Pentagram Home Video : Look Into The Darkness

Not to let the year wither and die on the vine peacefully, Pentagram Home Video felt the need to conjure up some Christmas evil and lay on us some serious dark vibes just in time for Krampus’ visit. Look Into The Darkness is the kind of album you hit play on when you’re home alone staring into the snow-covered blackness. It makes its way to your ears like an ancient mist emanating from a tomb lost to time and memory. With The Satanic Path released early in 2017, followed by both Library Studies and Walpurgisnacht shortly after, Look Into The Darkness is the fourth PHM album of 2017. Each one is a gateway to some other, distorted dimension. Where those first three seemed to reach into the dark reaches of the occult, Look Into The Darkness is a walk through a dusty, historied castle. Candelabras lit, stained glass mildewed and cracked, the music takes us on a spectral guide through stone-lined halls, cobweb-covered cathedral ceilings, and the stench of time rotting within this cobblestoned tomb we find ourselves in.

I think one of the most affecting things about Pentagram Home Video’s music palate is his use of minimalism. He doesn’t overload his songs with big beats, walls of electronic noise, or melodrama to carry you up into an imaginary world. He slowly works into your brain, muscles, and bone marrow with ease by being subtle in his work. Opening track “Look Into The Darkness” sounds like Angelo Badalamenti on an absinthe high. There’s a swing in the track we haven’t heard before from PHM, and it’s quite addictive. There’s a ghostly melody that hangs over the proceedings which begs you to step a little further into the shadows. “An Exporations of Black Magic” continues that ghostly vibe. You really do get the feeling of an eerie, snowy night somewhere in the wilderness. Moon shining through snow-covered trees as a stillness comes over you so potent, you think for a moment you’ve lost your sense of hearing. Every hair stands on end as you feel the unmistakable burn of eyes on you.

This collection of songs is inspired by the BBC’s ‘A Ghost Story For Christmas‘ which ran originally from 1971 to 1978. It was brought back again in 2005. From the sound of Look Into The Darkness, I’d say these BBC ghost stories were quite affecting. Pentagram Home Video’s Gothic musical world seems to be the perfect place to conjure ghosts, ghouls, and enact some kind of psychic trauma, as did this show on an entire generation of young, British boys and girls. Take a listen to “The Guest At The Window” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Or “Lost On The Red Hill”, or “Strange Days”. “A Malevolent Shadow Presence” goes into some kind of spectral, techno spell.

Despite its origins coming from old BBC ghost stories, this album has an air of melancholy to it as well. For the most part ghosts that haunt us, both figuratively and literally, tend to be something or someone we know. Regrets that we carry throughout our life that are never dealt with. Things said or not said that we carry like Marley’s chains around out mortal necks. Pentagram Home Video’s Look Into The Darkness is a soundtrack for dark reflection. A score for spiritual and psychic anxiety. It’s a musical companion to turn to on those cold, winter nights when there’s nothing left to do but look at that ghoul in the mirror and decide if you’re gonna do something about it. More than likely you’ll just put it away with the Christmas stockings and tree ornaments for another year.

Either way, Pentagram Home Video have an album for you.

8. 3 out of 10

Espectrostatic : Silhouette

Alex Cuervo’s Espectrostatic project is a horror-vibed collection of heavy synth songs that also dabble in mid-90s electro-alternative pop music. Don’t let that last bit scare you away if what you’re looking for is dark, moody, heady electronic music that could easily soundtrack a fever dream. Espectrostatic has that in spades. But if you let your mind drift a bit while listening to their Burning Witches Records debut titled Silhouette, you may find yourself connecting to bands like Garbage, Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps, and Portishead as well John Carpenter, Goblin, Antoni Maiovvi, and the Phantasm S/T.

