Thank fuck for Buzz Kull, right? Sydney’s finest purveyors of haunting doom-laden synths have returned with a squelchy track that bludgeons the senses. It’s a blunt electronic slugging of sound, Depeche Mode as interpreted by the demons from Hellraiser. Pressing play on “Dreams” is a heavy, driving force, a metallic hurricane mowing down your mind, pulsating nihilistic sounds at an incomprehensible rate.
In 2003, Andre 3000 asked society a very important question: ‘What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold!’ He got that right – goth music is some of the coolest shit to listen to, and the best stuff is submerged in twenty-thousand feet of ice-cold emotional horror. Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend and The Sisters of Mercy are my go to sad-as-fuck bands, when it’s raining and it’s a Sunday, and there’s an assignment due, and I missed that Scott & Charlene’s Wedding show and…fuck man, my problems are the worst kinds of problems.
This is where Gazar Strips come in handy. They make noisy, gritty goth music in the same vein as the aforementioned artists, only darker. Maybe if Joy Division were drowned in a bathtub of evil? Or if the Reid brothers most devilish, junk-induced nightmares came to light? ‘Sparkling’ is anything but, a lurching, emotionally-wrought ride through cacophony and gutter-gothicism.
The EP starts with ‘Oversight’, a track that reaches out cold hands of bass and screaming, muddy guitar screeches. You can totally hear the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ influence here, but with stacks and stacks of feedback and regurgitating blackness surrounding it. There’s this awesome part where the song breaks down into agonised howls, cackling and a towering solo. The song basically spits out a seething, focused haze of gothic filth (one of the highest of compliments I can give).
The title track continues the trend of ripping open minds with crunching guitars, as experimental sounds that would have a hard time being replicated ricochet on percussion probably performed on a skeleton. ‘Last Days’ continues the killer bass trend, opening with a line that’ll tear you from balls to temple, low-slung and snarling as ever. Give it a few years, you’ll find most house bands that play in death cults chucking up covers of ‘Last Days’, which seems kind of inappropriate given the reputation death cults have got for themselves. Jesus Christ Jim Jones Jr., couldn’t you be a little more sensitive!
Serious props if you understood that really obscure cult leader reference that’s probably one of the darkest things I’ve written, but it’s still not as gloriously tormenting as the final track on the EP, ‘Bee Mantis’. Like its spindly namesake, the track thrives on being the most hair-raising, spine-chilling, mouth-drying creature created, a HTRK track burning on bleeding guitar fumes. This is the shit Stephen King used to write about in his books! It’s terror-fuelled genius, lapping bass and careening guitars carrying hope-shattering lyrics to a final destination of fucking amazing.
Did you read that last sentence? Gazar Strips are probably the best gothic/darkwave group in Australia right now, maybe even the globe. This EP is the kind of thing acid freaks who listen to The Cure wish they could create, but always forget about. This EP shatters all the expectations of what a band must do to cause on to shudder in entranced anticipation. FUCK! I can’t get over it, this EP is simply the shit. Bow down Robert Smith/Rowland S. Howard/Siouxsie Sioux disciples, you have a new master.
Pick up this fucking EP right away for a name your price download (GASP! HOLY FUCK!) at the Sonic Masala Bandcamp.
HTRK (pronounced Hate Rock-I made the mistake of pronouncing the letters for about six months before a friend with really good taste corrected me) have had a rough time. There’s no joke to be made here, because their story is really sad. Initially a three-piece, they were reduced to a duo in the making of their (excellent) sophomore record ‘Work (work, work)’, when bandmate Sean Stewart committed suicide. But the remaining members of Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang carried on, and are a continued and formidable presence of weird, pulsating and thinking music.
Now, I get that almost every album review is going to put up something about Stewart’s death, but in this case, I only mention it because I see that this has, most likely, inspired them to move into realms they might never have felt comfortable exploring. The result of 2011’s super dark and gruelling ‘Work (work, work)’ was an obvious testament to the will and passion of Standish and Yang, and its impression remains lasting. But after three years, the question a few will ask themselves is if HTRK remain relevant.
Oh. Oh yes, they totally do. There is still a drive and distinctive quality to HTRK that does not exist in any other band right now. But rather than the overtly brooding nature of 2011’s effort, ‘Psychic 9-5 Club’ injects a more fluid, flushed and light work. It doesn’t crush with intensity, but it whispers with a deadly passion nonetheless. Gone are the heavy clicks and bass thumps, to be replaced by shuffling electronica, and subtly whirring synths that move in and out of the music with the caress of a mother ninja.
Seriously, every song on this album is a work of total beauty, majesty and poise colliding together in a super-soft explosion. Standish’s vocals smother like never before, and the instrumental work is flawless. Totally. Flawless. The opener of ‘Give It Up’ encases this, where a gothic shimmer pervades, and introduces the audience to the newer HTRK. It has a very similar pace and quiet intensity to artists like New Look, or Fever Ray. It shows that you don’t have to scream and shout to immediately capture the attention.
This continues throughout the album, each song slightly building the swaying tower. ‘Feels Like Love’ glitches away like old school Jon Hopkins, ‘Wet Dream’ succumbs to a squelchy, whistling haze, and ‘Chinatown Style’ makes itself so quiet, it’s like you have to bend down into your speakers just to catch the brief glances of beauty that’s flurrying away inside the song. These songs are like tiny sprites running around inside the reflections of glass, small and fast, almost naked to the eye, and only those that pay attention are rewarded.
