Written by: Dave Cantrell
For those of us gathered here in the Northern Hemisphere, the sunny carefree days of summer are well behind us and the looming gloom of fall-then-winter has begun the gradual wrapping of its lugubrious arms around us like a slow creeping gesture of benevolent doom. Already the light is going, the dark encroaching, and the gloaming in-between fades just a touch more every night with a contented sigh. In short, we here at the SEM post-punk desk love it! And so of course it’s the absolutely perfect time for the next NEXT list, itself a gathering storm that arrives fully blown on a quarterly basis. That (doing quick math in our heads; gotta be sharp ’round here) works out to 80 bands per year, and if anyone out there thinks that must mean we’re beginning to scrape the bottom of the post-punk barrel, you’ve possibly not been paying attention as the rising tide of new talent being ferreted out daily by our crack team of web hounds – and we do more or less have scouts in just about every corner of said barrel and yes this barrel has corners, jagged ones full of shadow – shows simply no sign of abating, and in fact it’s all we can do to tread water and save ourselves from drowning. As always, the primary requirement is to have released a full-length or its equivalent (as well, by the way, to have some fair representation of your studio talents on YouTube or Soundcloud, an especially salient requirement for the three bands that were left off the list this time around; live cuts generally don’t, umm, cut it due to audio quality) or to have one nearing imminent release. Also as always, please feel free to let us know in the comment section below who we’ve left out, both here and on all the previous NEXTs (as well as the initial, pre-NEXT class of twenty). All that said, toss your mac over the back of your chair and settle in. You ‘next’ hour or so is now officially spoken for.
AVIARIES (Wroclaw, Poland)
We begin our next NEXT journey in the bustling historic metropolis of Wroclaw, Poland’s fourth-largest city with a thriving post-punk scene to match (check out this documentary and keep in mind that the reanimated Bat Cave Festival – called “Return to the Batcave” – took place there last year), a scene that this foursome could almost single-handedly (octo-handedly?) define. Moody, liminal, rather pulsing with mystique, AVIARIES thread the three strands of goth, post-punk, and shoegaze through a very fine, quite possibly chrome-plated needle. It’s almost hard to leave but we must soldier on. What a nice start to the current edition, though…
BAND APARTE (Los Angeles)
An enterprising, preternaturally talented duo – Brian Mendoza and Tara Jane – that gets frequent mentions of Joy Division and Nick Cave thrown at them but we’re not so sure of that. We hear hints of Sonic Youth traipsing out of Liverpool 1980, falling asleep dockside then waking up an hour later in LA, 2016, the complicated sunshine tones, the darkness that permeates at noon, crossing La Cienega arm-in-arm with the SoCal version of Sergio Leone. Or something. At any rate, it’s captivating as fuck and we cannot wait to see them live.
CEREMONY (Rohnert Park, CA)
Staying for the moment in the LA area, we come to another of what are likely becoming an integral part of the NEXT legend: the ‘Dur, what took you so long?’ moment. Around for 10 years, already five full-lengths into their path, the last two on no less a label than Matador, Ceremony are in truth probably too big for this list – we’ve never featured Savages, for instance, even as we possess a fierce affinity for them, because, well, they’re Savages FFS, who hasn’t heard of them? – a fact that their 39k Facebook fans can’t help but corroborate. Still, there’s this drive there, this classicism, and goldang it, they kind of remind us of a Middle Class for the 2000-teens, a bit slick but just as bruising. And what the hell, there might be an odd handful of you out there that haven’t encountered this lot yet, so our labors have not gone unappreciated.
DOGS IN TREES (Gdynia, Poland)
While we realize that it’s beginning to look like some sort of bizarre Polish-LA Alliance has been formed and has somehow hacked its way into NEXT’s (deeply-encrypted) domain – and the band that follows isn’t about to allay such suspicions – but sometimes the alphabet works in mysterious ways. All bilateral oddness aside, Dogs In Trees, emerging from the city of Gdynia parked along the Baltic next to its better-known twin city Gdansk, are a duo that traffic in a varietal communion of millennial post-punk, slightly-to-outright paranoid synth-pop, and even, at times, goth-tinged acoustica, a blend that suggests that, as often happens with musicians that ply their trade among the diverse energies passing constantly through a large and very busy port environment, there’s been a tonnage of influences around them their every waking moment, there for the taking, and Dogs In Trees have not hesitated absorbing whatever of them would suit their quite particular approach to our favorite of the dark arts. Their debut, called Pióra Mew and released a year ago June, is, as is said, a veritable feast.
