Swedish synthpop is generally known to be fantastic, and Lust For Youth does a great job of continuing this stereotype. While I highly recommend you check out their full length albums (Perfect View and especially International have been on my heavy rotation for a few years now), their newest single is a downtempo number that reminds me of the best Martin Gore-helmed Depeche Mode songs. It’s fitting in perfectly with my leisurely, cat-cuddle filled Saturday morning, so I thought I’d share.
The first time I saw Belgrado, they were opening for The Bellicose Minds in Vancouver. I was blown away by their frantic energy, and their songs have a classic dark post punk vibe that carries a lot of power. While the show at the official venue was fantastic, the house show they played the next night unleashed a chaotic energy that I’ll fondly remember for years to come. They managed to get through most of their set before the party was shut down by the cops. If you ever have the chance to see Belgrado perform live, please don’t miss it!
Belgrado is from Italy, so there aren’t normally a ton of chances for us North Americans to catch them. But they’ll be playing here again this August, and the only concrete date I know is August 25th at the Star Theatre in Portland (they’ll be playing with Cemetery, Soft Kill, Body of Light, Spectres, and Clan of Xymox!)
While celebrity deaths don’t faze me much, David Bowie’s was pretty crushing. To have a small celebration of his life, some friends and I watched The Hunger and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. I’d never seen the latter, and was pleasantly surprised at the layers of meaning and fantastic soundtrack (not to mention The Kiss.) Even better, the movie reminded me of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s existence. I had heard and loved his film scores for years, but had no idea he was an actor (who wears his everyday new wave/glam makeup while playing a military captain, but whatever.) After a bit more digging I realized that not only does Sakamoto have a thriving solo career, but he was also a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra, who are pretty much the pioneers of synthpop in Japan.
Yellow Magic Orchestra was one of the first bands to focus on synth music in the 70s. While Kraftwerk was a big influence on them, they wanted their music to be “less minimalistic, made more varying use of synthesizer lines, introducing ‘fun-loving and breezy’ sounds, and placing a strong emphasis on melody in contrast to Kraftwerk’s statuesque ‘robot pop.'” Incorporating a lot of pop and italo-disco elements, YMO gained popularity worldwide with their innovative use of the newest synth technology and their great composition skills.
Here’s my favourite song by them, Key:
Chandra Oppenheim was 12 years old when she released her only EP, Transportation. Due to her talent and her young age she became a hit in the underground 80s new wave scene, and also collaborated with The Dance. One commenter online says, “I saw her perform either in 1980 or 1981 at a small club in Philly called Omin’s. She had a chaperone with her, and she had to finish her performance before 11 pm because of a curfew. Also, for someone so young she had terrific stage presence.” Add this to the list of things that make me wish time machines existed.
Chandra’s music is synthy, punky, and definitely worth a listen. Fortunately, her original 4 track EP was recently uploaded to Bandcamp with an added 4 previously unreleased tracks! Check out the album here.
Yes, I’m horrible at updating…I have about 20 bands and musicians I’m planning to write about, however I’m pretty lazy in the summer. But I wanted to share this awesome track off of aufnahme + wiedergabe’s White Circles compilation.
I’ve briefly mentioned //zoo on this blog before – they’re one of my favourite Vancouver live acts. Smoky, mysterious soundscapes are what define their self-proclaimed “fuck music.” Blood and Cedar is filled with shadows and is probably my favourite //zoo song, and the darkly sensual Softcore is a close second. Check out more songs on their Soundcloud here.
In preparation for Veronica Vasicka coming to Vancouver for a DJ gig, I’ve been listening a lot to one of my favourite Minimal Wave compilations, The Hidden Tapes. One track in particular that’s been haunting me has been You Don’t Know My Name by a mysterious artist named Kym Amps.
I’ve tried to do some research on Kym Amps to see if I could find out more info about her, and see if she has any other releases. The always awesome Systems of Romance posted the one single that she definitely released, which you can find here. However, trying to find info on her background and any other releases has been a bit tricky. As for minimal wave songs, that single seems to be all she ever released. However, there also appears to be a soprano vocalist with the same name. I’ve listened to a couple of her songs, and while the non-coldwave songs have a much more polished vocal style (not to mention higher notes), I feel like I can hear a similarity. Her photo from the above biography page and the photo on the cover of the minimal wave single also have some interesting similarities.
If you happen to know any info about Kym Amps feel free to let me know – is she now happy and thriving in a soprano career? Does she still fondly listen to synthy beep boops and dream of releasing some new material in that vein? I’d love to hear what she’s up to these days. Until then, I’ll give You Don’t Know My Name a listen every so often and enjoy the melancholic charm.
Edit: A commenter kindly pointed out that there are two other Kym songs available for purchase on iTunes and streamable on Spotify: I Must Have Been Seeing Things and Days Like These. Her voice is really heavenly and I’ve been loving them!
Veronica Vasicka, founder of Minimal Wave Records, is going to be doing a DJ gig here in Vancouver. I’m pretty excited about this – whenever I think the minimal synth scene isn’t alive in Vancouver, something like this is announced. Last month I was pleased to hear that Marie Davidson will be playing a show here with Cosmetics next month, and I also just heard about a new-ish coldwave/synth DJ night called Transmission that apparently happens the first Thursday of every month at Dunlevy Snackbar (don’t quote me on this – I can’t find any information online about it, but I’ll be checking it out next month.)
Anyway, if any of you locals are interested in checking out Veronica Vasicka spinning some amazing tracks live, the event info is here. This is also probably a good time to repost Veronica’s list of the 20 best minimal wave records ever made – definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it before.
Sounds like there’s an amazing new project forming in Berlin…Laslo Antal of Sixth June and Sally Dige Jørgensen have teamed up to form Cult Club, a minimal synth project that sounds really promising from the two tracks I’ve heard so far. ‘All The People’ has a relaxed, almost ethereal vibe while ‘Why Do You Go?’ picks up the pace by being amazingly catchy and danceable. I can’t find any information about ordering or downloading their music, but they do have a Soundcloud and an official site that is being updated. If you like Sixth June or Sally Dige I highly recommend checking out Cult Club – it’s a great melding of their distinctive sounds.
Just a quick post about a great local band that played a show here in Vancouver last night. Fake Tears are a synthpop duo who play somewhat eerie tunes that are super catchy. They’re fun and I’m really enjoying the songs they have up on their Bandcamp page here, and looking forward to future releases from them!
I’ve recently started focusing on freelance Japanese-English translation as a career. I love it – I get to work from home next to my cats and dog, go by my own schedule, and listen to whatever music I like. However, one thing I’ve begun to notice is that some music can be distracting in my more focused moments. When my brain is working through some tricky Japanese grammar, suddenly tuning in to an awesome French song and subconsciously trying to figure out what the lyrics mean doesn’t help my concentration much. I lived in Kyoto for part of my high school and university career, and though I managed to listen to a bit of Japanese language goth rock (Malice Mizer circa Gackt, the depth of my love for you can never truly be conveyed), I mostly filled my ears with J-pop as that’s what my friends were listening to.
Now that I’m looking for some fun Japanese music to listen to while working, I’m getting the chance to discover fantastic bands I’d never heard of before. One of those is Kokushoku Elegy, a female fronted 80s goth/post-punk band.
Seriously great tunes – check out some of their songs on YouTube if you like the classic dark post-punk sound of the 80s. Unfortunately as they’re a bit older I don’t have many leads for obtaining their music directly, but there are some decently priced copies of their albums on Discogs here.
Any other post-punk, synthy, or goth Japanese bands that I should be checking out? Please leave me a comment 🙂