturday, Aug 31 and Sunday, Sept 1 at the multi-level Brooklyn Bazaar, hosted by Sean and Mandana Banshie Templar, producers of the Red Party, in collaboration with multiple deejays, producers, and promoters from the greater New York area—including Dave Bats, Patrick, Martin Oldgoth, Xris SMack!, Aengel, V Christ, Hi-Fi Hillary, and.
The festival is a multi-faceted event, with live performances taking place in Brooklyn Bazaar’s capacious upstairs dance hall, an arts-and-crafts, wearables, and collectibles market called the Dark Market, on the ground floor, and a disco party room in the basement. A nice point: 100 percent of table fees paid by the vendors went to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.
We hit the Dark Market upon arrival on Saturday for the first night of festivities. Live deejays created the proper atmosphere for shopping. Artists and curiosities-mongers too numerous and colorful to describe individually were arranged in a series of rows, featuring hand-painted, creepy items (Mani the Uncanny), costume jewelry (Jackie Hates You), taxidermy specimens (Requiem Oddities) and much, much more. We stopped to have an interesting conversation with the Satanic Temple, which had a table where representatives of the temple explained its principles and discussed the recent movie documentary, Hail Satan? (reviewed in June’s edition of New Dark Age).
As soon as performances began, we headed upstairs to the sprawling hall where a well-stocked bar stands at the rear of the space, and a raised stage with active stage lighting stands at the far end. First up, coming on at 8:30 PM, Sonsombre from Virginia featured a black-clad, Stetson hat-wearing foursome playing melodious goth rock in the tradition of Sisters of Mercy.
Next up, The Hunt featured a frenetic lead vocalist with over-the-top physicality, and a style reminiscent of early U2. It was not goth, nor very dark, but the musicianship of the group was impressive.
Twin Tribes, a coldwave duo out of Brownsville, Texas followed, employing echoic, reverb-laden guitars, electronica and plaintive vocals, much of which were sung in unison by both members of the pair. It was very nice to be immersed in their finely arranged and genuine, original, post-punk set.
The Sacramento-based quintet, Creux Lies, also played a post-punk, New Romantic set. Finally, hometown favorites—newly reorganized after eight years of inactivity—Brooklyn’s Blacklist closed the night with a polished and deliciously melodious set that was clearly influenced by the early days of nineties alternative.
Heading downstairs, in what was called The Dungeon, we found festival-goers in a variety of age categories dancing to the Red Party and the deejay sets by Dave Bats, Martin Oldgoth, Patrick, and by the impresario, Sean Templar, himself.
The Dark Market saw returning customers make purchases they had contemplated the previous evening. Local favorites The Long Losts opened the show with their Halloween-themed, fun, and spooky set. Then L.A.-based Fangs on Fur, and all-female trio Ötzi from Oakland, had a darkly punkish, early nineties feel to their sets. The much awaited Icelandic, all-female group Kaelen Mikla performed an ethereal, eerie and morose set before headliners from Italy, Ash Code, closed out the performances with a synthesizer/guitar/drum machine-based darkwave EBM set. Downstairs, the Redrum Ball served as the official closing dance party.
Just as the monthly Red Party has grown in the past decade into a regular NYC institution, its associated, major festival annual project, A Murder of Crows, has grown from a brief, lightly attended affair into a heavily attended, deeply programmed, and prepared major goth cultural event. Not only was there a plethora of top musical entertainment, but exposure to and an opportunity to buy outrageous and unique memorabilia, garments, and accessories in the Dark Market.
On top of that, there was ample opportunity to meet and socialize with practically the entire goth/post-punk community of the Tri-state area. In addition to the aforementioned deejays and performers, the place was a who’s who of demimonde celebrities. Thus we took the opportunity to chat with “Sir William” Welles about his hosting the Redrum Ball Sunday night. And, we got to shake hands with and exchange greetings with singer/producer George Grant and with impresario Jet VF who is planning the next Darkside and Steampunk Cons. Meeting up with Kitty Hawk and husband Mark, we learned that they are preparing for their final show as Night Gallery to take place at the next Red Party before they move to Florida. Scene regular and font of insider information, Heather Sterman, filled us in on certain details of the recent Peter Murphy residency. DJ Paradox displayed her unique artworks and Johanna Constantine discussed her modeling for a world famous painter. Publisher of horror literature Derrick Hussey spoke of his recent activities at Necromicon in Providence. Stunning beauties Ashley Bad and Chloe Alexis tipped us off regarding their upcoming “She Devil” show.
With all this to inform, entertain, and gratify our appetite for the burgeoning NYC goth scene, we look forward to the recurrence of A Murder of Crows on a yearly basis.
