Category: Reviews (Page 3 of 162)

KAT VON D Love Made Me Do It

TV, beauty and tattoo celebrity Kat Von D puts her alternative universe to music on her debut album ‘Love Made Me Do It’.

Having already made guest appearances with IAMX, Kat Von D had classical piano training in her youth while she has strengthened her abilities under the guidance of vocal coach Ken Tamplin. Although the record began life as a collaboration with Grammy nominated songwriter Linda Perry, it is primarily produced by Kat Von D with her band of multi-instrumentalist Gregg Foreman, keyboardist Sammi Jo Doll and drummer Dave Parley while Dan Haigh of GUNSHIP did the album’s final mixing.

Opening with a two piece suite, the ‘Vanish’ intro offers a sinister dramatic synthy theme not that removed from GUNSHIP with its big electronic keys. Meanwhile, the main act offers a brooding spacious piano and strings ballad co-written with Linda Perry; it all acts as a solemn setting for “a crown of thorns that shows no mercy” before a rumbling climax kicks in.

A strident IAMX demeanour dominates the darkness of ‘Enough’, which offers strong vocals and a hook from THE CURE’s ‘Lullaby’ and when a sparkling instrumental kicks in, the tension only increases during a gloriously mighty second half; the work of noted songwriter Chris Brenner, it faces the spectre of unhealthy relationships.

The energetic synth rock punch of ‘Exorcism’ written by Nick Long and Tommy English develops on that tension with its topics of love, loss and moving on; it is so accomplished that this could be a mainstream pop hit by P!NK were it not wholly dressed in black…

Featuring a duet with Peter Murphy, the magnificent ‘Protected’ is a synthwave ballad that sees Kat Von D’s contralto blending well with the striking BAUHAUS front man as his vocal treatments add an extra weary otherworldly presence to the wonderful collage of sequences behind them. ‘Fear You’ perhaps suffers being next to ‘Protected’ and all that came before it, but smokey vocals and a contrast of shade and light maintains interest with an impactful rhythmic barrage.

Working with Eurovision winning composer Stefan Örn, ‘I Am Nothing’ utilises a great contralto CHROMATICS meets countrified gothwave vibe. This glamourous but unsettling air, while very ‘Twin Peaks’, is also very Kat Von D. The lady herself describes it as music for the “Anti-Prom that never happened but all alternative teens have dreamed about since the 80s” and “A sad bop for goths’ broken hearts that will end up in their older sister’s pop playlist”, but the swirling solo is the perfect tie to the exquisite suit.

The throbbing discothèque gothique of ‘Lost At Sea’ is rather good and powers up for the chorus to add drama before a string quartet provide a solemn drifting close. The Middle Eastern flavoured ‘Interlude’ is much more than the title suggests, recalling the more recent sound design favoured by Gary Numan. Complete with devilish whispers, it acts as a perfect bridge to the final quarter of the album.

Another of the Linda Perry co-writes, ‘Pretending’ imagines an energetic driving Brat Pack movie montage song made by Allison Reynolds, the Ally Sheedy character in ‘The Breakfast Club’ and yes, she’s dancing in the Shermer High School library to her own creation too! Meanwhile, ‘Easier Sung Than Said’ provides more arpeggio laden synth rock that will provoke singalongs and fist pumps.

Closing the collection, ‘The Calling’ is a pulsing widescreen epic with wailing banshee backing vocals, aided by Danny Lohner of NINE INCH NAILS fame. It also recalls GUNSHIP, as do a number of tracks on ‘Love Made Me Do It’, before dropping to just our heroine and a lone drone for the conclusion.

An impressive debut album, ‘Love Made Me Do It’ successfully puts Kat Von D’s striking persona to music in a blend of synths, goth, rock and pop for a collection of songs that cover loss and vulnerability which many will be able to relate to.


‘Love Made Me Do It’ is released by Kartel Music Group on 27th August 2021 in red or gold vinyl LP, red cassette, CD digipack and digital formats

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Sequoia Emmanuelle
26th August 2021

RAGO & FARINA vs ITALOCONNECTION

Francesco Rago and Gianluigi Farina are two Italo disco trailblazers who have been behind the projects such as ATELIER FOLIE, EXPANSIVES, DECADANCE and ‘LECTRIC WORKERS.

Meanwhile, Fred Ventura is another pioneer of Italo who in 2012 looked to modernise that cult dance form with Paolo Gozzetti via their production duo ITALOCONNECTION.

RAGO & FARINA vs ITALOCONNECTION collects a number of reworked and revisited cult favourites plus more recent original material as four way joint venture for 2021.

First released as a nine track digital compendium to celebrate their years of friendship, collaboration and travels, Nadanna presents an expanded CD edition that adds four extra tracks. Beginning with the classic blippy 1983 vintage of ATELIER FOLIE’s No Rhyme No Reason’, the ITALOCONNECTION Rework toughens things up but the very spirited vocals of Francesco Rago are retained, along with the bells and NEW ORDER styled bass.

