Synthpunk

Spit ‘n’ Static! 1020 Radio #1

Was a pleasure to introduce Bristol’s 1020 Radio to Glaciers’s mutated brother! The full gamut of synthpunk, avant-weird jams, garbled voices and fizzy spit in an hour of electronic radiation courtesy of everyone’s favourite Head on a Stick! Catch the alien signal intrusion same time next month, on Thursday 9th! 👌 👽

VR SEX ‘HORSEPLAY’

The long march of progress hasn’t yielded the fruits we were promised. At the dawn of automated labour, the digital revolution, and the universe of information at our disposal, you’re still a wage slave working overtime with a tie round your neck like a noose, in a world mired with environmental degradation, political demagoguery, and the creeping commodification of the last remaining remnants of the human experience. As the rapacious demands of the free-market trash the planet and swallow you whole, you search desperately for an answer, then in comes a strange new theory: P.S.R.S. (Procreation Simulation Reproduction Stimulation). Be done with facing the failures of humanity and your subjection to it, plug in to a world of virtual reality hedonism, satisfy your perversions and desires, and inadvertently participate in the curbing of population growth. It might just work.

The preachers of this reverse Ludovico Technique are VR SEX, an L.A synthpunk trio comprising former members of Drab Majesty and Heroin, all clad in Westworld/Personal Jesus cowboy and shades leather. Born from a consensus of mass consumerism and slavish devotion to technology comes their debut EP HORSEPLAY, four tracks of melodic power-pop which shines from the heart underneath abrasive deathrock.

Paranoia and impending doom is declared on EP opener ‘LANDMINE’, crisp punchy drums beat down like the doomsday clock, indie jangly guitar permeate with discordant fat synth lines, singer Noel Skum crooning menacingly like Andrew Eldritch. ‘EVERYTHING’S FINE’ features a sublime and almost sunny pop hook beneath its noxious veneer, throbbing synth basses straight from New Order’s Technique, before pivoting to the artificial rock of ‘A SHOT AT LOVE’, complete with a howling synthesizer solo, Pere Ubu fighting with Pixies. Fetid turns to funky with closer ‘The Watchers’, teasing the dark with analogue synth-pop light, programmed drum fills binding Skum’s cop radio ridden vocals.

Technocratic nightmares and social media erosion of the physical has been channeled into a punchy, cyberpunk gem of an EP, honoring their industrial heritage while not falling for the genres clichés. With a full length LP out in May, VR SEX look set to be the contemporary soundtrack to our neoliberal miasma.

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 gem, and festers in the seamy underbelly of Berlin, waiting to be excavated.