Review of the Peter Murphy Residency / Le Poisson Rouge / NYC / August 2019
The 1983 motion picture The Hunger is either a tedious, uninspired piece of cinema, or it is a monumental milestone of today’s culture. Actually, it is the latter. The opening scene of this otherwise pedestrian movie introduced the single most influential element of what was to become the goth, or post-punk scene, when Peter Murphy led the band Bauhaus in the now-iconic song, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”
That song—atonal, repetitive, and monotonously hypnotic—defined and set the atmosphere for that countercultural movement, namely goth, that has persevered and grown into a world-wide phenomenon, spawning countless spin-offs into of the realms of music, art, aesthetics, fashion, and, indeed, lifestyle that permeate the dark world of the major cities and little towns around the world. It was to eventually hurl Bauhaus’s vocalist, Peter Murphy, to Olympian status in the gothic/punk and alternative music pantheon.
At the time of The Hunger’s cinematic release, Bauhaus had been in existence around five years and was soon to break up. But it had created a legacy, particularly for the charismatic lead singer, Peter Murphy, whose solo career seemed to rise, like Bela Lugosi from his coffin, slowly, tentatively, then gloriously with his solo debut album, Should The World Fail To Fall Apart (1986), followed by eight more studio albums of his original, now-beloved music.
In the thirty-plus years that followed, Murphy has acquired a zealous, almost obsessed, world-wide following that seemingly cannot get enough of his gloomy baritone, poetic lyrics, and unique musical style which contains a mix of lush, seductive melodies and harsh, Bauhaus-flavored elements.
In early August this year, he settled in for a two-week-long residency at (le) Poisson Rouge in New York City, covering most of his original work. Some of these tracks had rarely or never been performed live before. Eleven performances were scheduled, including all but one of his solo albums, plus one night devoted to his greatest hits, one to Bauhaus, and two night of tribute to David Bowie. Such a monumental project, covering the essential body of work of such a significant artist merits a retrospective review. Besides providing a spectacular musical experience, this major project helped us to understand his unique success and the fanatical following he has accrued in his career.
We saw Peter Murphy on the fifth night of his NYC residency—performing the Cascade album. The performance of this, the fifth studio album of his solo career, took place at the halfway point in this challenging and strenuous residency. It is the favorite of many of his fans, and contains one of the most frequently requested songs, “I’ll Fall With Your Knife.” After performing each and every track from that spectacular album and despite the arduous nature of the set, he added the raucous and demanding “Low Room” as an encore.
Cascade was released in the tenth year of Murphy’s solo career. The album reveals that, by then, he had reached the zenith in his abilities for composing mysterious and romantic poetry, sung in his rich, finely modulated baritone, matched with delicious, melodious hooks and riding upon hypnotic, compelling rhythms that would mark his signature style. As an album, it says a lot about why he has risen to such heights in the estimation of his fan base.
One cannot help but note his obvious dedication to his art in particular, as well as to music in general. He had chosen to open for him that night a stunningly original, unique performer, Soriah—a costumed tuvan, or throat-singer—who thrilled the audience with Siberian, Hindu, and Tibetan chants, employing indigenous instruments and electronic wizardry, to say nothing of his amazing vocal prowess. One could say that Peter Murphy’s selecting him was an edifying gift he bestowed upon his fans. The same could be said of his carefully produced album, Dust(2002)—performed the following night—which enhanced our appreciation of Near Eastern melodies and rhythms.
Peter Murphy is the ultimate performer who connects with his audience on a casual and friendly basis, joking amicably from the stage with frankness and familiarity. But he always turns serious and professional when he delivers each song with intensity and virtuosity. Regardless of conditions, he never lags or fails in his efforts to belt out the lyrics forcefully when called for; or soothingly in tightly controlled, low, intimate tones when appropriate. It is this commitment to performance standards, above all, that accounts for the zeal and warmth that Peter Murphy engenders in his fans.
No, his is not a household name to the fans of Sting or Mick Jagger. He is in some ways a cult figure, a cherished jewel to knowledgeable and committed lovers of alternative music. All the more precious is Peter Murphy to those followers fortunate enough and sophisticated enough to have learned and come to appreciate this brilliant singer-songwriter with his remarkable persona. To those who consider him the “Godfather of Goth,” he is greatest performer of all.
On Tuesday, August 13, Peter Murphy suffered a heart attack—a myocardial infarction—effectively ending his NYC residency. He was admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital where coronary artery stents were placed. We of the greater NYC metropolitan area as well as all his worldwide fans, followers, and admirers wish him a full and fast recovery.
Good news! As we go to press, and as evidence of Peter Murphy’s full recovery, he and Bauhaus have announced a reunion show—the first in 13 years—to take place this Nov 3 at LA’s Palladium. And—best news of all for NY/NJ fans—Peter Murphy has just announced that he will resume and complete the residency at LPR this January.
“Seed of Evil” / Black Needle Noise featuring Raymond Watson of <PIG>
John Fryer’s credentials as a producer cannot be overstated, and include a litany of projects, albums, soundtracks and collaborating artists that would fill the rest of this page, stretching back to Fad Gadget in 1980, and on through Depeche Mode, Cocteau Twins, Xmal Deutschland, This Mortal Coil (which he is a performing member), Clan of Xytmox, Peter Murphy, NIN’s Pretty Hate Machine, Nitzer Ebb, and countless more. His role in developing the ethereal signature styles of 4AD, Mute, Rough Trade, and Beggar’s Banquet record labels has been essential.
