The most exciting thing in the American Midwest right now is Chicago Research. As much an alliance of post-punk antagonists as it is a label, it sits with Bristol’s Avon Terror Corps as one of the leading purveyors in the absolute cutting-edge of electronic mayhem and all manner of industrial racket.
Enter Ariel Motto. In addition to fronting the synth-pop project Death Valley, Motto has been decking herself in paramilitary garb and cutting some of the leanest and crunchiest EBM since the heady days of the cities Wax Trax!. Last years two E.P’s established the Club Music sound: martial basslines, cold resonance, murky vocals, a taut exercise in acrid techno and caustic grooves.
Like the foot of the T-800 crushing a human skull in the future dystopic wasteland, in smash Club Music’s first album proper Beyond New Beat. Still harnessing a laconic punch with its 22 minute length, Motto further distils her penchant for combative electronics and terse, focused production. The creeping presence of our ever ascending fascist state breathes down your neck on the icy ‘KO’, machine hit-hats and thick synths chug against screams and police sirens like some John Carpenter movie, each key omitting the sinister throb pressed with relish. Cavernous disquiet churns on the eerie ‘Mind Trader’, crisp beats puncturing weird turntable scratching and fat, slimy arpeggios.
There’s an honest to god love for sounds and textures which trigger our nostalgia for dance music of yesteryear without appearing contrived or ‘retro’, such as the orchestral stabs that jab confidently like early 90s Eurodance on the title track. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that the plinky ‘Binaural Beach 008’ wasn’t some old Warp Records compilation contribution, the frenetic ‘Battery Acid’ also feeling like the more aggressive end of IDM.
Ice-cool, muscular and razor sharp. Club Music’s debut Beyond New Beat is the prescient soundtrack to our collective hellscape that burns greater day by day, its industrial brood utterly infectious but its spirit of menace all too contemporary.
The alien mind control that is Spit ‘n’ Static! has been hijacking your signal for a full year! Here’s to another year of everyone’s favourite avant-punk-synth-trash-fuck-spit from the planet Zanfretta! Keep catching that wave same slime, same faceat Bristol’s 1020 Radio! 👽 👌
The eyes rolled so hard at the recent Bristol Sounds line-up the actual eyeballs nearly did a full 360 and revealed its’s ocular veins in true horror fatigue. With another doctored Reading Festival line-up revealing a yellow wasteland when erasing the male artists on the bill, and Slowthai’s confidently lecherous conduct on live TV clearly shows a disappointing amount of work still needing to be done within the music community regarding equity and representation.
To quote Cheshire’s Hell Hath No Fury Records, ”…stop making fucking excuses because they are BULLSHIT!” The only difficult part of compiling this years IWD playlist was to boil down all the womxn/womxn fronted artists which have soundtracked my previous 12 months to just 25 acts, such is the ocean of brilliant and vibrant music being made outside of the standard male and pale.
It’s a pleasure to present to you a real heady brew of tunes. Throat shredding surf punk fury from Grandma’s House, murky dystopic EBM courtesy of Club Music, Harrga‘s poltically charged sonic provocation, and the exquisite soul of Nilüfer Yanya. I hope you dig as much as I did!
There’s a myriad of ways we can ensure our practice and conduct as artists/promoters/journalists etc. help in the dismantling of male focused obstructions to diverse art. The work that still needs to be done is expressed beautifully by Bristol’s Slagheap. Slagheap are a post-spunk quartet of joyous avant-funk ESG groove which bristle with an air of spontaneity and razor sharp humour who have quickly become one of my fave acts in the city. Here’s what they have to say:
Womxn, start a band and do it badly!
Try something totally from scratch. Something that you think it would be absurd to try. Almost more importantly than doing it, give yourself permission to do it badly, sloppily, wrong. Be bad and messy and loud. Be loose, shloopy and instinctive. Don’t even think about the outcome. Just focus on doing it.
It doesn’t have to be expensive or long or even that involved but carve yourself a little sliver of space. And once your sliver is sorted, help someone else carve theirs. Invite other womxn to be loud with you. Share knowledge and resources and grant yourself and each other permission.
The less privilege you hold, the less space you have to get it wrong. Getting it wrong in a safe space is such a great way to personal and creative liberation and innovation. It doesn’t have to be public. Ever. If you don’t want it to be. But it could be? Or it might take you to something you feel like sharing. Or maybe not. That’s cool.
The ability to make art of any kind is becoming increasing hard for anyone bar those already holding the most privilege. This is why it’s even more important for all womxn to have space to be creative. We need to work to democratise the arts and creative outlets both personal and professional even more so in the face of the current upwards syphoning of all resources and opportunity.