Now just because the dark lords have made their way back to the nether world since October is two months behind us now doesn’t mean you can’t lock into some dark vibes still. What do you think Krampus listens to as he’s throwing naughty toddlers in his bag for later gnashing and such? If he’s the evil Santa I hope he’s listening to Epectrostatic’s Silhouette. “The Corridor” feels like classic B-movie goodness, pushed along by electronic percussion, ghostly synths, and an almost Nightmare On Elm Street feel. This one is classic Wes Craven all the way. Cuervo knows his horror vibes and he demonstrates that beautifully on this opening track. “The Day We Were Captured” has a real Geoff Barrow/Ben Salisbury feel. It puts me in mind of their work in Ex_Machina. It’s a lovely piece. “Dead End City” sounds like Eels mixing things up with Bauhaus. It’s both fun and maniacal at the same time. “Silhouette” has that 90s alternative vibe in the drum and heavy bass. All this song needs is Shirley Manson singing over it and it could be that great Garbage song that never was. “Ghost Rocket” reminds me of Slasher Film Festival Strategy. It has the queasy 80s vibes all the way. “The Delirium of Negation” sounds like slowly falling thru time. It’s dark and melodic. “Pa-ral-y-sis” puts me in mind of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ film work, but more Gothic and less robotic. “The Weeping Willows” ends the album on a big note with what sounds like strings and keys blending into tension-filled suspense. You can almost see end credits rolling as this plays.

Espectrostatic’s Silhouette is another great record to add to the pile of 2017. Alex Cuervo has made a darkly-fueled record to put on and enjoy in the witching hour while enjoying a glass of red wine, or while contemplating that sound you heard in the basement. Either way, your best bet is to fill the glass back up and hit play on Silhouette again. Forget that sound you heard. Those things never go well.

7.7 out of 10

 

The Soft Moon’s “Burn”

Luis Vasquez, aka The Soft Moon, has a new album coming out in February. It’s called Criminal and what I’ve heard of it tells me that it could be one of my favorite records of 2018. Each album he puts out becomes both more accessible and harsher. From the first self-titled record which felt almost like an instrumental record at times to Zeros in 2012, Vasquez went into more of an early NIN direction. He mixes South American percussive vibes with dark industrial sensibility. He pushes the envelope when it comes to his sound and the visual aspect of both the album art and his live presentation.

His last album, the excellent Deeper in 2015, Vasquez seemed to have had a breakthrough with his sound. He made a very personal record, giving Deeper a more singer/songwriter feel.

Instead of a guy with an acoustic guitar it was a guy with a synthesizer and industrial beats.

Criminal, The Soft Moon’s first album with Sacred Bones(having released with Captured Tracks for the past few years) sounds like a perfect meshing of everything that came before. The first two singles, “Burn” and “It Kills” are primo darkwave/industrial. Sweaty, dense, propulsive and caffeinated like a late night coffee session in a lousy diner after an evening of slam dancing in an underground club.

Check the songs out below and look for this one in February of 2018 on Sacred Bones Records(home of John Carpenter, yo!) I already preordered the special edition vinyl cause that’s what I do.

 

Bell Witch : Mirror Reaper

Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper is an album that takes some time opening up and getting inside. It’s a dense affair that feels very much like a meditation on grief and mourning. It’s a record that takes patience in order to get through, as it’s one 84-minute track. If that last sentence scares you, then Mirror Reaper may not be for you. But if you’ve got the time, Bell Witch have one hell of an album for you.

Bell Witch have under their belt, including their Mirror Reaper, three full-length albums. Each are meditative, minimalistic doom metal. They’re more like movements than songs, really. Modern doom metal classical music. The Seattle band started out as a two-piece with Adrien Guerra on drums and vocals and Dylan Desmond on bass and vocals. With this set up they released their demo in 2011, followed by Longing in 2012. In 2015 Four Phantoms was dropped and they seemed to have solidified a sound that was equal parts Gothic, slow core, doom metal, and ambient. It is heavy music. Seriously heavy, for sure. But the mix of just bass and drums with the distant guttural roar of vocals that sound more like ancient tomes that lyrics for a rock song, give Bell Witch’s tracks an open and vast sound. Their minimalistic approach to songwriting gives their songs a storied, vast sound.

While in the process of writing Mirror Reaper Guerra passed away suddenly, leaving Desmond to pick up the pieces. With the addition of Jesse Shreibman on drums, vocals, and organ the two set to finishing the record. What we have now is an entirely different Mirror Reaper than what was begun back in 2016. It’s heavier and far more sorrowful than anything Bell Witch has done before.

