Reviews: Traitrs, Vanguard (2016, 2017).


TRAITRS: Rites and Ritual (Pleasence) — angsty guitar post-punk driven by the drums with a high bass. The precursor to goth rock as we knew it, back when you’d learn of this stuff from the front section of ZigZag and nowhere else. (A particular band too, though I can’t pick just who and neither could Arkady.) The singer’s voice is very much of the angsty British new-wave rock of the early ’80s. Best tracks: “Witch Trials” (the opener), “Burnt Offerings”. Above: “Witch Trials”, “Heretic”.


VANGUARD: “A Different Story” (Infacted) — New single off last year’s Never Surrender, the opening track from that album, and it’s a good one: a bright but angsty EBM of the sort that’s half way to Hi-HRG, with a very catchy tune. The remixes are excellent if you liked the A-side, and the B-sides (remixed album track “Move On” and two new ones) are no slouches.

Links: World’s dumbest terrorist, procedural music, bogus DMCAs, the editorial dictator.

Industry links: Spotify playlist SEO, SoundCloud financial woes, Cogent update.


Synths out: Marcelo Andrea Expreso Maniquí, Maine, Syntheads (2016, 2017).


MARCELO ANDREA EXPRESO MANIQUÍ: Las Calles De Néon — bouncy accessible synthpop from Argentina, heavy on the “pop”; in a variety of styles, all with the aim of getting stuck in your head and staying there. Not overproduced, you can hear exactly what they’re doing at all points. I particularly liked “El Incendio”, “Abstinencia”, “Tus Universos”. Above: “Tus Universos”, “Las versiones Españolas”. Also check their previous EP, Ficción Vintage.


MAINE: IV (Spun Out Of Control) — lush progressive rock synthesizer constructions with voice as just another sound. The wash is detailed and rewards close listening. Gets noodly in places, but generally an excellent illustration of composition and attention to detail. Favourites: “L’illusioniste”, “On Le Pleure Mort”, “A Cada Paso”.


SYNTHEADS: Fractured; “Tailgating” — “Tailgating” is a really nice 114bpm disco pop song with the lovely voice of Jules Straw from Pinklogik and a good beat and melodies all the way through. Find of the day — you definitely need to give this a play. The single includes a remix pack with all the base tracks separated out.

Fractured as a whole fulfills the promise of the single: another four good and individual slabs of synthpop. Remix pack is for another track, “Static”.

Their first release was a somewhat novelty disco “Eleanor Rigby” (above) which is pretty well rendered. Jules’ other band, Pinklogik, also did an odd 4/4 version of Joy Division’s “The Only Mistake”.

Industry links: Facebook, video, Cogent Pirate Bay block, CMJ charts dead, DistroKid retrospective.


Reviews: Artefact, Ritual Howls, La Orden (2016, 2017).


ARTEFACT: Votive Offering (Adagio 830) — debut album from a goth-leaning Welsh post-punk guitar band with anarchopunk and folk-punk influences. The proper punky dry demo-tape sound, rather than an excess of production: it sounds like you’re there. My favourites: “Siren”, “The Morigan”, “War” and “Votive Offering”.

RITUAL HOWLS: Into The Water (Felte) — drum machine goth rock with a bit of Morricone and the singer doing his best Pete Murphy. “Scatter The Scars”, the first track, is a really good one. “Bound By Light” and “Park Around The Corner” also do well. Above: “Scatter the Scars”, “Going Upstate”.

LA ORDEN: Demo — Texan guitar post-punk in Spanish, heavily to the punk rock end of the spectrum, with ethereal vocals. The songs are good, hook-laden and catch your attention immediately. This is a great demo EP and leaves me wanting more. Find of the day.

Quando Quango: Pigs and Battleships (1985).

Pigs and Battleships is a vastly underappreciated post-punk album of the female and funky variety. It gets into the mid-’80s Factory electro disco sound and the Latin-flavoured lounge jazz one, but if you liked the post-punk from the early ’80s that wasn’t just white boys with guitars, you will be well pleased with this. “Fela Kuti meets Kraftwerk somewhere between Manchester and Rotterdam,” as Gonnie Rietveld put it. They also just happened to presage most of UK acid house.