Men (and womxn with lots of privilege)
Think about ways you could make some space for womxn to be creative. Got a guitar you never play? Lend it to a mate. Are you a promoter? Share some contacts with a budding colleague. Don’t put bands and artists on a bill together purely because they share a gender (or facet thereof), programme diverse and cohesive bills. Don’t use venues who don’t commit to safe space policies. Understand, consider and communicate accessibility of venues you use or frequent. Be intentional with your search for new music and make sure you buy, share and support music made by womxn.
Please don’t continue vomiting up pernicious rubbish like the bunch of gammons at the head of Transmit or Bristol Sounds or whatever other mediocre festivals and events braying on defensively about the lack of options of female artists. It shows them to be incredibly poorly informed and bad at their jobs. And if possible, donate some cold hard cash or time to grass roots organisations promoting and supporting womxn and marginalised people in music e.g. Eat Up!/Eat up for starters (Bristol), Saffron (Bristol), Young woman’s music project (Oxford), Decolonise fest (London), DIY Space for London/First Timers, Slut Drop (Leeds), Sister Shack (Newcastle), Women’s Work (Belfast) etc…
Last but not least, don’t only think and talk about this today. Make some fucking space 365 days of the year.
Make sure you tune in to Bristol’s 1020 Radio for their IWD special, a full day dedicated to shows from all their womxn residents!
Check out Riot Diet on Boogaloo Radio and Radio Chonk on 1020 Radio, two monthly shows dedicated to shows about and for womxn!
Rough Trade Bristol are hosting a free workshop for all women, people of colour, non-binary and queer individuals from sound engineer Fiona Riches in the beginnings of live sound for gigs. You’ll learn the basics of putting a show together, and have free entry to the Porridge Radio show directly after the workshop.
Check out Eat Up For Starters, a project of events and workshops promoting greater diversity in the music industry. They’re hosting a Queer Zine library at Bristol’s Exchange, come along and read zines focusing on LGBT+ issues and even submit your own!
Dr. Sketchy’s is a fun and alternative life-drawing class that focuses on drag queens, divas, and circus performers as drawing subjects, complete with music and beer! Head to To The Moon for their IWD session!
Ann-Marie Tierney (better known by her blogger name Molly Tie) is a regular contributor to Loud Women and is currently writing a book on the experiences of women in the music industry, and asking for any anecdotes or thoughts anyone may have. Email her at email@example.com if you’d like to help!
Join the International Women’s Strike at 12pm from Bristol’s cenotaph, a chance to take a break from traditional ‘female work’ and highlight the invisible labour which goes unacknowledged and unrewarded.
Keep yourself up to date with Hell Hath No Fury, a DIY punk label based in Cheshire dedicated to providing a platform for womxn, non-binary and queer punksters!
The synth/darkwave scene is a genre, unfortunately, wrought with utter derivatives. Wading through the many generic goth acts that clog up Bandcamp is always worth the drudgery when discovering a Sixth June, SDH, and now, Riki.
Riki, the alias of L.A. artist and former Crimson Scarlet member Niff Nawor, swiftly cemented herself as an exciting new figure in the synthpop world with 2018’s Hot City E.P. and a string of support slots with Black Marble and Light Asylum. Teaming up with INHALT’s Matia Simovich for production duties, Riki’s affection for Neue Deutsche Welle , Italo disco and new wave pop have been poured into a bright debut album with an irresistibly lean, bold, and muscular sound.
The punch of a processed orchestral hit opens Riki, first track ‘Strohmann’ drenched in deeply satisfying ZT Records style bombast, the pop of the snare and bassy throb leaping straight out of Trevor Horn’s E-Mu Emulator library. Its propulsive rhythm glides effortlessly with Riki’s understated vocals examining projected love onto the titular ‘Strawman’. ‘Napoleon’ is a fittingly confident and strident love letter to the French emperor that rushes to a stirring romance with unashamed killer pop hooks and Some Great Reward era production.
The weighty heft that leads the album is afforded moments of respite. The gorgeously seductive ‘Spirit of Love’ effortlessly pulses with delicate sequencers and brittle but infectious minimalism. Contemplative menace is channelled on the passionate ‘Böse Lügen’, a stirring tale of disenchantment sung entirely in German and a showcase of just how rousing Riki’s voice can be.
There is not a shred of irony or acerbity to be found on Riki, every moment is grounded in sincerity to make honest to god pop which excites the soul. Rich, decadent, and deeply romantic, Riki’s debut album is a fantastic conjuring of 80s pop while cutting a voice entirely her own.
The loyal devotees of the Spit ‘n’ Static! cult dunked their head in the 11th dose and ‘Ascended’ outta this topsy-turvy world just as their glorious leader ordered them too!! Check out the death tape from this infamous incident, and ‘catch the wave’ at the new schedule of every third Thursday of the month, same slime same face, at Bristol’s 1020 Radio. REJOICE!!!!!
