Friday, July 27, 2012


TEARIST are Yasmine Kittles and William Strangeland. Though their primal, synth-based savagery is in many ways a brilliant collision of the over-the-top, ethereal yodeling of KATE BUSH combined with the rhythmic turmoil of EINSTURZENDE NEUBAUTEN (with and a healthy dose of D.A.F.'s electric throbbing), TEARIST's sound is all their own. The music they create is awesome in its own right, but it's their compelling live performances that have captured our dark hearts and imaginations. Yasmine shrieks, howls, and wails as she flings herself about on stage usually wearing a ripped up over-sized t-shirt and excruciatingly tight pants as Will looks like he's intensely working on some psychotic high school science project as he shreds on the synths and drum machines. They are not to be missed.

OCTAVIUS is the brainchild of William Marshall and Dre Robinson. Dense, paranoid, brooding, and futuristic in the truest sense of the word without nostalgia or postmodern irony, OCTAVIUS are the sonic equivalent of the greatest cyberpunk novel ever written. If we were to take a stroll down William Gibson's Sprawl, it's a good bet it would sound exactly like OCTAVIUS's music. Or what if Franz Kafka decided to make electronic music instead of making all too true fiction about the age of anxiety? That's OCTAVIUS. Through the sonic fog of the stocking bass lines, the thumping beats, and the hyper-programmed swirling and buzzing that weaves in and out of tracks like Apartments, to the cybernetic hip-hop of The Gun In White Silhouette (Warning), the aural universe of OCTAVIUS is haunting and unforgettable. Check out their stunning album LAWS, and be sure to catch them whenever and wherever humanly (or inhumanly) possible.  

Jewels of the Nile are Jessy Champagne and Meghan Christine. They create surreal, crepuscular soundscapes for the greatest opium delerium Shelly and Byron wished they could've experienced. We envision midgets speaking through interplanetary translation devices, conjoined twins dancing with giant prehistoric snakes, submerged ancient cities rising out of a black sea when we listen to them. Hazy, libidinal, even oddly loungy at times, allusions to explorations through tangled exotic jungles and discoveries of new and fantastic aboriginal sex cults are ever present in Jewelz's synth-heavy sound. And just as the mighty bird creature that rules the night is about to utter the darkest secrets of the universe to us, we are jolted awake realizing it was all just a dream... or was it? Check out Jewlez's album PLEASURE, if you dare. And don't miss them in the corporeal world if you can help it (a Ouija board or spirit medium may have to be consulted.)

The Secret Society of the Sonic Six. W.D. Chadwick (on synths and guitar) and vocalist Astar Ivanka are wonderfully all over the map stylistically. What are they exactly? Neo-film noir synth? Futuristic Berliners starring in the greatest anti-fascist science fiction film of the 1930s that was banned and destroyed by the Nazis? Electro, hyper-stylized absurdists creating a breathtaking sound that is both obtuse and darkly romantic at the same time? All of the above. Then throw in some pre-synth funk era Cabaret Voltaire, add some sinister yet sexy female vocals, then mix in some of the greatest musical sophistication of any contemporary underground synth act working today, and you have a very special band indeed.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best Music of 2011

"Without music, life would be a mistake." - Friedriech Nietzsche 

Believe it or not, there was a lot of fantastic dark underground synthesizer-based music this year that didn't sound like the musical equivalent of being stoned out of your gourd on cough medicine. So, in no particular order, here is the music that not only inspired my dreams and nightmares this year, but also made me move my body. All the artists on here make me really excited about music again.

//TENSE// - Escape, EP. If it were possible to cut open my brain and record what was going on inside, it's a sure bet that it would sound exactly like Robert Lane's music. It's a throwback of sorts to a time before post-industrial bands became either macho retarded jock rockers with drum machines or bad techno. Yes, the comparisons to classic Front 242 and Ministry's Twitch are obvious and inevitable. But Lane, along with Mariana Saldana on drum pads and backing vocals, makes a highly personal sound that loving acknowledges the sounds of the past while injecting a healthy dose of allusions to apocalyptic cinema that function as a profound metaphor for his own personal angst. The Escape EP continues Lane's deep sweaty love affair with first wave EBM and mid-80s industrial-synth which began with their Memory LP, but this time there's a lot more bleakness to the sound. You can taste the radiation coming out of the speakers. //TENSE// are an inspiration. There's no other word for it. I want more //TENSE//...No, I NEED more //TENSE//!