There have been other bands that have laid out whole sides of an LP dedicated to just one song. Those ponderers and mind expanders in the audience can appreciate a good album side stint so as to enjoy a beer or two. But at 84 minutes for one single song, Mirror Reaper takes the funeral cake. Though as to add a moment of calm amongst the storm, the band broke the single track into two 40+ minutes parts, titled “As Above” and “So Below”. Sleep still holds the record for the longest “Black Sabbath meets Cheech and Chong” mash up with 60 minute single track “Dopesmoker”, but Bell Witch have built an 84 minute meditation on death, loss, and grief that no one will surely meet any time soon.

Musically, Mirror Reaper does have moments of sheer heaviness and blustering metal. But really, where the power lies on this album are the moments of quieter reflection. Dylan Desmond’s 6-string bass playing is done with great care and delicate ease. There are many moments on this record that remind me of those melodic, reflective musical bits you’d hear on earlier Metallica albums. Desmond reminds me of Cliff Burton’s melodic bass playing, quite a bit actually. And Jesse Shreibman’s drums keep a sort of perpetual motion going on throughout. There’s a slow but continuous chugging as the song moves on, keeping a melodic undertone in conjunction with the weight of the riffs. Shreibman also peppers the record with Hammond organ, giving the track a real funeral feel(Bell Witch are referred to as “funeral doom”, after all.) At the half way point, Adrien Guerra’s voice appears, giving that midway point some serious catharsis and emotional heft. He’d recorded the piece prior to his death while him and Desmond had begun to record the album.

Mirror Reaper isn’t an easy listen, but one that does reward those that give it repeated spins. Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman have built a mammoth wall of Gothic doom, but have installed and easily accessible doorway for us to enter through. The album deals with endings, but also beginnings.

7.9 out of 10

Trophy Club : Sports Cars

Fort Wayne has its fair share of “hardest working folks in showbiz” types. The music scene is less individual bands keeping to themselves than a bunch of bands that are made up of people in other bands. Some last, some are here and gone before your beer buzz fades from seeing them the night before. How long they last doesn’t really matter, though. What matters is the quality of the work. What matters is the songs and the spirit and just the general chutzpah put into all these different projects, short-lived or in for the long haul need not matter. I’d attempt to name all these side projects, but there’s not enough ink. I’ll just say this, Fort Wayne is a hotbed of interlocking songwriters, musicians, artists, and bigger than life personalities that make sure the music fan will never be bored. There’s something in the Allen County air that seems to cultivate creativity. In fact, before I’m done typing this sentence there will probably be 4 more bands formed in the 07.

One of those prolific, band and genre-hopping folks dispersing verses and riffs like a pied piper of tunes in the Fort is Jared Andrews. Andrews has been playing around town for years now, with bands like Elephants In Mud, The Meat Flowers, and Microwave Miracles to name a few. He seems like a guy that loves music, period. There’s no certain name brand or genre hat this guy likes to wear all the time(though he does like hats.) A couple months ago Andrews put out his most recent solo album called I Wanna Be Your Cartoon. It’s a fun album mixed with the right amount of silliness, sincerity, and just a touch of creepiness.  But even before the codes could be cracked on that we’re looking down the barrel of a brand new band and album featuring Jared Andrews. Trophy Club is the name of the Fort Wayne supergroup that consists of Andrews, Void Reunion’s George Gardner, The Snarks’ Zach Kerschner, and drummer Cale Gerst. Sports Cars, Trophy Club’s debut album, does resemble Andrews’ past work, but this is very much a band in the truest sense.

Sports Cars opens with “The Trophy Club” which seems like a pretty cool place to hang out, as George Gardner sings “Where everything’s gonna be alright/ Where everything shines like gold/Where you can be a winner in our eyes/ In the Trophy Club”. It’s pop melancholia that is a nice way to enter the world of Trophy Club. This opening track sees Gardner, Andrews, and Kerschner all taking a verse, which is something you don’t hear all that often anymore. “The Man From Parts Unknown” has a Specials vibe, while “A Ghost Eating Life Cereal” sounds like the start of a Steven Wright joke, but its surprisingly more earnest than the title would seem. “You cannot escape the ghost” turns to “You cannot escape your ghost”. There’s something ominous about that.

