The Portland quartet conjure up the gauzy decadence of New Romanticism and the post-post-punk arrogance of electroclash, with former Heroin and Antioch Arrow Aaron Montaigne’s über-darq vocals at the helm.
“If you like X, you’re gonna love the shit out of Y” is the sort of statement usually preceded by being sent something unfortunate. I get why people would want to pass their Sisters of Mercyisms and minimal meanderings on to me; I mainly wear black and very frequently use the word goth in my articles—a word with a pretty loose definition by this point. I like music with a bleaker slant, but if it sounds like a straight-up retro-trip then you can usually count on your latest release getting a review from my trashcan. If it’s especially bad, I put the folder or file on top of a .jpg of a motorcycle and make it leap over a .jpg of me listening to other, better albums.
Dais is a label I’ve found to be pretty damn reliable when it comes to finding music with that certain element of darkness, while still sounding fresh and —more importantly—weird. With a discography that includes releases from Bestial Mouths, King Dude, and Iceage, I’m now predisposed to give any mention of their name my full attention. Which is why I was pleased to see that they were releasing Pris, the sophomore album of Dangerous Boys Club. The Portland quartet debuted in 2010 with Vril, and though they’ve tightened up their sound a bit since then, they’ve lost none of the rawness that puts the edge on their fuzzy synth-gloom. In just over half an hour, they conjure up the gauzy decadence of New Romanticism and the post-post-punk arrogance of electroclash and give it a skeleton of scuzzy, washed-out synths, death rock-friendly guitars, and Aaron Montaigne’s über-darq vocals. Kicking off with the bombastic energy of “Electric”, the nine tracks on Pris tread similar territories (take a shot every time the word ‘night’ is mentioned) while each remain distinct. The jagged stabs of “Guillotine” especially stand out, a pummeling track that treads in the waters of industrial before exploding into a wash of refracted vocals that fall like ketamine rain.
There was a time when the g-word would mean the kiss of death for any musician wanting to be taken seriously by journalists. What endears me to DBC more than anything else is how blatant they are about the whole thing, even as they sneak in through the backdoor. It can get a bit cheesy at times; you can’t listen to those vocals and tell me Montaigne doesn’t have an enormous Clan of Xymox poster taped up somewhere in his bedroom. It’s not surprising—though more famous for his work in post-hardcore legends Heroin and Antioch Arrow, I’ve seen Montaigne rep the black before in Magick Daggers. Yet where other bands might not be able to carry off such a high level of dour goth pomposity, here it works—thanks partly to the music backing it. There’s a a certain aural tinge that seems to permeate much of the West Coast “death disco” scene (see also: The Sixteens, The Vanishing, New Collapse, etc.); when it broke, I said to myself, “This is going to make goth cool again.” I wasn’t quite right (that would come later), but I like to think that such acts paved the way for DBC and other bands to wear their influences proudly. Whether or not you see the need for genre classification, it’s never a bad thing to let that freaky-ass flag fly… provided you wear it well.
Pris is out now on Dais. Stream the full album here.
Don’t be fooled by the mutant mongolism; BRANES know how to use theirs. Los Angeles-based Ivy Slime and Susan Subtract have been on a slow rise since last year’s 7″ EP Anatomically Correct (a darkened slab of spastic synthpunk that hearkens back to Bay Area acts like The Vanishing and Sixteens) and 2012 finds them making their European debut later this year in August, as well as at the legendary DIY art-music festival Drop Dead. We asked them ten questions. They gave us ten answers.
1. Your most memorable show?
Ivy: We recently played Burger Records Punk Festival in Santa Ana, CA. There were a bunch of local, Southern California punk bands on the bill….and then us. We really didn’t fit in and were confused about playing the festival in the first place but we were all like “Whatever, it’s chill”. It was especially awkward when we tried to do a cover of the Devo song ‘Strange Pursuit’ because everyone was just standing there really confused while I was flailing around having a mosh with myself after having jumped off the stage into the crowd. Then my dear friend Kevin Rhea from this really sick punk band Nasa Space Universe‘s mom showed up (a local OC punk show favorite) and she was screaming at me during the whole song about how she was more punk than me and I was like “Look I’m not going to argue with you, lady. You are way more punk than I could ever aspire to be”. But it was cool because she was the only one who got the Devo reference and when I was writhing around on the floor she, like, dance-tackled me and stuff. So anyways, the show was in this fancy schmancy theater type place in Orange County and, in an effort to conspire against The OC, I decided to throw 10 bags of In-N-Out french fries at the audience during our last song and create a huge punk boy combat boot grease mush mess. I got passive aggressively yelled at by the venue owner after our set and he told me that we would never get a show in Orange County ever again.