Gonnie Rietveld, City Life 9-23 February 1983; Mike, Gonnie, Simon and Barry, 22 May 1984, by Kevin Cummins

The one video I could find, for early single “Tingle”, from the June 1985 tape Factory Shorts (FACT 137)

Quando Quango were a Factory Records band, with links to several others. They were formed by Hillegonda “Gonnie” Rietveld and Mike Pickering in Rotterdam in 1981, relocating to Manchester in 1983. Their first drummer, Gonnie’s brother Reinier, stayed in Rotterdam, so they added Simon Topping from A Certain Ratio, who had just been training in Cuban percussion. They later added Derek Johnson of 52nd Street and then Derek’s brother Barry, formerly of Sweet Sensation and later of Aswad. The album was recorded by Gonnie, Mike, Simon and Barry.

Pigs and Battleships was released in November 1985 on LP and fancy cassette box. The Australian edition included a bonus 12″ of Mark Kamins remixes of their earlier singles “Love Tempo” (which had apparently made No. 4 on the Billboard dance chart) and “Atom Rock.” (I still have the Australian LP+12″ in a box here somewhere.) CD versions didn’t come until 2003 and then 2013.

The single “Genius” starts the album. It didn’t hit anywhere at the time, but has been a consistent favourite on reissue compilations. The magic bit is the triplet in the intro hi-hat, put in over a very straight 4/4 beat. In “Go Exciting,” excitable post-punk crosses into the Latin influences (that eventually became what was marketed as “acid jazz”) that were in the air around the Factory bands at the time. “Happy Boy” is slower reggae-flavoured electrified post-punk. “Rebel” (B-side of the “Genius” 12″) puts multiple layers of rhythm onto an electro lounge jazz backing with a shouted chorus.

Photo by Kevin Cummins, originally published in The Hit, I think, for a publicity piece for “Genius” talking about the Guinness billboard graffiti pictured

Side two starts with the light midpaced reggae of “This Feeling.” “S.T.” is straight up Latin-flavoured acid jazz. “40 Dreams” is heavy on the drum machine polyrhythms. The album finishes with “Low Rider”, a pretty straight cover of the War song.

Gonnie, Mike and Barry, 22 November 1985, by Kevin Cummins

The band finally petered out in late 1986. They had professional management by this time, who later formed dance label deConstruction, home of Mike Pickering’s hit band M People. Mike DJed at the Haçienda and more or less invented what became acid house; Gonnie went to academia, specialising in popular culture, particularly dance music cultures, at London South Bank University.

2003 LTM reissue, back cover

The 2003 LTM and 2013 Factory Benelux reissues have different bonus tracks (12″ mixes on the first, BBC sessions on the second), but both are up on Spotify.

Metal reviews: Blutzukker, Pulvis et Umbra (2015, 2016, 2017).

BLUTZUKKER: The Complete Collection — Blutzukker has a decade of history producing entertaining music in a beat-driven, danceable style the artist describes as “Vampiric Dark Electro.” This translates to “bog-standard electronica with guttural black metal vocals,” which is charming if you’re into that sort of thing. Overall the sound is similar to dozens of other electronic/industrial artists, but particularly reminds me of Project Pitchfork and Velvet Acid Christ with more tongue-in-cheek lyrics. All of Blutzukker’s music is currently available as a collection on Bandcamp. There are several remixes in The Complete Collection of “Fright Club,” a cheerily morbid song about what might be hiding under your bed. The original song is one of the best offerings in the collection and well worth a listen or three and would be at home on any Halloween playlist for a listener looking to avoid something as trite as “Monster Mash” but who still has a sense of humor and feels like dancing. Above: adorable Lego music video for “Fright Club”.

Under the name Ben Blutzukker the artist has reworked four of his previous songs as decently hard thrash in an EP called Analog Blood. The clash of black metal vocals with thrash metal arrangements is jarring but the new instrumentation is solid and compelling. Comparing the metal imaginings with their electronic predecessors is a fascinating glance into the creative process; the electronic versions are tight and fit well within the genre but seem flat compared to the energetic guitar and hard drums of the metal covers. Walpurgisnacht in particular stands out as an OK electronic song that makes a good metal song.