There never should have been any fear that HTRK wouldn’t deliver. Standish and Yang are competent musicians, and they would always lay something down worth paying attention over. But ‘Psychic 9-5 Club’ is a haunting, ethereal piece that smoothly wraps itself around your brain and ensnares you with the addiction for as many repeat listens as your body can handle.
HTRK are playing at the Civic Underground on 10 May. I would highly recommend attending.
Miles Brown seems like the name of an up-n-coming jazz musician, with stars in his eyes and a contract from Mo-Town in his hand. My insta-sumption of someone named Miles=jazz was instantly dashed by the fact that Miles Brown is actually a Melbourne electro musician that makes weirdly erotic music to glare at neon signs to.
And guess what, his music rules harder than the laws of gravity. And I don’t say that without knowing the full consequences of such an allusion. The Issac Newtown of electronica? Bullshit, right? Fuck you, because Miles Brown manages to combine darkness, non-conformity, and being revolutionary all into a logical, compressed and easy-to-follow guide known as his new 7″.
There’s lush layers, daintily tripping synths, weird jaws of snapping samples, and best of all, a voice that is all to akin to Kirin J Callinan. Make no mistake about it, Miles Brown is going to be right up there in Australian darkwave, with the likes of Pitchfork approved HTRK and Standish/Carlyon.
After you’ve cleaned up the drool, make sure you go about buying these songs.
Buzz Kull, a local Sydney darkwave duo that are slightly worse than watching Marilyn Manson being forced to stop playing music forever, have been a high priority band of mine for quite some time now. I first gained attention of their fabulously macabre sounds when the song ‘Fallen Flower’ caused me to convulse violently in fits of lust. Ever since then, I’ve needed Buzz Kull in my life, and I’m sure this applies to many others. Their Jesus And Mary Chain/Cure/Joy Division/Bauhaus sound, otherwise known as a concoction of all the good bands of the early/mid 80’s caused romantic seizures in even the most straightforward pop lovers of us.
However, the problem with Buzz Kull is that they are really lacking in material. Like the characters of ‘Trainspotting’, anyone who’s heard Buzz Kull, even once, is addicted to their noise, we need it like a drug, and the small contingent of songs and lack of an EP has been killing us. Well, the wait is over, as Buzz Kull unleash their Heat EP TODAY. And in no way, shape or form is it even remotely disappointing.
The bats of hell are released right out of the gate, as opener ‘Echo Planes’ regurgitates itself into our ears. The song spills with destructive-beauty, like a moody Frankenstein that hasn’t been laid in a long time. The black vocal sounds, reverberating with a curse’d tone, are actually providing relief from the barraging drum machine that hounds the listener, and the synth/bass melodies that are actually crushing you like a rock.
The EP moves into ‘Bloom’ (posted above), a track that has actually been seen quite a few times on blogs and compilations a plenty. However, in its natural environment of creepy wonder, ‘Bloom’ really has the chance to move and stretch. The unfolding beauty of the track is kinda like those black and purple, ghostly roses on Zomby’s album cover. The follow-up ‘Bedroom Highs’, another one that’s seen the light of day before the release of this EP, brings a little more Joy Division energy to the EP, similar to ‘Transmission’ or ‘She’s Lost Control’. The constant stream of vocals that spew forth over the ‘funky’ bass line, and the overall lighter presence of the song provide a little bit of relief for those of us who aren’t used to being immersed in the coiling blackness of Buzz Kull for so long.
‘Static Glow (1984)’ opens with air-raid siren, and moves into an oily pattern, like a crocodile sneaking up on its prey. And I’m not talking about some bullshit 80’s cartoon villain on a kids Saturday morning show, with a name like Doc Croc or something, I mean this song is as mean, sinister and blood thirsty as they come. As you’re listening to this track, you begin to be swallowed with the sense of hopelessness and despair that Buzz Kull can portray in their music so well. The final song is a glitchy mind-fuck known as ‘Remote Dreams’ that makes like Super Mario Brothers meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre. ‘Remote Dreams’ wades into your soul, plunging down time and again like the shower scene from ‘Psycho’, never giving up until you are well and truly under the Buzz Kull spell.
The true reason for why it has taken so long for a fully functioning EP to be brought out is because the band lost the original recordings to a hard-drive fault, and it had to be completely re-recorded. The fact that humanity might never have seen a real-life Buzz Kull EP is a universe that I don’t want to live in. But perhaps the time to work on it again and shift any kinks from the first time round worked in the bands favour. Buzz Kull are better than their contemporaries like The KVB, The Vandelles or Crocodiles (although they do a fantastic cover of the latter’s ‘I Wanna Kill’) because they simply flow and ebb with a natural beauty that has no sign of forced entry. Maybe it’s this sense of unhurried fluidness that ensures that ‘Heat’ is such a mesmerising piece of art to listen to.
Whatever it is, Buzz Kull have finally released their debut EP, and it is well worth the wait. In fact, ‘Heat’ is probably one of the best EP’s to be released all year. The fact that Buzz Kull have completely shattered expectations comes to the surprise of approximately no-one. This is why buying this EP is essential: go to Buzz Kull’s Bandcamp right here, and buy this thing. If that’s not enough to convince you, then how about knowing that all the money raised is going towards those suffering in the bush fires right now. So you can have the coolest EP in town AND support those in need. How cool is that?