Susan: For me, our most memorable show was at The Swamp House in Olympia, WA. That was pretty much the first show after our national tour we had just finished with Primary Colors. We had driven that tour in a roomy van loaded with a full sound system, but this time we were in a tiny hatch back car and hoping to borrow a PA. So we arrived in Olympia, cramped up and a little exhausted from the drive, and pulled up to this amazing, painted black house in the woods. Awesome. Slowly but surely, more and more mutants started showing up and people began to get really ancy for a show. At the same time, we realized that there was no PA at the house. The first band played; a bass, drums, vocals trio. The singer hooked a mic up to a bass amp. Excellent. We decided that we would take the same approach to sound. We got all set up, everything sounded surprisingly great, and then my ESQ-1 crashed. The story of how a very negative nancy in Baltimore cursed this synth can be saved for another time. The synth crashing seemed to play to our advantage because it built some suspense. There were definitely more people in this living room than there should have been. I got the synth functioning well enough, started my sequencer, the heavy drums of ‘Ramsey in the Dark’ came in, someone turned off the lights, and a weird mutant freak-out in the middle of the woods at a black house owned by a satanic dentist ensued. There have been other memorable shows, but that one stands out.
2. If you were still in high school, which clique would you belong to?
Ivy: When I was in high school I was a goth, and then I was a raver, and then I was a graver, and then I was a cyber-goth, and then I was just a goth again.
Susan: I was a queer punk that really liked irking all the macho types. I’m sure nothing would change if I were to do it all again.
3. An album that changed the way you thought?
Ivy: There are a few, but there’s one that’s sticking out to me and it’s not super cool. When I was in high school I worked next door to Lou’s Records in Encinitas, CA and I would always go in there hunting for new music. I came across The Birthday Party on one of the shelves, and had heard that they were something I should listen to, but the only album they had was Live 1981-82 so I bought it. I remember immediately despising it, but then upon a few more listens wondering what it was about the music that I found so detestable…and that really intrigued me. I became so fascinated with Nick Cave‘s approach to music and looking back now it seems like it was an acquired taste or something. After getting into other Birthday Party records and The Boys Next Door it really opened a lot of doors for me to the kind of music genres that I’m so enraptured by today. I’m sure I get some of my vocal inspiration from Nick Cave’s crazy inflections. I also feel like the first time I listened to the album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. was a similar experience to what some people refer to as “FINDING GOD!”.
Susan: DEVO – Duty Now for the Future. I heard this album consistently starting at a very young age. I would say it was pivotal to the development of my current outlook on absolutely everything.
4. Name three essential artists.
Ivy: 1) Danny Elfman 2) Gary Numan 3) I think I have to say Mikey Ray-Von because we have a song called his name.
Susan: Devo, Rudimentary Peni, Front 242.
5. A film or book that greatly influenced your music?
Ivy: Gordon’s Blender Tutorials by Michael Ray-Von.
Susan: Neuromancer by William Gibson.
6. Do you believe in the paranormal?
Susan: I myself am strange and unusual.
7. Your current favorite song?
Ivy: My Last.fm account is telling me that it is ‘After The Fall’ by Klaus Nomi, but I’m not sure if I believe that. Susan and I just watched the Klaus Nomi documentary The Nomi Song. It was literally the saddest movie in the world. If you haven’t seen it, don’t ever watch it.
Susan: I’ve been really into listening to the new //TENSE// tracks on Soundcloud. ‘Static Grey II’ has a lot of plays.
8. What goes in your coffee?
Ivy: Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze.
Susan: More coffee.
9. What defines your music-making process?
Ivy: Generation Spaghettification.
Susan: Searching for the songs already written in our mind to evoke that voidal sensation – so familiar, yet so strange.
10. Together, or alone?
Ivy: I am alone, I am utterly alone. By the time you read this I will be gone, having jumped….having plummeted… off the Winter River Bridge.