Joel Grind : Master Of His Domain

There’s quite a few talented folks that have mastered the art of writing and performing music. Those numbers drop a bit when you add in the process of recording, mixing, production, mastering, and general studio wizardry. It’s one thing to have some amazing ideas and being able to plunk them out on a few instruments, but it’s a completely different beast to be able to make those ideas a real thing and make that thing sound amazing.

Enter Joel Grind.

Joel Grind is the man behind the extreme metal outfit Toxic Holocaust, which he records all the albums by himself and has a crew that hit the road with him to perform the songs live. He’s also recorded several more experimental and synth-based albums under his own name. One album, recorded under the name X-77, is described as “Sound collage of bizarre sound clips of black masses, LSD trips and documentaries cut up over ambient analog synth drones and arpeggios.” It’s a trip, man. Grind has also opened his home studio to other bands to lend his mixing and mastering expertise. Some of his clients have included Poison Idea, Sunn 0))), Integrity, Midnight, Ringworm, Lord Dying, Black Tusk, Spellcaster and labels such as Relapse, 20 Buck Spin, Magic Bullet, Hells Headbangers & Southern Lord. He’s the go-to guy for some serious metal heavy hitters, and that’s because he knows how to get a live, raw sound in the confines of the recording studio.

I came to Grind’s work through his great synth record Equinox. I was blown away by that record’s capturing of that Carpenter and Goblin magic while never just giving me a carbon copy version. He’s got a unique style. I reached out to Joel to see if he’d be interested in answering a couple questions. He said why the hell not?

J. Hubner: So Joel, where are you from? Have you always been in the Pacific Northwest?

Joel Grind: I was born in Pennsylvania and grew up on the state line between Maryland and Delaware, mostly bouncing back and forth between the two states. I’ve moved a lot in my life though and have lived all over, after moving to the Pacific Northwest about 10 years ago though I decided this is where I would like to stay.

J. Hubner: You’re a pretty multi-faceted kind of musician, playing multiple instruments, writing, composing, and performing all the songs on your albums, and taking care of production duties. You also run your own studio and are a sought after producer. My question is how did you get here? How old were you when you found a love for music? Was there someone in your life that steered you towards music?

Joel Grind: That’s a great question that I haven’t really given much thought to. I think I got here by working really hard, being goal oriented and knowing what I wanted to do. Even from an early age I was always fascinated with music and specifically recording it. My uncle gave me an old cassette deck when I was a kid and I always loved recording things around my house. I feel like with being a musician your heart has to be in the right place with it especially nowadays. I get asked a lot on how to “make it” and I guess everyone’s definition is different, but if it involves lots of money…that doesn’t really exist anymore. You have to truly love it and be willing to sacrifice and lot of comfort and stability to continue with it.

J. Hubner: What instrument did you start out with? 

Joel Grind: I started with drums actually. Didn’t learn to play guitar until I realized there wasn’t many musicians around me into the same kinds of music I was and figured if I wanted to write songs I better learn a melodic instrument.

J. Hubner: What was the first album you bought with your own money?

Joel Grind: I think it was Megadeth “Rust in Peace”. But I get that confused with Motley Crue “Shout at the Devil”, which I had before the Megadeth record but cant remember if I bought it or it was a gift.

J. Hubner: How old were you when you were in your first serious band? Did you play the high school talent show?

Joel Grind: I started jamming when I was 13, but my first serious band that played shows was when I was 15. Never played a talent show but did do local DIY shows.

J. Hubner: When did Toxic Holocaust come into play? Who were some influences on that sound?

Joel Grind: Started in 1999 when I was 17. Venom, Misfits, Black Flag, D.R.I., and Nuclear Assault were the main ones.

J. Hubner: Besides Toxic Holocaust you work with heavy synth sounds as well. I came to the Joel Grind world thru your synth album ‘Equinox’. It’s a great synth album, man. Has all the eerie undertones and Carpenter-esque vibes that get me excited about music. When did you first get into synth music? Were you a fan of horror first?

