Written by: Dave Cantrell
This time thing, what is that? I have my theories but regardless of such fanciful conjecture the fact remains that the 3+ months that have passed since the last installment of this series have traveled past at some variety of over-warped warp speed. But that’s OK. It’s not like we here at the SEM post-punk desk are going to have any problem filling up another score of current post-punk bands that deserve your attention. Believe me, they are coming in from all directions, from all corners of the globe. In short, we’re not worried. This project can continue ad infinitum until either I’m deceased or the world has ended, whichever comes first. Short of those two happenstances, we’re blessed with a surfeit, a teeming abundance, we’re blessed with another pile-on of bands that rather demand – that is to say DEMAND – our attention. Read these thumbnail blurbs, listen to each begging-to-be-heard track, and then tell me this isn’t an exciting time to be living in. As always, the basic criteria for inclusion is to have released, or be about to release, a full-length (or mini-) album, and, as always, we proceed in alphabetical order. [feature photo: Jeremy Harris][previous NEXT lists here; original CURRENT list here]
ASCETIC (ex-Sydney, Australia, now Berlin)
Primal, almost tribal, and buzzingly surveying that territory that lies smack between their Oz ancestors the Birthday Party at their more accessible and Hunters and Collectors at their most unrelenting, Ascetic have apparently done taken the logical next step and moved to Berlin with nary a plan nor money, which, you must admit, is dangerously, perfectly brilliant!
ASH CODE (Napoli, Italy)
Suffused with a cool and borderless European cold wave spirit, Ash Code is primarily the creative vehicle by which one Alessandro Bellucio expresses his deepest darkest impulses. These days joined by two co-conspirators named Claudia and Adriano, they’re as bewitching a trio as we’ve ever presented in these NEXT lists and now that we’ve got them in our sights, our next (ha!) mission is to lure them to the States with promises of, if not riches, at least swooning gratitude.
BOOTBLACKS (Brooklyn, NY)
So, yeah, while Brooklyn has such a teeming abundance of bands swarming down its every block that the chances of getting noticed hover between nil and fuhgeddiboutit, Bootblacks opted for the rather novel path of writing effecting, enduring songs that hew a line between Human League 1982 and October People 2014, which is to say somewhere between groove-driven electro-pop post-punk and sweeping melodic post-punk. However one chooses to categorize it, it worked, as their soon-to-be-released album Veins has been scooped up by Manic Depression, proving there are still some success stories to be had out there in this big bad world.
CELIBAT (Nizhny Novgorod, Russia)
A trio from a region of Russia that’s just plain lousy with great bands, post-punk and otherwise (though I’d expect the recently discovered Июльские дни – July Days – will soon be appearing on the next NEXT list), Celibat distinguish themselves by plumbing some intense depths that are dark even by Russian standards. In doing so, they continue a tradition of more or less sounding like the weight of their country’s great literary tradition being carried forward by a trove of bands that fearlessly reflect life in Putin’s Russia, expressed via shadow-edged guitars and basslines heavier than Maxim Gorky’s heaviest existential sigh. All academic musing aside, though, they simply bring it.
COLD WASTE (Gainesville, Florida)
Look, we hear ya. Gainesville?! Isn’t that essentially Tom Pettyville? Well, yes, it is, but it’s also, apparently, a hidden hotspot for tetchily melodic post-punk that wanders a path carved between lurking menace and the kind of darkly buoyant leanings of Parquet Courts. In any case, a revelation, and one we’re more than happy to bask in. And hey, guys, if there are more like you down there, would be so kind as to send us a list? You’ve kind of whet our appetites here.
DIGNITARY (Los Angeles)
Conjuring a kind of ghostly, Gun Clubbed menace, full of modern portent and yearning smarts, the sound Dignitary make isn’t a long way from what Lee Hazlewood might have sounded like if he’d come of age in 1980. The band also have impeccably fortuitous timing, as they are just now unleashing their debut full length, Full Moon in Vertigo, which is in the early running for title of the year, we think.
