It’s been ten years since Sixth June’s debut LP Everytime, an exemplary work of darkwave synth-pop that thrust the band at the forefront of the minimal-synth resurgence alongside acts like Xeno & Oaklander, Automelodi and Daybed. Kindred spirits they all may be, Sixth June’s lush production and organic textures belied their cold-wave tag and have since continued to forge a unique sound unto their own, one that’s stirring, dramatic, and romantically European.
With third album Trust, the Belgrade duo continues much where they left off from 2017’s Virgo Rising, furthering their penchant for pared-down sonics that illicit deep emotional feeling from the simplest of synth washes and rich atmospheres. This sumptuous subtlety is established immediately on ‘In Dreams’, a rousing yet introspective album opener of wooden percussion and sax overlays which expertly demonstrate their ability to sculpt a wide traverse of mood with seemingly simple instrumentation. The mysterious ‘Negde Neko’ reaches even greater depths of aural purity, haunting keys and perhaps Lidija Andonov’s finest vocals yet recall the ethereal production of Nick Cave’s Ghosteen were it not for the hypnotic drum machine.
There’s plenty of familiar punch amid the austere restraint. ‘Oh Boy’ is classic Sixth June, an urgent pop number with that unmistakable cinematic evocation that grows and swells to a thrilling crescendo without becoming bloated or grandiose. Laslo Antal takes lead vocal duties (his baritone delivery first heard on side project Diesein) on the electro-pop title track, incorporating funky bass and irresistible guitar licks that mesh beautifully with crisp beats and soaring synth melodies before segueing to ‘Remind Me of the Time’, another example of their uncanny ability to marry the organic with the synthetic.
Ten years can dull any artist, but with Trust Sixth June show they are just as confident and inspired as they were a decade ago and still one of the leading figures in the synth scene.
Testosterone hangs in the air with such clammy fetor you taste it on your lips. America teetering on the edge of war with Iran over desperate displays of military virility, a victim of gang rape is convicted of ‘causing public mischief’ as the alleged attackers sing ”the Brit is a whore” after being released without charge, and the grim figures of femicide continue to climb in cartel-ravaged Mexico. The more masculinity is dissected and scrutinised whether through art, academia or activism, the greater the ferocity of the agents of patriarchy is in violently silencing any such discourse, and the world is more dangerous for it.
Building a reputation as the Bristolian vanguard of cutting edge underground music, sonic agitators Avon Terror Corps (an amalgamation of musical misfits including Schwet, Bokeh Versions, Bad Tracking among a host of others) have extended their slimy tentacles beyond the South West with new label subsidiary Global Terror Corps in a mission to deliver uncompromising, genre-defying acts from the dankest corners of planet Earth. The first release under this moniker is EP I’m Not What I Was by Aussie/German trio Concentration, a visceral powerhouse act of industrial smut comprised of artists Zachariah Kupferminc, Matt Sativa and Thrush twisting heads clean off with their live sets of hellish volatility.
The scraping electro-punk as heard on prior album Prematurestill grinds unmercifully but with greater ephemeral potency across four tracks of distilled fury. EP opener ‘Circumcision’ is a squealing vomit of naked runtish neuroticism impotently wailing against the rabbi’s knife amid crushing pummeling drums coming close to the power electronics of Whitehouse were it not for the steady hypnotic tempo of the percussion. The stream of consciousness lyrics revealing the layers of pent-up Jewish dysmorphia take terrifying turns, sexual humiliation congeals to trans-generational holocaust trauma with tortured confusion, yet Zupferminc’s nasal whine, references to ‘fucking Guardian articles’ and skewed klezmer pieces trigger a nervous hilarity to the nightmare.
Stuttering glitchy beats palpitate on ‘Jihadi Dole Bludger’, a cavernous momentum drives the track around points of eerie terse quiet and warped vocals, before the synth heavy ‘Spiderfuck’ pierces with Wax Trax! throb, arpeggios and drum machines creating a subtle groove beneath the noxious miasma. Last track ‘Dead Men Don’t Rape’ honours the scathing defiance against male entitlement and sludgy-grunge delivery of 7 Year Bitch’s original but adds further layers of haunted discord and collages of reverb drenched suffering.