Joel Grind: I’ve been interested in it for a really long time but started to pursue it more seriously around 2010, took up until the end of 2015 with touring schedules to actually start working on it though. I remember as a kid hearing this type of music and always wondering what made those creepy sounds.

J. Hubner: On both ‘Equinox’ and your 7″ single ‘Fatal Planet’ you list some pretty classic analog equipment that was used in the making of those recordings, including an ARP Odyssey, Moog Sub 37, Elektron Analog 4, and SCI Prophet 600. When working in synth mode do you prefer to use old school hardware as opposed to software? It seems to me it would add to the aesthetic of the work.

Joel Grind: For me it kind of boils down to (without trying to come across too new age-y)the  relationship you have with your instruments. You get to know the quirks they have, especially with vintage stuff. I also enjoy the tactile controls as opposed to pointing and clicking with a mouse etc. I wouldn’t want to play a VST guitar ( if that even exists). I like the feel of a real Les Paul. Even if the sound is equal, I feel like you approach things differently the way you interact with them. That’s not to say I’m anti-software or computer, I just prefer the hands on approach to making music.

J. Hubner: How did you get hooked up with Spencer Hickman and Death Waltz? 

Joel Grind: I just emailed him and asked him if he’d be interested in working together.

J. Hubner: What are your top 5 horror films? Are there any horror film composers that you look for inspiration or have been big influences on your sound?

Joel Grind: I’m not good at these list things because I always forget something, but ‘Phantasm’ is at the top for film and soundtrack. John Carpenter / Alan Howarth music is one of my biggest influences as well.

J. Hubner: What are some differences between composing in Toxic Holocaust mode as opposed to the more film-leaning synth mode? Where do you pull inspiration from? Do you concentrate on one or the other, or do you work on both simultaneously? 

Joel Grind: Inspiration is one of those things you almost cant describe or pinpoint, one day I’ll wake up and have this urge to write something. I do approach both somewhat similarly though, with Toxic it usually starts with a riff, and same goes for the synth stuff.

J. Hubner: How did you get into the production side of music and running your own music studio? Do you enjoy that aspect? How do you like producing and recording other artists? 

Joel Grind: It really stemmed from a lot of years of recording with other people and not liking the results and/or the experience. You know the saying if you don’t like the results…do it yourself.

J. Hubner: What upcoming projects do you have in the works? Will you be releasing with Death Waltz again at some point?

Joel Grind: I recorded a New Age-y type synth record that will be coming out on a label I cant divulge yet. It’s kinda like Tangerine Dream/Klause Schulze/Jean Michelle Jarre spacey synth music. As for working with Death Waltz again, I’m definitely open to it. It’s up to Spencer, really.


Spencer, give Joel a call. As for the rest of you go listen to Joel’s music over at his Bandcamp page grab an album or two. Keep checking back for the new age-y record. I’m sure it’s gonna be amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

United Waters : The Narrows

I won’t pretend to know much about Mouthus. I won’t because I don’t. I know nothing about the noise rock duo that hailed from Brooklyn, New York and who released close to 200 LPs in the course of 10 years(probably wasn’t that many records.) Well, I do know something. I know that Mouthus’ guitarist Brian Sullivan formed United Waters and released their first album Your First Ever River in 2011. I came into the United Waters world through their second album Sunburner back in 2014. That album was a gauzy collection of underwater-sounding folk grunge. It was like songs that had been soaked in gutter water and laid out to dry in the New York summer heat for days. They sounded like Carlton Melton decompressed and stretched out on an iron maiden. It was strange, claustrophobic, and oddly comforting.

United Waters are readying their newest album, the excellent The Narrows for Drawing Room Records. It continues to slowly clear the songs of vegetation and forest growth which allows Sullivan’s songwriting to shine even more. I wouldn’t call the record a pop album, but it’s a far cry from noise rock.

