Written by: Dave Cantrell
Kind of funny how neglect, even when due to circumstance rather than (or anyway more than) character flaw, can breed ambition. Yes, your trusty correspondent has found his life a bit, shall we say, crowded of late, what with a granddaughter here, a Great Pyrenees there, festivals and showcases happening all over the calendar here in Portland and, of course, just the continued unspooling of that great grand bastard himself, “life in general.” All of which has led to a critical paucity in the post-punk portfolio around here (though we are truly grateful to have welcomed the talented Mr Michael Mitchell recently on board to pick up some of that faltering energy). Thus, in a desperate – and trust me, labor-intensive – attempt to at least bring the NEXT feature back up to speed, the crazy decision was made to feature not just the standard 20-count of bands and artists you should not spend another day being unaware of, but tacking on the, umm, next twenty as well. Not abandoning sanity altogether, however, we’ve not actually divided them into two separate lists but instead just gone ahead and presented all forty of them in the standard A-Z format, which we’re fairly certain will be enough of a head-spinning experience as is. Before you begin, a slight caveat: it’s recognized that during the interim any number of the following may well have drifted on to your radar already – you are, after all, an astute bunch – but we nonetheless hope and believe that a high enough percentage will catch you excitedly unawares to make the lengthy scroll worth your time. Cheers, and thank you for your patience. [Oh, and on a separate note, be aware that a run of Shadowplay columns has been appearing in the last few weeks as well, with snap reviews of a select handful of albums and EPs that have emerged during this long (might you say tragic?) editorial drought]. [feature pic Whitey McConnaughy, used with permission]
ACTORS (Vancouver BC)
There’s your upward trajectory, there’s your precipitous upward trajectory, then there’s the path ACTORS find themselves on. Emerging out of the already-fertile Gastown scene around 2012, the band digitally self-released a dizzying phalanx of singles over the next half-plus decade (collected on 2017’s Vol. 1 CD on Northern Lights) while building their reputation brick by brick. Then…then…2018 happened. Striking out for territories both near and far – ACTORS just recently finished tearing up Europe – while simultaneously releasing their official debut LP It Will Come To You on vaunted imprint Artoffact, the quartet’s rise has, over the course of barely a year, vaulted past ‘breathtaking’ and is currently closing in on ‘world-conquering.’ Which, by any metric – live, on record, talking to them in person – is as it should be. Put another way? It was indeed very cool to see Drab Majesty on Carson Daly the other day, but should anyone from the Daly team just happen to be reading this, take heed, and book you some ACTORS, stat.
AZAR SWAN (New Orleans, NYC)
What astute, long-time followers of these NEXT lists might be noticing is the broadening of the remit as elements of synth industrial, electronic, and experimental musics begin to sneak their ways more prominently into play. As luck would have it, we get to neatly underscore that development by including – quite deservedly, we (and their legions of fans) hasten to add – the mastery and mystery that is Azar Swan. A duo consisting of Joshua Strawn (the now New Orleans-based partner) and the luminously-voiced Zohra Atash, the two took the adventurous decision in 2012 to dissolve their dark pop band Religious To Damn and set out for less constrained territories. Ending up with a sound as sharp and penetrating as it is gauzy and ephemeral, decidedly hypnotic (no surprise) but edged with tension and deep smarts (an even greater ‘no surprise’), it would seem clear that there have been few musical reboots that have proven to be this intuitively rewarding, for artist and listener alike.
Out on tour at the moment supporting Bristol-based blasters Idles, this trio from New York’s most fertile borough is long overdue for membership in the NEXT club, their debut arriving in 2008 (!) and their fourth (!!) album Shadow of Everything arriving on Wharf Cat just this past summer. And while those parenthetical explanation marks are, of course, meant to signal your post-punk corrrespondent’s near-inconceivable level of oversight when it comes to this lot, they could just as well be meant to convey the convulsing dynamics at play when these three – Bateh brothers Reid and Blaze along with William Brookshire – get together to do what they do. Sounding in their nimble gurning rush not a little like Nick Cave falling down the stairs with (appropriately enough, perhaps) Gallon Drunk, the band in the process find themselves wrestling with a darkness that Joe Casey would very well recognize. Powerful and serrated, their songs seem flung from the heart with a care-taken abandon. It’s little wonder Idles chose them as tourmates.