ECHOLUST (Long Beach, CA)
While, yes, the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area is larger than some small planets, with some five million formerly-independent municipalities all now linked into one gigantor agglomeration (there may be some exaggeration in our speculative rhetoric right there but when you’re talking about LA, accurate numbers are not only hard to come by but inevitably sound too small to be true), the bands and artists that comprise the ‘only scene that matters’ so far as our topic at hand goes, seems remarkably tight-knit. Terminal A know Ghost Noise who go thrifting with N A P S who enjoy the occasional late lunch with Echolust who in turn trade recording hints with Swampland (this, too, may be utterly speculative but just stay with us), and everyone’s on everyone else’s Christmas card list. Such shoulder-rubbing leads to mutual respect and support, which leads to a greater supply of confidence being spread around, a quality always evident in healthy quantities with the bands from that vast basin that have crossed our radar, and Echolust, a trio just signed to Cleopatra for the release of their debut album Veldisa, if nothing else, exude confidence in their sonwriting, its execution, its production. Add to that an invincible melodicism, a drive to rival New Order at their prime, and a fearless moodiness when the time is right, and you have a band on the brink. We’re very pleased with the prospect of seeing them live next spring (not to gloat or anything).
ESSES (Oakland, CA)
While there’s still some question as to whether the band prefers their ‘esses’ in lowercase or would rather them some ESSES, the point is purely academic once you get past that minor kerfuff and take a delving dive into the Oakland band’s music itself. As we said when reviewing it for our Shadowplay column…oh hell, let’s just make this easy and copy/paste the last passage of that review wholesale, shall we?…”[Debut album No Light in This Fire]’s a bracing listen, all told – final track “The Prisoner Within,” at eight and a half minutes, is a crawling monolith of a thing, emotionally desperate to such a sustained pitch that it will test the mettle of the casual devotee. You don’t not lend full attention to a song this massive, this eloquent, whatever the price you have to pay for it – but ESSES aren’t here to smooth your path, but rather to remind you, without flinching, of its inescapably dark nature. No Light In This Fire is that path’s soundtrack, ESSES your guide.” Some things just don’t need restating, and the blindingly obvious immediacy of this fivesome asks that we don’t bore you by trifling with breezy rewrites. Just listen. Enough said.
EUROPEAN GHOST (Bologna, Italy)
Featuring Giuseppi Taibi from Swiss Dark Night powerhouses Two Moons as well The Black Veils’ Mario d’Anelli, with Cristiano Biondo supplying the lyrics and the voice to intone them in, European Ghost might well be the most accurately-named band on this list. Mounting an edgy hauntedness that mixes the restless with the icy calm in what often sounds a paranoiac madness being expressed via a persistent ethereality, it is indeed the ghosts of Europe’s legendary, synth-heavy legacy that seem to have all been summoned to serve. We either find ourselves in Berlin in 1982, Sheffield in 1979, Italy in the early 80’s, Germany at any time, or anyway wherever Dieter Moebious would be having herbal tea with a dystopian Florian Schneider plotting the overthrow of saccharine Eurovision pop while a rare print of some weird dark fantasy of a Grand Guignol somehow starring Gary Numan and Youth flickers on the wall behind them. And again we say “Or something.” Nevertheless, we’re standing behind our errant (but somehow eerily accurate) description. See what you think. At the very least irreducibly arresting.
THE FOREIGN RESORT (Copenhagen)
Perhaps reflecting a longer-standing run through the ever-lengthening post-punk trenches, The Foreign Resort, whose debut arrived in 2009, pursue a somewhat less nihilistic aesthetic than the brash rash of abrasive cohorts – Iceage, Moth, Metrocult, Vår – that have been making such a Copenhagen-based noise these last few years. While the trio would have no trouble going dark for dark with any of those bands, The Foreign Resort sound relies less on the aggro and more on little details like melody, a swirling drive of dynamics, vocals that often approximate something of a not-so-desperate Robert Smithean roar, and of course basslines that will follow you home, follow you to your nightmares, follow you to work the next morning. In short, they’re not shy about their pop proclivities, and that, as more often than not happens, leads to some impermeably cool, lasting earwormy tracks.
GOLDEN APES (Berlin)
Talk about your ‘about time.’ Golden Apes…well, let’s just say that they’re one of those bands that have a song named for themselves (we all kind of secretly like that sort of thing), and “Golden Apes” the song was released on their first full-length (the wonderfully-titled Stigma: 3AM) in 2000. Two thousand! And they’re finally crossing the post-punk desk? Geez, what good are we? But self-flagellating aside, the beautiful thing about Golden Apes is their fearlessness, a quality most evidently manifested in the stylistic range in which they manage to express their love of gothic-y darkwave. One quick skim through the wonderful – and free! – compilation released in January, 2015 will turn up signs of acoustic laments like the opener “Rosary” that sounds as if a German-accented Nick Cave went back in time and commandeered the Wild Swans away from Paul Simpson, straight-up chest-beating post-punk (“The Happy Loser’s Sweet Delusions”), a seemingly orchestral version of the Chameleons (“Snow”) and, in the case of the song “Golden Apes,” moody-as-fuck-but-angry opuses that cross the 7-minute mark without the slightest moment of self-indulgence. In the scheme of things, then, Golden Apes are what you might call ‘major players.’ Glad we made their acquaintance at last.
