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The Twelfth NEXT Twenty Current Post-Punk Bands You Should Know About

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Skating perilously close to the edge of oblivion, it is at last time for the next NEXT list to launch itself out into the world before the franchise maunders so far into the forest of neglect that it’s never seen nor heard from again. All the standard excuses apply so you’re free to choose your own but I’m singling out that bastard Time, whose penchant for racing past like the Roadrunner after an injection of pharmaceutical-grade amphetamines is, frankly, becoming a little irritating. Add to that the dizzying pace that likely NEXT-eligible bands keep coming to my attention, prompting repeated cries of ‘How the hell did I miss that one?,’ and the result has been a kind of ecstatic paralysis as the thirteenth edition of this little project (the first of course had no ‘NEXT’ attatched to it), begun some three plus years ago, kept suggesting itself in a dozen different arrangements. But, as with any shapeshifting narrative, the moment comes when you just have to freeze it where it is and go forward. Please accept my apologies for the delay but, hey, looking on the bright side, what better gift could possibly be offered for the upcoming winter solstice? So light the candles, kill the lights, pour the mead and let’s get started. As always, the primary criteria are that the bands have at least one full-length (or the equivalent) and have been dubiously lucky enough to have crossed your correspondent’s radar. Also, as always, fire away in the comments section down below if there’s someone you think that’s been missed, though it is suggested you wade back through the previous NEXTs to check if your nominee has earned prior mention. And finally, I promise, the path from here to the next NEXT won’t be quite as lengthy…

A MILLION MACHINES (Los Angeles)

Loitering with intent in a shiny dystopia wherein Gary Numan is honorary mayor and Depeche Mode rewrite the official anthem of gleaming darkness every day (which is the sort of impression that made this band the perfect match to soundtrack this viral video), AMM, a duo whose self-titled debut just arrived last month, consist of  producer/multi-instrumentalist MIG (The New Room) and vocalist Fate Fatal (The Deep Eynde), and the pair of them not only discovered apparently perfect musical foils in each other but also seem to have ignited a mutually frenetic creative spark as album number two is already under way and is expected to emerge in late 2018. The net effect is that A Million Machines, alongside (almost literally) countless colleagues in the darkwave/post-punk/et al scene in the shadow of the Hollywood sign, are putting absolute paid to that lazy vestigial notion that LA’s all sunny sounds and/or Laurel Canyonized navel-gazing. From what we’ve been able to gather over the last several years, it’s a damned tense place, just like we like it. [AMM’s debut available here]

 

ANTIPOLE (Trondheim, Norway)

Surging into our consciousness like a fully-formed juggernaut in a hurry, Norway-based Antipole’s debut album Northern Flux just appeared on Unknown Pleasures Records after a mere two singles were plugged in to the band’s Bandcamp page. Beyond that already presumptuous and readily ambitious outing, they’re already providing their remixing talents to the likes of IAMTHESHADOW, making their contribution as essential as anyone’s on the ‘world stage’ of the current post-punk scene. All of which is to say that Antipole represent the absolute essence of this current movement, producing their own timeless material while helping shape the work of others into similar eternal shapes. That, my darkwave friends, is the essence of devotion. [order Northern Flux here, go deeper into Antipolean territory here]

 

ASTARI NITE (Miami)

Look, when a band of this sonic stature and aesthetic grace has been around for going on five years now, driving as we speak toward their third album (due May 2018), there is indeed something awry with one’s detection system. Here we thought the internet was going to solve this problem when in fact it’s exacerbated it beyond measure. Sigh. Oh well, first world angsty whining aside, I am infinitely grateful that this trio from Miami, not a city with a deep historic post-punk vein from which to draw, has at last landed in my ears, taking up, it must be said, immediate and lasting occupancy. Yearningly dark, embarrassingly blessed with the gift of melody and astutely keen at shaping their influences into brand new shapes, the trio of Mychael Ghost (vox), drummer Illia Tulloch and Howard Melnick on guitar continue to move from strength to strength, their most recent single posted below finding them sounding more confident than ever. Plus, it’s hard not to appreciate the coy phonetics at play in their name. Recasting the best-known work of history’s most intense artist into something akin to a brand name is beating modernism at its own game and we love it. [get Astari Nite in all their splendor here]

 

ARIEL MANIKI & THE BLACK HALOS (San José, Costa Rica)