”My love for you is like a drug” Emma Acs quietly sneers on the acerbic ‘Into Your Heart’, a stinging epitome of just how detrimental the throes of love can be. The gnawing torment of regrets, confusion, and unsatiated longing that follows a relationship breakdown can veer into obsession, often pushing us to a state of unguarded vulnerability not witnessed by anybody else. Heartache is one of the most intense experiences of the human condition, yet once passed through its test a great insight about oneself is ultimately discovered.
It’s been a busy five years since Acs’s previous album Give in to Whatever. Graduating from college, contributing to various side-projects and composing a symphony for a 50 piece orchestra, this creative momentum sees Acs jumping from her native Copenhagen to L.A. with restless energy fueled by the end of a relationship. Finding soothing catharsis in the aggressive trap of artists like XXXTentacion and the haunting arrangements of Scott Walker, new E.P. While I Shoot from My Fortress of Delusions is an enticing clash of sonic serenity bristling with buried tension.
At just seven songs, Acs achieves an impressive traverse of mood and styles which truly pushes the parameters of the E.P. format, reaching a sense of cohesion like it were her third album. This arc is established on the opening track ‘Blessed are the Faithful’, a psalm of sorts which sees Acs pleading for some divine intervention before segueing into the hazy menace of ‘Palm Trees’, an introspective wander through lulled accordion and soaring strings which belie its lyrical pugnaciousness with lines like ‘I want to hurt you so badly’.
Acs’s affection for Scott Walker courses throughout, but particularly shines on third track ‘My Beloved (Lost to Begin with)’, a swirling trip of expert jazz brass and ice-cool bass that recalls Peter Walsh’s production work on Walker’s Climate of Hunter. Synth darkwave pulses on the sombre ‘Disarmed’, a beguiling mix of electronica and Høyer Hansen’s intricate acoustic guitar that creates a brittle disquiet perfectly mirroring the themes of the futility often felt when trying to protect oneself from the slings and arrows of love.
The narrative grip never ebbs, the last two songs feeling as conclusive as the opening two were introductory. The penultimate ‘Right Here’ is devastatingly eerie, a deeply private admission of ignoble efforts to maintain a presence in our lovers lives no matter how unhealthy, perniciously pulling you in with Gothic piano drops and singing strings reminiscent of Nick Cave’s latter atmospheric output. The final blow ‘Witch Hunt Waiting Room’ is a gorgeously rousing affront of cleverly disjointed piano notes and synth choir that amounts to a terrifying wail of chills with a weird arcane energy, a fitting closure that soundtracks the nagging sense of injustice at past grievances and grudges never accounted for. A witch burning in front of a crowd hiding their own transgressions and disloyalties.
The full gamut of heartache and its many manifestations have been brilliantly distilled into an exceptional piece of work which effortlessly glides between beauty and acidic lyrical barb. While I Shoot from my Fortress of Delusions is a bold and confident statement from an artist destined for great things.
Apparently, the source of the signal hijack known as Isotope Soap hails from Stockholm, although you’d have to take the band’s word for it. Surely this is some top-secret, extraterrestrial invasion, corrupting your speakers like the Max Headroom incident static puking into your mind fuzzy detuned images of alien encounters, psychic warfare, and Japanese office employees overworking to death. It’s hard to decipher in their garbled message whether they’re warning or mocking humanity. It’s likely both.
Mixing hardcore and the synth alienation of Chrome and The Screamers, long-time Swedish punk legend Peter Swedenhammar’s new bastard birthed project Isotope Soap is the corrosive face of the synthpunk renaissance alongside Leeches, POW!, and the roster of artists on scuzzy Sydney label Warttmann Inc. Donning radioactive PPE and black boiler suits, the band strike a truly warped impression when witnessed live, and their string of brilliantly septic singles and E.P.’s have garnered them a horde of misfits salivating for a proper debut album.
Despite clocking in at only 14 minutes, An Artifact of Insects slithers around a wide array of styles and murk. Tracks like ‘Fragile Dream’ and ‘T-T-T-Telepathic’ are quintessential synthpunk, glorious punk rock urgency rushing apace with fizzy analogues that thrust you straight into the heady era of San Fran art-punk from the late ’70s. Eerie, caustic electronics throb and pulse on stingers like ‘Hey, Karoshi!’ and ‘Zanfretta’, the latter a haunting trip of spiky sinewaves and sonic dissonance conjuring the green creatures of the Torriglia 1984 case. The disparate turns the record makes are all held together by expert vocoder and voice effects, Swedenhammar’s electronically treated vocals forever contorting to a high-pitched squeal or buzzing Dalek angst, often at the same time.
Subterranean and acrid, An Artifact of Insects is a fantastic psych-slurry of twisted electro and punk delinquency, the kinda music Nero would have fiddled while Rome burned were he an LSD soaked robot from the future.
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.