CHOIR BOY (Salt Lake City)
On the one hand, we could say that had it not been for the presence in the band, on bass, of Sculpture Club guitarist/mainstay Chaz Costello (see the Ninth NEXT) we might not have become aware of the swaying arch romanticism of Choir Boy. But that would be a bit disingenuous, seeing as their two appearances in Portland in the last six months have stopped audiences – quite literally – in their tracks, standing in hypnotized fascination as lead singer Adam Klopp mesmerizes with, well, choir boy vocals detailing tales of (most often dance-worthy) alienation and beautiful isolation. An intoxicating combination, we’re thrilled at the prospect of their upcoming second album (debut Passive With Desire arrived in 2016) due, we hear, on Dais by the end of the year.
COLD SHOWERS (Los Angeles)
Speaking of Dais, we’re happy to find this LA band on their estimable roster not only for the obviously salubrious reasons but also because it gives us a moment of cover as we desperately try to deflect the fact that some nine-thousand of you have come ’round to Cold Showers (if not more, of course; that’s just the number of CS fans on Facebook) before NEXT finally found the editorial good sense to include them. Yes, there is indeed a lot going on around the world blah blah blah but truly, little excuse for it taking a band of this supple driving strength, with melodies that never fail to linger, this long to find themselves featured in our modest little exercise here. Perhaps best described at ‘coldgaze,’ we’ll leave it to you to decide your own portmanteau, but do know that it was just recently announced that their third (!) album, on Dais every one of them, is being recorded and is expected to be available in early 2019. [on a more serious note: guitarist Chris King was recently involved in a serious car accident resulting in equally serious injury. Unfortunately it was an uninsured driver that ran the red light and hit him. For obvious reasons, then, even as he would rather not, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help defray mounting medical costs. Please consider contributing here]
CREUX LIES (Sacramento, California)
It’s been both a long and surprisingly quick road for Creux Lies to go from unsigned band with no album out to the exact opposite – The Hearth fell from the cosmos on Cleopatra just this past August – but whatever the rigors and peregrinations necessary (the tours, the supporting slots, the determination to turn their hometown into a common tour destination), the lads from the state capitol have made certain that it was all worth it. And while we can tell you (and soon will; a review is forthcoming) that that debut is a corker, in truth it’s but a patch on the power the band bring to the live stage. See them if you can, they’re the real deal, but in the meantime, grab a taste:
CRUZ DE NAVAJAS (Mexico City)
Exhibiting a righteously unbending sound that links them thematically – and, in fact, musi-politically – to the south Texas contingent as repped by Annex (see Sixth NEXT) and Twin Tribes (see, umm, below), CdN have something resembling an aura of inevitability surrounding them. That impression, though, doesn’t arise simply via some mystical blend of sorcery and good luck but rather through that most gritty of basics, hard work. With multiple tours of the west coast of the US behind them, it’s not exactly shocking that they just keep getting better and stronger. And, yes, still another band you need to see live when you can. They bring it.
CRYING VESSEL (Switzerland)
First off, we’re not specifying where exactly in Switzerland because, though founder/primary driver Slade Templeton (more on him in a moment) lists it as his current home town, we’re pretty sure that Geneva and even Berlin also factor into the band’s – and Slade’s – ongoing story. Having made his name and reputation in the electo/industrial dance world as both performer, DJ, and especially producer/engineer, Templeton (originally from Hutchinson, Kansas), despite that fairly comfortable, well-established position, still could not resist being pulled over to the dark side, the sirens’ bewitching, shadowy calls beginning just a few years ago. Thus a repurposed Crying Vessel (three internet-only records had been released under that moniker previous to the, umm, conversion), a now 2-man enterprise that have already released a physical LP (last year’s A Beautiful Curse, which is a beautiful record) and are prepping for live tours once Slade’s able to free himself from his many other commitments and passions. It’s cool, dude, we’ll wait. It’s so obviously, clearly worth it.
DEATH BELLS (Sydney/LA)
We “(slash)” their hometown because of ‘word on the street’ intel that was culled by your intrepid columnist himself but whatever base camp Death Bells decides to call their home is largely irrelevant for our needs here – and, really, even just in general – because the sound they make transcends borders both national and metaphysical. They could be pulsing out their rhythms with Spectres up in Vancouver BC or with the Golden Apes over in Berlin or fill-in-your-own blank so long as on said dotted line is written in the name of someone ringingly, near-on ragingly passionate and damned competent about how they go about representing the form. Just out with their debut album proper this year (Standing an the Edge of the World, which could apply, come to think of it, to either of the above locales) after a self-titled 12″ mini-LP, it’s worth mentioning that Death Bells live is at least the thrill they are on vinyl. So a) Don’t miss them if you have the chance, and b) listen and believe!