The first appearance on the NEXT lists by a band from Costa Rica, which isn’t nearly as notable as how much of a knockout they are. As heavy gothy dark as the heaviest gothiest castle in the deepest darks of the Carpathian mountains yet nimble as cats (black ones, of course), Ariel Maniki & the Black Halos are not a little like a jungle verdant Sisters of Mercy, sonorous, compelling, dead serious. Beyond their appearance and the depth of their sound, the band, already three albums and an EP in since their debut in 2015, also feed into that most adventurous of fantasies, the one that has you traipsing through a trilling, dense, and thickly humid rainforest only to stumble upon this band playing in a small local club in the clearing. Ridiculous, we grant, but we’re gonna go ahead and dream that dream anyway. [catch up on AM & the BH here]

 

BUZZ KULL (Sydney, Australia)

You wanna talk about ‘Where the hell have I been?,’ let’s start here. Originating in 2010, which is, basically, last decade, the one-man band that is Buzz Kull (that one man being one Marc Dwyer, no relation to John here in the US we presume) has hammered home a driving synth-based darkwave groove since day one, producing uncompromising synthscapes that rival anything that emerged from the Conny Plank-influenced heyday or the innumerable practitioners that have arrived on stages all across the cable-entangled neo- scene over the last ten years. All of which is to say ‘You want the real deal a la Black Marble? Well here it be.’ [get yourself Buzz Kulled here]

 

CHAIN OF FLOWERS (Cardiff, Wales)

Finally, FINALLY, we have a band from that pluckiest of countries, Wales. For context you must understand that the once neo-hippy high schooler that this writer once was found great obscurantist solace in the wonderful Welsh rock community of Man, Help Yourself, the Neutrons, and others. Since then, of course, there’s been the mini-wave of kaleidoscopic popsike in the 90’s (Super Furry Animals, Gorki’s Zygotic Mynci et al) but otherwise the noise (that’s reached me, at least) from that idiosyncratic island community has been sparse to say the least. Hence my joyous discovery of Chain of Flowers. Rather rabidly shoegazey while ensuring a base (bass?) belief in a Kitchens of Distinction sense of drive and poignancy, all I know is that I’m just completely thrilled to have finally discovered this lot. Life is good. [get Chain of Flowers’ self-titled album here]

 

 

CITY CALM DOWN (Melbourne, Australia)

A foursome out of Melbourne, Australia, CCD represents that end of the post-punk/darkwave spectrum that takes into consideration the likes of Hunters & Collectors, the Triffids, the Moodists and myriad other Outback-touched outfits that express themselves in terms that invoke both their native borders and an escape from them by way of an ultra-devotional determinism that lands them in their very own, specific genre designation, a kind of Southern Lights-influenced mysticism, not too far from what we might call the Down Under Gun Club-type of approach, and lord knows, there’s nothing wrong with that. [visit the CCD website here]

 

 

FEEDING FINGERS (US, Austria, Italy, Serbia, Japan, China…)

Imagine if you will a ‘band’ that began in the US then spread like an exquisite virus to territories far beyond – continental Europe, former Iron Curtain countries, the Far East etc. This is the germ, if you will, of Justin Curfman’s fever dream, one filled with shadows and mirror cuts of darkwave majesty, and it’s very difficult to argue his intention given the results as heard below. See, what we fookin love about this assignment is exactly this kind of determined happenstance. It seems very likely that Mr Curfman didn’t set out to establish this kind of wide-world-of-postpunk-sports experience, and yet here he ends up, thereby confirming the very essence of this art form. Fearlessness, adventurousness, structure. That’s the ticket. [Feeding Fingers found here]

 

GHOST HUNT (Lisbon)

Splitting the ones an zeroes with an X-acto knife’s precision, Portugal’s Ghost Hunt are another outfit that evoke long clear nights galaxy-gazing while, um, haunting the outskirts of a town where residents are all tucked away dreaming of electric sheep. While only extant for three years or so, the band – Pedro Chau and Pedro Oliviero – have grown in leaps and bountiful bounds, from jumping off with a demos EP in 2015 to landing in Jacco Gardner’s house in Lisbon for a live EP released in March 2017, between which came their debut self-titled mini-LP. Most impressive, however, is the extent to which, over the course of that brief ascendancy, the pair’s sound has flourished and grown into its own. [hunt for Ghost Hunt here]

 

THE KVB (London)