If it weren’t for Sullivan’s voice, The Narrows could pass for a quaint, indie folk album. The music is put together like jagged puzzle pieces, not quite fitting together perfectly but enough so that you can make out what is going on. But Sullivan’s voice adds an element of dark resonance that gives the proceedings a queasy feel. His vocals lie in subterranean spaces, like Mark Lanegan and Leonard Cohen having a conversation under a pile of mattresses. There’s melody and keys being conveyed in Sullivan’s vocal delivery, but not upfront. It’s assumed as you hear the music. As on Sunburner, nothing is obvious. The music feels muted and distant, like you’re hearing music playing in another room of the house. Or even in another house. But that’s the charm of Sullivan and United Waters. If it were easy to snag onto the melodies and songwriting, then this would be just another album you’d spin and put off to the side. But The Narrows is not that.

The songs are ramshackle and pieced together like a domicile in a shantytown. They should hold up in the rain and wind, but in case it doesn’t have an escape plan. “Move The Distance” is melancholy in its delivery. It’s like Sullivan’s version of musical desolation. It’s jaunty in its rhythms and the guitars sound pained while building the musical world that surrounds us. It’s like old Cure, but a sad and numb track you’d never heard before. Brian Sullivan chews lyrics like he’s chewing rubble. He gargles his words in weathered contemplation. “Ride The Midnight Home” is nearly early 80s pop, but done only the way United Waters can do it. There’s still lots of noise and confusion in the mix, but there’s a real subtlety here. “Even The Moon Remembers” rides on an acoustic guitar and wobbly electric guitar as Brian Sullivan emotes like Phil Alvin looking out over the edge of the universe. It’s a pretty track, and one that stands out in the United Waters catalog.

There seems to be a more nuanced approach on The Narrows. The dystopian haziness of Sunburner isn’t quite as prominent here. In it’s place is a more in-focus sound. Like the aperture has been tightened and the picture is much more in focus, but the sound remains mysterious. “Least Turn” and “Thunderings” benefit greatly from the noir-ish nature of the sound and songwriting. I could see Brian Sullivan reading old Jim Thompson novels and taking something from them.

Elsewhere, “Mile Wide” brings some of those “Out Of Flight” vibes to the proceedings and title track “The Narrows” ends the album like a lost industrial Leonard Cohen track. It sounds like murky pulp folk.

United Waters keep shedding more and more light on their albums. The Narrows feels like the most clear-eyed record yet, with Sullivan’s songcraft getting some much deserved attention this time around. There will always be an element of darkness and decay with Sullivan and United Waters, which is strangely reassuring to me.

7.8 out of 10

 

R. Missing : Unsummering

There’s both a quiet cool and a dark tension that permeates R. Missing’s EP Unsummering. Even in their promotional material it says “You won’t find love songs here. You’ll find unloved songs. You won’t find summer, you’ll find Unsummering.” Now if that’s not enough to convince you of something dark and mysterious what will? Maybe a bloodied, severed ear that would accompany the record? You know, cut off your ear to spite the record? Anyways, severed body parts aren’t needed because Unsummering stands on its own. It’s cool, calculated, dark, and foreboding like a night of sexual delights that you know will only lead to you alone in your bedroom on a Saturday night with The Cure’s Pornography playing on repeat. Phone off the hook and empy pizza boxes surrounding you like monuments to heartbreak.

I had to look. “Unsummering” isn’t a real word or adjective for that matter. It seems to be a doomed romantic ode to all things shiny and good going to shit. It’s the moment on a bright sunlit day when the black clouds roll in and hide that bit of brightness, turning everything a shade of melancholy. Who is R. Missing? The band consists of She and He Missing, and according to an Impose feature about the band “they’re ready to fight you.” Despite the faux mystery and possible threat of bodily harm they make beautifully doomed electronic music.