Frank Alpine, LP. Along with BRANES, Frank Alpine is by far the most explosive performer of the underground neo-synth scene movement right now. It may come as a bit of a shock to people who are only familiar with Frank Alpine (Rich Moreno) from his unforgettable stage performances that his actual music is really good! Savage, bleak, nervous...Alpine's clanking, relentless, synthetic high hats, hand claps, and snares fly at you like rapid wasps. Swirling synth-lines explode in your face like an Argento murder scene as Alpine's vocals bellow and shriek through the terrifying atmosphere that's oozing out of his Casio. His debut album on Wierd Records is a landmark for Alpine, leaving behind the cinematic instrumental synth work that gained him a cult following for a more vocal emphasized sound. I love his early soundtracky stuff, but his new work is unforgettable, every bit as atmospheric and eerie as one could hope for. It's an awesome record.

By Any Means Necessary, LPJesus! Where do I even start with Sam Witherspoon's epic, snarling, grandiose, apocolyptic industrial-synth project to end all apocalyptic industrial-synth projects? Very seldom am I left speechless, and Witherspoon's music leaves me speechless. I had the same reaction when I first heard //TENSE//. Tears of joy literally welled up in my eyes. I took a deep breath and mouthed the words "OH MY FUCKING GOD!", but I was so stricken that no sound came out as I uttered them. Both //TENSE// and Witherspoon make the music of my dreams: driving, agitated, creepily melodic synth arpeggios; muscular, explosive drum patterns; dramatic, almost inhuman sounding vocals all done without a single shredding electric guitar in sight. I'm still picking my jaw up off the floor after hearing Witherspoon's music. I certainly hope that in the months to come he's embraced in a way that is deserved. I can't wait to hear what this demonic synth lord from Asheville, North Carolina has in store in the future. And I'm dying to see him perform live.

Animal Bodies - Kiss of the Fang, EP. I got to admit, when I first saw images of Animal Bodies (such a brilliant name) I got a little worried. Figures wrapped in white cloth with their faces obscured, upside down triangles, etc... Boy was I wrong! With a sound that evokes both Bauhaus's classic album In The Flat Field and The Virgin Prunes' masterpiece If I Die, I Die, this duo from Vancouver, BC kick you in the teeth with their dark, quirky, dangerous sound. Spiky, freaky, and electrifying, Animal Bodies (on the amazingly consistent label Sweating Tapes) are fearless, even incorporating a sassy sax amongst the arpeggiating 101 baselines and cracking drum machines that's both insanely silly and utterly inspired . It warms my cold cybernetic heart that there's a band that sounds like Animal Bodies are out there making this kind of  sonic debauchery. And their album cover is one of the most striking I've seen in a while. My only complaint is that I wish Kiss of the Fang was twice as long. I want more Animal Bodies, dammit!

Violet Tremors - Time Is The Traitor LP.
Jackie Kennedy: I'm sorry you aren't feeling well.
Rosemary: It's just a mouse bite...
Jackie Kennedy: Perhaps you'd better have your legs tied down.

Rosemary: Yes, I suppose so. If it was rabid.
Jackie Kennedy: If the music bothers you, please let me know and I'll have it stopped.
Rosemary: Oh, no, no, no, 
no. Please don't change the program on my account.
Violet Tremors are special. *Click here for more info.

Balaclavas - Snake People, LP. This band rules! From Houston, Texas, Balaclavas are making some of the edgiest guitar driven post-punk meets early Krautrock sonic alchemy I've heard in a long time. Just imagine if The Fall met up with Amon Duul II. If that alone doesn't make you want to run out and buy their LP, then you are hopeless. Balaclavas sound is beautiful: moody, aggressive, even swooning at times. I hesitate to use the word "psychedelic" when describing their music, but Balaclavas are psychedelic in the best sense of the word. They even incorporate a twangy noirish guitar into their sound that wouldn't seem out of place in an old Ennio Morricone score. Balaclavas are true virtuosos in a world filled with too many posers. And I hear they kick some major ass live too. Watch for them.

Goitia Deitz - Romance/Coma, 7" Sometimes a new artist that you fall in love with kills you because they leave you wanting more. Take the analog purests Goitia Deitz from Brooklyn, for example. They make a sound that's so exquisite, that's such a perfect tribute to The Berlin School of the 70s, that you literary want to have an entire album of their work in your hands immediately. Performing everything live with analog gear, the comparisons to 70s Virgin Records period Tangerine Dream are inevitable, especially on Coma with it's motorik beat and hypnotic, non-stop main synth passage. But the track Romance suggests another sonic world altogether. Containing a bouncy beat and playful floating synth tones, it sounds in a way more like something from one of Richard James's early ambient pieces or Autechre's Slip from their seminal album Amber rather than a Kraut throwback The Romance/Coma  7" also has one of the coolest cover images I've seen all year. Get this. On DiscError Records.

