Greetings and Salutations!
2014 marks ELEVEN YEARS OF MIDNIGHT CALLING EZINE!
I took a hiatus for a while, but we’re up and running again. My apologies to the bands and readers. Everything was put on hold after the sudden death of my sweet, beloved cat Yorick. Plus a few other situations that required an uncommon level of attention.
Check out the new reviews of Strand of Oaks, Ira Wolf, Brahma Bull, and The Exploding Boy. More reviews are in the works. and with more in the works. Next up will be Sweet Soubrette, Jonathan Parker’s fine “Long Gone” and a few more.
And don’t forget the usual inflammatory article, coming soon, so don’t forget the blood pressure medicine!
Take at look at some of the bad videos filmed by yours truly at:
It’s all about the music! Screw the ‘scene’.
This review is long overdue, and I owe the band my sincere apologies. Isolation Division was originally a sole project of Matt Thorpe , formerly of The March Violets and Distorted Pictures. In 2011 he released the excellent debut album “Sotto Voce”. In 2013 the band had a full line up, with Natasha Donald, Warren Pasquill, and Steve Drawbridge. “7th Magpie” was released in December, 2014. Matt was kind enough to provide me with a review copy, and to my chagrin I am very late with this review.
Isolation Division is one of my favorite bands. Their music is quite unique, but also hearkens back to the glory days of Post-Punk and New Wave without sounding derivative at all. This is perfectly illustrated by the first song, “Shadows“, with a very full, complex sound with wonderful layering. Exquisite harmonies merge with staccato percussion and thick guitar that evokes The Church’s later works. I also detect a bit of the short lived early ’90s group Birdland here.
“Star of the Sea“ is simply amazing. The guitars hit with a visceral edge, introspectively sharp but not quite melancholic. The discordant harmony is lends a disquieting touch, buttressed by insistent percussion.
The guitars on “Hold“ bring to mind early Cure, only deeper and fuller. Vocals bring to mind Asylum Party. Arrangements are complex, but very gripping, evoking a deep sense of poignancy. Towards the last part of the song, the refrain has whispered backing vocals that are quite haunting.
“Xmyheart” has eerie, layered vocals that are simply fabulous. The guitar is sharp and somewhat jangly, with wonderfully dissonant arrangements. This is a fine song.
“Secret Sister” opens with dark, moody synth, and low, brooding vocals that bring Screams for Tina to mind. Understated guitar emerges along with distant percussion. The guitar rises in volume, with angelic backing vocals giving the song a sense of great resonance and emotional depth.
“7th Minor“ begins with very subtle guitar and synth. Think of a harder Abecendarians, tempered with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. Then the tempo changes, with strident, militaristic percussion and frantic-paced, rhythmic guitar. Soon, everything is submerged in a swirling kaleidoscope of sound, that once again brings early Cure to mind. Tandem male and female vocals are very evocative and compelling.
7th Magpie is an excellent album that successfully combines Post Punk, Gothic, and more with thoroughly up-to-date sensibilities. Production values are excellent. Arrangements are superb and lyrics are very well crafted. This is truly what new music should sound like.
Red Sun Revival was formed in London in 2011, and consists of vocalist/guitarist Rob Leydon, guitarist Matt Helm, bassist Panos Theodoropoulos, and violinist Christina Emery. “Embers” is an outstanding follow up to “Running from the Dawn“. “Embers” superbly complements their earlier work, and confidently drives forward. On Embers you will find many of the hallmarks of “Running….“, but even more refined and solid, if that is possible.
“Mistakes” begins with a slightly ethereal tone with a bit of edgy violin that quickly launches into an awesome, full sonic epic. Rob’s deep, forceful vocals are backed by great orchestral arrangements, energetic rock guitar (vaguely reminiscent of Pink Floyd), and strident percussion. The song evokes a spellbinding sense of longing and regret. I particularly love the guitar juxtaposed with the orchestral effects at about three and half minutes, and the way the song fades away eerily in the last half minute or so.
“Broken“ starts with a full-bodies sense of sheer power that is almost tribal. This is able balanced with guitar with a sharp, fine tone that brings ’80′s post punk to mind. Percussion is inexorable and strong. The bass is just magnificent, in many ways driving the song. Deep choral backing and dark atmospherics combine to buttress Rob’s strong, yet edgy vocals.