DRAHLA (Leeds, UK)
The storied post-punk history of our dear Leeds doesn’t need reviewing here – it is, after all, among the primary pillars that built this whole wonderful mess we’re all hopelessly caught up in in the first place – but suffice to say that Drahla, just recently signed in the US to Captured Tracks (that’s their initial release on the none-more-crucial label below), is doing that lineage proud. While not adopting the agitated funk of Gang of Four nor the shambolic snake-charming of the Mekons, the band nonetheless are carving out their own unique niche in the Loiner legacy via a raw driving precision that suggests the Au Pairs have sneaked in and taken over the grooves of Pink Flag. Or something. You’ll have your own fevered thoughts about them soon enough now that you’ve been exposed (thank us later).
E-PLAY (Belgrade, Serbia)
Not sure what’s more amazing, the fact that this long-standing influential band hasn’t yet found their name on one of these NEXTs (please forgive us, E-play) or that they’re one of the first Serbian bands to do so when we have to assume there is nothing short of a teemingly active scene all across that Balkan nation. Thankfully for us we don’t have to ponder any of that for too long as the most amazing aspect of this delayed appearance is the band themselves. Now closing in on twenty years extant – their first, self-titled full-length emerged in 2000 – any astonishment at E-play’s duration is met head on by the pure dynamic consistency of their material throughout that run, a level of quality that, as attested to by the clip below, taken from their May 2018 release Sloboda, is in no danger of diminishing. Add to that the fact that, again judging by the video below, the band are not ones to shy away from politically vital commentary. To E-play, we here at SEM raise every glass we can find in our cluttered digital office. To you, E-play, Живели!!
As powerful a force as we’ve experienced blowing out of the Windy City (and, yes, we’re talking the whole historic shebang here), Ganser – named after the factitious syndrome wherein a person deliberately mimics the effects of an illness be it physical or mental – have about them a kind of take-no-prisoners precision that in both live (especially live) and studio settings can easily reel the listener back on their heels in a fit of joy and giddy startlement. Some, if not much, of that is down to the band building steadily on their strengths, as exemplified by the succession of releases, from initial single “Smelling Salts” in mid-2015 to a run of two EPs to a mini-LP to the appearance of their debut full length (Odd Talk) this past April. Of those, we’d have to reckon that the most appropriately named, if in a slightly oblique way (itself a suitable twist now that we think about it), is their 2016 EP Pyrrhic Victory. With Ganser, one feels that even if everything got burned down to ash while watching them perform – and again, see them live! – it wouldn’t matter and in fact you might not even notice, you’d just go traipsing through the rubble as if walking on air.
HAPAX (Naples, Italy)
Formed in 2014 and almost immediately releasing their debut album Stream of Consciousness on vaunted label Swiss Dark Nights, the duo that comprises Hapax – Michele Mozzillo (bass synth voice and lyrics) and Dye Ki Nlooln (AKA Diego Cardone, guitar synth programming) – would seem to have indeed been a fated pairing, emerging fully formed from the chrysalis, as it were. No surprise, we assume, as naming yourself after a term that refers to a word or phrase that only appears once in a literary body of work would certainly indicate that they had a pretty clear sense that their abilities would match their ambition and by all evidence we’ve been able to uncover, they were correct. According to their Facebook ‘about’ page, Hapax is playing in LA on December 1st, 2018 at Stardust (following a night in San Diego the night before). It’s a too-brief US appearance that has this correspondent ardently wishing he had some miles saved up for a quick flight. Ah well, one supposes, once again, he’ll have to do with a flight of the imagination while listening to their recorded work, which, y’know, is fine. Thing is, though, after a second album in 2016 (Cave), indications are that a new album is soon-to-arrive, stirring anticipation ever higher. Mark your calendars, Southern Cali, missing Hapax is not an option.
The work of Dream Collision and Rainy Days Factory member Pedro Code, it’s perhaps safe to say that his efforts under his current, curiously run-together nom-de-postpunk has, umm, overshadowed that done in his past incarnations. Moody yet resilient, atmospheric but sharp as cut glass, and always always melodic in a way that threatens to soundtrack our darkest dreams (a threat we take deliriously), IAMTHESHADOW specializes in that chiaroscuro type of mystery that burns both subtly and starkly, a smoldering simultaneity that suggests Code may well have given his project the most accurately spot-on name ever.