Trophy Club took these tunes to Jason Davis’ Off The Cuff Sound for Davis to add his sonic expertise and studio prowess to these songs, which he does very well. There’s a heaviness to these songs that may have been missing had the guys gone a more DIY route. “Sports Cars” is one of the best tracks here and the low end definition and keys here give the song a whole other dimension. There’s an early Weezer vibe that makes the song quite the ear candy. “Ice Cream Dance” is another standout. There’s a familiarity to the background guitar, but I can’t quite place it. Lyrically it’s a bit haunting. “Oh, Lord – I’m sorry for my sinful ways/Stay up all night and sleep for 3 days/ Sorry that I see the beauty in life/And try to open it up with a rusty knife” Andrews sings as the song moves along in a deceptively simple manner. “Electric Blanket” is a is a sweet song that lyrically seems to be a “come to Jesus” moment for someone who can’t stop being a screw up long enough to see the forest for the trees. The song ends on an instrumental note.

Trophy Club’s Sports Cars is a short and sweet album that is filled with fractured pop songs about the disenfranchised, broken-hearted, and those that just can’t seem to catch a break. So they’re songs for you and me.

I bet your 7″ lathe cut can’t do this….

I thought I’d seen everything. From UFOs landing in Midwest cornfields and their extraterrestrial pilots revealing to me the meaning of existence thru an old Lite Brite, to talking coyotes that revealed to me the meaning of existence thru an old Milton Bradley Simon game, to a monkey that could make Toaster Strudels for a man born without arms, legs, and a mouth to eat the Toaster Strudels with. It seemed that nothing in this universe could surprise me at this point in the game. How could it, with me already realizing that we’re all here as merely a collective sigh baking on this rock and waiting for the Planctorian Death Lords from Sigma Nigh-8 to come and turn us all into slave monkeys, our only purpose of existence to toast their damn Toaster Strudels because they have no arms or legs???

Turns out life just surprised me(a little, anyways.)

A very small record label called Polytechnic Youth came into my world. Polytechnic Youth is located somewhere in the far reaches of the universe where they make these magical 7″ lathe cuts. Super small batches of different artists each time. Side A and Side B, boom, they are gifted to the world and then they’re off to the next. Super limited, super rare, but super incredible art. Here’s the simple description on their website:

library sounds | electronic experiments in kosmische | primitive electronics as a soundtrack to physical education | a micro label for vinyl heads

The reason I came across this label is Timothy Fife. Timothy Fife of synth duo Victims and of his own solo work, in-particular this year’s excellent Black Carbon. Fife is the real deal when it comes to electronic composition. He’s deep into Giallo scores, Italian directors, and horror cinema in general. His work that I’m familiar with is of the heady and heavy synth variety. Fife is heavy into the Berlin-School Movement, Komische, Krautrock, and sites Klaus Schulze as a big influence. You can hear it in his work, for sure. But he adds elements of ambient music, darker incidental work, and this East Coast sensibility that can only come from staring out into the endless Atlantic and hearing those icy waves crash against the shore. It’s quite beautiful.

A few weeks ago Timothy Fife released a 7″ lathe cut with Polytechnic Youth. Side A is “Simulacra” with the B side being “All Tomorrow’s Remembered”. These are exquisite synth compositions. Bubbly, dream-like, and take you to another place when you’re in the middle of them.

“Simulacra” pulls you in with arpeggiated notes and whispers of new age ambient in the background. It’s Komische of the highest order. “All Tomorrows Remembered” puts me in mind of Edgar Froese, Rudiger Lorenz, and touches of JD Emmanuel, but all rebuilt and redefined by Fife’s style.

The unique thing about this release is that it plays from the inside out. You drop the needle right at the runout point of the 7″ and it rides those grooves backwards. I was skeptical at first. “How will this work?” I said. “Do I need to light candles and repeat dark incantations?” I said. “I think your grilled cheese is burning” my wife said. It was. Anyways, I followed the instructions included with the 45 and sure enough the needle grabbed the groove. And also, as stated in the instructions, I turned the volume UP!

Beautiful.

As I said, these releases are super limited and are gone before you know it. Timothy Fife’s sold out in record time. I think you can locate one or two on Discogs for like $1,000,000 or something. If you’ve got the cash I’d go for it. It’s worth it, man. Brilliant tracks, artwork, and it plays from the inside out.

