Written by: Dave Cantrell
Oh my, has it really been four months since the last NEXT list? Hard to believe but it’s been our experience the calendar doesn’t lie. Suppose we should believe it regardless of how it seems, given the virtual deluge of new candidates that have poured in since late January. What’s kind of scary and inspiring is how quickly it will become obvious how many bands we missed this time and how great they are. But that’s what keeps us going around here, the incessant, determined, and interminable march toward relative greatness that so many young bands seem to be intent on, regardless of genre. Thing is, this post-punk/darkwave/etc thing is just going crazy. Nearly all these bands, in fact, were extant when the previous list was published, had produced a full-length (or an album’s length worth of EPs) as required for inclusion on these lists, but were either undiscovered by us at the time or fell victim to the 20-count limitation. And, naturally, a similar amount of bands, champing at the bit, await list number six. As always, if there are bands we missed in this or previous lists (all of which can be found here), don’t hesitate to let us know. We thrive here at SEM on reader input, especially when it comes to the NEXTs. In the meantime, we give you numbers 81-100, listed in alphabetical order and including place of origin, presented with the usual short, hopefully helpful accompanying write-up providing context. Though we fully realize it goes without saying, we’ll say it anyway: Enjoy.
ANIMAL BODIES (Vancouver, BC)
Heavy darkwave, warped synth-pop nightmare pop sensibilities define this Vancouver unit, whose first release dates back to 2011 so we’ve got some serious catching up to do here around the SEM post-punk (etc.) desk, something we are never anything but eager to do, especially when it sounds this disturbing, intriguing, and tasteful.
BAT NOUVEAU (Brisbane, Australia)
Not too long ago SEM published, in two parts, “Oz Rising – The Sixty-Six Best New Australian Bands” (which turned into sixty-nine but never mind) which covered the wider rock spectrum of sub-genres including post-punk but, rather amazingly, and indication of just how insanely fertile the scene is Down Under, Bat Nouveau weren’t even on the list. Perhaps we shake our heads in shame and wonder but screw that, we’d rather celebrate by getting lost in the power and brutal beauty that is Bat Nouveau (and the others that will be popping up on this list)
CIUDAD LINEAL (Barcelona)
Just last night we were having a discussion with some friends at the Rezillos/Kid Congo Powers show about how inextinguishably on-fire the scene is all across Spain, but, should further proof be needed, look no further than this lot, moody, in love with that icy-warm atmospheric a synth can bring, melodic and haunting, though of course that phrase could be repeated throughout this list. Whatever, Ciudad Lineal is in pure command of their material.
GEOMETRIC VISION (Naples)
Deftly skating an hypnotic line between darkwave and pure out post-punk bliss, these three gentlemen of Ver- er, Naples find themselves appropriately nestled on the Swiss Dark Nights label, where propulsive nocturnal soundscapes are rather de rigueur and whose consistent aesthetic wherein every SDN release is instantly identifiable has indeed become the mark of reliability, a fact confirmed by Heavier Than Broken Hearts on the previous list and doubled down on here by Geometric Vision.
GHOST NOISE (Los Angeles)
Speaking of the alluring textures of a well-placed synth track, meet LA’s Ghost Noise, absolute masters of the post-punk-flavored dreamscape and rather a Southern California doppelganger of New Zealand’s Strange Harvest. Wonder what it’s like to drive through The City of Angels (or, maybe in their case, the City of Angles) at 4 AM, the air still oddly warm, the air thick with every aspiration there’s ever been, ruination and glamour dancing around every corner? Listen to this. THAT’S how it feels, or anyway, Ghost Noise give that impression and we’re buyin’ it, easy to do when induced into a trance state.
IN LETTER FORM (San Francisco)
Need we mention how healthy the post-punk underground is in the City by the Bay and surrounding areas? No, probably not, as various bands have already made NEXT appearances and there’s not much doubt they’ll continue to as this feature’s entries vault past the century mark. No surprise, perhaps, given the pressures exerted on the music (and arts in general) community by the sterilizing – and destabilizing – effects of the Silicon billions flooding the entire region. Displacement, deep financial inequity, Google buses, it all leads to an existential uncertainty and what better way to respond but with a passionate post-punk assault on the senses, and what better band to bring the message of disaffection than In Letter Form.
KATHON (Girona, Spain)
Though it’s mostly true that the majority of bands from the fervent Spanish scene originate in the major urban centers, it’s certainly not exclusively the case. Kathon hail from a midpoint between Barcelona and the French border down in the south of the country about 20 miles from the Mediterranean. Despite – or because of – this, they nonetheless make a ferociously righteous noise, as evidenced by the teaser clip below. Hear more on their Bandcamp page here (and while you’re there you can buy the album) and it should also be pointed out that their appearance on list #5 follows reaching out to SEM via a message on our facebook page. Lesson there, if you think you belong on the next NEXT, get in touch!
MINUIT MACHINE (Paris)
It’s beyond appropriate, of course, that a band swathed head-to-toe (ears-to-hands?) in the proto-gothic shades of coldwave should be based out of Paris. It was the French and Belgians, after all, that pioneered this music that sounds like the soundtrack of icy warm blood moving through the veins and filling the heart and the head with songs possessing an irresistible allure. A duo consisting of Hélène de Thoury devising the cinematic electronic melodies and Amandine Stioui supplying the arresting vox, their debut album Live & Destroy was issued last fall.
