Archives for posts with tag: darkwave

“There’s no way out but fight” sings Ela Minus in “Megapunk”, a very cool electro-pop anthem with equal parts dark-wave and dance-floor appeal. This 2020 single seems as good a way as any to kick-start 2021:

“Megapunk” is a timeless electronic dance pop anthem. It’s a bit dark and walks the line between being sinister at the same time as being an uplifting call to arms, as much personal as political. The dark undertones here are reminiscent of the kind of shadow-dark regions of electro-pop inhabited by Dunedin darkwave trio Èlan Vital on their only album “Shadow Self”.

The music of Ela Minus (real name Gabriela Jimeno, and originally from Bogota, Colombia) first appeared on PopLib some 5 years ago and everything heard since has had a rare quality. Well-crafted melodic songs with pop hooks, yet without sounding formulaic. The songs were constructed within skeletons of electronic sounds, programmed beats and miniature sonic detailing. Voice and lyrics added a compelling human connection. Where it sounded different was the electronica was soft toned and playful, with plenty of adventure and action-packed spacey minimalism, full of tiny subtle details. It just sounded right and very good.

Fortunately Domino Recordings reached a similar conclusion and have now a released an album. “Megapunk” was released as a single ahead of the “acts of rebellion” album, which it is also included on.

The album is a varied collection of personal/ political dance-floor electro-pop interwoven with some more experimental soundscapes which work alongside the more structured tunes to set the album’s mood and darker non-conformist electronica textures.

Dead Little PennyAuckland guitar+synth dark-pop band Dead Little Penny have released an album’s-worth of their melodic sludgy Gothic fuzzfest called “Urge Surfing”. The opening track “Honeycomb” has been out for over a year, but it’s such a brilliant dark fuzz-pop earworm of a tune, so the best starting place to start the process of syringing your ears with crunchy square-wave guitar and synth tones and dream-pop vocals.

Dead Little Penny are vocalist/ songwriter/ guitarist Hayley Smith, drummer/synth player Simon Buxton, and guitarist/bassist Sean Martin-Buss.

The dark grainy soundscapes are heavy on atmosphere. It’s a contemporary take on the kind of synth-driven melodic fuzz pop of Young Hellions and late era day Jesus and Mary Chain, with some of Curve‘s rhythmic dance-floor suppleness and a bit of dark-wave synth pop added in for good measure.  

EYE_EP_synths“Yellow Density” is the opening track from a 4 song EP by French electronic musician Laurène Exposito under the name EYE.

Those familiar with the early work of Chris and Cosey (formerly of Throbbing Gristle) will find plenty here to enjoy. Pulsing synths, synthetic rhythms, combine repetition and unexpected melodic and tonal shifts. While dark and industrial, it also somehow adds saturated sonic colour and human touches. Laurène’s vocals – more of a spoken narration really – are delivered mostly in French through a fog of grainy reverb, adding layers of ambiguity, mystery and dislocation.

Other tracks go the stranger regions of the minimal synth-wave universe or add a harsh synth-punk noise element similar to Dunedin’s Élan Vital while maintaining a well-constructed balance of sounds across the 4 tracks.

EYE’s “Cocktail Mexico” EP this track is from is available as a 10″ release. Sadly the postage calculation – usually reasonable from the EU – was substantially more than the cost of the 10″ itself so looks like it will be digital download for the time being.

For those interested in delving further into labyrinthine rabbit holes of minimal synth/ electronic music check the releases on Waving Hands a label established by Exposito in 2014 to “to promote fresh new artists from the scene and dig out older ones.”

[Thanks to the excellent WhiteLight//WhiteHeat synth/ electronic music website for the discovery.]

PeskDay 7 of the 31 Days of May New Zealand Music Month madness takes us to a dark echoing railway tunnel beneath Port Chalmers where Pesk are waiting for “When The Heavies Come”

I have no idea if Pesk recorded this in a railway tunnel under Port Chalmers at all. This is called ‘creative licence’. Or, ‘fakes news’ as it’s called now. In simpler times it was just called ‘making things up’.  Anyway, it’s a long way of saying this recording sounds huge and cavernous and also a bit ominous, like the rumble of an oncoming freight train. There’s a sludgy lumbering pulse to the riff which brings to mind some of those earliest Black Sabbath tunes like “Sweet Leaf” too which were all lower-mid frequencies and in no hurry at all.

This lovely fuzzy reverb drenched rumble is the work of the two humans making up Pesk. When they play live drummer Raff plays the synth with one hand and and electronic drumkit with the other three limbs. Guitarist and vocalist Amee provides the low frequency viscous guitar and the solemn vocal. It fills a room. It could so easily fill a railway tunnel too.

October_2016May is NZ Music Month here in NZInc, a small South Pacific archipelago perhaps better know these days as a tax haven for overseas people and companies to avoid tax obligations in their home countries. Perhaps “100% Pure Anonymity” could be our new national marketing phrase. Anyway…although we feature NZ Music year round here, May is an excuse to bring 31 consecutive days of NZ music.