His current project, Black Needle Noise, in existence since 2016—yes, his career stretches 40 years—has released a single featuring Raymond Watts, whose sinister vocal style is a perfect match for Needle’s relentless, strutting cadence and coarse, sizzling bass line. The single, “Seed of Evil,” runs almost 5 minutes long, and sounds just as its title would suggest, owing to Watts’s sneering, cynical delivery surrounded by the thick electronic accompaniment of bare-bones melody and the resurrected base line resembling Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.”
“Seed of Evil” is the most recent release in a string of singles and leading up to a new, third Black Needle Noise full-length album. It can be gotten as a name-your-price item on Bandcamp.
Mortal Geometry / Numb / Metropolis Records
Numb is the brainchild of Don Gordon, and this album, Mortal Geometryappears to be their fifth, excluding cassette releases and EPs.
It’s reassuring to know that brilliant, creative artists who arose the mid-eighties are still producing harsh, horrific, industrial music with an ever-expanding scope of sounds, synthetic voices, and merciless rhythms. Numb is a fine example of such. It’s also gratifying to hear a new music that employs the wide range of aural devices that Skinny Puppy utilized, but with entirely original, novel effects.
Numb has its own bag of tricks, employed differently in each of the album’s ten tracks, ranging from old school industrial to trance to trip-hop to eerie electronica; some are purely instrumental, and some have vicious lyrics sung by David Collings. So grandiose are some tracks that one is tempted to say symphonic.
The title track is a disorienting, rhythm-less, non-melodious, atmospheric piece that makes the listener fearful of being stranded in outer space. Certain tracks, e.g. the opening track “Redact” and the seventh, “When Gravity Fails,” will remind the listener of Skinny Puppy, but always with unique panache and a level of virtuosity that justify whatever resemblance one can perceive. All of the tracks, however, have their own appeal that sets Numb, and particularly this album apart.
6 (EP) / Jenn Vix
6 is the name of this newly-released six-track EP from Jenn Vix, and two of those tracks, have been released on Youtube.
The first of these, “Ride,” places Jenn in a sports car on a twisty, hallucinatory ride, wearing green face makeup that would discourage all but the most courageous passenger from joining her in pursuit of a UFO over tortuous roads to the accompaniment of a grooving, compulsive electronic rhythm.
The track “Rover” has been formatted as a suspenseful video based on the sixties TV show The Prisoner featuring a growling baseline which contrasts sharply with Jenn’s sweet feminine vocals. Visuals include bland seaside sights rendered eerie and threatening due to the unaccompanied presence of a self-propelling spherical object (the “rover”) that pursues and eventually mounts a fleeing male subject. Silent, apparently hostile phone conversations are part of the montage, conducted over vintage, brick-size portable telephones that seem to entangle Jenn and a Peter Lorre-like, male operative. Sung in tones that are both seductive and cautionary is the message, “They’re gonna get to you.”
Museums / Mütter Museum / Philadelphia, PA
New Dark Age paid a visit to the Mütter Museum, a fascinating attraction located in the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. It consists of a unique display of anatomical specimens and exhibits ranging from a vast array of human skeletal remains to tissues and organs in jars, to the infinite variety of foreign objects that have been retrieved by doctors from the human body. The collection contains over 25,000 items, of which only a small fraction is on exhibit, but enough to fill two large rooms housing numerous glass display cases chock full of pieces of interest, plus the lobby and an upstairs side room with a current exhibit.
The collection began with Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter in 1838 and was originally intended for the education and edification of other physicians. Since then countless physicians and scientists have contributed interesting specimens. The emphasis is on pathology, although the are also lots of specimens that simply display the wide range of human “normal” as far shape and size.
The main displays are in two large rooms on the basement level where one can view actual skeletons demonstrating abnormalities of disease and development. Thus, there are examples of giant skeletons, dwarf skeletons, and those with birth deformities or conditions that developed during the course of growth. The skeletons of infants with too many or two few limbs (or heads) make a sobering lesson about nature’s whimsical madness.
Einstein’s actual brain is preserved, demonstrating the peculiarity of a missing fissure (crease) that may account for his exceptional gift for theoretical mathematics.
Adjacent to a plaster cast of a famous pair of Siamese twin men (conjoined at the abdomen) are photos with captions describing their surprisingly normal lives—each separately married to his own wife and father to his own children.
Chests of drawers hold a myriad array of the actual safety pins, nuts, bolts, and hardware items found inside and removed from people. There is much that it is better to see in person than to have described in this report.
Upstairs there is current exhibition titled “Imperfecta,” about birth defects with representative specimens and posters with historical notes on the subject. Other posters gave practical health advice about good sleep habits and avoiding the flu.
The museum maintains an academic atmosphere of dignified seriousness. Numerous social and educational events are always on the schedule.