Posts Tagged ‘Joy Division’

Count No Mortal

September 21, 2012

I’ve never been the sunniest of characters.

Entering into a discussion about the quest for personal human happiness, I felt the need to unknowingly quote Oedipus Rex.

“Count no mortal happy till he has passed the final limit of his life secure from pain.”

Of course, as a youth, I used to read Greek tragedies for fun. Willaim Faulkner, as well. I was that sort of kid. I still am. I find beauty in what others would consider excessively gloomy music, films of a decidedly twisted bent, art with a darkened perspective. Hell, I even enjoy my comedy black. It all appeals to me, at my very core, exploration and expression of those murky, even unpleasant, elements we find without and within in what I can only describe as an insane world.

There are reasons for it, most likely, as I explained further in the conversation.

“I’m probably the wrong person to even discuss this with, given a lifelong predisposition toward pessimism. Unfortunately, I learned at a young age some harsh lessons about the darker aspects of human nature, the different forms of human suffering, great and small. I think real happiness is very rare. I can’t think of anyone in my immediate life I can describe as having found it. Show me a truly happy person and I’ll show you 10,000 born into horrific, hopeless misery. We are, in so many ways, an ugly, ugly species.

So what do you do? I used to think creative fulfillment was the key to happiness, but the road is littered with successful artists and writers for whom that was no answer, either. Basically, my philosophy is to try and enjoy whatever happy moments you can engineer, however brief or otherwise. Because they seem to always be balanced by a measure of difficulty, stress and sadness. Savor the good things as best you can because it’s always possible the next nightmare is right around the corner.

Oh, look. Here it comes now.”

It really is the way I feel. I don’t see a lot of genuine human happiness or even the possibility of it in the average lifespan. There’s too much burden, too much suffering, to much horrific muck we have to shovel day in and day out. A state of true enlightened happiness seems the stuff of pure fantasy to me. I’m serious in my contention you need to take the time to savor those moments of peace or joy when you can create or stumble upon them. They can be all too rare.

So, is this morbid self-determinism? Have I created the darkness inside and around me simply because I believe it exists? My own pessimism making itself all too real? Perhaps.

Or perhaps is it just an unpleasant form of realism. A sickening inability to completely turn a blind eye to the daily cavalcade of disturbing news stories we’re inundated with, the problems and stresses breaking the minds and backs of the majority of people around us in everyday life, the slow march to nowhere we all seem to be on, spinning about on a planet we’ve all but ruined with our very presence. Our. Stupid. Pointless. Existence.

Then again, maybe I’m just having a bad day. It happens. Either way, I’ve got to go. Honey Boo-Boo is on and I can’t bear to miss it.

Told you I like it dark.

Cold Harvest

May 2, 2012

tropic of cancer permissions

I have to admit I’ve succumbed utterly to the allure of the latest wave of music so heavily inspired by the most formative genres of my youth in the early eighties. This is about Post Punk, Coldwave, Darkwave, Synthwave, Goth. Folks like Cold Cave, Von Haze, Chelsea Wolfe, Les Modules Etranges (and their various spinoffs) and a host of others I’m still uncovering.

That’s the most enjoyable part, really. Discovering the new and mysterious all over again. You can almost remember the feeling of bringing home that 12″ ep from the record store with it’s stark, minimalist black and white cover. Perfect design and lettering. Music and words that went well with your black leather jacket and sullen outlook.

The inspiration for this wave of newcomers comes from those very days and the enigmatically shrouded sounds and styles that defined it for so many of us with that sort of bent. Joy Division, first and foremost. Early Cure. Belgian Coldwave like Isolation Ward. Nagamatzu. Mass and other dawn of 4AD bands. Countless others.

Folks remember those days well. Take Tropic of Cancer, pictured above and sampled below, have done a fantastic job of harvesting those sounds and molding them into something just as darkly seductive as you remember. They even like to release their stuff on 12″ ep’s, a wondrously deliberate indicator that they appreciate the history. They understand their audience. They know what we love. They’ve had me hooked since The Dull Age.

As I say, I have succumbed. And though I know I can never really return to that time or totally recapture that feeling, I’m very willing to try and absorb what’s coming along now as much as I can. Delve into the underground and seek out the sounds and the art. The darker the better.

Someone hand me This Mortal Coil’s “Gathering Dust ep. I need to give it a spin.

Isolation Ward

September 26, 2010

Is that what the Compound has become these days. An Isolation Ward?

Or is that just the name of this 80’s band from Belgium that I’ve been listening to lately? They were very Joy Divisionesque and part of a scene called Belgian Cold Wave. Quality songs that have the distinct echo of that sort of cool darkness flowing around back then. Think early Cure, X-mal Deutschland and the like. Excellently nostalgic.

isolation ward point final
Isolation Ward Point Final

I’ve been going backwards in time a lot lately, music wise. Besides Ian Curtis’ voice constantly coming out of the speakers at me, I’ve got the dulcet tones of Michael Allen, in all his incarnations. One day it’s the bleached white dreadlocks of Standing Up Straight Era Wolfgang Press, the next it’s the hammering, relentless beat of Rema-Rema. Mass, even some Geniuser mixing in.

twp straight
The Wolfgang Press Standing Up Straight

The Birthday Party never gets old an neither does Clan of Xymox.

The Chameleons (UK) will always be with me wherever I go. Who had a better voice than Mark Burgess, really? Epic emotionality in that voice.

“Dancing ’round the fire with the rest of the freaks.”

chameleons strange
The Chameleons UK Strange Times

That whole album was pretty magnificent, wasn’t it? “Mad Jack”, “Swamp Thing”. Stirring stuff that so many have since attempted to emulate.

Dark Horses

December 6, 2008

Imagine my delight late last night, whilst seeking out new music to soothe my savage beast, I discovered a new 4-track ep from Piano Magic, called Dark Horses, had been released. Talk about a pleasant surprise. Almost instantly the thing was on my iPod. I don’t like to fool around when it comes to new stuff from bands like that, whom I adore.

It’s another excellent effort. Glen Johnson has never been afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve and the title track, as well as others on the ep, echo the sparse, resonant doom of Joy Division’s Closer, which is no real surprise. Piano Magic have echoed that source material before on other albums and it’s really no secret that Johnson and company have a dramatic fondness for Factory Records and other alternative/indie music from that era. Hell, so do I. There is also more than a hint of very early New Order in these songs. The entire ep, excepting another gorgeous vocal contribution from Angele David-Guillou (Klima) on the song Vacancies, may as well have been sung by Bernard Sumner himself.

Don’t misunderstand me, however. Piano Magic are far too creative, far too established with their own, ever evolving, always beautiful sound, to ever become overly derivative of their influences. Rather, they embrace those influences with shameless love, absorb the spirit they have to offer and move forward with a distinct vision of their own. It is beautiful music. Haunting music. To a man with a deep adoration for the ghostly sounds of, say, early Cure or eighties 4AD, it resonates directly in both the heart and soul.

So to speak.

Needless to say, highly recommended. As is, while I’m at it, the new Helios release, Caesura. And the Rosebud’s Life Like. All three are currently in heavy rotation here.

Dark Horses is available, amongst other places, from Bookmat in the UK and Darla in the US. Limited to 1000 copies, so don’t hesitate. More info here.