Speaking of long overdue NEXT appearances, almost certainly this – again – duo from the UK earns the title of “most shamefully overlooked” over the course of these lists and, well, I have only myself to blame – again. BUT…there’s at least the fluttering wonderful joy that occasions a great lost discovery, the thrill that inevitably accompanies delayed gratification pretty much erasing on the spot any sense of regret, and that is most definitely the case with the KVB. Begun in 2011 in London, Nicholas Wood and Kat Day have been fairly relentless in their deft assault on what might have been left of our innocence. Audacious, in almost sinister control of sonic tension, and blessed with a sense of atmospherics – in both the audio and visual – that tends to disturb in equal measure to how much it enthralls, they’re rather the stuff that our best dark dreams are made of. [find all your KVB needs in one place]

 

 

LUMINANCE (Brussels)

Another band gliding along the razor’s edge between ecstasy and paranoia, Luminance, with a skittering basket-load of releases since first forming in 2012, could be considered the errant heir to the Kraftwerk bloodline, not quite offspring as the beat-obsessed nephew addicted darkness and sonic risk. While it should be mentioned that a veil of enigma hangs over Luminance – difficult to determine if it’s actually a band or one person (I’m leaning toward the latter due this use of the personal pronoun in the notes for 2017’s Constance in Sorrow), no live footage readily available on YouTube – that only adds to the mystique already created by the sounds they make. Full of portent, nimbly assembled in a way that can almost make us forget the precipice we all seem to be approaching at an increasing pace, the synth-driven tracks Luminance crafts don’t seek a middle ground between uncertain hope and certain hopelessness, they are that middle ground. [stock up on Luminance here]

 

MARTIAL CANTEREL (Brooklyn)

The name Sean McBride should be among the first enshrined in the 21st c. wing of the Synthwave Hall of Fame, so long, luminescent, and pervasive is his presence and his reputation. While some might argue it’s too early to claim that he’s been a significant influence on darkwavers that have come after him but frankly we suggest that’s not an argument you want to start. And anyway, for this writer, the fact that he began his ascent under the moniker Moravagine – a Blaise Cendrars novel that has long sat at or near the top of the ‘favorite novels ever’ list – is proof enough to me of his inherent genius. The work as Martial Canterel simply confirms it, albeit in a most gratifying way (and there, I made it all the way through without offering my abject apologies for not having included MC until now; may this serve as atonement) [get all your Martial Canterel here]

 

MEKROKIEV (Mexico City)

And, yikes…speaking of being long overdue, the curiously-named Mekrokiev began their trek to this page and beyond in 2006, issuing the requisite demo that year before emerging less than two years later with their debut proper, the also curiously-named Saint StRa. Since then there have been two more full-lengths and a clutch of maxi-singles but perhaps their most distinguishing contribution, beyond the sheer depth and confidence found in their work, is providing still more inescapable evidence that the lure of goth is as alive in the D.F. as it is in any, say, eastern European scene you’d care to name. The longevity of the current trio – Pavel Mkv (the out front vocals, keys, programming), Chaka on bass and guitarist Audra – together since 2011 at least, shines through (in a dark way, of course) in the bracing dynamics that they now summon with effortless power. Now, to get them to tour up the West Coast somehow. Hmmm…[support Mekrokiev here]

 

 

MEMENTUT (Mexico City)

A solo project with just one album out thus far and still fairly new to the world, the quality of the material Fernando Vaugier presents on Into the Shadow of God is simply too powerful and persuasive to ignore and found all the NEXT judges in my head nodding in furious unison when it was suggested the artist make the cut. A neologism crafted from the Latin word for ‘I remember’ merged with the German word for ‘death,’ Mementut counts at the very least as one of the most accurately-named bands we’ve encountered in a while, which wouldn’t count for jack were the album not such a monster, swerving with authority from Stranglers-worthy stormers to instant goth classics to thunderously industrial synth-heavy assaults like the one excerpted below. Heavy, but brilliant. [find Mementut here]

 

NIGHT DRIVE (Austin/Houston)

And…speaking of appropriately named bands, the propulsive nature of the synth pop Night Drive trade in makes it difficult indeed to imagine them being named anything else. Both neon and frantic, full of that hurtlingly precise control that marks out all great bands of this ilk, the pair (Rodney Connell and Brandon Duhon), though also only one (self-titled) album into their run, already have the chops and confidence to take on Radiohead’s “Where I End and You Begin” and make it utterly, iridescently, their own. To say they’re on the ascendant is to take the stating-of-the-obvious to a preposterous degree. Just off a short tour of SoCal and Arizona, I think I can speak for the entire Pacific NW when I say we hope future plans find them pointing their tour van further north up the coast. Yeah, it’s a bit of a drive (no matter the time of day – or night) but there’s no question they have the perfect road music. [check Night Drive here]

