Written by: Dave Cantrell
Since the last installment of “NEXT” back at the beginning of November, 2014, the post-punk desk here at SEM has been, as usual, deluged by new discoveries and generous recommendations from fans and bands alike, all of which got added – upon review – to the list of those that were agonizingly left off that most previous list (click here to review that list and see first two entries as well as sundry other related articles) until the new roster began to bulge with an eagerness to be published, which, frankly, was already the case by the time we all tucked in to Thanksgiving dinner. In various conversations during the interim we’ve promised the next “NEXT” in either late January or early February but who were we fooling, this piece has been chewing at its chains for a couple months now, time to set it free. Again the only criteria is to have released a full LP or the equivalent or have one on the near horizon, and again we present our NEXT twenty in random – you might say chaotic – order. Further, we once again avidly welcome your comments, especially regarding omissions. We can hardly wait to see – and hear – who we missed.
As is true for just about anywhere, don’t let anyone tell you that the post-punk scene in Brazil ain’t what it used to be. Exhibit número um, Rakta, who bring high-wattage guitar and a dark (tropic?) moodiness to the genre, the haunt of keyboards that eddy through the mix only adding to the shadowed menace and drive.
First off, that’s Cyrillic up there, of course, is pronounced oo’-drah and means “morning” in Russian. It also happens to mean “throbbing with the utter pulse of melodic post-punk.” This Motorama offshoot’s only album, a self-titled gem that came out in 2010, brims with an uncanny beauty and balance that defies both its debut status and the band’s age. There are, of course, no shortage of Russian bands spread across these lists and considering the website your correspondent just found, you’d be smart to expect a fair number to appear on future NEXTs.
AGENT SIDE GRINDER (Stockholm)
Describing themselves as “an electronic/post-punk/industrial monster from Stockholm” on their Bandcamp page, we can only accuse them of perhaps being a little too modest with understatement, since they neglected to mention words like ‘sublime,’ transporting,’ or ‘mesmerizing.’ No problem, we’ll gladly fill in the blanks for them, just keep putting out music like this:
CORNERS (Los Angeles)
Admittedly, we took some well-deserved stick for leaving them off our list last time but y’know, sometimes you just can’t cover every, umm, corner of the world and hope to catch everything in your net. Fortunately, being well chastened, we hastened to make up for our oversight and have since devoured their sharply drawn, keyboard-drenched debut album Maxed Out on Distractions released by our friends over at Lolipop and it is very fine indeed.
LUNCH (Portland, OR)
Though running the risk of subjecting them to over-exposure – the band featured in SEM’s recent ‘Most Anticipate Albums of 2015’ article – we’re not really all that worried as we’re pretty sure they can handle it. With a soon-to-be-released album on highly-regarded imprint Mass Media (Let Us Have Madness Openly) and a reputation for conjuring up material that belies their rookie status and being able to deliver it live with authority and panache, it would seem that Lunch is ready for pretty much anything, which is good, because success would seem to be heading straight toward them.
THE COMPLEX ENGINE (Auckland, NZ)
Wherein the former Verlaines bassist issues a series of EPs via Bandcamp that are meant to emulate the Associates Fourth Drawer Down, which, you’ll pardon us saying, tweaks our post-punk Spidey sense no end. Cool thing? You too can sign up for periodic updates (read:new tracks) at thecomplexengine.com. We ardently suggest you do it.
Born in Ireland, raised in Bristol and now firmly ensconced in the capital, the sisters Thurlow (Colette and Hannah) make a sound akin to the Cocteaus plugged into the shadowier margins of existence, more toward the gritty end rather than the ethereal. Think falling in love down a deep dark alley and you’re pretty close.
KILL PRETTY (Manchester)
From the post-punk Ground Zero-meets-Mecca of Manchester, Kill Pretty live up to their name in any number of ways, not least by making a sound that’s equal parts Fall, snarky John Cooper Clarke, and Durutti Column on a noise bender. All we can say is that we’re so very glad that that bricky northern city has not lost one iota of its mojo.