KLAMMER (Leeds/Huddersfield, UK)
One of those sneaker bands that released an album before they were really a band (called Auslane) then released what could ostensibly be called their true debut after their actual debut if you follow our logic there, even self-titling it like a true debut would be titled. But really, all that doesn’t really matter, as it’s the sound they make that lands them on this list, and that sound is one of a brooding pop confidence, thereby reminding those of us of a certain age of a certain time in ye olde poste-punke Britain, when crisply-produced gems such as Klammer manage could be heard in every byway and coach stop all across the mighty Isles. Oh, and if one’s a bit silly enough to make the usual lazy-ish Joy Division comparisons as get thrown about so freely these days, just know that when it comes to Klammer, one would be much closer opting for a Warsaw comparison. Cheers.
LIÉ (Vancouver, BC)
Formed in 2013 with a full-length (Consent in 2014), three EPs (including their debut self-titled cassette) and a recent single, the A-side of which is featured below, Lié for whom the words ‘fierce’ and ‘prolific’ were meant to be combined into the same sentence, brandish their power with seeming ease. And it’s not just on the basis of the trio’s recorded work that we base the first of those single quote-marked words on, but as well their live shows, which can easily qualify as all-out assaults, albeit of the type that sends you spinning out into the night buzzing with the energy of what’s possible. By all means if you have a chance to see them, see them. Tornadoes tend not to blow into towns they’re playing because they’re afraid they won’t be noticed. All that said, getting a hold of their recorded work runs a very satisfying second to the live experience. Brutal, precise, the real thing.
L I T H I C S (Portland, OR)
Ahh, you thought we were going to get through the newest NEXT list without a Portland band, didn’t you? Slim chance given the way this place is still in the midst of a decade-long explosion that shows no sign of un-exploding. But even considering the profligate nature of the scene here in our once-cozy, now-teeming little burg, L I T H I C S (oftentimes printed without the spaces in between) represent a new strain of sorts. Bristling with a statically-charged energy that suggest the band have discovered a mother lode of jagged shards left behind from that mythical time when Pylon collided with Au Pairs in a burst of bedazzling brilliance, then tossing in the added thrill/joy of little aperçus of dissonance always threatening to pop up in the twisted pop structures they specialize in, L I T H I C S are traveling a path yet-forged in Portland and doing so on their own determined terms, which makes them something like the epitome of very Portland anti-Portland bands. Maybe. Whatever, we’re very pleased and lucky to have them.
NAKED LIGHTS (Oakland, CA)
OK, well, guess we have to admit a certain pattern is beginning to obtain in this edition, but dammit Oakland has become a bottomless source of post-punk, deathpunk, darkwave wonder recently, and Naked Lights are but the latest example, though it should be pointed out that, a la their Facebook page, prefer they be regarded as ‘post wave, no punk,’ which one click down below will make instantly clear is a piece of self-referencing genius. What’s perhaps most interesting about the Lights is their textual growth since their debut album way back in 2012 (Chime Grove), which was fine and was responsible for tweaking my interest in the band in the first place, but is some miles behind the place they reached from this last January’s 12″ EP On Nature, from which the below. We gotta tell ya, if growth this exponential keeps happening, whether it be in Oakland or Portland or Novosibirsk wherever, it’s going to start feeling a whole lot like 1980 ’round here.
PARADOX OBSCUR (Greece)
A rather (appropriately) shadowy band that are intent on revealing little of their past – hence the lack of specifics on their origin; the only way we know they’re Greek is due to their single “Ανδρείκελα,” which translates as “Dummies” in English, being released as a single back in July – a policy upheld by their wonderful minimal synth-based label Peripheral Minimal out of Bristol in the UK, this duo (Kriistal Ann, Toxic Razor) nonetheless carry an out-sized quantity of mystique just based on their music alone, not least because of their admirably stubborn insistence on recording with nothing but “real hardward synthesizers and drum machines.” As a result, you might think that they’d naturally sound as if they came somewhere out of the legendary analog days but that’s just the thing. The character of that sound is there, the warmth if you will, but the ultimate product itself couldn’t be more modern. It’s at that point that it dawned on us why the word ‘paradox’ is in their band name. Ha! Sometimes we’re a little slow on the uptake.
