Written by: Dave Cantrell
As with most things, there are two competing ways of looking at this whole ‘NEXT’ business. On the one hand, it’s not a small amount of work putting these together. Compiling potential entrants before having to decide, rather excruciatingly we might add, which ones are going to make the cut this time, then gathering all the necessary links, videos, and, the most labor-intensive piece of it, the essential facts and bios that go into the thumbnail sketches accompanying each of the anointed twenty and then presenting it as a readily readable, easily digestible little biscuit of information. But on the other hand, well, it’s so damned exciting and exhilarating and just such an all around TOTALLY BREATHLESS JOY! that even though the three months between episodes fly past in a music-besotted blur just as any three months do, it still feels, in terms of this particular feature anyway, that the time…is…just…dr-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-ragging by. That’s primarily, of course, because the tide of incoming bands, be they newly-formed or those that have finally crossed our radar, is unrelenting enough we could just about publish one of these every week. But it’s also (doubly ‘of course’ if you’ve been following this series) because the level of artistry that infuses the scene worldwide is really rather breathtaking, and in our fervor the urge to share with you what we’ve found nearly overwhelms. In any case – phew! – the appointed day has at last arrived and NEXT #10 is ready and eager for its close-up. As always, listed in alphabetical order, and as always, the release of a full-length or the equivalent is required for entry. Plus, if there’s a band you feel we should know about, there’s a comment section down below, don’t be shy. Check all previous NEXT lists here (along with other assorted postpunk-related goodies), and see you in three months…[feature photo: Terminal Gods]
ALL YOUR SISTERS (San Francisco)
This duo consisting of Jordan Morrison and Mario Armando Ruiz creates a pulsing shadowed soundscape of such magnitude as to defy whatever limitations might be implied by that tiny word ‘duo.’ A bruising dark electronic melange that evokes a brooding past living in the future, All Your Sisters deliver on all your lingering post-gothic fantasies. While their 2014 album on wonderful Belgian label Weyrd Son is its own kind of wow (and with upcoming release Uncomfortable Skin promising to double down), word has it their especially intense live, something we’ll be able to find out for ourselves later this summer when they hit the boards with Clan of Xymox. Excited, nous? That don’t begin to cover it.
ANTIGUO REGIMEN (Valencia, Spain)
Surprisingly our first entry from Spain in quite some time, Antiguo Regimen sound as though they want to make up for that absence all at once and single-handedly, bringing a blend of the shimmeringly thoughtful and the thoughtfully pounding to their take on the classic post-punk template. With their second LP Naturaleza Fractal just arrived, a synth-faceted jewel of assured songwriting and an execution that sounds both casual and intense, it would seem they’ve hit exactly the sweet spot they were aiming at. Meanwhile, we still want to move to Spain, now more than ever.
CATALOGUE (Marseille, France)
This trio from the ancient jewel of France actually sounds a bit, umm, rougher than you might expect from a band located on the castled edge of the sunny Mediterranean. Raw but sophisticated, blessed with a propulsive energy that again belies any kind of palatial majesty, Catalogue (there are other bands sharing that name but we hear at SEM only have ears for this one) released their lone LP in late 2014 so our fervent hope is another one is imminent. Given their active touring schedule as reflected on their Facebook page, our bet is that there’s more than a few new songs making the playlist. Now, if we can just get them to the west coast of America…
DRAB MAJESTY (Los Angeles)
A bewitching proposition from a variety of angles, this towering singular talent, called Andrew Clinco by his mum but known to the rest of the world as Deb DeMure, not only claims the impressive crown of “LA’s Most Glamorous Freak” according to LA Weekly – an assessment we’ve no reason to dispute – but at 6’4″ is anything but demure. The fact that he/she also makes some of the most alluring, arresting synth-laced post-punk on this coast or any other – most notably on debut album Careless, about to celebrate it’s one-year anniversary – is not so much bonus as the main feature. All death dance and dark swirling textures, Drab Maj makes a noise you could expect to dance to at the most festive funeral there’s ever been. It is, yes, to die for.
THE EXPLODING BOY (Stockholm)
Among a boisterous clan of post-punk bands, umm, exploding out of Sweden (Holograms, Makthaverskan, the list is not short), The Exploding Boy, now four albums into their reign, might well be the most melodic of them all. Skilled at the smooth flow that places them equidistant between New Order and Sisters of Mercy with an added soupçon of new wave gloss, the fact they named themselves after a Cure B-side from 1985 appears as perhaps the most prescient and precise of band-namings ever. Impossible to resist, but then why would anyone bother trying?