INVSN (Umeå, Sweden)
Stealing right past the Finally! aspect of INVSN gaining NEXT status some number of albums and 14k followers later on Facebook, we’ll move directly to the distinguished background of this 5-piece from the northeastern shore of Sweden, a perhaps surprising backstory considering the relative remoteness of said home town but if we’ve learned anything while doing these features it’s that this still-churning resurgence knows virtually no borders. Formerly known as Invasionen and singing in their native tongue for the first few years of their existence, the members of the now-more-internationally focused INVSN spent time in an impressive variety of local/national bands (most conspicuous might be singer Dennis Lyxzen’s membership in The (International) Noise Conspiracy and, umm, a certain band you might have heard of called Refused), a lineage that has led to them being a deeply electrifying live band (see for yourself in this clip from last year). What we guess we’re saying here is 1) living where they live seems to have helped distill their drive to a quasar-intense level, and 2) oh dear god please let them see the wisdom of doing a West Coast USA tour!
ist ist (Manchester)
Well, hell. We don’t know exactly where to start here. Are we super pleased about having a band from Manchester landing in the NEXT archives that isn’t shy about echoing that Mecca-like city’s past while – very assuredly – doing so in their own style? You bloody fkin believe we are! Are we totally on board with their ee cummings modesty regarding the lower-casing of their name? Of course we are because anyone that sounds this sure of themselves while also producing work that has us checking our dignity at the door and rocking the post-punk fuck out can do anything they want whether it be grammar or whatever. The grip of Manc ghosts might indeed have a hold on them but then again, on whom of us does it not? In the meantime, in the here and now (the hear and now?), all we know is that a thrill awaits us around every ist ist corner. We’re on board.
Yes, despite the continental implications of the name, this is in fact the work of one Jason Sloan from the home of The Wire. If memory serves (a big ‘if’ here), this would be the first NEXTer from Charm City. A synth-based, drum machined dynamo, it’s almost uncanny how not-Baltimore he/they sound and yet, it being a universal sound, one that transcends city limits no matter the city, it really should come as no surprise. At the same time, the beauty of its despair makes perfect sense given its hometown, no? How impossible is it to imagine Omar Little setting out to score – or settle a score – to this as, well, the score playing in the background. Sometimes synchronicity comes in the most shadowy shapes, doesn’t it? Answer: Yes, it does.
LISTE NOIRE (Berlin)
Yes, based in Berlin but sound-sanctioned from anywhere from that Bowie/Eno-inflected city to the warehouse dynamics of Brooklyn, Liste Noire are a breed apart. Sounding at times like Suicide had they been Depeche Mode, right there you have your most basic bases covered. Whispery, bold, Liste Noire truly do carve out a unique niche, a devotional sadness-slash-fatalism resulting in the most artful, yearning synth ballads imaginable. Hard to imagine any band more lovingly – which is to say dispassionately – representing the iconic history of their origin town.
LUCKY+LOVE (Los Angeles)
With the uncanny luck of having two members named Loren Luck and April Love (true names? Just as likely as anything), the aptly-named Lucky+Love are an LA-based sensation, harnessing their, well, loving and lucky knack for hooks and darkwave grooves into a singular aesthetic path that feels fated and fêted. Sometimes this whole post-punk new wave etc gambit seems like a fortunate break made manifest, and L+L are the very exemplars of that very impression. Lucky (and lovely) for us, they’re heading back up here to Portland for the fifth annual Out From the Shadows festival come April 2019.
MODE IN GLIANY (Rennes – etc – France)
Yes, a man of many origins, of many influences, of many talents, Boris Völt is all those things and, seemingly, more. One of those European enigmas of certain power, Mr Völt manages not only to tug our chain when it comes to darkwave charm, but as well in the very name that he’s chosen as his nom-de-synthwave itself. Meant as a takeoff on Modigliani, the tones and compositional nous that he conjures are of a piece with the elongational modernism his faux-namesake was known for. In short, a kind of dadaist trickster in terms of performative identity, the music he makes could not, despite himself perhaps, be more sincere. This right here is why I love all this so much.
NEGATIVE SCANNER (Chicago)
Ahhh, Chicago. So SO much varied, challenging energy doth issue from your urban loins (see Ganser, above, for one). Roping in influences as disparate as Sneaks and almost hometown heroes Big Black, Negative Scanner have managed to carve out a serrated niche all their fking own. Shortish, angular, pointed and basically take-no-prisoners, Scanner songs don’t just go for the jugular, they are the jugular. Consider that arch hyperbole if you will, but we’re telling you, this is the real shit. Which is why the album cover as depicted below is, despite its ‘eww’ factor, spot on.
