bITS 'N CHUNKS
Well, golly friends would you look at that - 2019 already! I'm not quite ready yet because I still have a little leftover biz from 2018 that I didn't quite get to. I'm hoping that if I do it now, I can still count it for last year. Like a fresh haircut, we don't really comment on new things until it's been 2 weeks at least. Right? Right.
Woven In's 2018 release Razzmatazz is that leftover biz. This album is so worth talking about that I regret not having my isht together long enough to do so. The last time I spoke about Woven In we were chatting aboutBossa Blanca -- at that point, the project was already easing away from the melancholic surf sounds found on Highs and Ultra Lows and previous EPs.
Razzmatazz sees Woven In comfortably in low-fi darkwave dance mode although the retro beachy elements are still there. It's just that the beach has closed up for good and we're just reminiscing on it at this point.
Mariah Fortune keeps up the themes of isolation and its accompanying loneliness and lost angst, but each song creates its own atmosphere here. Considering that most of the album is instrumental, that's something pretty fine right there. There's the freak out of "Gunmetal", the not-that-distant, relatable real life pain of "Hooptie" and "Jingle", the call out of "They Don't Want You to Live" (can a song with no words call anyone out? Yes.)
It's a very personal album, emotive and vulnerable like Ultra Lows with the cool sweep of Bossa Blanca, the definition of a transition. Quiet, wordless like keeping a secret or getting ready to scream -- later. When a band changes their signature sound up, I always think, "maybe this won't be my bag." It almost wasn't. But 2018 has shown me that I'll cry AND dance to anything. Count nothing out. Do yourself a favor.
Gang, it's time for concert season once again!
... Except I've already been to all the shows I'm tryna go to this year with the exception of a potential new year's eve bash. My Shows About Town feature is pretty consistent, but for the latter half of this year I've (to be blunt) had my shit rocked repeatedly by the ups and downs of life and depression. So I haven't felt like it!
So, rather than a thorough concert review, here's a speed run of the two biggest shows I hit up in good ol' Music City.
I detailed my first Fotocrime concert a while ago if you'd like to check that out; and I hope to go to another soon... meanwhile, as I wait patiently in my little lace gloves and my aviator shades, Fotocrime released their debut album! Check it out on Bandcamp above. On the heels of their Always Night EP featuring excellent tracks such as "Always Hell" and my favorite "Duplicate Days", looking at the cover of Principle of Pain I could sense this was going to move away from the punky moodiness of Always Night and into proper post-punk territory...
Indeed, this album is a lot darker, a bit clean, and pretty damn coldwave anchored by R's strikingly vulnerable baritone vocals sliced with Shelly Anderson's drowned siren call.
I could tell you what it sounds like if you need that -- a little mid-period Sisters of Mercy, a little Pink Turns Blue, a little Clan of Xymox. It bridges the gap between Coliseum's Anxiety's Kiss and the ridiculously danceable "Trance of Love" in a way that makes sense, which is a little frightening. But, I let myself enjoy this over a period of weekends because I was so hype for this album that I backed it on PledgeMusic. Not to brag, but I stand outside my mailbox awaiting my vinyl. Someday...
Anyway, adjectives like moody and dark get thrown about way too much in goth and post-punk because I suppose that's the point, but when I tell you the drums and bass featured here will crush your spirit and your heartache I want you to listen to "Love In a Dark Time" and believe me. I've seldom heard work so open and vulnerable to loss, longing, and pain. The guitars slink, both seductive and already burned. The gravel and clean vocals flit between hesitancy and resignation. It works. It's very evocative of the genre and maybe leans on it too much, but it works.
In the future, I'd like to see a little more of the duet action and a bit more variety in vocal melody. Unfortunately, the same or similar vocal phrasing will make songs sound a bit, well, samey. But I'm confident because I know R is capable of a lot, so hopefully we get to see him flex soon. I'm confident about the whole project and I'm glad, in this sea of synth and darkwave, to see my mode of guitar-based goth slowly dragging its way back up to the surface. Other standout tracks for me include the dark, cobweb-riddled club ready "Gods in the Dark", the rueful reminiscence of "Don't Pity the Young", and the sweet antipatriachy sounds of "Nadia (Last Year's Men)". Lift us up, break us down, and let's do it all again soon!