“Unsummering” seethes with dance floor promises, but this duo isn’t about release. They’re about holding those desires in and letting them eat you from the inside out. I imagine Wednesday Adams really getting into this song as she detracts any advances from unsuspecting boys. “Kelly Was A Phillistine” is delightfully groove-filled. Cold Cave wishes they could sound this good. Elements of Depeche Mode and New Order make this quite an addictive piece of ear candy. She Missing, whoever She may be, has a smokey voice. It’s dark and alluring and I’m sure will bite if you get too close. She adds just the right amount of charcoal grey to the proceedings. It accentuates the dark electro synth vibe in the music department. “Deeper Holes” has the vocals sounding slightly more vulnerable with the music having a nicely aged analog vibe. The mix of organic and processed works well.

Elsewhere, R. Missing pushes 80s nostalgia with “Birthright” while “Mostly Back” lights up slightly with a Chairlift vibe. “Mouser” closes out this biting EP with a sound like a pared down Human League.

Despite all the mystery and possible threats of fisticuffs, Unsummering is mostly bruise-free. R. Missing’s EP is an enticing shot of electro gothic synth pop. It veers on the darker side, which makes it all the intriguing. You may not find any love songs here, but you’re sure to find some songs to love.

7.5 out of 10

 

White Hills : Stop Mute Defeat

New York’s White Hills have been pushing their music forward with every album they’ve released since the mid-2000s. A mix of psych, post-punk, space rock, art rock, and pretty much anything forward-thinking that’s come out over the last 50 years, White Hills’ Dave W. and Ego Sensastion want to move you and your mind to the far reaches of the universe. With albums like Glitter Glamour Atrocity, Heads on Fire, White Hills, H-p1, and their most recent LP 2015s Walks For Motorists White Hills used fuzzed-out guitars, slinky bass, and heavy synth layers to paint dytopian visions, gothic undertones, and scenes set adrift into volumes of black space.

With dystopia of Orwellian proportions bleeding into our everyday realities every time CNN is turned on, Dave W. and Ego Sensation have taken their songwriting from fuzzy existential drifting to stark focus on their new album Stop Mute Defeat. It’s their most concise album yet, painting a musical world that feels steely, mechanical, and cautionary. At times it feels like you’re riding through some futuristic factory with black and white TV screens mounted on the walls with subliminal messages running through walls of static. The grooves of Walks For Motorists have been replaced with mechanical structures and industrial precision.

“Overlord” opens with siren-like tones over a looping drum beat and distorted guitar. It’s a stark, cold musical world but one that White Hills wields with great ease. “A Trick of the Mind” sounds like early 80s alternative. A mix of Echo and the Bunnymen and the Cure with a bit of Love and Rockets thrown in for good measure. Dave W’s robotic vocals rattling the cage we’re all currently looking out of. “Importance 101” moves along on hazy synths and the band’s warning of “don’t rely”. “Attack Mode” rolls along like a steamrolling heavy metal machine. It’s the most “rock” song on the album, bringing to mind albums like Frying On This Rock and So You Are…So You’ll Be. 

There’s always a couple moments on a White Hills album where the genius of the band truly shines. One of those moments of Stop Mute Defeat is the excellent “If…1…2”. This hypnotic track seems to be channeling Suicide and Butthole Surfers through the filter of a William Gibson novel. It’s a menacing and captivating track that pulls together everything that’s truly great about White Hills. Another moment of White Hills’ excellence is “Sugar Hill”, which pulls some more of that early Cure magic into the fold with Ego Sensation’s propulsive bass line and the spidery guitar lines.

“Entertainer” and “Stop Mute Defeat” round out the album with dystopian glee, the former slinking along with robotic dexterity while the latter finds some post-apocalyptic grooves to finish the record out on. It’s like Devo and Gary Numan had a music baby and “Stop Mute Defeat” was that bundle of joy.

Stop Mute Defeat shows Dave W and Ego Sensation yet again pushing their sound to new heights. The album pushes and pulls and slinks and sways along like some steampunk machine trying to make sense of society and the current political landscape. White Hills have given us a musical statement on our current tumultuous times the only way they can.

