Post-punk

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.

KOKOKO! ‘Liboso’

Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo, is where the party is right now. Protest and post-punk soundtrack the streets of Lingwala, recalling the no-wave iconoclasm from the ruins of late 70s New York.

Spearheading the new Congolese agit-punk movement is KOKOKO!, fronted by ‘Zagué’ force of nature Makara Bianko and production from French synth explorer débruit. Backed by DIY musicians from the Ngwaka neighbourhood, political tension and urban decay are channeled into a twisted concoction of off-kilter rhythms, found-junk instrumentation and gritty grooves.

Liboso, their first release with Transgressive Records, is another slice of psych-funk with fire in it’s belly. Opener ‘Blvd Lumumba’ is a slow creeper, an auditory finger beckoning you into their world, enticing you hypnotically against an urban aural landscape of clanging pots and broken glass. The fattest synth bass you’ve ever heard warbles aggressively on ‘Azo Toke’, cymbal claps and Arabic flavoured guitar picking builds to a minimalist and primal frenzy. ESG funk sets the tone on ‘Affaire A Mbongo’, a percussive stomper holding up Bianko’s powerful vocals. Kinshasa partner in crime Rachel Nyangombe features on ‘L.O.V.E’ (first heard on 2017’s Tokoliana), synths squeak and squeal against a fuzzy thud of  Nyangombe’s thumb on a live cable, with mysterious garbled voices instilling a touch of menace. Finale ‘Longola Ye Kupe’ ends on a punch of pure kinetics, a driving storm forcing you to dance into a fever.

Tearing down the old order needn’t be nihilistic. Art and music is a formidable asset in the revolutionaries arsenal, and with Liboso, KOKOKO! have delivered an EP that’s so exciting and full of ingenuity, it makes your soul dance, and challenges the consensus deeper than mere didactics ever could.

BODY HAMMER #2

Hard, primed and pumped. Sex and leather. Hammer synths and industrial noise.

Pleasure Venom ‘Pleasure Venom’

Singer and film-maker Audrey Campbell strikes an imposing presence in the video for ‘These Days’, off the bands second EP Seize. Advancing to a rusted out car, tiki-torch in hand, amid a collage of Soul Train footage, burning infernos, BLM marches, KKK rallies, and alt-right hatred, this is a band confronting the political chaos and ‘white’ hot anger that is Trump’s America head on. Pleasure Venom are here out of sheer fucking necessity.

After two EP’s and a string of high energy live shows, Pleasure Venom are setting the Austin music scene on fire, and their new self-titled release shows no sign of slowing down. Opener ‘Hive’ is a no prisoners punk rock assault, shining a spotlight on fascistic homogeneity, be it brown shirts or red caps. ‘Deth’ hits that sweet spot between punk and garage rock, Campbells powerhouse vocals bursting through the growing cacophony. Ominous piano teases on ‘I Can’t Find my Black Lipstick’, before breaking into jerky, Wilko Johnson style guitar chops, displaying a dexterity and eclecticism keeping the band from being one-note. Their post-punk inclinations are at the forefront on ‘Gunt’, jagged guitar jabs scrape against dub-lite bass, and EP closer ‘Eddy’ has a Nirvana ‘Dive’ riff with theremin like keys percolating amid the thrash, punctuated with the ivory waltz heard on ‘I Can’t Find my Black Lipstick’ returning like a haunted, recurring motif.

Pleasure Venom is an unapologetic assault on musical and political conservatism, and a grenade thrown in the face of the institutes and forces of oppression and white-supremacy.