So speaking of figuring out your aesthetic, physical appearance is very important too!
The gag is, your physical appearance almost never has to match up with your output. I mean yeah, it's great when your aesthetic is cohesive and you look the part of a NASA scientist, but that brings in a lot of earthly questions like "what is it truly to look like something?"
Honestly, if you look too close to something I'm going to assume you're a poseur. You don't want that, right?
For my next few music posts, I'm taking a break from talking about combining music and writing and moving into small niche genres, why I'm attracted to them, albums I like in those genres, and just generally the notion of internal aesthetic versus outside appearance.
The biggest culprit of this dichotomy is goth. What is goth? Post-punk. What is post-punk? The thing that came after punk. Okay, there's a lot of things that came after punk. For every genre there is a post or anti genre. Hardcore? Post-hardcore. Grunge? Post-grunge. Goth distinguishes itself by having other facets beyond just "post punk". And for the last time, goth is more than just looking spooky. You can look like John Q Public and still be goth, it's just unlikely but not terribly uncommon.
That being said. I don’t want to share my favorite goth music albums because that's for another time, or even my feelings on what is and is not goth because I don't care and neither do you. But what I do want to share is something I thought of with Angela Benedict's video on finding your goth sound. The point she brings up is as human beings, we tend to listen to what's familiar and what we liked the most in our formative years (paraphrasing). The example she gives is industrial. I too grew up drenched in industrial sweat and lashed by punishing EBM blackstrobe but you know where I really came from?
FOLK. MUSIC. I am the biggest Bob Dylan stan you know and you can't fight me and win. The music that I am drawn most to outside of folk is everything that sounds like folk. Growing up in a black household, I also like bass. Like, a lot of bass.
So I kicked back and thought, if I had an absolute aesthetic masterpiece of a greatest hits album, what comprises me? I came up with a handful:
Sisters of Mercy - First Last & Always
The Mission - God's Own Medicine
Depeche Mode - Violator
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
Siouxsie & the Banshees - Tinderbox
This is specifically in terms of goth because if I had to include everything the list would be quite long. But see what I mean? All very intensely personal albums, a little weird, a little confrontational, a little dark, high up in bass and completely unbothered. The Dylan album notwithstanding. That's not even my favorite Dylan album by the way.
All oddly folksy.
(But never neo-folk.)
Different but all preying and building upon roughly the same thing. Telling stories about moments in time. Not really concept albums but I am very much into those as well. Crafting a good set of songs. Statement albums.
A statement piece is what I aspire to be.
I discovered Woven In thanks to some publicity on Fuck Yeah Black Goths. Just to prove the scene is not dead (undead, undead) I try to stay on the lookout for new dark music. I didn't really know what to think when I saw the initial incarnation of the band marked as dark surf. Like…was that some kind of ironic category that I'm too old to get?
This was only the second time I'd seen that tag and I thought maybe it's a thing people were trying to get started on the 'net. Lo and behold, beach goth/dark surf/surf goth is a real thing...kind of? I've heard surf punk but to be honest that's not really my thing. I can see this happening more organically, though. It makes a lot of sense, surf music & goth have a lot in common, namely the high guitars and thumping bass lines. In surfer music, they sound like feet pounding on wood piers to jump into the water. In goth, they sound like anxious doom. Totally the same.
I gave Woven In a few listens and I really liked their warm, ominous, melancholic version of ennui. To me they successfully made the easy-breezy sunny sounds associated with California into something painfully tense, a little distrustful, and startling. I tried to keep up with their career over the years. On their Facebook page, they announced a change in direction to something veering a little closer to goth and here we have Bossa Blanca. Please listen.
As I listened, I thought to myself this is a mature effort from an artist that is very confident and ready to go get some new legs. It's getting there, it feels transitional. It's definitely heavier on the goth overtones but it still has that beach kick. Despite moving on, Woven In's sound is so unique and such a firm blend of elements that it's pretty much emulsified. It reminds me of when auteur directors get out of their usual genre or every time Stephen King writes a non-scary book: you're still expecting some of their old ticks to crop back in, maybe because they can't help themselves.
But if this is where the group is going I'd really like to follow their dark journey along, whether it's on a dark moonlight beach or back on land.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...