 

 

RITUAL HOWLS (Detroit)

As suggested when they recently made the playlist on the radio show I host in Portland, that old maxim about essential, fearless, and frequently dark music emerging from the shadows of urban environments that have fallen from their once-great heights into veritable ruin – think, of course, of NYC in the mid-to-late 70’s, of London same time frame – might well be applied to this lot and that still-growing working class steamroller (and first NEXT list inductees) Protomartyr. Both bands, in their own concerted fashion, produce uncompromising post-punk jeremiads that can’t help but reflect the tension of desperation from when they come. Around as long and nearly as prolific as Joe Casey and the lads – both had debut efforts arrive in 2012 – Ritual Howls come more decidedly from the industrial side of the tracks though that i-word is leavened rather with a vengeance by a strong sense of melody and hook (“…industrial rock with jangle-like guitars,”  as their label felte says). Whatever the qualifiers, to us their just arresting as fuck. [grab the RH catalog here]

 

SILENT EM (New York City)

Another one-person operation that manages to sound like a roomful of inspired, synth-buzzed virtuosos, Silent EM, in the form of said ‘one-person’ Jean Lorenzo, provides object evidence to the premise that, in terms of often-frenzied, dark electronic music presented as a singular vision, we’re living in a gilded age. First emerging on the K7 comp Singular Malice in 2012, Silent EM’s ability to construct something approaching instant synthwave classics has only grown in both confidence and dynamics, his/their latest on Berlin label Detriti, Foreign States, just flooring us here gathered around SEM’s post-punk desk. Click below and exult, and to those that would say ‘It sounds so 80’s,’ allow me, as someone who lived through every Moroder-influenced moment of it, ‘Yes, that’s true, but trust me, it very seldom sounded this good.’ [order Foreign States here, gather the rest of Silent EM here]

 

 

SKELETON HANDS (Cincinnati)

This is the first representative from the town once known, in the late 19th century, as the “Paris of America,’ and the city mothers and fathers could not have hoped for a more transfixing ambassador from their fair metropolis. Again consisting of a pair of deft sound architects – Evan Scott Sharfe and Chase Anderson – Skeleton Hands manage a sleek syncretic blend Bauhausian sonorousness and Chameleonic pop suss. Begun in 2010, the Hands haven’t exactly been reserved with their output, releasing a mixed clutch of seven EP and singles, a debut album (Gone) in 2013 and, most excitingly for our purposes here, a second album Wake has just arrived here in the tail end of 2017. Don’t know about you, but this one band makes us think extravagant things about what else is hiding in the seat of Hamilton County.

 

SUPERNOVA 1006 (St Petersburg, Russia)

Another screamingly love-overdue addition to the NEXT archives (but y’know what, I’m getting tired of saying that since it’s just gonna keep happening over the lifetime of this SEM column so maybe that’s the last time?), this St Petersburg duo of Andrey Vukhovich and Elizabeth Dolgikh, with by now 3 full-lengths and a basket of EPs and singles to their name, are another unit in at least partial thrall to the industrial side of the spectrum, coming at us with a pulsing fervor that rather captures the essence of factory culture forced by desperate so-called-modern circumstance to turn toward robotic paranoia. In short, someone in William Gibson’s orbit needs to let him know he now has a new favorite band. [snap up all your Supernova 1006 needs here]

 

WINGTIPS (Chicago)

Bursting upon our luminous, dark dreampop consciousness with 2015’s full-length debut Ultravision, an 80’s-indebted banger of sorts that one could imagine barnstorming its way on to Danceteria’s playlist, Wingtips, at that time a dual venture featuring Vincent Segretario and Hannah Avalon, have leaped forward at least a decade even as Hannah finds far more creative utility as a behind-the-scenes collaborator. Whatever the dynamics and the chemistry unleashed by that decision it seems to have had an exceedingly positive effect, as Chicago’s favorite should’ve-been-the-Pretty In Pink-house band’s sound has vaulted all the more powerfully toward a unique voice on the pop history spectrum. And oh my, do we love this video…[Wingtips’ oeuvre here] [feature photo: Daniel Jesus]