Cave Curse – “Future Dust” (2017)

Musicians derive motivation from a multitude of sources. Albums have been influenced by breakups, addiction, and even the simple need for a paycheck or to fulfill a contract. But they can also be ways of coping with the heaviest of losses, death. In the case of Future Dust, that loss was the unexpected passing of Bobby Hussy’s mother. “A record for the stoners, loners and droners of the godforsaken world we live in,” is how the band describes it.

An intriguing blend of darkwave and post-punk, the black and purple of the jacket image perfectly capture the mood of the music. The synths range from trippy and spacey on “Black Box” to oddly triumphant on “The Mess I Had Made” and “Drones (We’re All)”, often blending long low end notes with a 8-bit-ish high end. It’s this sonic disconnect that creates the tension that defines the record, a layer of synthy sugar sprinkled over the top of layer of low drone creating an unexpected combination of flavors.

You can sample some tracks as well as purchase Future Dust on vinyl on Bandcamp HERE.

((Pressures)) – “((Pressures))” (2013)

We’re starting to dig into the vinyl we brought back from New Orleans, and since we’re feeling chill we thought we’d open with some darkwave from the duo ((Pressures)), who not only hail from The Big Easy but also include one of the founders of the label/shop Disko Obscura where we bought the album. It all comes full circle.

While it came out in 2013 ((Pressures)) gives off a very retro vibe, late 1970s/early 80s style synths, über-modulated vocals, and slightly flat beats, reminiscent of Lou Champagne and Mitch Murder. “Bizarre Times” absolutely could have been the song playing at Tech Noir in the original The Terminator. It’s also perfect for chilling out on your sofa with a glass of something hard. You know, unless you want to go that club down on Pico and risk getting shot up by a cyborg from the future.

The vinyl was put out in a limited run of 500 copies, and mine is absolutely pristine – probably the cleanest record I’ve ever pulled from a sleeve. You can listen to it for free and still order while supplies last (only 8 copies left according to Bandcamp, and it’s only $10!) HERE. Look, I can’t make you go there and listen to ((Pressures)). But seriously, go do it right now, because you can’t send a Terminator back in time to do it for you later.

Kælan Mikla – “Mánadans” (2017)

I first encountered (and fell in love with) Kælan Mikla during their Gamla Bíó show at Iceland Airwaves 2015. The darkness of the music combined with the power and rage of the vocals blew me away and I’ve done my best to keep track of the band ever since. They were the honorable mention for my “Best New-To-Me Band” of Airwaves ’15, and their debut LP Kælan Mikla made it into my Top 5 best new releases of 2016. I knew there was some pre-Kælan Mikla material available digitally, though I hadn’t done much to track any of it down because I’m sort of addicted to physical media, which is dumb but true. (♠) Fortunately for me the band decided to issue their shelved first recording Mánadans as a limited edition (of 200) cassette. I pre-ordered mine yesterday via their Bandcamp page (HERE), and it came with a digital download to hold me over until the tape ships later this month.

The album opens with “Lítil Dýr”, which is frankly Kælan Mikla being their most Kælan Mikla-ish – all my favorite elements of their music packed into one song. The opening is slow and heavy and moody, a calm almost detached flow of bass and drums and synths that then explodes with the righteous fury of Laufey Soffía’s vocals. Hearing her cutting loose for the very first time during their show in 2015 was a startling experience for me, and I was hooked immediately; “Lítil Dýr” perfectly captures that feeling.

“Umskiptingur” is one of the more intriguing cuts on Mánadans, musically more along the lines of a dark country or surf song than the band’s normal darkwave/post-punk feel, like something out of a David Lynch movie. “Ástarljóð” is another highlight, its relentlessly driving bass propelling you forward into the darkness…

Ég vona að þú farir til helvítis, ástin mín,
svo ég fái kannski að hitta þig aftur.

(I hope you go to hell, my love,
So maybe I’ll meet you again.)