KOBAN (Vancouver BC)
Though the normal reflex would be to attribute it to the water, we’re more prone to point to Vancouver BC’s northern latitude and the frequent gloom that it brings, along with the occasional leaking in of the Northern Lights, maybe, to explain the town’s prowling undercurrents of the dark and the edgy. As just mentioned in our review of previous NEXTers SPECTRES, Gastown is a-bloom with beautiful gloom these days, a host of bands exuding a throbbing overcast pall (and pull) that has a hint of the siren to it, and Koban is not only no exception but may be leading the adumbral charge. A twosome (Brittany West and Samuel Buss) that can’t help but remind of Forever Grey – the two bands could be spiritual siblings – they have steadily built their audience and their sound over the last few years and now seem poised to swoon down across the border and take us all delirious prisoner. We await the day.
LONELY WALK (Bordeaux, France)
OK, we admit it, we’re a bit perplexed but in one of the best ways possible. Swerving from uptempo, rockish, almost Sods-like guitar-centric post-punk on a record like last year’s TEEN to a kind of android electro-gloom on the NIGHTMR EP (2014) to something of a pastoral minimalism on the 2010 debut to, further still, the almost Sabbath-goes-Killing Joke of their BORE LP (also 2014), Lonely Walk are the type of band one takes pains to ensure that that name isn’t claimed by two (if not three or four) different bands. However, once you categorically conclude that, yes, all that diverse genre-fucking is indeed coming from the same band, as well as discovering that it’s all really quite terrific, you just settle in to your uneasy chair and let the experience electrocute you (again in the best way possible). For any of you feeling adrift in what you consider a dearth of adventurism in the new generation, Lonely Walk is here to rescue you. Now the only question is, which Lonely Walk do we choose to feature? Well, it’s from three years ago, but how about some New Shit (and be sure to check out their Soundcloud page to get the full scope):
LOVE IN CAGE (Rouen, France)
Already five albums in, Love In Cage clearly lands in the category of band that have “finally crossed our radar.” Essaying classic but updated cold wave from its base in the north of France, Love In Cage have the almost unfair advantage of living in a city that’s just plain lousy with Gothic cathedrals and the hundreds of shadow-casting gargoyles that go with them. Advantage or not, though, there’s little doubt that few on the Continental scene get it as coolly right as this lot, sounding in the process not so much retro as beguilingly frozen in time. Sublime.
MASSES (Melbourne, Australia)
Authors of an EP, a split single (with Deathchurch) and now a mighty, remarkably assured debut LP – Moloch – that exudes a confidence that would make the unfamiliar think it must be their third album at least, MASSES have just blown us back in our seats here at the post-punk desk. Bold (intensely so), increasingly nimble with their song structures and thereby pretty damn fun (in a dark way, you understand), they’re also reportedly fairly ferocious live, which is cool because they’re on a North American tour right now (check here) and your correspondent is marking off the hours until July 13th when they appear in Portland.
MAYFLOWER MADAME (Olso, Norway)
Having just barely missed NEXT number eight, this Olso lot with the distinctive psychedelic proclivities offer a field trip of sorts, although we hasten to mention that the marginally more wide open sonic fields Mayflower Madame lead us toward are nonetheless fringed with the ominous, to the point where we suspect there’s maybe not much more than monkshood and wolfsbane rustling underfoot. Evocative, often unsettling, we’ll just say that if you need a Sergio Leone movie done over with a post-punk soundtrack, we think we’ve found your band.
M O N O G R A P H I C (Hamburg, Germany)
Though this band from the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg also lays claim to a neo-psychedelic tag on its Bandcamp page, when they play to their strongest suit their sound emerges with a recognizable pan-European dynamic, as if they’re artfully parsing the difference between the glassier melodicism one hears from, say, October People in Spain and the harder-edged serrations of early Holograms up in Stockholm. All map-geek theorizing aside, it can at least be said that M O N O G R A P H I C produce a noise that’s as arrestingly balanced as that letter-spacing implies.
MORTAL BOY (Los Angeles)
Aside from being delighted when an accidental synchronicity pops up on one of these lists – we would love for the opportunity to introduce The Exploding Boy to Mortal Boy – we’re also very happy indeed to welcome this LA trio (currently) to the fold, as, in one form or another, Mortal Boy – the person, known as Duckie on the band’s Facebook page – has been practicing this soul-touched, electro-kissed post-punk bewitchery for over thirteen years, if cunningly under the radar. Well, no more of that. We here at SEM have every intention of pulling them out into the adoring light.