7.8 out of 10

 

It’s Getting Better All The Time

Yeah, I know. Like the world needs one more opinion on a Beatles album. Christ, I think everything that needs to have been said has been said. We get it. The Fab Four are great. They revolutionized rock and roll and popular music in general. What more needs to be said? Oxygen is pretty important. Let me tell you why! I think you’re taking naps for granted and here’s 1,000 words on the subject. So yeah, I know you probably don’t want to hear another blowhard espouse the greatness of something like The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band…but that’s exactly what’s going to happen right now.

I’ve always loved The Beatles. Its’ a dumb statement, really. Who doesn’t love the Beatles? Sure, I’m sure those folks exist. I know a couple of them. They’re free to not love the Beatles, but I’m certain they have no soul(who can listen to something like “In My Life” or “I Will” and not something inside of them melt? Who, dammit?) But hey, people voted for Donald Trump and continue to back him so there’s something definitely astray in the universe.

For me the Beatles were ingrained in my head from the beginning. My parents only owned two albums, Sgt. Pepper and The White Album, but just those two records played in heavy rotation were enough to rewire my brain at 4 or 5 years old. I’d get that tingly sensation whenever “Back In The USSR” would start up and blast through the speakers. It started that that was my favorite song as a young whippersnapper, but as I got a little older I’d stick around for “Dear Prudence”. That song was sad and plainspoken. It made me see colors and feel things I couldn’t quite understand. There was something plain and earthy about The White Album. It was all over the map in terms of styles and sounds, but they all felt grounded. In some ways The White Album sounds like the first true indie rock record. A band that had the power of a religion behind them getting back to gritty basics.

But before they went all double album they created arguably one of the most important albums to be released in the last 50 years. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was unlike anything I’d heard before. While The White Album was grounded, Sgt. Pepper felt like some other world altogether. It was regal, pristine, buttoned up psychedelia, and some of the best songwriting the Fab Four would ever do. As a kid songs like “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite”, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, and “Within You Without You” were almost scary. They felt like these odd musical worlds to my adolescent ears. Places you could get lost in and if you weren’t careful you may not come back from them. But then there was the tough, guitar-driven tracks like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “Getting Better”, and “Good Morning, Good Morning” that would pull you out of those weird musical caverns. Gorgeous whimsy ran through songs like “Fixing A Hole”, “Lovely Rita”, and “When I’m Sixty-Four” that made everything alright. The use of “When I’m Sixty-Four” in the opening credits to George Roy Hill’s The World According To Garp made that film all the more sadly underrated in my eyes. And then there was the majestic beauty of “She’s Leaving Home”. It may have caused weepy eyes late at night when I was wondering if my girlfriend was making a new life for herself in college back in 1992. It may have. Of course, “A Day In The Life” is really the ultimate John Lennon feat. A microcosm of the life of the plain guy. An existential musical trip into British life. The lyrics are both plainspoken and literal, as well as being coy and poetic. I can totally see how Paul Thomas Anderson based his magnum opus Magnolia on that one song. It feels like a lifespan in just one song.

Over the years I’ve gone through Beatles phases. I go from completely in love with them to “yeah, been there done that. Next.” Of course that latter phase is complete crap. I always find my way back to what made me fall in love with them in the first place, at 4 or 5 years old. Sgt. Pepper is the ultimate piece of musical genius from John, Paul, George, and Ringo. That musical world is one I never tire of. When I’d heard a couple months ago that yet another reissue of this album was coming out my first thought was “Here we go again, EMI.” I pretty much stayed away from all those 2009 reissues. I did end up buying Abbey Road and Let It Be on CD just because. But I stayed away from the Mono Reissue black hole and for the most part just stayed with my inferior original CD purchases from the early 90s. For some reason though I felt differently about Sgt. Pepper. Something in my head was saying “You need this. Get it.” So against my better judgement I ended up listening to the voice in my head and ordered this new Sgt. Pepper reissue. I picked it up yesterday and I’ve been listening to it pretty much ever since. It’s pretty brilliant.

