Thursday, October 15, 2020

Autumn Reviews: Goth, Dream-Pop, Gaze, Prog, Jazz, Jam

As the year 2020 advances towards it's ultimate conclusion, a select collection of diverse and eclectic musical artists have been hand-picked for feature review here. While the frequent and familiar rock styles of goth, dream-pop and gazey ambience are once again represented, so too is the work of an improvisational virtuoso. The essential commonality running through all of these works is a deep emotional commitment to their respective artistic styles.

New Dark Ages PR Maestro William Z presents a variety of artists that fall within a visual mode often referred to as “gothic music.” This discernible aspect must be noted as the actual audio output of the artists represented cross over a very broad range of sonic styles. Extremely harsh and abrasive industrial on one end, and dreamy beautiful on the other. What ties them all together is a common visible style that emphasizes pale skin with dark, heavy makeup and similarly styled clothing.

One such artist is the glamorous Italian singer and musician Elle Noir. Trained in Opera and Music Composition, the skilled pianist spent time with a symphonic metal band, performed in cabaret shows as well as experimental music theatre. With a new EP “Like A Black Doll” slated for later this year, a video for one of the songs “The Day I Died” has now been released. Describing the track as “a metaphor of emotional death, it tells of a world where nothing has value anymore, which is also an - - inner world given by mental states like depression.”

Strong piano chords and gentle follow-up notes open the track, as lush symphonic strings quickly fill in open spaces. Soft vocals begin “One day you will come – on my grave” while video imagery of the darkly glamorous Italian model lies motionless on her back, tiny flowers all around her. Both visual and lyrical imagery come together with the line “and you will leave flowers just for me” while the photogenic musician assembles a crown of blossoms.

Reaching a chorus that states “I forgot to tell you the pain of the world is not there,” one notices stylized vocal diction that suggests English is most-likely not this artists primary language (adding another level of overall charm). As the chorus resolves and turns-around, poetic ennui is revealed with the line “beautiful words are meaningless – like – 'I love you'.” Follow that thought process, unencumbered vocals add “It's just a dream through my mind, my fear of you,” before full percussion accompaniment enters the mix.

A combined natural earth gothic imagery enhances the video with it's central figure carrying a dagger and slowly advancing towards an ominous body of water. Close-ups of a silver-ring-on-every-finger hand continues to place flowers in the intended's funeral crown. Poetry sustains audio symbolism with lines “the scars on my arms will just disappear - until someone touches the fresh ground -and he'll realize it's the day I die.” The chorus is now lush and full, with heavy string layers and active drumming throughout. Reaching an emotional peak both in video image and within the song, vocals are doubled on the (allegedly) “meaningless” words “I love you” while the funeral crown gets placed and the “scar cutting” dagger is dropped to the ground.

Closing images alternate between depictions of our tragic heroine walking into the lake, seemingly drown, but also very much alive and well on the shore.

Watch and listen to this wonderful video and song here:

Elle has created a brand new trailer for her "Like A Black Doll" EP and you can view that here:

To find out more about Elle Noir, follow on Social Media here:

*  *  *  *  *

With social media now a big part of how we discover (and connect with) each other, you're never really sure how one winds up in a “follow for follow” situation. Noticing the Chicago-based, trans-continental duo Sally Haze turning up frequently on Instagram streams (both Main Page and the now quite popular “Story's”) an opportunity to hear what they do presented itself. This fortunate occurrence has brought to light (on this site) their second EPWet Dream” (and who doesn't like one of those?). Released earlier this month, the six-track record serves up a refreshing blend of DIY dreamgaze (and more) from couple Will and Jessica Wright.

It's something of a genius move to open your recording with a one minute instrumental called “Fade In.” With the feeling of lush orchestral strings (and their synthetic counterparts) floating into the mix, a trance-like state-of-mind is immediately established. At :20 seconds a new element emerges with shimmering guitars and high-hat percussion creating more defined movements. While those strings continue and other percussive clacks join in, a “cut-up” feel takes over, with a particular minor chord change providing what can ONLY be described as an intoxicating audio-orgasmic-rub. The :50 second mark drops to a more spacious, gentle pulsing for the final twenty seconds.


Immediately surging into the second track, “Be Mine” builds around a shuffling drum pattern, plucking bass and chiming guitar textures that give it all an early 80's The Cure feel. Jessica's vocals (and lyrics) are far more American much too content for anything the poetically despondent Robert Smith usually depicts (“Friday I'm In Love” notwithstanding). “Just make me feel good and make me feel fine. Make me feel happy, and you will be mine,” is how the refrain goes. There's a busy, calypso feel to it's chorus that goes “this is what it feels like, to be all in – always.” Instrumental breaks lean on icy keyboard riffs which add to an overall jangle-pop mood. Against brighter keyboard stabs and Jess' upward diction on the word “hearts” (on the full line “all of the hearts are intertwined”) elicits a touch of Patty Smyth and “I am the Warrior” era Scandal sensation within those grooves.