PERRALOBO (Valencia, Spain)
Paraphrasing ourselves (again) from a fairly recent Shadowplay column, Perralobo’s debut album Grita Cuando te Quemas “Translat[es] essentially as Screams When You Burn, [and while] the tracks here, if not trafficking in anything quite so grisly as that makes it sound, do seem sparked with the kind of electric energy that comes from dancing through fire,” which says it as well as we ever could, ha ha. We premised that review on the notion that, hailing as they do from sunny Valencia, it wasn’t exactly expected to hear a band this aggressively sharp and unforgiving, but that didn’t stop us from rejoicing at the eventual prospect. Simply more indisputable proof of this music’s very-broad-indeed pull, we tend to think. To continue ferreting it out is our sworn promise to you, our faithful NEXT followers.
PLOHO (Novosibirsk, Russia)
Wow. Novosibirsk. We must say that we’re not sure that any city anywhere, at any time – and we include Manchester 1979 in this – could boast such a rich seam of dark wonderment shuddering and brimming and just plain bursting with abundance (a state of affairs for which we might have Yegor Letov to thank). Because of some groups I belong to on Facebook, and because of a radio show I do here in Portland, I’ve come to know the name of that far-off Russian city quite well, to the point I can pretty much pronounce it now like it’s second nature, and Ploho are simply the newest example of the place’s uncommon fecundity. Blessed with, yes, an immutable drive as confers upon most bands from the former Soviet Union, but also – and crucially – a melodic sense that outstrips many of their comrades, the band seem designed down to their DNA to cross any boundaries between their native origins and the great Western expanses waiting for exactly this sound, of which we count ourselves among the most eager. Two mini-LPs and a handful of singles since, they seem unstoppable, which is fine to all concerned, we should think
RHYTHM OF CRUELTY (Edmonton, Alberta)
Look, any band that names themselves after a Magazine song is going to command our attention to an almost unreasonable degree before we’ve even clicked a link or snapped a single finger. That’s just the way it is around here. If anything, though, such a moniker exerts extra pressure on those that would adopt it, a challenge of expectation this Edmonton lot have no trouble living up to. Direct, inspired, and pushing hard inside their own boundaries, RoC would seem to thrive on the resulting tension. And while they may well derive some drive from Devoto McGeoch Adamson et al, it should not need saying that they have no interest in attempting some kind of echoing tribute in their sound or songwriting. No, they’ve plenty of talent of their own to draw from, that much is clear in the robust string of albums and singles that have followed on from their 5-track demo back in 2011. Their latest is New Ethos and we suggest with some urgency that you seek it out.
SNEAKS (Washington, DC)
A band originating out of the nation’s capital, is, we believe, a first for this NEXT business, but with Sneaks, we’re more than happy to add that austere, conflicted city to the ever-growing map. Now, of course, when we say ‘band’ here what we mean is ‘person,’ as in Eva Moolchan, a one-woman wonder band just signed to Merge that produces deep, infectious, post(funky)punk grooves in short punchy but pop approachable bursts that can’t help but remind of an ESG mashing up with Jonathan Richman in a pre-fame garage band or something. Essentially an MC performing, as her French label Danger put it, “spoken word post-punk,” the 21-year-old Ms Moolchan has our number before the first downbeat makes its way back up. We cede the last word(s) to local alt. paper The Washington City Paper, worth reading.
SORRY, HEELS (Frosinone, Italy)
Though we’ve become accustomed to there being an unstemmable tide of bands coming out of Italy, the majority of them have a much greater reliance on the darkwave/shoegaze charms of the synthesizer. The fabulously-named Sorry, Heels, on the other hand, located about 30 miles down the E45 from Rome in Frosinone, follow a more visceral path, firing up the guitar amps and waking the undying gothy spirits of the underworld for a full workout through their catchy-as-death paces. The results are a delightfully mesmerizing mix of the ominous with the purely joyous. Our goal? Get them to the US. We’re greedy that way.
VATS (Seattle, WA)
And we end this go-round in very friendly territory. VATS have been waiting in NEXT’s wings for quite some time. We’d seen them live multiple times (they played the very first Out From The Shadows Festival in Portland in 2015) and knew well of their dynamic and mighty three-headed sound. All we were waiting for, and quite breathlessly we might add, was their debut LP to emerge from the blur of their busy lives and, with great exultation, that moment came last summer when Green Glass Room came varooming out of Seattle much as the band themselves – Sarah, JJ, and Gabe – had done a few years prior. That release – the word meant in more ways than one, we reckon – unleashed a monster tour throughout the US and Canada, a fitting exercise to engage in after such a monumental record. In an odd way we were hella proud of them, especially as their performance in Portland well-matched the both our warmly-held live memories and the power held in those tiny polyvinyl grooves themselves. Here’s to ya, VATS, whatever the future holds.