Jewels of the Nile - Pleasure, LP.  Jewels of the Nile make surreal, crepuscular soundscapes for the greatest opium delirium that Shelly and Byron wished they could have experienced. We can see midgets speaking through interplanetary translation devices, conjoined twins dancing naked with giant prehistoric snakes, submerged ancient cities rising out of a black sea when we're listening to Pleasure. Hazy, dense, even weirdly loungy at times, Jewel of the Nile are like the Tess or Projekt Records band of our dreams, reminding us of synthier versions of Trance to the Sun and Lycia...bands that saved the 90s for many of us while we stood in disgust as "goth" became a sad joke throughout shopping malls across America. Allusions to exotic explorations through thick primordial jungles and encounters with bizarre aboriginal sex cults are ever present in Jewels of the Nile's ominous, synth-heavy sound. And just as the totemic bird-headed humanoid who rules the dusk begins to mutter the darkest secret of the universe to us, we are jolted awake in our sensory deprivation tank, realizing it was all a hallucination...or was it? 

Soft Metals, LP. If Jewels of the Nile are the Stygian sorceresses of the synth world, then Soft Metals are certainly the champions of light. Their music has a sweetness and airy quality to it as if it were a Tiepolo painting turned into sound. Their first full length album showcases them at their most elegant. Unabashedly danceable, undeniably catchy synth effervescence from start to finish, Soft Metals have layered their sound with a late-80s 4AD dream pop aura, moving slightly away from the moodier atmosphere of their previous EP yielding magical results. 

Primary Colors - Feral Scriptures, LP. Sparking, clanging, clanking, pounding, exploding, ripping, banging, smacking, ramming, electrocuting, lobotomizing, smashing, blasting, rupturing, shattering, quaking, cracking, devastating, hysterical, shrieking, screaming, pummeling, ravaging, trashing, crushing, pulverizing, trampling, rioting, revolting, stabbing, burning, ecstatic, unrelenting, blazing, amazing, geological, melting, smelting, disintegrating....Primary Colors are total, unimaginable, honest-to-God industrial geniuses, period.  

Bestial Mouths - The Hissing Veil, LPAlong with Primary Colors, Bestial Mouths are the sonic neo-pagans of our time. Like Primary Colors, they dispense with melodic conventions favoring instead a stampeding wall of primeval drumming and rhythms with intense feral vocals wailing through it all, penetrating our very souls. Their sound is both majestic and terrifying. Christopher Myrick plays lurching, demonic synth lines as Lynette Cerezo howls her tormented vocals while a ruthless cacophony of rampaging drums hammers away over it all. The sound they create has a prehistoric fury to it. 
NTRSN - Hardlines, LP. Just what is it about Belgium? So much gorgeous stuff has come out of there over the past 30 or so years that's profoundly close to heart. Like //TENSE// and By Any Means Necessary, Belgium's NTRSN (Paul Mommers and Pieter NTRSNmake EBM/industrial the right way: cracking snares, tough rhythms, thick synthesized arpeggiations, snarling vocals, zero guitars...Oh yeah, I love it all! In Hardlines, NTRSN's indebtedness to mid-80s period Cabaret Voltaire is apparent with it's syncopated beats, sinister chanting vocals, funky synth-lines, and choppy slogan-like samples. Trust me, it's all great. 

Sixth June - Back For A day, EP. It's become a cliche that if you're going to put together a neo-minimal synth band that a.) you've got to be a duo, and b.) you better be freakishly photogenic. The quality of the music, unfortunately, is often times secondary to these two requisites. Sixth June, however, make music as powerful and heart-wrenching as they are beautiful to look at. Their sound is more than suitably dark and melodic. Lydja Andanov's smokey, heartbroken vocals beautifully match Laslo Antal's soaring, even operatic, synths and rhythms, sounding like a synthed up version of The Eurythmics' first album In The Garden  crossed with DM's Black Celebration. But it's also their production values that are really noteworthy. The sound recording on Back For A Day is some of the most dynamic I've heard on any album this year. 