I’m impressed with he sonic variety on Mánadans. This isn’t a darkwave band playing the same gloomy synths over and over again; Kælan Mikla bring hints of different music styles to their sound, giving their songs subtly different flavors while still remaining consistent to their overall aesthetic. It sounds like they have a new album in the works, and I for one can’t wait to hear it.

(♠) Hi. My name is Jeff. And I can’t help but collect physical objects. I’m like a goddamn squirrel sometimes, I swear.

Nightmare Fortress – “The Wanting” (2015)

So remember a few days back when I wrote about Nightmare Fortress’ 2012 EP Until the Air Runs Out? And remember how I said that I’d ordering a copy of their 2015 LP The Wanting? Well, I did, and it just arrived in my mailbox.

The first thing that strikes me is that Nightmare Fortress’ song structure has firmed up considerably – The Wanting sounds as if the tracks were planned out in meticulous detail and flawlessly executed. But… with all that structure, I feel like we lost a bit of the danger that I loved so much about Until the Air Runs Out. Don’t get me wrong, The Wanting can put you on edge with songs like “Terminal” and “Mourning Star,” and what I’m mostly hearing is a smoother and more danceable album (for my Icelandophile friends, I get a very Bloodgroup Tracing Echoes vibe to it). And I totally dig it.

The Wanting comes on purple vinyl and is limited to an edition of 250. You can get a sample track from their Bandcamp page HERE, and they still have copies of both The Wanting and Until the Air Runs Out, just waiting for you.

Nightmare Fortress – “Until the Air Runs Out” (2012)

I came home from our recent trip to Sweden and Iceland with enough music to keep me busy for probably two months. That did not stop me, however, from going to Easy Street Records yesterday for their anniversary sale, because why would it? The fact that all the shelf space I currently have allocated to records is full isn’t an issue. Not really. It just means I have two trips in my future. One to the used book store to sell off a bunch of books, and another to Ikea to buy new shelving to replace one of the bookshelves with record cubes. Problem solved. Done and done.

My primary purpose of going to Easy Street was to pick up the new releases from Metallica and A Tribe Called Quest, but while there I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a quick flip through the new used arrivals. And right in front was a pristine copy of Nightmare Fortress’ 2012 EP Until the Air Runs Out on blood-red vinyl. Score.

I’m not sure how Nightmare Fortress has escaped my notice over these last few years. I’m into darkwave (the band describes themselves as “grave rave”), and they’re from Seattle. I mean, c’mon. I think I need to get out more, because I can’t believe I’m missing stuff like this. (♠)

Right out of the gate I’m loving Nightmare Fortress, who remind me of a cleaner sounding, less raw version of another band I’m into, MALLEVS. But the band comparison game is meaningless really, even though we all indulge in it from time to time. Because every band has it’s own unique characteristics, and that’s certainly true for Nightmare Fortress.

Alicia Amiri rightfully gets a lot of attention, as her darkly confident vocal delivery makes you fear her a bit… while actually enjoying that sense of fear. She doesn’t fall into the typical darkwave trap of monotone moroseness, taking full advantage of her range and the emotional responses her voice can elicit from the listener.

But it’s not all just Amiri. The combination of simple 1960s horror movie style synths and the deeper, richer low end keyboards by Colin Roper and Blair Field generate an intriguing disparity, perhaps nowhere as noticeable as on “Visionquest” and it’s blend of vampire movie, 1980s new wave, and IDM electro-ness, which is actually so intriguing in its own right that it pushes the vocals into the background, making them sound like another instrument. It would be easy for Cassidy Gonzales’ guitar to get lost in Roper and Field’s electronic ocean, but he carves out some space to drive the songs forward and give them a bit more of an edge, most obviously on my favorite track, “Hang You On the Wall.”

You can listen to and purchase Until the Air Runs Out, as well as other releases by Nightmare Fortress, on their Bandcamp page HERE. They’re definitely worth checking out, and I, for one, intend on buying a copy of their 2015 LP The Wanting immediately, because I’ve got to have more Nightmares…

(♠) Or it’s the opposite and I need to stay in more, listening to music and reading blogs.