NEW POLITICIANS (Centerville, New Jersey)
Instantly taking up residence in the marrow of our being here at SEM, this quartet that sounds like we always wish Interpol would have, was also instantly filed under the heading “Where the hell did these guys come from?” The short answer is Centerville, of course, but we’re not even sure where the hell that is. Whatever (and Google maps be damned; we prefer to believe that this ‘Centerville’ is nothing but a front and that they’re actually from some lost London enclave circa 1980), we’re just resolutely pleased they landed on our radar.
Around now for over half a decade and frankly long overdue for an appearance here on NEXT (we’re a bit embarrassed about that, to be honest), this Chicago band somehow manages to swirl the more aggressive into a wall-of-sound melodicism that leaves them sounding like no one else. Trailing a steady stream of EPs, a collection of demos and a tour cassette, Beyond the Pale emerges as their debut album proper, and it’s a dazzler.
RANK/XEROX (San Francisco)
Built around the restless and in fact musically hyper-kinetic David West (whose CV also includes Rat Columns,Lace Curtain, Whalehammer and lord knows who else), this trans-Pacific partnership – West is Australian – deserves fast-track authority if ever anything did. Experimental, with their teeth a bit on edge, the only question insofar as including them in this go-round of NEXT was whether they’re still a functioning band. Word is ‘yes,’ if a bit sparingly, understandable given the members’ whirlwind lives but frankly we don’t care if they only put out an album once a decade, we’ll be happy no matter.
RULE OF THIRDS (Adelaide, Australia)
Just recently gracing the US with a West Coast tour where your humble correspondent had a chance to see them, the visceral power and slice of this band can be personally attested to. Their debut long-player, just released in March after a stirring set of demos and a bruisingly brilliant EP, covers nine tracks in 32 minutes and absolutely rules, no surprise given how transfixing they were live. Clearly, Australia is dominating this list this time around, which is either a gut response to the Howard administration or simply something added to the increasingly scarce water supply. Whatever, it’s working.
SHE PAST AWAY (Bursa, Turkey)
To our knowledge the first Turkish band to appear on a NEXT list (frankly, we’re too lazy to go back and check), She Past Away is perhaps the epitome of the ‘modern’ post-punk sound, pounding yet contemplative, melodic but scything, and blessed with a vocalist that splits the difference between Peter Murphy and Andrew Eldritch. And, of course, there’s no shortage of unrest and anxiety plaguing Turkish society these days, to which the dark grey textures of SPA are almost certainly a welcome panacea.
SOROR DOLOROSA (Paris)
Taking the ‘dolorous’ part of their name to a new high/low, Soror Dolorosa more-than-ably contribute to the impression that the French cold-darkwave is rising again. Citing bands as diverse as Slowdive, Virgin Prunes, and Specimen, there’s as much Batcave as there is sadly ringing Cure to their sound. Counter-intuitively, it’s nothing less than pure joy.
SURPLUS 1980 (Oakland, California)
Exhibiting (and representing) the more avant side of post-punk – think Akron and Kent around 1980, coincidentally enough – how shocking is it (not at all) that Surplus 1980 is supporting the Nightingales on a soon-to-be West Coast of the USA tour? If you don’t mind us saying so, we could use more of this spirit in the scene. As much as we’re as seduced by the deep bassline and arched shadows as the next person, having a little experimentation would not go ill-placed. Bring it on, we say, bring it on.
TERIBAL ANAMAL (New York, NY)
OK, yes, they’re “teribal” spellers, but who cares? Reminding us of a more incendiary Parquet Courts, this band of merry miscreants from NYC have a knack for the uncompromising. Once again representing the more experimental end of the spectrum, we NEED bands like this, if only to remind us that we’re human AND flawed, a combination that could not be more punk rock, or, for that matter, more post-punk.
TERMINAL A (Los Angeles)
Continuing on the edgy tip, we come to Terminal A, LA’s entry into the more outré, daring end of the spectrum, reminding us a bit of an updated, West Coast version of Suicide, all gutteral intention and beautifully destroyed melody. The fact they’re a duo may be a coincidence but can’t help but add to that impression of a slightly debauched but serrated force to be reckoned with. The band we want playing when California finally does fall into the ocean.
VAADAT CHARIGIM (Tel Aviv)
Most certainly the first band from Israel to land on one of these lists, we’re more than happy to have them. Bringing a dreamy but fully conscious drive to the form, we’re rather over the moon with their sound and hope like hell they can find a way to come touring the West Coast of the US, as this is the kind of thing that live show dreams are made of.
VARSOVIE (Grenoble, France)
We’re not even sure where to start with this band. Full of THE energy, making no excuses and doing it in French, call us utterly smitten. Skipping right past cold- or darkwave and into the meat of the matter, Varsovie have us rather shivering with joy. A dark joy, to be sure, but joy nonetheless. Around since 2005 or so, on their second full-length after a startling EP, we’d say “well it’s about time we caught up to them” but we’re so happy to have them on our radar that time just doesn’t matter.
XTR HUMAN (Stuttgart, Germany)
Well heck, just LISTEN to this. With a full-length, a ripping new single, and a stirring EP of demos to their credit, this is definitely a case of ‘last but not least.’ With all the emphasis of France and Australia and random points between on this list, we forget maybe how Germany is right up there, as disillusioned and inspired as any of us, and XTR Human are among the Teutonic elite, as this track, and indeed any track from their debut LP, testifies to. We’re here to tell you, surprised though you may be at the mention of Stuttgart, this rousing revivalist spirit is happening everywhere, to the point that we expect that the next NEXT will feature a band from Antarctica. In the meantime…