Branes - Anatomically Correct, 7" EPBranes! Branes! BRANES!!! Like a lot of people, I fell in love with Branes when I saw them live. Yes they are a duo, yes they are synth-based, yes they are adorable. But where so many synth heads try to find not-so-new and not-so-interesting ways to make opaque drabness chic and cool, Ivy Slime (on vocals) and Susan Subtract (on synths) are a splash of fresh water in your face...or fresh acid, you be the judge. Ivy is an unstoppable ball of agitated atoms bouncing all over the place as Susan, the striking synth-lord, stands close by on the controls. Together they make a sound that would feel right at home at the old Batcave in London with the likes of Alien Sex Fiend, Sex Gang Children, and Specimen. With only 3 songs officially released to their credit on the Anatomically Correct EP, I can't wait for more Branes. They are insane road dogs, touring regularly all over the US, so there's really no excuse if you haven't seen them live yet. Now that they've made a name for themselves as a must see live act, I think it's time they settle down for a little while, geek out with their synths, and deliver us an entire album of awesomeness. 

Zombi - Escape Velocity, LP. Zombi are the kind of band that really get our imaginations going. They make soundtracks for the 3-D IMAX films in our heads that have yet to be made. Silver CGI cheetahs galloping in slow-motion on a laser grid stretched out as far as the eye can see, astronauts exploring an enormous cavern of alien crystals on a newly discovered moon of Saturn, dolphins rescuing the crew of some deep sea research station...The scripts and storyboards are right their in our heads, perfectly formed. The brain child of A.E. Paterra and Steve Moore, Zombi are entirely instrumental, implementing synths along side live drums. The sound they create is awe-inspiring; a travelogue of the imagination. On Escape Velocity, they further develop their precision leaving behind some of the proggier elements of their equally stunning previous release in favor of more hypnotic Berlin School inspired electronic sounds. 

Funerals - Marae, EP. Thumping, thundering, futuristic...Funerals have hardly a trace of nostalgia in their sound. If they evoke anything, it's of a type dance music that came of age in 90s. We don't so much recall 90s raver kitsch (glow sticks, mickey mouse hands, DJs in over-sized fuzzy Dr. Seuss top hats, girls with dreadlocks dancing with their naked midriffs showing) as we experience that spectacular feeling when we first heard Underworld's Dubnobasswithmyheadman or Leftfield's Leftism while we listen to Marae. Funerals (Casey Immel-Brown and Mollie Wells) call their sound "Midnight Techno", which is a perfect description. Though Funerals fully and proudly admit to not adhering to the rather ridged constraints of a lot of dark underground synth music being made today, there is a genuinely gorgeous and sinister romantic atmosphere to their music that sounds perfect when played among artists like Sixth June or The Present Moment. From the opening escalating sounds of Marae, to the epic show stopper Out There, Funerals master the lost art of making compelling electronic music for our brains and the dance floor. 

The Present Moment - Loyal To A Fault, LP. Scott Milton's The Present Moment is an anachronism, and I mean that in the very best way. I hope you're setting down when you read this, but TPM's beautiful new album Loyal To A Fault has actual songs on it. And get this: they even have intros, verses, choruses, bridges, and outros (remember those things?) Not only that, but Milton can really sing, and I mean REALLY sing! Plus he can write penetrating lyrics to match his big soaring vocals and melodies. Yes, The Present Moment harkens back to another time when people like Dave Gahan, Morrissey, and Ian McCulloch sang the songs that calmed our anxious lonely hearts. Deeply melodic, unashamedly romantic and melancholy, even ironic at times, Loyal to A Fault follows a course first set by TPM's previous album The High Road, but with noticeably more polished sound production as well as tighter song writing. From the forlorn and slightly bitter The Distance Between Us with it's edgy Peter Hookish bass line, to the gushing and soulful A New Day, to the bouncy, deliriously classic synth-pop of the title track, Loyal To A Fault is in many ways, well, perfect. If people have a problem with its surface nostalgia, if Milton's obvious tip of the hat to the greatest decade of music that mankind has ever produced turns them off, then they have a lot of other problems that go beyond their shitty taste in music. 

"When things fall apart, follow your heart..." - Scott Milton


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Violet Tremors...Time Is The Traitor

We only remember the past, we never know it when we meet it. The mind goes back but time moves on, and farewells should be forever." ~ Time Is The Traitor by Alfred Bester

Violet Tremors' debut LP. Art direction by Steven R. Gilmore. Illustrations by Gina Rosa Stellini.