NEW APOSTLES (Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, UK)
See, this is what we love about all this. Not only does this band come from a place that Robin Hood would have wandered, angular guitar shapes in hand, and not only do they name themselves after a group of believers that never believed, but they’re also ‘of a certain age,’ the age that finds them quite comfortable sharing a bill with the likes of the Blue Orchids and the Nightingales and not blinking a bloody eye. Which is to say, age? To hell with age. All that matters is that you’re a faithful foot soldier in this march to our post-punk demise and hang the consequence. As much as anywhere in the rock’n’roll universe, this bailiwick we all call home, no matter in your twenties or deliquescing into your fifties and/or sixties, is ageless to the core, and long live New Apostles.
NIGHT NAIL (Los Angeles)
LA. LA, LA, LA. Such a sprawling, afternoon noir milieu, a place that would seem to make Raymond Chandler the original Ian Curtis. Into this archetypal, night-is-day madness steps Night Nail, one of that vast American city-scape’s most romantically dark propositions. A surprisingly rife source for nihilistic, night time beauty, Night Nail, umm, nail that very vibe as if they were born for this purpose. Beautifully derelict, building songs that seem soundtracks to falling-down warehouses and vampiric lost starlets, the band, really, could not be from anywhere else. This is what Echo & the Bunnymen hoped to sound like when they were doing their Liverpudlian take on the Doors. Yeah, that good.
N O N E (Germany)
Yes, well, Anna Nin, aka N O N E, is indeed slightly circumspect about her exact whereabouts but we think there’s likely a very good explanation for this, being that the music N O N E makes intrinsically (and, in a subtly conceptual way, extrinsically as well) encompasses the entirety of not just the German state of mind but that of Europe itself. A one-person, daring but very assured darkwave experimentalism, the sounds Ms Nin conjures capture – and don’t release – your attention, your heart, and dare we say, your soul. The only aspect of this artist that’s perhaps more amazing than the quality of work they create is the sheer quantity. Take a look at N O N E’s Bandcamp page. Odium, their first release, appeared in February, 2017. The most recent work available – as of this writing; by the time this sentence is typed there may be another – Havoc, hit the web this past September. It was N O N E’s fifteenth separate piece of work and their seventh full-length (all the rest are multi-track EPs). We got tired just looking at it, especially as we know what degree of effort and artistry that goes into each one.
OLMS (Sterling Heights, Michigan)
While it would been just as easy, and certainly more recognizable, to simply say ‘Detroit’ right there, we rather take it that Mr Dennis Hudson, DBA as OLMS, prefers a touch of specificity, seeing as his Facebook page makes no mention of the metropolis a stone’s throw south and sticks to the far less known Sterling Heights. We further surmise that the importance of that detail is part of what drives OLMS’ art, that the aesthetic at play – a synth- and sampler- and drum machine- and guitar-based darkwave that, with its melodies and buoyancy, comes across as a kind of deftly managed brutalism – depends in some part on the sense of thriving isolation, of being just on the outside of the thrumming urban maelstrom. At the same time, it’s equally presumable that the OLMS sound derives a fair bit of its beautiful desperation from being in such close proximity to modern decay that same close-by city is only now beginning to claw its way free of. But y’know what? To hell with supposition, let’s fucking dance, even if it is in the darkest way imaginable.
PALAIS IDEAL (Eindhoven, The Netherlands)
Having worked in their pasts with a luminous array of musicians drawn from the ranks of such bands as Wire, Tuxedomoon, Bauhaus, Christian Death and Clan of Xymox among others (Legendary Pink Dots!!), it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when the duo of Richard van Kruysdijk and John Edwards came together with the aim of producing a new waved blend of post-punk and synth-wave that would be a touch homage, a touch renewed reaffirmation, and yet the phrase ‘out of nowhere’ is used in their short bio in describing the shockwave the below video caused in the post-punk world when it appeared in Dec 2016. That it was followed up by the quick release of a white vinyl 10″ (The Future Has Been Cancelled) shows how canny their plan actually was. By the time their debut full-length No Signal landed in the online shops, the world was ready. Brilliantly done, lads, brilliantly done.