The opening keyboards on “Surrender” are poignant and moving. The bass emerges early in the song, but expertly gives rein to very Gothic atmospherics that swell forth and resonate grandly with militaristic percussion and full-bodied backing accompaniments. Violin is expertly understated, and rises along with the vocals. Vocals are low and rough, bringing Fields of the Nephilim to mind. Jangly guitar gives a post-punk vibe, as the bass hovers underneath, nearly, but not quite imperceptible as in a dream Layered vocals lend an unearthly air, followed by a short piano interlude. The song ends with a wonderful orchestral flourish
“Embers“ is slower and more dramatic, with excellent Cure-esque guitar and languid vocals that remind me a bit of early Ikon. Bass is prominent and staccato, but not overpowering. Synth adds a nice forlorn touch, heightened by poignant violin as the vocals turn regretful and pensive. The music rises to a gripping crescendo, then lingers languidly and melodically, sounding introspective and stoic. The music draws to a close, leaving a reflective sense that lingers long after the last note has faded. This is the perfect song to end a great EP.
The “Embers“ EP has the same outstanding production values as “Running...” with an amazing fullness of sound that engulfs the listener without sounding pretentious or overblown. All the elements of the music are superbly constructed and mesh together well. Both music and lyrics are complex and utterly compelling. As my other reviews indicate, I am stickler for lyrics. I consider them to be just as crucial as the music, and Red Sun Revival delivers some truly fine lyrical content. But more important than even the technical excellence, “Embers” is a marvelously captivating work that is vibrant and evocative. I love the way that the brash rock guitar balances the dark vocals and atmospherics, admirably avoiding the monotonous layers of fuzzy-doomyness that seem to characterize so many Gothic related bands.
Red Sun Revival skirts the tricky musical precipices with ease, close enough to send echoes of traditional Gothic resounding back across the void to the listener, but navigating the terrain with great dexterity while incorporating a wide range of influences. Once again, Red Sun Revival charts a course that is quite refreshing and relevant. “Embers“ will not only appeal to fans of Gothic music, but to anyone who enjoys satisfying music with an edge. Red Sun Revival is truly a band for the 21st century. I greatly look forward to Red Sun Revival’s full length album coming out later this year!
The Exploding Boy from Sweden is one of my favorite bands of the millennium. Their album “Four”, released last year is, obviously, their fourth release, a fine follow up to “The Black Album” from 2011. Heavily influenced by Post-punk, Goth, and Punk, The Exploding Boy’s “Four” has music that is fully contemporary and accessible with Pop sensibilities, yet still fully within the edgy tradition of ’80s underground.
“Cracked- Reasons” has some great post-punk guitar and rhythmic percussion. The song thunders along with a freight train, while the vocals are typical Exploding Boy: direct and forceful. Clearly guitar driven, there is a fine layer of synth that adds depth. The cadence reminds me a but of The Cure, with a catchy chorus. At about 2:27 is my favorite part of the song: riveting guitars and compelling vocals.
“Street Cliche” starts out with a very synth ’80s feel ala Deprech Mode, but then the guitars explode with a roar. Percussion is hard and driving, while the vocals have a slightly distant feel that is juxtaposed with insistent layering.
“Going to Hell” is smoother and more synth driven, with a base line that expertly hovers just beneath the percussion and vocals. The guitar is crisp and adds a sense of lucidity, to the brooding synth. Lyrics are somber and vehement “You look at me and you are lying/it’s so obvious to see..anyone can tell/you’re going to hell.”
“Dark City, Pt II” is hard-driving and dynamic. This is a great song for the dancefloor. I am reminded a bit of the Sisters of Mercy. “I’ve been alone far too long/lie down next to me…” The chord changes are somehow particularly gripping, and the chorus is riveting. The rapid guitar at about 4:00 is masterful.
“Runaways” is brilliant, just brilliant, with shades of The Church. Synth is sweeping and gives a monumental foundation to the dramatic, visceral vocals. “It’s all right here in the moment….”. From the turbulent guitars and dirge-like percussion to the “western” flourishes of synth, “Runaways” rises and falls like a grand musical epic.
“Awful” changes the pace a bit, with a New Wave feel. Staccato percussion and ponderous, yet forceful bass lead the way. Some of the flourishes remind me of harpsichord. “I don’t know what you want/do you want to kill me?” Layers of sound in the background fill the spaces admirably, then saw-edged guitar ups the ante. A discordant chorus ends the song on a nice jangly note.
“Shadows” has Punk overtones that lie beneath a momentary darkwave facade. Blistering rock guitar blows the covers right off the speakers, as percussion runs riot alongside fervent vocals. “Leave me alone the damage is done/ just begun.” The song lowers with sparse keyboard before ramping up again and careening to a fuzz laden close.