'Untitled' by Dora Maar
There is a parallel world where paranoia and hope are indistinguishable from one another. It's a realm populated by androids made of wax where it is forbidden for them to fall in love. Levitating orbs of pink plasma slightly larger than a human head hover across the country side. Telekinetic bunny rabbits maraud through the endless alleyways of some cold war era Eastern European city. Somnambulistic children tragically addicted to cough medicine and vanilla extract utter strange mantras transmitted from another dimension. Shadowy figures with glowing eyes stare at you from outside your bedroom window. This is a place where you are the only one home yet you hear the murmurings of some conversation in the next room. Though the voices are speaking in an otherworldly language you can not understand, you swear they are talking about you as you eat your dinner of spiderwebs...And Violet Tremors are making the soundtrack for this parallel universe.
But for all the fantastic possibilities Violet Tremors give so generously to our imagination, their music comes from a very real place. There's a true pathos, an actual yearning to it that touches us with its earnestness and emotive force, much like those classic Cure and Depeche Mode albums did for us when we were younger. Loneliness, uneasiness, insecurity, loving people that will never love us back, the longing for contact with others we can't seem to connect with no matter how vainly we try with new technology to reach across enormous spaces of time and geography. It's never enough. In fact, our contemporary world has found new and disturbing ways to alienate us from one another. Violet Tremors are ultimately making music about this schizophrenic, frustrating world we find ourselves in, and the many ways we try to reconcile our breaking hearts.

'Le Passage' by Kay Sage
Of all the neo-synth artists out there, Violet Tremors are certainly among the most evocative and imaginative. Since the beginning of 2010, Lorene Simpson and Jessica White have been creating a highly suggestive sonic world teeming with cinematic allusions, Kafkaesque irony, and surrealist melancholy. With their ominous, synthesizer based, slightly (yet self-consciously) retro sound, they've carved their own place among the likes of Soft Metals' crystalline wall of synth, Xeno & Oaklander's analog fundamentalism, Frank Alpine's alienated urban savagery, and Sixth June's swooning dark synth pop. Violet Tremors know what they are up to. Drawing from a tradition of dark electronic music that includes the unearthly soundscapes of Delia Derbyshire, the sonic dystopia of John Foxx's Metamatic, and Nine Cirlces' sulking sexiness, Simpson and White are true students of the past. But where many merely copy the affections of old artists, Violet Tremors make a unique, highly personal sound. I can't think of another neo-synth outfit out there that sounds quite like them. 
Delia Derbyshire
Time Is The Traitor is Violet Tremors' stunning self-produced, self-released debut LP. It's not only an exciting new work within the modern minimal/neo-synth movement, it's also the deeply personal aesthetic manifesto of these two gifted women, opening up new sonic possibilities for a genre often too in love with a bygone pre-digital electronic musical era. Time Is The Traitor entices us to daydream about long lost loves and unrequited crushes, to create imaginary cinematic tableaux, and it even makes us want to dance. And when the album's over, we might just be able to face the anxiety and uncertainty of this contemporary world of ours. 

"I've seen the sunset, stained with mystic horrors,
Illuminate seen the sunset with long purple forms,
Like actors in ancient plays..." ~ Rimbaud

Violet Tremors Time Is The Traitor

Valentine Hugo
1.) Between Us "Amplified sound, distant speech, unknowing glances,  frozen streets, between us, between us.." 
A thick, warbling, phasing synth tone rolls out of the ether like the signal from some decaying pulsar at the farthest edge of the universe. A beat comprised of antique drum machine hand claps and high hats sparks up out of nowhere as the oscillating synth tone develops into a sparse three note bass progression . Our ears perk up, or heads and bodies start to move with the rhythm, and Jessica Whites' disembodied yet voltaic vocals cut through like an X-Ray. As the first verse ends, Simpson injects an eerie synth lead that follows the three notes set up by the bass line. We're still in Kansas, but the bodies and minds of Auntie Em, Uncle Henry, Toto, and Dorthy have been invaded by an alien fungus. Our journey into Time Is The Traitor has just begun...

Lee Miller
2.) Concentrate "The earth is grey, the sky is grey, people are grey, everything is grey ..." 
Concentrate is the first Violet Tremors song I ever heard. I happened upon quite by accident a year or so ago and I was immediately transported to another world with it's cracking beat, spasmodic rhythm, nightmarish lyrics, and hypnotic vocals. Surely this is some long lost obscure band that has been making music for ages, I thought to myself. I was shocked that I hadn't heard of them and that I didn't have all their albums. I was even more shocked to learn that they were a contemporary band! There's a band out there making sounds like this in this day and age??? CRAZY...                           

