Berlin

DIESEIN ‘Songs about Sally’

Rarely are solo and side projects as indispensable as an artist’s main acts output, but Laslo Antal’s DIESEIN debut LP is a glorious entry in an impeccable run of dazzling, synthwave mood-pop.

Belgrade born Antal formed Sixth June with Lidija Andonov way back in 2007, and were the progenitors of the so called ‘minimal synth’ movement, alongside Xeno & Oaklander, Daybed, and Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave label/reissue project. Kindred spirits they all may be, the lush and rich production behind Sixth June was contrary to their ‘coldwave’ tag, their first album Everytime being a dramatic and nostalgic journey with unashamed pop sensibilities, married with Antal’s unique cinematic video style, all painting a romantic picture of a Berlin you had always imagined. Two EP’s followed, and in 2016 Antal teamed up with Sally Dige Jørgensen for their one and only Cult Club record, introducing mean bass work and Antal’s backing baritone vocals.

Songs about Sally expands upon the pallet of sounds first hinted at on Sixth June’s ‘Night Before’ from last year’s Virgo Rising. Gorgeous sax work shimmers over the first two tracks ‘You’ and ‘Make me Feel’, irresistibly complimenting the funky basslines reminiscent of Play with Lies. ‘Tell me’ recalls that special Sixth June urgency, effortless pop which builds into a satisfying crescendo, awash with synthetic strings that are so exciting you jump out of your skin. ‘7777’ takes a step away from the organic, all analogue arpeggios and an infectious sequenced drum beat, before album closer ‘Make me Weak’ ends with gothic guitar licks and cavernous ghostly vocals coalescing to a moody finale which would make Martin Gore proud.

Melancholic but never cold, nostalgic but never ‘retro’, Songs about Sally is an authentic and earnest demonstration of how pop can inhabit our most sentimental inner spaces, and form the soundtracks of our lives.

EXCAVATIONS #1 Cccandy ‘Lonesome Berlin’

If you ever wanted to know what rotting, dead, pop songs sounded like, Cccandy’s Lonesome Berlin would be a good start.

A bedroom DIY synth project conceived by Stefan Sehm (drummer for Berlin punk band Bikes) in 2008, little else is known about the cryptic Cccandy. His self-described ‘morbid pop’ was well evident on his preceding Necrosis 7” and self-titled debut, but its 2010’s Lonesome Berlin, issued on the brilliant Avant! Records, which best realises his acerbic murk.

Lo-fi fog permeates through the album, with choppy drum machines and muffled synths adding to the miasma. Its skeletal minimalism avoids Martin Rev style brittleness, with every bassline and melody feeling thick and turgid. The title track, and arguably Cccandy’s signature song, encapsulates the subterranean dank beautifully. Spooky pitch bends haunt the monotonous arpeggios, all held together by the punch of fuzzy snares.

Despite the pervading dread, he doesn’t let electro-sludge get in the way of a good tune. Each track belies its smoggy shroud with a keen ear for catchy pop sensibilities, albeit a skewed and warped one. The fizzy synthpop of ‘Woman’, or the muffled disco of ‘Teacher of Lust’, adds a smart dimension to the LP which stops the doom becoming dirge. He even gets anthemic on the re-recording of ‘I’m a Punk’, first heard on his 2009 debut.

‘Acid squid, bottomless pit…’ Beefheart surrealism doesn’t dilute the visceral potency, acrid snapshots of violence, paranoia, blood and alienation, this is a worm’s eye view of Berlin. A cool view of humanity made all the more disconcerting by his monotone, sexless, distorted vocals, at times unintelligible within the mire. A gallows sense of humour runs throughout. ‘Bourgeoisie, no thank you’ he pleads in ‘Bourgeoisie Nie’ feeling like an attack on the slow death creep of gentrification, and the final mantra of ‘I need blood and guts’ on ‘Blood and Guts’ perhaps pokes fun at his more earnest post-punk contemporaries, much like Aphex Twin’s mockery of death metal on ‘Come To Daddy’.

Cccandy remains active on Soundcloud, sporadically releasing tracks and various other projects, but never followed up with another significant LP. Lonesome Berlin still stands as a caustic synth-punk masterpiece, and festers in the seamy underbelly of Berlin, waiting to be excavated.