Cold-wave

New Haunts ‘Worlds Left Behind’

The inanimate, the dead. Everything here lives‘ Alice Sheridan croons on album closer ‘Ice’. The sparks which fly off these contradictions fuel New Haunts’s debut LP Worlds Left Behind both aurally and lyrically, the antagonism between light and dark, beauty and horror.

Worlds Left Behind, mastered and mixed at Bristol’s Free House Studios, is nine tracks of dark-wave, Gothic synth-pop which balances serene atmospherics with nightmarish infernos. Opener ‘Ingrained’ is stunningly cinematic, an electrifying showcase of ethereal sonics and rousing drums with thick synth stabs surrounding Sheridan’s exquisite, goose-pimple vocals. ‘Hymns’ is a gorgeous acclamation to the spiritual binding agent music and art can be, with celestial production reminiscent of Kate Bush’s The Sensual World. Self-titled ‘New Haunts’ is a funeral march, Death in June organs chill the air and further Sheridan’s juxtapositions: ‘Everyone a stranger, anyone a friend.’

Aggression is never too far away, lulled into a false sense of security, you can be smacked sideways with a track like ‘Waves’, a cavernous slab of crunchy electronics and subterranean drums close in on you, a chaotic howl of the visceral oppression of the external world invading our inner beings. Pornography keys swell and drone on the icy ‘Left Me Cold’, whereas ‘Safe out Here’ sees Sheridan adopt a more conversational vocal delivery, frosty reverb punctuated by stuttering drum machines all amount to a thrilling disquiet.

In a scene which can be wrought with uninspired derivatives and by-numbers goth, New Haunts has delivered a debut album demonstrating just how stirring and affecting the dark-wave genre can be, while also producing a piece of work utterly her own. Worlds Left Behind is a powerful artistic statement on the universal and eternal conflicts of life, that profound sadness and the giddy heights of joy are forever fighting each other.

Plastic Ivy ‘The Glass Horizon’

Plastic Ivy has one sole figure listed as her influence: Marcel Duchamp. Taking inspiration from Duchamp’s philosophy of art serving the mind over the eye, Philadelphia artist Lira Marie Landes has utilised this cerebral approach to explore her search for self-knowledge and actualisation, in the midst of a gender transition during the writing and recording of the album.

The Glass Horizon is six songs of exemplary minimal-synth pop, taking cues from the rich crop of contemporary icy synthesist’s (Xeno & Oaklander, Void Vision, Speaking Parts) and authentic electronic sonics being attributed to her primary use of analogue Roland keyboards. ‘Exit Strategy’ is a frenetic chiller, chunky arpreggiators drive against discordant sinewaves, echoing the aggression heard on Martial Canterel’s Gyors Lassú. Landes’s Residents-like vocals come to the fore on lead single (video shot by Liz Wendelbo) ‘Never Caught in Amber’, a jubilant BPM pop-banger espousing the liberation of embracing your true self. Epiphany turns to playful with instrumental ‘Sticky Fears of Inner Néant’, complete with melodica played by Landes herself, before the post-punk ‘Anaphora’ details the blank canvas our bodies are, backed by Frank (Just Frank) indie guitars and a glorious big synth lead right at home with The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. Menace follows with the cavernous funk of ‘Usury’, then cinematic closer ‘Love on the Floor’ drops us into a sea of reverb and delay, held together by steady drum machines and bass throbs, culminating to a thrilling end to the atmospheric tundra.

Plastic Ivy’s sophomore effort is a dynamic first entry to a proposed series of thematic works, and her balancing of pop immediacy and the weighty quest to promote communication and questioning have been well and truly realised.