'Dora Maar' by Man Ray
3.) Time Dissolver "I'm turned on all the time, transmissions in my mind, searching better picture, only static quiet..."     
 Hypnagogia is the state of consciousness in which we're between sleeping and waking. Sometimes, while in this state, when our brain begins to awaken before our body, we may perceive all manner of visual and auditory phenomena. Strange figures, bizarre lights flashing and fluttering about, scenarios from our previous dream episode, even unsettling buzzing, throbbing, and whizzing sounds may be experienced. The opening synth tones on Time Dissolver, perhaps the most heartbreaking and melancholy track on the whole album, sound exactly like sounds I've heard when coming out of a hypnagogic state. Just when you think the track is going to go into an unnerving ambient piece like something from Coil's Time Machines album, a doomy bass line comes in followed by a really melodic and tragic lead line that sounds like the synthy strings of Angelo Badlamenti's Twin Peaks Theme mixed with a variation of the iconic melody line of Depeche Mode's StrippedBut where Stripped somehow suggests something hopeful, Time Dissolver stays in the shadows with the blinds drawn. The whole track has a forlorn and fantastically dreary feeling to it, like the feeling we have after having a disturbing dream. It's not overdone either with layers of foggy synth tones, Simpson keeps everything contained. White delivers her vocals bathed in a veil of reverb. It's a ballsy track...And it's pretty gutsy of them to put something this dense and murky so near the beginning of the album. 

Dora Maar
4.) Violet Trance "Electrical current sent down from the brain, pulsing in rhythm again and again. The feeling my body it cannot contain. Moving in cycles, in timeless decay..."
And out the grey mist of Time Dissolver comes an unrelenting, acidy bass line that Richard James would be jealous of. It progresses for a few bars and Simpson's unmistakable beat fires up. Then suddenly the piercing lead comes flying in. If I hadn't known better, I would've thought that it was a flanging guitar. In fact, if anything, the tone of this lead reminds us of something from Disintegration, like Last Dance or Lullaby, perhaps. But the melody is all their own. Violet Trance showcases some of Violet Tremor's most polished composing and programming. Simpson and White are listening closely to the breaks and the spaces between sounds now, and throughout the track there are passages when the bass stops and the beat continues. Then clever little fills of sizzling snares and hand claps cue the bass to start again. Really elegant, simple, impressive programming. The drum pattern coupled with the weirdly soothing lead melody creates a swirlinglilting feeling that's both ethereal and very danceable. And the ending is totally a Robert Smith tribute. It just winds down and dissolves with a booming synth noise during the final coda that sounds like a thunder clap.

5.) Control Submarine "Remembering adventures I've never had, escaping to places not on the map, submerging these feelings deep below, covering emotions all pretty with snow..." 
There's this feeling many of us have always had where we feel we're eternally on the outside. We're always out of place, always disconnected and uneasy even when we're in the most familiar of surroundings. No matter how much it seems to everyone else that we're part of the crowd, we're always looking into some social situation that might as well be some terrifying alien landscape. Our hearts ache for some connection with another. We long for someone or something that understands. Yet a connection is always out of reach, like a mirage or a fading dream. Our hearts ache and a numbing anxiety takes over. Our minds must wander as our imaginations struggle for some sort of emotional escape lest we have a total nervous breakdown. Control Submarine is one of those songs where you feel as though the singer is singing directly to you, the lyrics and the music are about you. You think to yourself "Oh my God...Finally someone understands!" There are many times on Time Is the Traitor when you feel like Simpson and White are making the music you always wanted to hear. It's the music you always NEEDED to hear so you can feel at home and comfortable in your own skin again. White's lyrics are so incredible and heart wrenching here. Yet Control Submarine isn't overwrought, nor does it reek of the cornball over-emotionalism of a late Martin Gore song. The language of White's lyrics feels like the heartbroken simplicity of a Paul Eluard poem as Simpson's synths roll over us like Bergman's Persona transformed into sound.

'Electricity' by Man Ray
6.) Future Love "I wanna think pretty. Sick of generosity. STOP. One way transmission. STOP. Solitary disease..."
One of the best things about Time Is The Traitor is that each track seems to flow in and out each other effortlessly like the good old days when we would actually listen to albums from beginning to end. Even when something like the jolting Future Love follows the forlorn introspection of Control Submarine, the juxtaposition of these two very different songs feels totally right. It also keeps us from getting totally bored, which is something that plagues even our most favorite neo-minimal synth albums in certain moments from time to time. Future Love is Violet Tremors at their most raw and in your face. White's lyrics are as bleak as ever here filled with all kinds of suggestions and irony. And the sounds that Simpson's conjuring are the stuff of a mad scientist's maniacal dreams. Just as we've been lulled into deep self-reflection by Control Submarine, we are shaken awake. Squawking synth sounds zap our ear drums, our eyelids are forced opened. Are we having a seizure? Are we strapped down and being given the Ludivico Treatment? Insane sounding whirls and whizzes fly out at us as the beat whacks our brain. We have no choice but to surrender. Our bodies vibrate uncontrollably just as White's vocals emerge out of an aural vortex. Simpson's synth sounds form into ectoplasmic vapor that enters our ears. Silvery television static forms where our eyes used to be. And the tiny UFO the size of a pie plate that's landed on our roof is watching our every move.