PULVIS ET UMBRA: Atmosfear — Death metallers Pulvis et Umbra have been making a gradual shift toward the more metalcore end of the spectrum in the last couple of years and the title track of their newly released album, Atmosfear, is a good sampling of both subgenres. The scream-whisper-singing is appropriate for the new direction and doesn’t distract from the low-end heavy guitar sound or manic speed of the track but it isn’t the growl that long-time fans might be expecting.

The band’s sound is clearly evolving, with more melodic elements present and less of the dissonance than in previous albums. Damy Mojitodka is a solid musician and has done some solid work in putting this album together; there’s a high degree of technical talent evident in the playing that never undermines the abrasiveness of the music as a whole.

Pulvis et Umbra will be touring eastern Europe with Skull Fist and Bastardizer in May 2017 to promote the new album, which is currently available through their Bigcartel store.

Internet backbone Cogent blocks Pirate Bay; network admins concerned by fallout.

Hollywood has wanted to break the internet for the past couple of decades, and may have found a sufficiently stupid and/or easily-intimidated collaborator. Internet backbone provider Cogent is filtering some Pirate Bay access. This is confirmed by Cogent, and here’s the block list.

Actual ISP network administrators are raising an eyebrow — Cogent has done this in a particularly hamfisted manner, with considerable collateral damage likely. Lying about your routing is a really bad move — you don’t announce that you can connect a particular remote destination then just send it down a black hole. (Closely analogous to a postie quietly throwing away mail he disapproves of.) Particularly if others share that IP — it’s a Cloudflare IP!

(Those links are from the North American Network Operators’ Group mailing list — the people who actually keep the Internet up and running. Even with hypothetical legal intimidation in play, this move by Cogent is seriously stupid on several levels.)

The workarounds are, of course, trivial: use IPv6, or point your hosts file at another Cloudflare IP.

The SF Disco Preservation Society: taped San Francisco club mixes from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

Cultural preservation doesn’t just mean the objects themselves; you need the context within which to appreciate them. We can’t rebuild great old clubs that don’t exist any more (well, mostly not), but we can put together some elements to remind people of just what was happening and the feel of it.

The SF Disco Preservation Society preserves old club mixes that happened to be recorded. They’ve ripped these tapes and put up several hundred hours of mixes from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Jim Hopkins by Steff Meldgaard

The SFDPS was started around 2010 by Jim Hopkins, who started DJing in 1978 at the tender age of 13 and has a pile of remixes. He started accumulating reel-to-reel and cassette mixes and putting them up from the personal archives of DJs and their families:


The universe works in mysterious ways! We recently acquired a reel-to-reel tape deck for our studio so that we could start offering reel-to-reel tape conversions. A week later, while browsing the Craigslist classified ads online, I found a post from a woman looking to have a reel-to-reel tape collection converted to CD. I contacted her and was so excited when she told me what the tapes contained…….Her dad’s (DJ MICHAEL LEE) live disco mixes that he recorded while DJing at various clubs in San Francisco from 1976-1979! She dropped the tapes off to me, I loaded a few on the reel-to-reel deck, and was completly blown away by the collection. She was also kind enough to include a stack of Disco and music magazines from the same era, as well as her dad’s record pool charts. I will be archiving all of his mixtapes as well as posting his charts and scans of all of the magazines that she brought to me. This is San Francisco Disco history! It needs to be preserved for future generations of Disco fans. We hope you enjoy these pieces of audio history! An extra special thanks goes out to Rhani, Michael’s daughter, for holding on to this material and handing the collection over to me to preserve.

We have also acquired an additional 220 reel to reel DJ mixes from the 70’s/80’s. A large box of cassette DJ mixes are also coming our way!!!

The Facebook page is kept up to date with new rips. “A lot of these guys are getting up in years,” Hopkins tells SFist, “and this is stuff that shouldn’t be lost.”