Deep within the gruelling industrial working conditions of 19th century London, Dracula stalked the factories and workhouses in his thirst for blood like capital sucking the life from the proletariat, according to a Marxist interpretation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For all the sweeping social change and technological advancement brought about by the industrial revolution, the toil of the labouring class still haunts the cities of Western Europe.
With the demands of late-stage capitalism as aggressive as ever, its resulting alienation and disconnect have created a new and special spectral residue for sonic alchemists to try and tap into. From Bristol’s Dark Alchemy nights, Manchester dungeon mage Primitive Knot, and the many witch house artists conjuring spooky electronica across the States, potent mystical energy seems to be growing underneath the urban sprawl. Spearheading the wave of arcane electronics is duo Robedoor, an industrial occult drone act from L.A. comprised of unrelated Alex and Britt (co-founder of Not Not Fun Records) Brown, and have built a heady discography together touching on stoner metal, psychedelic explorations and space rock.
Their latest offering via Deathbomb Arc comes Negative Legacy, a four track journey of synth sorcery and sonic hypnosis which feels less performed and more exorcised in some forbidden ritual. While the swampy murk as heard on previous records still engulf, traces of melody ooze within the mire. Album opener ‘Entity Undertow’ creeps in with monk chants and febrile winds before swelling with hissing beats seductive bass, as if one were under a trance at the hands of the encroaching vampire. Putrid electro palpitates on the ravaged ‘Execution Myth’, cavernous drums pounds like the awaiting of the condemned against the feverish hellscapes of squealing synths and alien effects followed by the most evil, nastiest keyboard throb in this life or hereafter. The drum machines penetrate the smog on penultimate track ‘So Unknown’ while album closer ‘Cauldrone’ is a stirring meander through old-world strings, octave pedal manipulations and Martin Hannet style spatial snares.
This is a dark record, but we live in dark times. As the cogs of neoliberalism continue to grind, the workers and city dwellers yearn to touch the beguiling and ethereal. Negative Legacy is both a successful channelling of ancient mysticism and an unholy trip of detachment all too contemporary in the exploitative and disillusioned world we’re subject to.
The psych cauldron currently bubbling away in the West Coast with acts like Goon and Spellling has belched forth another offering. Enter good boy, the second album of noise outfit Kamikaze Palm Tree, a sophomore effort which plays out like a jumbled ‘n’ jangled old jack-in-a-box, skewed pop and upside-down melodies turn the crank before the occasional jolt of frenzied drone rock and Avant-weird experiments.
Duo Dylan Hadley and Cole Berliner know how to fuse disparate, seemingly mutually exclusive arrangements and styles into a disjointed yet fascinating mess. The mangled ‘Sharpie Smile’ is a crooked house of cartoonish glockenspiels fighting with laser synths, punk thrash and eerie serenity congealed into a disquieting frenzy. No Wave incongruity scrapes and thuds on ‘Wants More’, intercut with brittle guitar textures that lift Hadley’s commanding, Nico like vocals.
Like The Velvet Underground, a sweet song is never far from the dissonance. The title track ‘Good Boy’ shows the bands penchant for sunny psych-meanders, a seemingly innocent and child-like meander of gentle acoustic strums and toybox percussion, before the twee deteriorates into an unsettling slew of atonal guitar, like flies caught in it’s cloying. Their psych inclinations and affection for unorthodox arrangements creep on the hazy dream of ‘You Talk’, surf guitar and Radiophonic Workshop effects mix to a languid fog surrounding Hadley’s sluggish delivery, and reach even headier heights on the various ‘Bongo’ interludes peppered throughout (replacing the ‘Clown’ from previous record The Ocean is the Solution).
Irregular, inside-out, and thoroughly unpredictable, good boy is an intriguing contortionist of a record, bending into impossible shapes and twisting itself into strange and brilliant forms.
Misophonia literally means ‘hatred of sound’, the phenomena whereby specific sounds can trigger negative physical and emotional reactions. The cover of last years single Limbo features what looks like a tormented call centre worker driven to the edge, just one more crushing and useless phone call away from a profound spiritual chaos. Misophonic Songs, like Fear of Music, is an apt signal of the unease contained within…
SANS are a post-punk trio steadily making a name for themselves with their energised and cacophonous live shows in Bristol. Stirring a noxious brew of ‘Naomi Punk’ like time signatures, gargantuan metal wrath and throat shredding screams, the intensity of their sets has been exorcised all too well for their debut album.
Shellac riffing opens the record on ‘Meaningless’, a noise-rock pendulum veering with awesome force between seething punk venom and nimble indie introspection. The cosmic savagery of Swans dominates the eerie ‘Wipe Dread’, crashing, rolling drums pummel your soul amid a cold, static wind, before deteriorating into a febrile ruin of whispers.
(What sound like) double drum pedals are most welcome on the furious ‘OK’, a touch of Sepultura’s ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ explode into a twisted and disorientating whirl of volatility. The thickest, nastiest, bass you’ve ever heard churn and scrape on the sinister chug of ‘It’s Your Party Priscilla…I’m Just Dancing on the Tables’, their more psychedelic inclinations fighting against the ravaged guitar scratching wail that closes the track.
At just 28 mins, SANS impressively take the weighty cohesion of a Swans record and distill it into a taut and punchy mini-album, both epic yet burning with white hot urgency.