Cocteau's 'The Blood of A Poet'

"All of us have to learn how to invent our own lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don't, our lives get made up for us by other people." ~ Ursula K. Le Guin 

7.) Caution "Static communication. Mosaic reality. Detailed structure. Such strict symmetry. Other worlds, unorganized. One three...One three..."
One of the greatest joys robbed from us by the inception of digital media is the loss of turning over a vinyl LP when the first side is through playing. That action is such an amazing feeling, the brief intermission of silence as we switch sides let's us catch our breath before venturing over into the next chapter of an album. It's like waking up from one fantastic dream and closing our eyes and entering another. That experience is virtually lost today. Bands don't design their songs to flow in and out of one another anymore. Even the best bands just throw on a collection of individual tracks that we can pick and choose to play whenever we want and put on our personal mixes. But Time Is The Traitor isn't designed like that. Though it's not really a didactic concept album like one of Roger Water's things, there is a definite sense that the songs are arranged to tell a particular musical story, however abstract and vaguely suggestive that story may be. The album's second half begins with the stunning Caution, a song loaded with all sorts literary and cinematic allusions. Lyrically, it contains some of White's most penetrating writing. There's all these wonderful references to non-Euclidean geometry and late-modernism as well as her ever present themes of miscommunication, mechanical devices that are somehow a surrogate for real human contact, and the unreliability of human memory. Simpson's melody and synth tones are perfectly designed to create a thick atmosphere of sexiness and doom. We feel the longing in White's words and we're seduced by Simpson's tones. The main soaring melody line has this wonderful, escalating eeriness to it like a more sedate version of John Foxx's Burning Car. It's really an impressive track.

'Pere Ubu' by Dora Maar
8.) Nothing "Until you were mine, you were mine. Nothing. And I never really wanted, really nothing. I don't wanna sleep, so don't be shy. KISS...KISS...KISS..." 
Up until now, we've witnessed Violet Tremors swing between several shades of sinister nervousness and melancholic angst. Then suddenly cutting the fog comes the unrelenting and libidinous Nothing, a track that feels truly dangerous. A stalking, snotty 2 note bass line sneaks in out of nowhere, then a stomping 4/4 beat marches in. Whooshes and phasing drones accent the rhythms as White's hypnotic vocals cut through. It's such a powerful track recalling both Chris & Cosey's Driving Blind and the magnificent Beta Evers' AdamantIt really hits you in the gut. And you don't want it to stop. The lyrics are both coy and sinister, teasing and torturing us with every breath. Musically it's beautifully stripped down to the bare essentials, a bit like the earlier Future Love but with shot of adrenalin. It's the closest White and Simpson have gotten so far to making a classic EBM track. Yet they somehow resist making a straight ahead thumping, throbbing club hit, even though Nothing is undoubtedly danceable as all hell; their ultra-stylized, super sexy, and infectious stylings keep it from turning into just another dance track. And it fucking KILLS every time they preform it live! When those zapping bleeps and beeps of the chorus blast you in the ears in rapid succession, you literally yell out loud "OH FUCK YES!!!" It's impossible to resist. I fucking LOVE Nothing! Along with Spirals Inside (see further below), it might even be my favorite track on the whole album. 