PAST (Masovia, Poland)
A four-piece from central Poland, PAST have, in a sense, been running from themselves since 2011. While their band name, aside from lending itself to convoluted opening sentences, might suggest a dogmatic nostalgia rules both method and madness, the reality finds them bending forward toward the modern, their sound far too present to allow for much looking back. Their sound crisp and sweeping, full of a resilient melancholy, commanding vocals and some very nimble guitar work besides, the four of them – Gosia, Slavik, Suchy, and Derak – are as much a product of their time as any NEXT band has been. And these being, indeed, some very trying times, PAST is exactly the kind of band we want to soundtrack our careful steps into an uncertain future.
THE PRIDS (Portland OR)
Oh dear, dear me. One can scarcely imagine just how aghast we were when it dawned on us that the mighty Prids had yet to make an appearance in a NEXT column. Considered, for great and true reason, the godhead of Portland’s current post-punk, dream wave, shoegaze, fill-in-the-blank scene, the band is anchored, both currently and historically, by bass player/singer Mistina La Fave and guitarist/singer David Frederickson (Tim Yates and Gordon Nickel fill out the current lineup), who moved west from St Joseph MO right around the turn of the century – with a layover in Kansas City – and never looked back. And that’s the easy part of their backstory. Throw in a wicked serious van accident on I-5 some ten years back and Mistina getting hit, in 2015, with a somewhat more wicked subarachnoid hemorrhage which may sound darkly appropriate (and we admit, it does) but as it tends to kill most people before they can reach a hospital, well, let’s just say it put everything in a pretty damned sharp perspective. Which may very well explain how their most recent album Do I Look Like I’m in Love?, a double 45 rpm LP no less, is their most powerful work to date. Meanwhile, around these parts anyway, that phrase ‘What don’t kill me makes me stronger’ could have no more potent a poster child than this band and the woman playing bass in it.
OK, it’s true. Of the many bands on this sprawling double NEXT, none quite tweak our ‘YESSS!’ reflex more than Re-TROS. Spawned in the mid-aughts in Beijing (though at least one of its roots can be traced back to Nanjing) and including in its history a debut EP in 2005 with then-studio sharer Brian Eno – not to mention a classmate connection for drummer Hua Dong to Kanye West while the latter’s mom taught at Nanjing Uni – this band is, to be honest, a bit of a real-life chimera for us here at the SEM post-punk desk. Coming across as something of a blend of Neu!, Suicide, Television, Wire, and, umm, a Lee Hazlewood-tinged Nick Cave (check out this live clip), Re-TROS, which, despite its slightly hipster implication, is actually an abbreviating of the phrase ‘Rebuilding the Rights of Statues,’ is an anomaly only insofar as our Western perspective deems it so. In truth, as bands from India, Hong Kong, and Malaysia have surfaced in recent years that also toy with the tropes of the genre, it’s not nearly as rare as it seems. Though, in truth, we do kind of think that Re-TROS might, at current time, represent the pinnacle.
SEX PARK (Portland OR)
Around now for a few years in this incarnation, the duo of Daniel Blumenthal and Paul Burkhart – they’ve since added guitarist Colin Buckley to the mix, more on that in a moment – have between them, we dunno, some 20, 25 years of previous experience in the garages and dive bars of various West Coast indie/punk redoubts before latching on to each other within in the hothouse confines of the Portland scene. Up until Colin was drafted into service, it was Daniel on the mic while playing guitar with Paul handling the programming side meaning drum machines and synths and the like. And they were good, very good in fact (that’s just the pair of them on our selected track, after all) but by bringing a separate guitarist into the fold, they’ve become something close to sublime, Daniel now freed to explore his inner frontman mojo as Paul and Colin anchor the edges like wingmen charged with providing the essential delirium. Works a charm, needless to say, and as a bonus, Sex Park now presents in that classic 3-point stage arrangement. Win win win, then, for the band, for our ears, and, not least, for Portland. Oh, and check out this recent interview conducted by Zär over on Post-punk.com….
SILENT RUNNERS (Amsterdam)
A five-piece with personnel mostly living in Amsterdam with one or two calling Utrecht home (the Netherlands, besides being a beautiful country, is also – thankfully for their purposes – a very small one), what’s most remarkable about Silent Runners is how brief their tenure so far for a band that sounds as resonant and seasoned as they do. Having only emerged in mid-2015, it would not have been expected of most bands to then release a highly-regarded 6-song EP later that same year let alone follow that up with a distinct, rather rapturously received full-length in December, 2017 (The Directory, it’s called). Head-spinning though that release rate may be, the sound of the band itself, rooted in solid synth foundationals and a dextrous touch with melody, has a grounded, lived-in feel that proves, paradoxically, exciting AF. Naturally, we’re unreasonably eager for their next LP, which we have to expect will fall out of the ether any day now, the way they’ve been going.