ROSALUX (Buenos Aires)
Easily among the post-punk desk’s most exciting discoveries since last you and we met, the mysteriously-named Rosalux may only be on their self-titled debut (released last October after a set of demos in 2013) but the grand and haunting authority that inhabits that record like spirits arisen during El festejo del Día de las almas proves their promise will not be short-lived. Alluring, beyond time yet indisputably very present indeed, the trio’s reputation apparently spread well enough beyond Argentina’s borders to pull Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart into their orbit, providing a guest vocal on the album track “Amoxidol.” From everything we’ve heard, that won’t be the last example of Rosalux’s profile escaping the borders of their home scene.
SCULPTURE CLUB (Salt Lake City)
Not that we think you’ve ever doubted us, but when we’ve said that this modern post-punk revival is proliferating from all corners, this is what we meanT. Though, yes, normally when we’ve said something like that it’s been in reference to a band like Vinyl Records from India but it’s just as true from the unsuspected corners of SEM’s native country. Case in marvelous point, Sculpture Club, a band that likely has few peers in the post-punky regions of the consciousness within the confines Utah’s largest city. But never mind, it’s certainly not stopping them, and in fact they too are on tour right now (check here), fetching up – yep – in Portland in July. Damn we happy.
SILENT SCREAM (Helsinki, Finland)
Down there on the anarcho-/deathpunk end of the spectrum, which is to say flayingly wonderful, locating as they do smack between Killing Joke and Arctic Flowers, Silent Scream pull no punches, take no prisoners, and have no truck with mediocrity. Fierce, yes, but also deeply knowledgeable in the fine art of the hook (no surprise as they’ve been around since 2010 or so), they’re another band to add to the Scandinavian roster that’s slowly taking over the world.
SOCIAL STATION (Washington DC)
To the best of our (admittedly frayed) memory, Social Station represent Wash DC’s inaugural entry into NEXTland, and while one might scoff a bit with an ‘About time’ muttered under one’s breath, we’ll counter that our nation’s conflicted capital was simply waiting until such time as they could put their very best foot forward. And make no mistake, Social Station, without a scintilla of timidity, full of the throaty brio that has marked the city’s illustrious Dischorded past while very well acquainted with the sinuous umbrous textures expected of their breed (witness the clip below) indeed represent. Blessed with a gift for the powerfully yearning, the band has just released their debut album – Our Pleasure of Solitude – and may we just say congratulations and jokingly add that it’s heartening to see someone getting something done back there.
TERMINAL GODS (London)
Giving off an immediate vibe of ‘not messing about,’ London’s Terminal Gods have brought their brittle austerity and ringing authority to bear over the course of multiple singles and EPs over the past four plus years before culminating in a stirring debut LP (Wave/Form, just released in May). Dexterously plumbing the illustrious depths of their city’s legendary past, applying a deft touch of modernity, the album – and the band – is an ideal antidote for anyone, umm, terminally fatigued with the current music scene, in London or wherever they are. This is how you do triumph.
TOTAL VICTORY (Manchester, UK)
Shifting a quick skip north we encounter the working class wonders Total Victory, taking up the torch of clattering everyday proletarian angst in the scathingly august tradition of lank Manc legend John Cooper Clarke as interpreted by a more articulate older cousin to Sleaford Mods. At once trenchant and tender to the vulnerabilities and struggles of the world immediately surrounding them, the band end up at the most human of intersections where aching desire meets the cold sneer of reality. Bracing, heartbreaking, and above all inspiring, the ultimate effect of losing yourself in the ways of Total Victory is to know what hope looks like at the end of the rope. It’s sounds like this what makes us know that the spark of post-punk is indeed imperishable.
Not dissimilar in attitude and verve to the aforementioned Silent Scream, Totenwald add a palpable Berliner edge to the mix, evoking the bombed-out sightlines and bunker mentality that still haunt the heart of that city, living forever in its liminal spaces, under the gleam of unification, lurking behind the shadows of its Euro-cosmopolitan aspirations. The band, in other words, speak stubborn truth to deluded power, and do it, no surprise, with an astute authority, half unrelenting, half accessible post-punk perfection. Where you go when you you’re looking for the true Berlin.
WHISPERING SONS (Houthalen-Helchteren, Belgium)
Triangulating east between Brussels and Antwerp, Houthalen-Helchteren, population thirty-one thousand, isn’t known for much (the band Nemo, anyone?) but we suspect that may change thanks to this atmospheric, shoegaze-tinged five-piece that blends – and rather effortlessly – a dark soaring majesty with a clamoring existential grit, ending up at a sound that shouldn’t be able to help but capture the world’s ears. If there’s anything we love about this apparently unending wave of young vibrant postpunk-enamored talent saturating the internet and bringing us such ceaseless thrills and joy, it’s bands like this coming from unexpected places like Houthalen-Helchteren. A worldwide scene could have no greater evidence of its hale and hearty health. Cheers to them all.