Quietly rising up into the mix via insistent bass-line and steady drum pattern, “Pavilion” rides a plucky rhythmic guitar over ascending ambient textures. Long-held, deeply-echoed vocal lines emerge like a clarion call “don't try to hard – keep it going.” What feels like an extended holding-pattern (with subtle varying undercurrents) morphs into stereo-field angularity after the initial lines ”trying to keep up, faces come and go.” That chorus becomes more stable on the second pass through, repeating “reality starts to hit, I'm losing control.” Building tension once again through creative instrumental passages, a crescendo is reached as Jess sings “it's hard to let it be” and “I can't fix it all.” One more round of angularity leads this track out to it's conclusion.
Don't Forget” surfaces ethereally via slow, undulating bass synths and fluttering pulses over top. Jess delivers the opening lines “it goes beyond – into a place” in deliberate, elongated voicing. Drums kick in on the next passage, creating a busier undercurrent to the prolonged vocal phrasing. Reaching the lyric “how long will I have you,” all background sound drop out leaving a lovely formed, emotionally-charged keyboard passage. Cymbal driven drumming returns along with this lyrical tale of devotion: “I'll always wait for you there,” “because I'm sure it's the real thing.” An unexpected buzzing-like-a-gnat melody (of sorts) is presented (is it guitar or keyboards?) adding one more level of curiosity.

Shimmering guitars and shifting rhythmic undercurrents mirror the fluid motion of EP opener “Fade In” on the previously released single “All That Matters.” Bass guitar serves as the driving force behind opening lyrical salvo: “it's coming up again, that familiar feeling.” For her part, Jessica's vocals are clean and straightforward, as FX and phasing (prominent on previous tracks) have not been employed to those levels here. The big chorus of “It's what we both want - we're both reaching for it” carries a similar emotional gravity and vocal tone quality of mid-80's, post-Sugar Cubes Bjork. Keyboards jump out from multiple locations on the fragmented change section “outside – it's gone” up through “I'm here – I'll hang on.”
Sixth and final track “Around The Corner” serves up a lyric heavy view inside the mind of someone taking stock of all they have while pondering what the future might hold. There's a slight 1950's vibe to the intro melody, even if the accompanying sound effects morph from nursey rhyme to futuristic clang. With each successive pass through a chorus that goes “this is where I close my eyes, and take a deep breath, just don't think about the past, live in here and how, I am loving every bit, it all goes so fast” the production evolves from very little backing music to fuller bass guitar and keyboard enhancement. A final segment has Jessica's vocals harmonized between close-up recitation and full-throated singing on the lines “maybe around - the corner - or in the next - next few years - look next to me - look and see - that it is all I’ll ever need.”

Find out how to acquire this recording here, where you can sample all the tracks as well.

Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Also visit the Sally Haze Music Linktree for all streaming and additional options.

The band is also signed to Kansas City based label The Record Machine

*  *  *  *  *

Long time readers of this site will know that along with the dreamy, gazey, rock, pop and punk music, an affinity for more sophisticated prog, jazz and extended instrumental jam bands has seen those artists work reviewed in detail here as well. New York-based guitarist and composer Oz Noy has now found his way on here, with an exhilarating new track “Looni Tooni” off of his soon to be released new album “Snapdragon.”

The full recording will contain six original compositions, plus a cover of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” and two Thelonious Monk pieces. Accompanying Oz on his musical journey are a who's who of world renowned musicians that include Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers, John Patitucci, James Genus, Will Lee, Brian Charette and Special Guests David Kikoski, John Sneider, Chris Potter, Jason Lindner, Adam Rogers, and Wallace Roney.

The track and video for lead track “Looni Tooni” opens with drummer Dennis Chambers shot from multiple angles, overhead and straight on. He lays down a syncopated pattern as Oz first appears playing a blonde Telecaster, chunking out a funky rhythm. Next shown is bassist Will Lee – so well know from his work with Paul Schaffer and his own Beatles cover band The Fab Faux – playing seated and immediately locked in on the groove. A side shot of Brian Charette's double-tiered organ focuses on his hands and a quick cut view of percussionist Danny Sadownick's conga work also reveals an “Art Ensemble of Chicago” framed poster on the wall.

Cutting quickly to John Sneider and his trumpet - complete with a rack of guitars on the wall behind him- making it look like the sales floor of Manny's Music [RIP]- is the first time the songs signature, extended riff is unloaded in unison between John and Oz. A sweet, rising bridge is then rolled out for the first time, before that impossibly long riff returns – this time with Brian's keyboards joining in for the ride. There are soon slight variations on that riff – subtle key changes -and quick cut breaks where bass and drums will drop a single note punctuation point in-between the extended runs.


Another cool element are easy breezy rhythmic cruising sections, where the organ textures combined with those congas inspired one commenter to accurately describe it as sounding “like a futuristic Santana.” With percussionist Danny briefly switching over to tambourine, a clearly defined, rising note passage creates a momentary Big Band feel. On each turn-around back into the main groove, variations on that lightning quick riff serves as the essential bridging link. At the 1:45 mark Oz takes off on his first solo, playing clean, fluid lines that begin on the top low note strings and work their way up the neck, all through the higher register strings down below. Then goes off on a musical “conversation”, morphing between Carlos Santana-like riffs (with the background organ tones enhancing that vibe) before taking off on an all out John McLaughlin-style free jazz flight.

As Will Lee is now matching the guitarist in intensity (and increasing number of notes), another astute commenter amusingly states that “Oz has gone mad @ 3:15.” It truly is incredible playing, and the video split-screening with images of the other bandmembers now overlaid, drives home the power of this ensemble cast. The 4:06 mark sees trumpeter John Sneider taking a solo turn, delivering cool jazzy lines while the video screen overlays soft-edged splits of the six principal musicians. As the funky rhythm continues to flow, Dennis adds more fills inside of his steady drum beat before the band returns once more to multiple variations of that intoxicating extended signature riff – up to the eventual punctuated ending.

"Snapdragon" will be available on all digital platforms and through Noy’s label, Abstract Logix, and can be pre-ordered here.

Check out a preview visualizer of the whole album here:

Previous Features covering like-minded artists and events on this site can be found here:

*  *  *  *  *