GIRLFRIENDS AND BOYFRIENDS (Vancouver, BC)
Plumping for that ringing, vaulting strain of post-punk that draws from the Simple Minds/Echo end of the spectrum, Girlfriends and Boyfriends have only recently come to our attention (thanks to Shadowhouse’s Shane McCauley) via their excellent Our Garden album, released last year on Pop Era. Quite wisely, we think, the band have chosen an approach wherein chiming guitars span nimbly over ominous basslines and a clarion, declarative vocal, a formula that nearly always produces an irresistible euphoria and, indeed, it’s no different here.
IT’S FOR US (Stockholm)
Well, in our review of their mini-LP, among a host of other kudos, we said that “[I]t’s hard to recall a band that has appeared on the recent scene with a more impressive debut. They should be legend.” And really, all we have to do to reinforce that statement here is to direct you to the bright pulsing sound that animates the track below. So go ahead and do that and if you need us we’ll be over here in the corner, marveling.
MNNQNS (Rouen, France)
Another country nearly bursting with cold wave/post-punk energy, Rouen would seem a natural place for the genre to take root due its association with Jeanne d’Arc and the many Gothic churches left over from medieval times, which may very well explain the stylistic choices of some bands there but not necessarily the vowel-challenged MNNQNS (pronounced, of course, Mannequins), whose impatiently-paced take has an almost New York new wave feel to it but is none the less lethal for all that. But y’know what? Screw adjectives, MNNQNS get the pulse going like few on any NEXT list are capable, and for that alone we’re grateful.
THE RIP (Padova, Italy)
Signed to the enigmatic if prolific Swiss Dark Nights, whose black & white gothic aesthetic is striking and instantly recognizable, The RIP could very well best exemplify musically their label’s visual ethos. Residing in that territory where northern post-punk crosses paths with the more electronic-based darkwave that has surged in their native Italy in the last ten years or so, their debut album swerves from haunted to more haunted, from dark melodic to darker melodic. And while we wish there was more available than the two tracks we were able to locate online, we nonetheless heartily recommend digging deeper into their self-titled debut.
SHADOWLANDS (Portland, OR)
Sometimes you wait a long time for a thing that shows promising signs of being really quite wonderful indeed and when it finally appears it fails so profoundly your crestfallen heart sighs with a level of disappointment that almost physically hurts. But other times, other times, it’s not only as good as you’d dared hope but gloriously surpasses your wildest dreams. So it was at a club in North Portland the other night where Shadowlands, their long blessed gestation period finally over, hosted their (debut) record release party. Visceral, lyrical, and just plain powerful, they commanded the stage with a charged dynamism that far exceeds what would by most measures be considered their ‘rookie’ status. Which suits, since that self-titled debut album of theirs also carries itself with an assured presence. The playing is ecstatic, that icy emotional keyboard up front and a sound overall that connotes a soundtrack to a trek across the very landscape for which the band is named.
SMALL DEPO (Ukraine)
Making what they charmingly refer to as “nice homeless post-punk for lost-n-found ones,” Small Depo make a big, bold sound, dramatic and stirring, evocative and heart-rent. We’re not sure where exactly they come from in Ukraine (perhaps they’re actually homeless?) but we imagine, making music like this, they’d be welcome wherever they landed. Hell, if they really do need a home, we here at SEM will adopt them in a kick-drummed heartbeat.
THE STAMMER (Philadelphia)
Probably the most hook-laden outfit on this list (if not the entire NEXT roster), this Philly band, besides once again triggering a burning wave of envy in those of us that don’t live there – SO many great bands! – is actually well overdue for an appearance on these pages. After all, their debut, Days in Between, emerged last summer, and as you can tell by the sound of the below clip, they immediately deserved inclusion. But this wasn’t a case of careless omission but rather a simple reflection on the sheer volume of talent coming out of every woodwork in every shadowy corner of the world. But in any case, welcome guys, now come tour the West Coast.