“Always” features excellent fast-paced postpunk guitar and driven by inexorable percussion. Vocals are fast and incisive, buttressed by hairpin synth that is as sharp as Joe Jackson’s shoes. There is a some searing deathrock-ish guitar about halfway through that propels this great song to a finish.
“Get it Out” is slow and hypnotic with an opening reminiscent of Siousxie. Excellent basslines roam beneath catchy synth, while the vocals and tight percussion are somewhat reminiscent of Lush.
“Scared to Death” reminds me of Echo and the Bunnymen meets Catherine Wheel. Very evocative in the tradition of ’80s postpunk, there is also a sense of power as in the best of ’90s Indie. Orchestral synth accentuates powerhouse guitar and layered vocals that have a hint of echo. There is a strident, shouted “harmony” beneath the chorus. “Take a breath, hold on tight/there’s no need to be scared tonight” The song ends with the eerie beating of a Tell Tale heart.
I have probably missed a few things here, but hopefully I had hit the high points. The production on “Four” is outstanding. There is no filler here at all. One of the things I like most about The Exploding Boy is that that they incorporate Gothic elements without trying to imitate the typical swirling, doomy drone of the late ’80s into ’90s. Really, we’ve heard enough of that. The same with postpunk. If I want to hear Joy Division I’ll throw on a Joy Division CD. Time marches on. The Exploding Boy manages to evoke that unsettled feeling that brings a sense of nostalgia to Goths of a certain age, while at the same time being dynamic and relevant. It’s great driving music, and great headphone music too. Just as important, the guys in the band are friendly too. Give them a listen.
Originally from Montana, new folk singer/songwriter Ira Wolf moved to Nashville in 2013, and completed her second tour in the fall of 2014. Ira Wolf’s songs are based on her personal experiences. “Fickle Heart” was just released in September.
With infectious fiddle and banjo, “Can’t Say” is catchy and energetic. There is a touch of Irish Folk in here, balanced with very contemporary layered vocals on the moving chorus. The steel guitar lends a nice Country vibe.
“Poison in my Veins” is slower and poignant. Militaristic percussion meshes well with languid bass and moody guitar. The song rises and fills out at about 3:00, with synth in the background. Vocals are smooth, yet incisive.
“Give a Damn Danny” features understated, yet edgy banjo and firm, strident percussion. “You want it all, but you know that ain’t fair/I keep saying don’t you come back around. but you turn on the charm and my guard is down.” Vocals are sincere and personal, with the sudden swell of the chorus adding weight to the song before it closes.
“The Devil and Me” gallops along with choppy, foreboding guitar, sharp fiddle, and steady bass on this eminently danceable song. Percussion emerges and sets the pace, while the guitar evokes shades of the Eagles’ “Desperado” era. Ira’s vocals are wonderfully fatalistic yet defiant. “They told me that I was headed for the devil/I asked them what a life if you’re livin’ like you’re dead?” A bit of echo adds a dark touch. “I was born to be a sinner/I was born to be free/I was born to dance with two left feet.” This is a great song, perhaps my favorite on the album.
“Won’t Talk” is a soft chronicle of a rather complicated relationship. “I won’t talk and you won’t talk/and we’ll just walk away…” The song begins soft and mellow with a furtive air, but suddenly firm percussion and and expertly layered vocals heighten a sense of sincere regret that is not quite enough to change anything. The song will resonate with everyone who has faced conflicting emotions. Vocals are superb, and the subtle backing instruments are the perfect complement.
“In the Dark” is fast paced and flowing, percussion driven with hypnotic steel guitar. Vocals are again superbly layered, with an echo effect that gives the song an enigmatic feel. “There are monsters underneath my bed/keep me up and scared to death“ The “monsters” are ones of doubt and futility that we all face at one time or another.
“Fickle Heart” has a Celtic cadence with clear, precise guitar that is reminiscent of some of the artists on the Windham Hill label but quite a bit stronger. Vocals are simple, yet powerful. Backing guitar has some fine echo, which gives the song an otherworldly kind of vibe. This is the right song to end the Cd.
Ira Wolf takes new folk in a different and quite refreshing direction than most, with pleasing melodies and straightforward lyrics. There is more strength here than is first apparent. The production is excellent, and it is obvious that the vision behind “Fickle Heart” was a solid one. Fans of folk and rock alike will appreciate the clarity and intimacy of “Fickle Heart” as well as Ira Wolf’s fine vocals.