The testosterone that clung stubbornly on your lips is replaced with blood, pre-cum, and testicular viscera. I’m Not What I Was is a horribly fascinating putrid dry-retch of disgust against poisonous machismo, as powerful as a sledgehammer to your face but revealing the deeply insecure and fearful heart of toxic masculinity with surgical precision.
Your eyeballs become swollen, clammy palpitations take over, then you awaken several hours later with the echoing sounds of unintelligible alien gibberish ringing in your ears. You’ve been exposed to Spit ‘n’ Static!, a raw signal of all things synthpunk and mutoid from sources unknown. Get yer eleventh hit, same slime same face, at Bristol’s 1020 Radio on the 13th Feb! 👽 👌
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, ‘Push the Sky Away’, 2013
Music has been my greatest companion. My favourtite drug, a rubber ring in emergency, a tool for surgical introspection. Anyone who loves their music will often struggle to summarise their decade without listing a string of albums or gigs before detailing actual events. The cathartic properties of music are forever intertwined with the narrative of our lives, from our deepest most private battles to the socio-political turmoil stared down by the nation. What this decade means to me is overwhelmingly represented in just 100 songs.
I entered the 2010’s in a fog of uncertainty, as did the country. The financial crisis seemed to coarsen people, the New Labour consensus lay dying, and an emerging appetite for punitive politics reared its head. For many young people, the student protests of 2010 were the seeds of their political awakening. Having had to endure the gleeful relish at further debt for simply wanting an education from pissheads at a bar I worked part-time at, I was well aware that my Media Practice and Film-Making degree would gather scant respect in a new climate of bitter division, and was sure that economic precarity was to follow due to the recession at the time of my graduation.
Right toward the end of my studies, I got hit by the ‘lightning bolt’. One of the greatest experiences is the hit of a fantastic tune when you discover an artist so brilliant it terrifies you that life could have carried on without their songs in your system. As a deep admirer of the original wave of synth artists (Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk, early Human League etc.) I was dissatisfied with the way the synthesizer was being used as a mere indie-toy as opposed to the mysterious beast it was capable of. Stumbling around on YouTube late at night I was exposed to a song called ‘Vigils‘ by Xeno & Oaklander and it was exactly what I wanted to hear. Deep, cold, and analogue, it seized me with its glacial grip and before the song had finished I knew I had heard one of the best electronic acts there had ever been. They opened a door to a plethora of related acts I was totally oblivious to (Sixth June, Daybed, Automelodi) in addition to Veronica Vasicka’s excellent minimal-synth archival project/label Minimal Wave.
The dull, grey thud of intermittent unemployment and bullshit jobs plagued me and many of my friends from the summer of 2011. Despite the camaraderie which comes with living in a house full of struggling artists on the dole and not knowing what the fuck they were doing, anger and disillusionment were never too far from the skint revelry. Cccandy and Youth Code were on repeat during this period, perfectly matching the corrosive effects of austerity breakdown with their volatile and abrasive synth-punk pummel. When we finally got our shit together around 2013 and found some stability and money in our pockets the pop around us seemed brighter and effervescent. Mø‘s ‘Pilgrim’ and Arcade Fire‘s ‘Reflektor’ were my ‘songs of the summer’, whenever I hear them now I’m taken over with a sense of sunny renewal.
Each year brought more and more fantastic music, and little did I know that I was living in the city which was at the forefront of the ‘new’. Wych Elm, New Haunts, Avon Terror Corps, E B U, Orryx all knocked me sideways and enthused me so much that I finally plucked the courage to start Heads on Sticks. Any resulting success I’ve had I owe to the mosaic of artists, labels, promoters, and radio stations that make up the Bristol music monster invigorating me to want to get stuck in.
There’s an ocean of songs to sift through but I’ve settled for 100, ten per year. 100 good friends that have seen me through the tribulations of the tumultuous decade. No hierarchy, no objective ‘best of’, just simply the story of my 2010’s, and pretty much my twenties.
I approach the 2020’s with uncertainty once again. The devastating defeat of what felt like a once in a lifetime chance of national healing has left me fearing for the future of our country. I take great comfort in knowing that I enter the new decade in a total golden age of challenging, unique, exquisite and fiercely creative music and performing art.
