SHADOWPLAY – A post-punk, darkwave overview – NEW POLITICIANS “Remission,” KILLING TIME “Refusal EP,” MOTORAMA “Poverty

New Politicians / Killing Time / Motorama
Remission / Refusal EP / Poverty
Bandcamp / Bandcamp / Talitres

Written by:

new pols

One of the bands cited in our most recent NEXT list, this Centerville, NJ-based quartet traffic in a powerful, yearningly sonorous brand of post-punk that will be familiar and most welcome to fans of Interpol or Barcelona’s October People. Blessed with a sort of sweeping dark grace, your typical New Politicians track presents with crisp outlines, an innate talent for arrangements that weave together melody and fierce dynamics like they’re post-punk Siamese twins, and a rather questing sense of purpose that’s rousing enough to mark out each individual track as momentous in itself but real and grounded enough to prevent the whole from lapsing into a Coldplayed portentiousness. To some extent this is down to a singer/guitarist – Renal Anthony – that brings a sufficient but nuanced degree of gravitas to his vocal, able to dial it back when called for as on “Killer on the Mend,” dreamy in a glistening shadow kind of way, or bring a more desperate, charged insistence to the mix as on band-defining opener “Revelator” (or a bit of both, as needed for the near seven-minute, semi-epic title track). Boosted by a gifted and yeoman-like rhythm section (Winston Mitlo bass, Erik Watson drums) and adroitly enhanced by the chromatically expert guitar work of Gian Cortese (who also supplies key keyboard accents), the seven songs on Remission carry themselves with a certain amount of dichotomous panache, an intrinsic confidence coursing through them that allows for the atmospheres within to be grim but somehow still shining, serrated but emotive.

So SO many terrific bands emerging from the shadows these days, striding into the moonlight from all corners, including, it turns out, the center of New Jersey. Not to be too editorial, but there aren’t too many old politicians from the Garden State you may want to concern yourself with these days. But New Politicians? Totally different story. We here at SEM hope to see them out on their own campaign trail soon.

[you can buy Remission – CD or digital – and even a T-shirt here]

kill time

Among those many places of shadowy origin alluded to above, few localities can claim quite as prodigious a crop as Moscow. Whether home-grown or emigrated from the vast dominions, the scene in a resurgent Russia is nearly unfathomable in scope and number. Of course, the word ‘resurgent’ here carries multiple implications and not all of them what one would term exactly ‘rosy.’ One has to wonder whether the burgeoning glut of moody young bands clustered in or around Moscow isn’t in direct emotional response to the resurrection, politically, of the growling, menacing Russian bear (ref. Pussy Riot), and that much of this music is made with the constant specter of a glowering Putin hanging all-too-perceptibly overhead, or whether it’s simply an expression of a Russian character that’s long inhabited the arts in that massive land – especially in literature but looming across the spectrum – as far back as at least the 18th and 19th centuries, a time when the country was considered a part of Europe. Whichever the case – one suspects it’s a case of both the inherent and the immediate, of course – much of what’s emerging from the former Soviet motherland is as rich and dark as the richest and darkest Gogol novel and Killing Time – essentially a one-man band and that one man is named Stefan Raicic – is no exception.

 

Coming on the heels of last October’s full-length (Out of the Past), Raicic on this EP wastes no time proving either his ‘band”s versatility or its vitality. “Picture of Guilt” sets itself at a dirge pace a la Pornography-era Cure if that record had been conceived somewhere deep in the Taiga where one’s sense of despair is allowed to stretch nearly to infinity before finding a break in the clouds. It is, in short, the beauty of gloom incarnate. The title track follows by bounding into view with a charging uptempo gleam, the guitars as close to a chime as you’re generally going to get up there in the often frozen latitudes even as the vocals, ever reliably, hang above echoing with murk like testimony heard in the midst of a storm. The final track, “Takes My Pain Away,” in ponderous alluring fashion, rather splits the difference between its two predecessors, slow-motion launching with grave cemetery echoes before the drums kick in and, with distant, out-of-the-fog vocals, pulls the gist of the track towards the peristaltic dreaminess of shoegaze. Whereas we can’t help but wish those vocals were higher in the mix, more out front, as was the case on that full-length – clarity suffers a slight bit here – we’re still entranced and there are certainly far worse ways to, yes, kill some time.

[you can buy Refusal and Out of the Past here]

COVER_FRONT_POVERTY-1

Frankly, there’s almost no reason to review the new album from this well-established band from Rostov-on-Don, Russia (again). Already Motorama’s third LP (after Alps and Calendar), there aren’t particularly any grand departures on Poverty that we haven’t joyfully experienced on those previous two outings. Indeed, we’ve become quite accustomed to this lot issuing a steady stream of solid, brightly produced post-punk pop, bundles of tracks that bustle forth with a sonic authority and a confidence of delivery that make it seem like the lads (Vladislav Parshin guitar/voice, Airin Marchenko bass/keys/voice, Maksim Polivanoc guitar/keys, Alexander Norets keys/voice, and Roman Belenky drums) have figured a way to make highly efficient machines out of their (considerably) creative hearts, a description that perhaps sounds aspersive until you hear the results. With the curiously-named Poverty, Motorama has, if anything, upped this reliability game until it’s surpassed the mere predictable and climbed into the more inspired, umm, climes.

 

Nine impeccable cuts, all up-tempo with gleaming facets of a despair-tinged modernity that none of us would mind living if only we were guaranteed it would always sound this good. “Corona” opens proceedings with a few measures of melancholic chime before breaking free with a romping, almost impish rhythmic drive that could be “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” were that train barreling into the morning (mourning?) sun rather than the hectoring pop-gloom, “Dispersed Energy” suggests Kraftwerk might’ve been better served relocating to London in 1979 and having the Sound do their sound, the manic “Red Drop” actually brought Polyrock to mind and that’s never a bad thing while “Heavy Wave” is an exercise in pure post-punk bliss assuming you can get past that phrase’s seeming oxymoron which you certainly should since it’s an irrepressible album highlight. So, there you have the first four tracks and the record continues apace from there, all shiny cylinders firing on full, a synth-laced, propulsive, and so very fine-tuned engine of a record that never lets up, breaking neither stride nor a sweat (or at least giving that appearance) as it stacks mini-marvel upon mini-marvel – “Lottery” has a lashing motorik beat and a chord progression that belongs on every ‘This is Post-Punk!’ collection there’s ever been, “Similar Way” employs an odd tripping drum track and brooding synthesizer to emerge as Poverty‘s most unsimilar – and darkest – track, closer “Write To Me” has a Passions-like bass pound to it (think “Small Stones”) overridden by a vocal that intriguingly creates more mystery than clarity, making it the perfect cut to end on – until bang! it’s over and you think ‘Wait, that was too fast’ and hit play again post(punk)-haste. Some bands, I tell ya, just seem incapable of doing any wrong. Motorama, at this point, is certainly one of them.

[Buy Poverty on white vinyl, as a digipak CD, or digitally here or from Talitres here]