SWAMPLAND (Long Beach, CA)
Long Beach hugs the Pacific Coast ten, fifteen miles south of Los Angeles. It’s both right next to and a million miles away from that storied city, both a piece of, and apart from, the megalopolitan sprawl that defines everything we know about that place. Thus…oh, just let me just be lazy (again) and quote from our review of Swampland’s debut album The Stranded West: “As you’d expect, Gun Club and a SoCal-raised version of Nick Cave come inexorably to mind but such inference points are never in the least slavishly made. Instead come twinges and sparks, flint strikes of impetus, though, that said, it would be a mistake to expect naught but some sort of Zane Grey-goes-Raymond Chandler compulsion. Much here speaks to broader urban influence, starker and darker, as would be expected from young men living on the fringes of a major world metropolis.” Toss in the relatively rare (in the post-punk world) influence of Townes Van Zandt along with other loner genius songwriting mavericks and you have the gist of this band.
SZEZLONG (Poznan, Poland)
Craftily (maybe a bit crazily?) choosing a name that translates straight across to ‘chaise lounge,’ Szezlong, as you no doubt might have guessed, is anything but laid back and relaxed. Not that they’re frantic and agressive, either – in truth the band trades in a fair amount of both nuance and out-of-the-box influences such as the Fall-obsessed Pavement – it’s just not likely that your favorite posture while listening to their excellent Learned Helplessness album will be one of angled repose in a summery piece of deck furniture. In short, not exactly perfect music to get a tan to, but it is great music tear your hair out whilst spastically lurching around in unbridled, serrated joy, maybe.
undertheskin (Kraków, Poland)
Like the Russian Bear to their east, Poland boasts an inordinate slew of bands pounding out the Mancunian bassline, projecting their echoed, sonorous voices into the wasteland, wearing yards of black everything while on the whole sounding seducingly great. In the lower-cased undertheskin’s case, they augment with sparking electronic drums and/or fugitive synth textures and a vocal that betrays a gothy underbelly like the Sisters of Mercy without the proto-eldritch tendencies. Seek out their self-titled debut from last year. Now. Do it!
Though we’re not sure if it’s pronounced “YOO-nr” or “OO-nr,” we are sure that missing a band of this (fairly long-)standing that’s not only not from some distant, bleak, former Soviet republic but rather one of our major cities is just not acceptable. Especially as they’ve been around at least since 2012 when their first EP was released. What got our attention, though, was the full-length No Human Self, which, granted, was itself released over two years ago (on Modern Tapes), but better late etc. and boy does it have the Midwest Minimal Synth™ sound down, coming across at times like Gary Numan had he been born in Akron and raised on amphetamines, film noir, and Dario Argento movies scored by PragVec. Oh, here, just listen…
VUKOVAR (United Kingdom)
By their own description coming from the “Brutalist wastelands of the North of England” but beyond that their true origins remain masked in mystery, Vukovar are A) one of those bands whose name belies their home base (Vukovar is a city in Croatia where the Danube and Vuka rivers meet but more pointedly where the Vukovar massacre happened during the Balkans War, link here) and B) one of those bands that leave no stone unturned. To put it bluntly, they mean it, man, and we don’t mean to portray that as anything but a genuinely heartfelt gesture to the lost, bewildered, politically disenfranchised members of our tribe that have long suffered privation. The fact that Vukovar address all this with a stirring DIY ethos full of compelling honesty and compassion, well, that’s just a bonus.
WEIRD CANDLE (Vancouver, BC)
Like Unur, Weird Candle are centrally reliant on electronics for their edge. The band (mostly in the form of Robert Katerwol) are absolutely unhinged live, and truly have few rivals on these lists or anywhere else in their utter commitment to what they do. Uncompromising and confrontational while at the same time being a damned entertaining proposition as well, WC’s take on the nervous, jittery qualities of reality are nothing short of bracing. With a new album in the pipeline to follow the disturbing but wildly listenable Regeneration, we’re all ears, twitching and ready.
With a 7″ and now two albums to their credit (the latest, Come To My Party, released Feb 19th), Winkie has been on our radar for some time and we’re more than happy to finally feature them here on NEXT. Wandering with a guileless sense of daring over toward the more experimental end of things, the band make liberal use of dark electronics and dystopian soundscapes to create rather immutable vision of how it feels to be living in this ‘brave new world’ in 2016. Perfect…