I won’t go into the technical jargon as I really can’t comment on that. I’ll say this, Giles Martin has taken a 50 year old classic and opened it up for all of us to hear with fresh ears. I liken it to the original version as a plain storybook and Giles has taken his dad’s handiwork and turned it into a pop-up book. While before we were merely an audience looking at a beautifully ornamented painting, we are now walking into the painting and seeing that world for the first time, again. Each song seems to hold new secrets for us to discover. From the opening salvo of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to the guitar punch of “Getting Better” to the psychedelic whimsy of “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite”, there are new places to explore. “Within You Without You” sounds almost three dimensional. You feel surrounded by the sitar as George sings “We were talking, about the space between us all“. That space has opened and enveloped us now. Those exquisite background vocals feel more present than ever. Listening to this you really do understand how the word “Beatles” has become an adjective when describing how vocals sound. “It’s got a Beatles vocal sound to it.”

The essence of this record hasn’t changed. Nothing was drastically altered or re-colored for an updated look. It feels like the small details that have been lost in time and many, many format iterations over the last 50 years have been brought back into beautifully sharp focus. Things taken for granted -like those detailed vocal harmonies, the crispness of the harp in “She’s Leaving Home”, and dense sonics of “Within You Without You”- have all been pulled back up to the front for us to appreciate once again. The dust and grit of time have been removed. Sgt. Pepper can be appreciated all over again.

I can’t say I’ll continue buying up Beatles records if Giles wants to take other albums to task. I guess it depends on the album, I suppose. I can say that I have no regrets buying this one, though.

It truly is getting better all the time.

 

 

Moon Duo : Occult Architecture Vol. 2

I think it’s safe to say that Moon Duo’s Ripley Johnson and Sanae Yamada have found their groove. Not that they didn’t have a groove over the last several albums they’ve released since 2009, but with the release earlier in the year of Occult Architecture Vol. 1 they seemed to have found that little extra spark. There’s only so much groovin’ and motorik beats you can create over the course of 8 years before you begin to repeat yourself. 2015s Shadow of the Sun was yet another stellar collection of tunes by Johnson and Yamada, but you could tell things were starting to sound somewhat same-y. Great tunes we’ve heard before, but maybe in a different key or a different tempo. So before Moon Duo burnt out into exquisite oblivion, these two decided to rethink their approach and come at their songs with a new mindset. The concept of dark and light were brought in to create a double album that each part would be released a few months apart.

Occult Architecture was born.

Vol. 1 dealt with the darkness. It was the Yin. It was the feminine side of the coin that dealt with night and darkness. The music captured that perfectly, too. Driving rhythms and dark psychedelia pushed that album into new territory for Moon Duo without compromising their signature Kraut/Psych flavor. Occult Architecture Vol. 2 has arrived and with it comes what the band calls “the bright side of the hill”. It’s the male side of the coin; sun, light, and the spirit of heaven. I think Moon Duo have given us their best work yet with Vol. 2. It’s absolutely stunning.

“New Dawn” clears the dark clouds that Vol. 1s “White Rose” left us with. The song opens with some electric piano which then turns into big drums and that phaser-infused big riff we’ve come to know and love from Ripley Johnson. The vocals feel uplifted as Johnson and Yamada sing in unison. These two sound bigger than the sum of their parts. Two people shouldn’t sound this big. Even with the similar tones and grooves there’s an airiness here that I’ve not heard before. “Mirror’s Edge” could easily be a b-side from Achtung Baby. It’s a sly, funky rhythm that takes its time slinking and sliding into your ear. There’s a subtlety and nuance here that I’ve never noticed before in the Moon Duo canon. “Sevens” is a familiar vibe. It’s one we’ve heard before, but there’s a brightness to it. You can almost picture the sun peaking from behind the clouds ready to make its appearance.