SLIGHTER (Portland OR)
A recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest, the artist/producer/supreme-remix-master that goes by the name Slighter is one of those artists that define the word ‘singular’ in each and every one of its iterations. Yes, when working on his own material, he often works alone, but even when he features guest vocalists, as he often does, the soundscapes he creates, as inventive as they are familiar, founded in the lodestone of industrial synthwave and IDM, nimble no matter how heavy they may get, have about them a signature quality, one with such depth and ingenuity as to suggest this rather quiet individual, known as Colin to friends and family, has few rivals. While that could certainly be disputed, it’s both Slighter’s collaborations and his prolific nature – his is a relentlessly sparking creativity as evidenced by his Bandcamp page – that spell the difference. Having worked with – and continuing to work with – the likes of Dean Garcia, Front Line Assembly, Keith Hillebrandt, Ohm (the list goes on) while bringing people such as Cyanotic to guest on his own albums, it’s no surprise that music editors at Showtime, MTV, NBC etc have featured his work. Tension, beauty, mystery, and to boot what seems like a subtly ornate soliloquy of sound just about every day, Slighter, at the very least, is perhaps the most misleadingly-named artist at work today.
SONIC JESUS (Doganella di Ninfa, Italy)
So, OK, we’re going to more or less skip right past the obvious question – why’d it take us until this colossal 13/14 NEXT to arrive at Sonic Jesus, FFS? – by only answering it in a geographically oblique way: that hometown listed above? While steeped, like pretty much everywhere in Italy, in a history that has left mouth-wateringly stunning architecture and artifacts, Doganella di Ninfa is, relatively speaking, the blink-and-you-miss-it size of a small village, located approximately 25 miles south of Rome as il corvo flies. It is, it seems, the kind of place we dream of when we dream of traveling unencumbered by money or time through Europe, and certainly, by the looks of it, not the type place you’d expect to hear sounds like the sharp, dark, immutably fetching ones made by the town’s favorite darkwave son, Tiziano Veronese, emanating in the pitch dead of night from some studio behind thick ivied walls or whatever (the artist’s work has been produced at Sonic Jesus Studio somewhere in town). Though we’ve said it in reference to other bands that have originated from somewhat unlikely environs, we say here with some confidence that it’ll never be more true than in this case: Mr Veronese, in his guise as Sonic Jesus, has most definitely put Doganella di Ninfa on the map. It would seem post-punk pilgrimages of the faithful cannot be long in coming.
STOCKHAUSSEN (Mexico City)
Speaking of place and its attendant unlikeliness, if any of you, in a fit of cognitive dissonance, just did a bit of a double take, you’re not alone. Not named, as one might assume, after the single-‘S’ed composer Karlheinz that very assuredly did not step foot in Mexico (unless he took a vacation from his stint as guest professor of composition at UC Davis in 1966-’67?), Stockhaussen, in the form of Angel Kauff, as related indeed to the fact that he counts among his influences the music of J.S.Bach, cobbled together that name from composer/organist Wolfgang Stockmeier and Gottlob Haussmann, a painter responsible for a portrait of said Baroque composer. Now that that’s all cleared up, we can move on to the, in fact, classical take on synth- and darkwave that Stockhaussen has rather perfected. Textured, nuanced, forceful and nimble in a single stroke, he’s also not shy about letting his more recent (read:late 20th c.) influences seep through his compositions in liquid monochromatic waves. Nothing less than an astonishing talent, Stockhaussen also gives more proof where none is needed that the ‘scene’ as it exists around the world in its current form is rich and multivalent and pulsing with innovation.
SUIR (Frankfurt, Germany)
Though indeed resident of Germany’s fifth-largest metropolis, it’s immediately obvious from both their own stated intentions – under ‘Home Town’ on their Facebook page they simply say ‘none’ – and, perhaps more persuasively still, from the universal chords of darkness they hit with their recorded output, SUIR (Denis Wanic and Lucia Seiss) are a band without borders. They’re also a particularly focused one, with debut album Ater announcing the arrival of a potent new player on ‘the scene’ in May of 2017 just seventeen months before follow-up Soma dropping on October 18th, 2018 (as coincidence would have it, the exact day their entry is being plugged into the NEXT machine). Intense, their sound at times flirting with a beautiful brutalism, the music these two make couldn’t really appearing at a more propitious time. One could easily imagine a future documentary about these particularly troubled times using either or both of the band’s LPs as its soundtrack.