When writing ‘end of year’ anythings, it’s hard to avoid the cliché line of ‘this year was better than the last’, but it honestly feels true. It never ceases to amaze me how cutting-edge, transformative and exciting music is right now, both in my hometown of Bristol and across the world.
After spending an agonising hour trying to write something profound about the year, I instead decided to save the yakkin’ for the upcoming end of decade playlist and instead let the music do the talkin’!
Frosty coldwave hit Noods Radio for the eleventh time, another hour of icy minimal-synth and its many shoegazey post-punk cousins. This’ll be the last for two months so tune back in in February! 🎹 ❄️ 👌
Post-punk’s electro cousin is rearing its head once again, the fizzy synthpunk pioneered by bands like The Screamers and Nervous Gender channelled in a new crop of mutants from the glam infused POW! to Aussie misfits U-Bahn and Set-Top Box.
Joining the weirdo renaissance is art-punk trio Dress Forms. One of many projects featuring Portland punk veteran Jason Nickle (from Conditioner Disco Group and Collate), his live drum duties chopping against Jenny Logan and Izzy D’s primitive keyboards authentically capture that Units-like magic. We Don’t Dig Guitars, following prior mini-LP Display, is another slice of jumpy, lo-fi dissonance captured via analogue 8-track recordings.
For ten twisting minutes you race around tightly wound jams of nervous energy. ‘Ode to Crime’ transports straight to that glorious era of punk possibility without sounding derivative before the yearning for tactility and connection in the digital age ambushes you on the fuzzy ‘Attempt to Connect’. ‘Winter Shades’ veers between moody swagger and thrash fury all held together by Jenny’s shrieking vocals and we’re also treated to a cover of The Fall’s ‘Hey Student’ (Nickles adopting a nice faux Mark E. Smith singing style) and ‘Why Wait’ from Portland labelmates Way Worse.
Dress Forms have landed another cracker of a record, and sits with the best of ’em from Portland’s vibrant and growing music scene.
Black Sabbath. Electric Wizard. Acid King. How is it that stoner rock can flirt so perilously close to prog-rock fantasy both musically and in visual identity, yet avoid its silly pitfalls. Two naked children of the earth gazing out across a scorched desert toward a bellowing volcano, holding each other as if awaiting some monstrous entity, strangely feels prescient. Perhaps that’s the secret, ground your surreal Sci-Fi concepts in a feeling all too real. Less Tolkien, more Jodorowsky.
Melbourne psych-rockers Holy Serpent has once again joined forces with RidingEasy Records for their third LP Endless, a record still heavy with earth-shattering doom metal but with their love of 70s hard rock given greater prominence. Clocking in at 40 minutes across six songs, the band achieve a smart sweet spot of allowing each track to breathe and ooze with sluggish tempos yet retaining a punk-like punch.
Album opener ‘Lord Deceptor’ is an absolute monster, a colossal metal summoning of pounding riffs and phantom keys nearly swallowing singer Scott Penberthy’s eerie vocals. It’s rolling power is so seismic and evocative that for six and a half minutes you’re whisked away from grey reality and into some psychedelic and stirring plane of existence. ‘Hourglass’ reaches similar heights of cinematic introspection, Lance Leembrugen’s drums crush against superb metal wrath recalling Tony Iommi’s sludgier cuts from Masters of Reality.
Strung-out grooves snakes throughout lending the record essential moments of cosmic intoxication. Thick Bass rattles against melodic fretwork on the slack ‘Daughter of the Light’, while trippy acoustic guitar triggers heady contemplation on album closer ‘Marijuana Trench’, ending the record on a note of hazy optimism.
Holy Serpent has touched the holy metal grail with Endless: an album which honours their metal heritage with some of the finest hard rock currently out there, yet it’s haunted sense of melody and stirring momentum achieve a strange sense of cerebral serenity.
Don your lead codpiece, fly-goggles, and whatever PPE you see fit. The Spit ‘n’ Static! signal was transmitted from the 1020 Radio studio LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! That’s right! Every synthpunk throb, quiver, and ooze to be enjoyed right as it was ‘appening! 👽 👌