Who needs the meaning of life when you’ve got records like this? If you listen hard enough, you can find that meaning you’re looking for in the grooves.

 

 

 

Causa Sui : Vibraciones Doradas

When I think of Denmark’s Causa Sui I think of vast open spaces. I think of widescreen grooves and vacuum tubes a-glow with the orange of humming fuzz. This four-piece have made it their mission to not be pigeonholed by any one genre or mindset. They explore the dark corners of Sabbath-ian dirges to the highfalutin ambient worlds Eno and Froese to the sizzle, cracks, and headiness of electric Miles. Causa Sui serves not one master, but whichever muse shows up at the studio door. And with that “whichever way the wind is blowing in Odense” vibe, these four sonic explorers add their own secret recipe to the bubbling, musical cauldron. They turn their influence and inspiration on its head and serve it up as something new and weird and beautiful.

Return To Sky was the last studio LP to come from Causa Sui, way back in 2016 before the world began to crumble apart. And earlier this year the guys laid on us the massive Live In Copenhagen, which was a massive 3-LP set that captures two very unique live sets from 2013 and 2016 respectively. So now, the Sui bois snuck back into planet El Paraiso studios, taking with them only various fuzz boxes, drums, amps, and plenty of Danish lager and worked out the excellent and teeth-chattering Vibraciones Doradas. They’re calling this a mini-LP, but at well over 30 minutes this is a full-fledged mind-melting long player.

“The Drop” greets you at the door and quickly blows the hat off your head. It’s a massive flashback to early 90s scuzz and stoner rock, but with a little more muscle mass. Jakob Skott and Jess Kahr lay down a massive, chugging foundation to which Jonas Munk does his best to outdo Kim Thayil in the fuzzy riff department. Seriously, this track blows the barn doors off and explodes like a nuclear-powered freight train. As the seven minute track winds down Rasmus Rasmussen adds som tasteful keys that lull us into the stick-to-your-ribs behemoth that is “El Fuego”.

I suppose you could say that “El Fuego” is the core of this collection. It’s an 11-minute fuzzy, psychedelic epic. It roars and lashes like some angry sea and then calms in the middle, giving a false sense of security. Soon enough things build back up as the drums become more unruly and feedback and sci-fi explosions become more prominent. Rasmussen’s keys sound as if Ray Manzarek is somewhere out in that violent swirl of noise and desert rock riffage. Munk almost sounds to be summoning the Siamese Dream-era Pumpkins towards the end. It’s an elegant, sonic world they’ve built here.

If you blink(or get up to grab another beer) you may miss the wonderfully dreamy “Viborera”. It’s a space-y, two minute interlude that brings to mind the work of Rasmussen’s Aerosol and more recent Astral TV(hell, even Munk’s exquisite noise excursions with Ulrich Schnauss come to mind as well.) It’s one of those tracks that you must play it a few times in a row to savor it.

We’re then treated to a guitar crunch meltdown with the bone-crushing “Seven Hills”. There’s nothing ambient going on here. This is pure, molten, bedrock fuzz rock. This is Roadburn-worthy rock and roll sludge. I’m thinking a show with Earthless, Mugstar, and Causa Sui somewhere near the equator might just set the earth back on its axis and things might start to improve. “Seven Hills” is just an all-out monster rock mind melter.

We close this album out with title track “Vibraciones Doradas”. It’s about as doom-laden as I’ve ever heard Causa Sui. There’s some serious Big Muff vibes going on here, with Matt Pike smiling somewhere in the universe as this is played. I really can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to 2017 than playing this at high volume, annoyed neighbors be damned. But so as to not end on a chugging note, the song seems to melt into the universe and rise back up as something new, much like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. Munk and Kahr add some tasteful fret work halfway thru and the song begins to morph into something less doomy; something lighter that seems to take off into the atmosphere.

Vibraciones Doradas shows Causa Sui continuing to build upon their musical journey, blazing through genres, styles, vibes, and moods with ease. For the most part this record is a barn burner, a rock and roll feast for the ears. It showcases the band’s ear for riffs and grooves, but also their willingness to pull back and let the universe expand our brains a bit. Munk, Kahr, Rasmussen, and Skott continue to be one of the most vital musical forces creating today. Vibraciones Doradas is proof of that.

8.4 out of 10