So let’s start on day #1, 1 May 2016, with an absence of guitars and head straight into the future-proof epic dark electronic pop of October, and the menacing “Switchblade”:

October is Wellington based musician and producer Emma Logan. PopLib featured the fabulous debut “Voids” from October back in May 2015.

“Switchblade” is further evidence of not only the music creation production skills heard on “Voids” but also that remarkable and commanding voice.

it’s a denser, more frenetic and futuristic production, with dark lyrical undercurrents set in a soundscape of rumbling synths and the martial precision of the percussion. The way that soaring voice weaves through and above the ominous music is something else.

Grab the whole October “Switchblade” 5 song EP from iTunes.

Strange Harvest_Phoebe_McKenzie

Strange Harvest – photo by Phoebe MacKenzie

Forget the thin trebly sound of jangling guitars. The sound of Dunedin right now is sequenced arpeggiated electronic wave-forms and robotic beats and Strange Harvest’s suitably apocalyptic vision “The Last Supper” is here to collect your dead skin:

“The Last Supper” may be the best thing Strange Harvest have released. After the grainy dark-fi of last year’s “Pattern Recognition” it is wonderful to hear a crystal clear production, particularly on Skye Strange’s human-by-proxy voice.

Lyrically this is a typically enigmatic and bleak forensic word-picture of our everyday celebrity-consumerist dystopia, where toxic narcissists are feted as social deities and life emulates a badly-acted TV soap opera.

“The Last Supper” is from a new split digital single with Embedded Figures. The release also features a re-mix of each of the songs – Death And The Maiden provide a trippy dub re-mix of “The Last Supper” while the Kilo re-mix of Embedded Figure’s pulsing “Paradise Lost” re-engineers the song as a ‘club banger’ of epic proportions to meet the Andrew Weatherall “full-knacker panel-beaters-from-Prague-’ere-we-go techno” standard.

Strange Harvest Silver Seats by Ian Henderson

‘Machine Love’ is an ice-cool collaboration between former Christchurch sonic explorer Mark Roberts as We Are Temporary and fellow Christchurch electronica artist (and PopLib favourite) Misfit Mod.

It is the lead single off a new We Are Temporary album called “Gemini” (due late 2014 on Stars & Letters).

Misfit Mod (Sarah Kelleher) contributed the lyrics and vocals. While Sarah as Misfit Mod usually operates in a minimalist electronica setting where the vocals are the human heart of the song, “Machine Love” turns up the volume, intensity and sonic distractions to stadium-filling levels. Despite the churn that voice still manages to shine through the thundering pulse and clatter of machinery, calm at the centre of the storm, with its perfect melancholic soul intact.

Let’s head out of Dunedin (everyone eventually does…) and check the underworld of Auckland’s western suburbs for signs of underground pop.

Young Hellions (black magic descendants of Bengal Lights and Cat Venom) is/are the best thing to come out of Auckland since [insert name of favourite underground Auckland band here].

‘Page Seventeen’ here has all the dark energy of a doomgaze band (if that’s not already a thing, I’m inventing it right now) fronted by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon.

You’ll find Young Hellions’ splendid self-titled debut EP previewed and a link to purchase here. It’s on Muzai Records – long-time champion of the Auckland underground (and Dunedin – they are the label the mighty Astro Children are on).

Hopefully we will see Young Hellions play in Dunedin this year. Lucky Auckland subterraneans have their chance at the Last Exit to Muzai celebration on 17 May at Wine Cellar. Tickets are only $10 and available here.

Strange Harvest (via their Facebook page)

Strange Harvest (via their Facebook page)

The Attic is a collective-run arts/ culture/ music/ pigeons/ dust space in downtown Dunedin. It is the ‘incubator’ responsible for a big part of the happening sounds of young Dunedin right now. Trick Mammoth recorded their early demos there, Astro Children recorded their ‘Lick my Spaceship’ EP and album ‘Proteus’ there. Trick Mammoth’s Adrian Ng is one of The Attic partners and has recorded and mixed all the singles club releases.

Adrian Ng recording Strange Harvest recording in The Attic

Adrian Ng recording Strange Harvest recording in The Attic – photo Alex Lovell-Smith

The Attic is also a label – some cassettes, some CDR releases and a lot of digital releases via The Attic Bandcamp page..

The Attic has recently been running a digital Singles Club. One new song by the selected local artist, and one cover version selected by The Attic. The Attic choices often seem perverse, maybe even cruel. When I saw they’d selected a song by rapper Earl Sweatshirt for Dunedin darkwave electronic + guitar duo Strange Harvest to cover as their ‘B-side’ I was thinking this was the cruellest trick they’d pulled.

Turns out I needn’t have worried at all. This is my favourite of the singles club releases so far (and there’s been some very cool ones preceding it). The cover version is a highlight. But the main song ‘Astronaut’ is wonderful too.


Death & The Maiden_Egg
Many people seeing a Dunedin band called Death & The Maiden react with “oh, like after The Verlaines’ single?”

The name is in fact in reference to the Edvard Munch painting and engraving if it is in reference to anything. “Flowers for the Blind” is their latest offering and it is a darkly hypnotic treat.

They say it’s a ‘single from soon to be released debut album’… an album I’ll be queuing up to buy in any format its offered in.