NEON LIGHTS (Spain)
Murcia, Spain, to be exact, and really it would probably have served to have had featured them on this series’ very first list as they’ve been on our radar since their album Late hit the digital shelves just before Christmas 2013. We’d be a little worried about their continued existence were it not for the fact that their facebook page is alive, active and well so we’re just going to go ahead and assume we’ll be hearing something new from them in 2015. Sweet dreams are made of such, after all.
UNDERPASS (Olympia, WA)
Representing from the heart of riot grrl and K Records twee country, Underpass fill a crucial, otherwise missing link on the map between Seattle and Portland (call it the I-5 Continuum), one that stretches from there down to San Francisco and Los Angeles and many points in between. Somehow both heavy and light of touch, passionately devoted to the form, they’re still another example of the seemingly bottomless post-punk pool thriving up here in the Pacific Northwest.
POL POT (Zaragoza, Spain)
Bringing something of a spiky hypnotism to their sound, this band sporting not one but three musicians named Carlos (along with one Rubén and one Artur) sings in English and lends credence to the notion that Spain is at least Western Europe’s leading producer of instantly vintage but utterly modern post-punk.
HORROR VACUI (Bologna, Italy)
Occupying the deathrock/darkpunk end of the spectrum, the band began life as Blackfriars Bridge but, displaying the focus and intensity that’s become their live calling card from the very start, they changed it to the ever-so-appropriate art term meaning “Fear of the Empty” after their first gig. One quick listen and it all makes sense.
WEST COAST SICK LINE (North Wales)
Stirring things up all over the spectrum much as the more adventurous bands tended to back in ‘the day,’ this band brought to us by our pals at German Shepherd Records absolutely bewitched us with this, their third album, not least due their unalloyed pop petulance.
DIRT DRESS (Los Angeles)
Evolving from a rougher Gun Club-swallows-Television-whole kind of vibe on their first efforts in 2009 to the decidedly moodier, more easily accomplished hypnotic trance-pop vibe of their most recent (Revelations from last November) while covering Wire along the way, the band only recently landed on our radar, at which point the needle pretty much pegged straight into the red from pure magnetism alone.
TERRIBLE FEELINGS (Sweden)
If you’re looking at all for that ‘melodic as hell’ strain of modern-day post-punk, you could do much worse than Malmö’s finest, suggesting as they do a sort of Rezillos/mid-period Blondie hybrid, full of invincible pop and pure despair in equal measure.
HEAVIER THAN BROKEN HEARTS (Poland)
Another entry from the mysterious but prolific Swiss Dark Nights label out of (where else) Switzerland with which we could feasibly populate an entire NEXT installment (don’t tempt us), HTBH traffic in a dark post-punk-bruised blues and aren’t afraid of the occasional outbreak of guitar shredding, which in our view is never a bad thing.
Managing to walk a tightrope between punk and ethereal, between the purely visceral and the sensual there’s really nothing not to like here no matter where your tastes land. They were pretty great on 2012 debut Between the Waking and the Dying but on last year’s Flowers To Blossom EP they leaped into magnificent. Needless to say, we’ll be a bit breathless to hear where they go next.
NEW MEXICO (San Diego)
Possibly the most unfairly obscure band on this list, this trio, unsurprisingly given their environs, operates down on the sunnier side, not a long ways from a sun ‘n’ sand SoCal Feelies with perhaps a touch more native cynicism. An intriguing recipe if you’re asking us.
FACTICE FACTORY (Geneva)
A band founded by former Rajna member Fabrice Lefebvre that, with the help of co-conspirators Théotime Lefebvre (ex-Thermafrost) and Neue Deutsche Welle habitué François Ducarn, crests the confluence of coldwave and post-punk and emerges with a sound that feels we’ve all been waiting for, perhaps the most exciting fact about FF is that The White Days, from which the track below, was only their first record, coming out last year on Manic Depression. We’re psyched.
INFINITE VOID (Melbourne, Australia)
Very much a case of last but not least, this Oz ensemble is almost uncannily like an Antipodal doppelgänger to Portland’s Arctic Flowers, proving if nothing else the innate power and drive of this genre, spreading like an irresistible meme across oceans and continents. Of course, we may be over-thinking it a little (we are, after all, a bit prone to that), but regardless, we do know that this fourth edition of NEXT couldn’t end in a more satisfying way.