THEN COMES SILENCE (Stockholm)
Another long-awaited NEXT entrant, another major dark life force from a Scandinavian capital, TCS might well be described as the powerful hybrid that would result from mixing the DNAs of Killing Joke with the Stranglers, which to those of us drawn like pale moths to the black flame of post-punk is something close to perfection. Already four albums in, the band are considered a promising enough proposition to actually have had last year’s Blood released on CD in the US. A four-piece (Alex, Seth, Jens, and Jonas), Then Comes Silence have about them that naturalistic sonic massiveness that so many European bands seem to capture with ease. We here at the SEM post-punk desk suspect that if we were to luck upon a bill featuring them with, say, Golden Apes and Agent Side Grinder or something we very well not survive the night. Though, make no mistake, we’d very gladly take that risk.
We don’t know about you, but around here we get a bit of a chill-inducing thrill when a relatively small band, those with one, maybe two members, makes an absolutely epic noise. And right now, among such bands, one would have to place this Torontonian duo near the top of the heap. Passionate, vaultingly dynamic – a sense of crescendos rising and crashing pervades even in their calmer moments – there’s this gripping emotionalism that pulls us in, stops us cold, makes us listen. Touring Europe currently, the pair plan on touring the West Coast beginning spring, 2019. Be excited, be very, very excited.
TWIN TRIBES (Brownsville TX)
More proof where none was needed that it’s the duo that’s becoming the de facto band set-up, Twin Tribes (Luis Navarro, Joel Nino Jr) have the further distinction of being among what’s basically a subset of – what else – two when it comes to post-punk/deathrock bands to have emerged from the unlikely vast environs of southeast Texas. The other, of course, is Annex, whose roots in McAllen the media seldom leaves unmentioned, and the fact that the two locales are a mere sixty miles apart has, inevitably, made tight allies of the two groups. Leaning a touch more toward a pure goth/pop aesthetic, the Tribes’ setlist is no less packed with compelling, irresistibly head-nodding (and head-turning) tracks, melodies spiraling in all directions. With full-length Shadows released at the beginning of 2018 and a new single (“Still in Still”) arriving with the summer, the band are currently making the circuit in their home state before heading off to points east in December and, thankfully, making it out West next spring including Portland, where an appropriately cheery blood-red carpet will be laid out for them.
WE ARE TEMPORARY (Brooklyn)
As much as any band on this double-sized list, We Are Temporary have deserved a place at the NEXT table well before now, having debuted with the Afterthoughts EP way back in 2013 and been buzzingly active ever since. Mea culpas aside, WAT is in fact the work of electronic dark pop auteur Mark Roberts, an artist we’d like to posit – if a bit too cleverly – as a slightly more darkwave, slightly less industrialized – but easily just as adventurous – East Coast Slighter (see above). Second album Embers, sparking with deft drifts of moody enchantment, arrived in the world’s inbox last January, almost two years to the month after debut Crossing Over. In the meantime there has been a trove of singles and EPs, remixes and covers (including a very daring strip-down of Ke$ha’s “Die Young” and a dazzling interpretation of Lana Del Ray’s “Gods & Monsters”), all of it an indication of the restlessness all driven artists share. Add in an enviable design consistency that distinguishes all his videos and cover art and it’s clear that Roberts, in his We Are Temporary guise, is as deeply committed as any NEXT artist we’ve encountered.
VOID VISION (Philadelphia)
Ending strong on the power of one, we close out this colossal edition with Void Vision, the, umm, visionary work of Shari Vari. While there have been various band members over the years, the icy burning core is Ms Vari, producing seemingly out of a fever to create a palette of synth-driven, minimal waved emotions that are simultaneously as full of the ecstatic restraint of John Foxx and as they are the guarded buoyancy as Yaz in their days upstairs at Eric’s. Also an in-demand remix artist and producer, it’s nonetheless the work of Void Vision that provides the shape and outline of what’s already a near-boundless legacy. In addition, as with everyone we include in these surveys (or so we like to think, anyway), Void Vision is a project one might point to without hesitation when anyone tries to tell you that ‘music’s not as good as it used to be.’