Despite the heavy occult lean and goth-y undertones that Moon Duo have dabbled in for all these years, I’ve always had this feeling that Johnson and Yamada have always had a bright and beautiful, sun-soaked ballad in them. “Lost in Light” is that song. It hangs in the air as you listen to it. It’s most definitely a Moon Duo song, but it ascends to the skies bathed in ghostly synths and Johnson’s light touch on guitar. It’s a absolute stunner, and one of the best tracks on this album.

The album closes on the ethereal “The Crystal World”. It’s a mix of NEU!s penchant for looping and repetitive motifs with Harmonia’s dreamy existentialism. It’s actually a perfect way to end a near perfect record.

I’m not sure where Moon Duo can go from here. I feel they’ve achieved near perfection with their Occult Architecture volumes. They’d dabbled in the darkness in the past, but with Occult Architecture Vol. 2 they show that their black magic is equally, if not more, engaging in the light of day.

8. 4 out of 10

Delia Gonzalez : Horse Follows Darkness

Just by mere chance the one time in the last year I’m on Twitter looking through my feed I see a tweet from Death Waltz Originals guru Spencer Hickman talking about how great this album Horse Follows Darkness is by Delia Gonzalez. I believe the line that stood out to me was “pure blissed out synth heaven”. I couldn’t NOT slam my money down on the digital counter and buy it, so Bandcamp was visited and monies were exchanged. Well it arrived last week and Delia Gonzalez and Spencer Hickman did not disappoint. Horse Follows Darkness, the new album by the Cuban-American New York artist Delia Gonzalez and released via DFA Records is indeed pure blissed out synth heaven. It’s also cinematic in its relatively short scope. At just around 30 minutes in length and consisting of 5 tracks, Horse Follows Darkness blends both the concept of the American western and dystopian future into a compelling LP.

There’s a repetitiveness to the pieces on Gonzalez’ new record. A looping and loping feeling, like Steve Reich on an analog synth bender. Gonzalez likes to paint her musical pictures in analog paints and circuitry, giving her music an aged feel. “In Through The Light” lays out gauzy synth structures over a looping melody. It plays on both light and dark moods, covering the scope from Tangerine Dream to Steve Reich in the course of six minutes. “Hidden Song” sounds like dystopian disco. It’s propulsive rhythm, piano chords, and squiggly synth lines mesh into a blissed-out track. “Roulette” is built around another piano line that morphs into yet another looping piano melody with synthesizers slowly rising from the depths. There’s something hypnotic about this track. It seems to hold secrets within its musical walls.

The story behind the record is an interesting one, and one which is explained here:

The title is taken from a werewolf genre film her 8 year old son Wolfgang had created. At this time, Wolfgang also turned Delia onto a genre of cinema she had always resisted – the American Western.

Delia explains that what she observed “was all relevant – the album is based on our personal experience of moving back to America (from Berlin) and the journey that followed. The record is a manifestation of that, and what one creates for themselves under the given circumstances. Coming back to America, I felt like a foreigner and NYC / America felt like the Wild West. Most Westerns from the 1960s to the present have revisionist themes. Many were made by emerging major filmmakers who saw the Western as an opportunity to expand their criticism of American society and values into
a new genre.”

Listening to Horse Follows Darkness you do get a sense of journey. Returning to a place you once called home only to feel like a complete stranger to those things once familiar and inviting. “Horse Follows Darkness” puts some of the fear and uncertainty of being a stranger in a strange land into your head. It’s both beguiling and disconcerting. A lilting musical whisper into your ear. “Vesuvius” moves from the American west into the final frontier of space, all pulsing synth and dance floor percussiveness. It seems a fitting ending to such a moving musical journey.

Horse Follows Darkness is a stunning record. Delia Gonzalez has captured beautifully the uncertainty of the unknown and that fear in the pit of your stomach when starting over. It’s also, as Spencer Hickman so eloquently stated, “pure blissed out synth heaven.”

8.2 out of 10