Richard Prince 'Untitled 1983'
9.) Autosuggestion "I'm traveling through a vortex, I want to reconnect. The lights are flashing yellow, I'm trying to forget..."
For those that are listening closely to Jessica White's lyrics, you will undoubtedly notice some striking reoccurring themes. There is always this idea of connecting, reconnecting, and disconnecting, of traveling beyond the physical constraints of our frustrating present position by means of our imagination with the vexing and unreliable medium of our memory as the only guide; its residue perpetually leaving a trail of sadness and uncertainty in its wake. Disparate transmissions are sent across the astral plane searching for kindred hearts and minds that inevitably get garbled and disrupted. Technology seems to be the answer, but that too ends up being a poor substitute for what we really are seeking. Longing, angst, and dissatisfaction with the technological gadgets that merely give the illusion of connecting with another human soul create a specter of sadness that hangs over all of White's writing in some way. These themes are really up front in Autosuggestion, perhaps the most off beat piece they've written to date. What's so brilliant about the track is that the spacey and strangely whimsical sounding nature of the music is juxtaposed with the Ballardian nightmare of the lyrical content. It's also White and Simpson's most psychedelic moment. The track begins with a bang. A sequence of playful electronic chirping sounds open the track sounding slightly reminiscent of a sped version of the opening sequence of Aphex Twin's Ageispolis. Soon after, a rolling arpeggiating bass line starts up. White's mesmerizing vocals emerge out of the mist, then one of Simpson's signature spaced out lead synth lines hovers and whirls around the chorus. The quirkiness of it all is terrific, levitating us momentarily from the darkness and gloom.

Jean Seberg
10.) Spirals Inside "My thoughts turn into spirals. Spinning around my heart. Bound in endless wires. Tied into a bow..."
Spirals Inside is Violet Tremors' magnum opus. By far, it's their most ambitious track, a culmination of all their skills and powers both musically and production wise that they've been honing since the beginning. Cosmic, driving, soaring, even inspiring, Spirals Inside is an epic musical voyage. If Violet Trance is the opening theme music for the surreal cinematic saga of our imagination, then Spirals Inside is certainly the climactic conclusion. Our minds are blown, chills form down our spine, tears well up in our eyes as the final credits roll, and Spirals Inside is playing in THX all around us. We could divide the musical palette of the tracks on Time Is the Traitor into roughly three categories: 1.) the striking nervousness of Concentrate, Future Love, Between Us, and Nothing; 2.) the gorgeous anguish of Time DissolverControl Submarine, and In Mid Transmission; and 3.) the immaculately crafted Violent Trance, Caution, and Autosuggestion. Spirals Inside somehow manages to combine all the elements of their previous tracks into one sonic masterpiece. Musically and lyrically, it's a show stopper. Rhythmically, it's great a tribute to Kraftwerk's '91 version of Music Non Stop, showcasing some of Simpson's most clever programming to date. And the melody and tones she conjures are truly thrilling. My heart stops every time they play it live. It's SO good. Spirals Inside is a sign of where Violet Tremors are certainly headed in the future. What other contemporary band synth band sounds like this?

Anna Karina
In Mid Transmission "Touching through a screen. Feeling through a wire. Connected by a dream. Hanging by a string..." 
And then something unexpected occurs. Time Is the Traitor closes with the haunting, angelic In Mid Transmission. Even though it fits perfectly with the entire aesthetic of the album, it's a piece that sounds like really nothing else we've heard so far on the album. It's bitter sweet, atmospheric, and is as uplifting as it is heart wrenching, much like Joy Division's masterpiece Atmosphere or Brian Eno's Golden Hours from the seminal album Another Green World. It's a deceptively simple, highly stylized ethereal piece built entirely around an elegant 3 note sequence: the bass synth moves down from C to G, as the lead alternates from E to G to C. It's beautiful and oddly uplifting. The lyrics summarize the entire theme of isolation and longing of the album being an account of yet another failed attempt at connecting and communicating with another person in this hyper-communication, hyper-information digital culture of ours. For all the possibilities that technology has given us for freeing our hearts and minds, In Mid Transmission suggests that these new gizmos have given us false hope and ultimately more anguish. Yet the sensual qualities of the music tell us something different. There may be hope after all. We can take comfort by not escaping into the digital loneliness of the internet, but rather through art, through music, through our own imaginations, we can discover our real selves and ultimately find real connections, real contact, even real love, perhaps. 

Violet Tremors are Lorene Simpson (beats, rhythms, synths) and Jessica White (vocals, electronic tonalities, visuals.) 
Time Is The Traitor is available on iTunesSpotify, and at independent record stores everywhere. SUPPORT INDEPENDENT MUSIC!!!
"All the trees all their branches all of their leaves
The grass at the foot of the rocks and the houses en masse
Far off the sea that your eye bathes
These images of day after day
The vices the virtues so imperfect
The transparency of men passing among them by chance
And passing women breathed by your elegant obstinacies
Your obsessions in a heart of lead on virgin lips
The vices the virtues so imperfect
The likeness of looks of permission with eyes you conquer
The confusion of bodies wearinesses ardours
The imitation of words attitudes ideas
The vices the virtues so imperfect
 Love is man incomplete" 
                                           ~ Paul Eluard