With more under the ATELIER FOLIE banner, the ITALOCONNECTION Rework of ‘Walking In The Neon’ provides a tighter and squelchier take with deeper gated vocal treatments, although crucially the key synth melodies are all present and correct. The slick 1983 original was by Peter Richard but actually co-written by Rago and Farina with Chuck Rolando, a member of Italian group PASSENGERS. Coming as an extra, the superb Tribute Rework of ‘Walking In The Neon’ from Danish DJ Flemming Dalum is busied up with an electro-funky lilt and some grainy vocodered tone poetry to enhance its spacey quality.

The ITALOCONNECTION Rework of EXPANSIVES’ ‘Life With You’ originally released in 1982 makes the most out of the string machines that are now attached to a more powerful beat. Meanwhile the cavernous vocals and vocoder provide an out-of-this-world quality, the reverbed clap collage and electronic swoops also adding intrigue.

Repaying the compliment, Rago and Farina remix the Fred Ventura single ‘The Years (Go By)’ and while more rigid than the 1985 version, it still sounds glorious.

From 2013, ITALOCONNECTION’s remix of ATELIER FOLIE’s ‘Leave Me Alone’ has much less reverb than previously and resonates in that classic Italo style with bright keyboard melodies and orchestra stabs; a fraught vocal matches the percussive aggression while some minimal bass guitar acknowledges the influence of NEW ORDER. The bonus ‘LECTRIC WORKERS Dub Rework makes more of that aspect for some Spaghetti Western disco.

Signalling the 2017 comeback of Francesco Rago and Gigi Farina as ATELIER FOLIE, ‘Freedom Time’ was a modern anthemic disco song produced Fred Ventura and Paolo Gozzetti as ITALOCONNECTION. Next to the bonus ITALOCONNECTION Remix, the original Club Mix sounds much cleaner.

Less frantic than the other tracks, DECADANCE’s 1983 single ‘On An On (Fears Keep On)’ does not lose its classic electronic presence with a new solid bassline provided by ITALOCONNECTION. At nine minutes, it is something of a marathon but while a charming female vocal by Vik provides another layer over the instrumentally strong backing. The bonus Slo-fi Mix does as it suggests.

A new ITALOCONNECTION recording with Francesco Rago, ‘Unbelievable’ sees less of a snarl from Rago as he duets with Ventura, but it’s a superb coming together of Italo legends bursting with catchy hooks and evolving melodies.

Closing the main act is the previously unreleased ‘LECTRIC WORKERS instrumental ‘Borealis’ which stomps at 6/8, this archive recording acting as a glorious homage to Jean-Michel Jarre, complete with swimmy Eminent strings and snakey Minipops approximations.

Reworked, produced and mixed with love by four Italian disco legends, if you like Italo or the dancier side of NEW ORDER or PET SHOP BOYS, you will like RAGO & FARINA vs ITALOCONNECTION.

Modernised for the 21st Century without losing the original melodic spirit, this is just the sun-kissed tonic for the summer after a tricky year and a bit for all.


‘Rago & Farina vs Italoconnection’ is released by Nadanna as a CD, available from https://www.juno.co.uk/products/rago-farina-vs-rago-farina-vs-italoconnection/839607-01/ or http://www.poponaut.de/rago-farina-italoconnection-rago-farina-italoconnection-p-20550.html

9 track digital edition available from https://italoconnection.bandcamp.com/album/rago-farina-vs-italoconnection

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th August 2021

TOBIAS BERNSTRUP Petrichor

Following up 2018’s ‘Technophobic’ album, Tobias Bernstrup presents his long awaited sixth long player ‘Petrichor’ on the German independent label Nadanna Records.

A collection of intelligent political and historical observations set to music, the striking Swedish performance artist refines his “Italo Noir” template across eleven tracks, blurring the lines between electronic disco, synthpop, goth and post-punk.

The opening track ‘Maledicta’ provides a moody but melodic instrumental overture to set the scene.

But the superb club-friendly ‘Private Eye’ takes a look at the surveillance society in the spirit of TRANS-X with a throbbing starkness to hammer home the sinister voyeur narrative. Interestingly, an equally danceable if less frantic cousin ‘Stranger’ talks of a “stranger on the screen”, “disposable love” and a “devil in disguise”. It outlines how in the modern world, people care more about internet influencers and conspiracy theorists than family and friends, but Bernstrup himself is actually referring to online dating.

Like OMD, Tobias Bernstrup has regularly highlighted the darker aspects of technological innovation and ‘Challenger’ is thematically reminiscent ‘Enola Gay’ in presenting a tragedy in the form of a pop song with a clever dual meaning; it even uses a processed recording of Ronald Reagan’s “touch the face of God” address to the nation after the disaster for its ending. Meanwhile rather hauntingly and actually lyrically inspired by the very topic covered in ‘Enola Gay’, Bernstrup quotes J Robert Oppenheimer on ‘I Am Become’.

The start of the second half is crashingly punctuated by ‘Loderunner’, a strident instrumental statement with occasional vocoder phrasing.

The rhythmic dash of ‘Heartbeat’ is superb, chugging in triplets and orchestra stabs for a full Hi-NRG effect; a cover version of the Los Angeles rockers RED7 number from Michael Mann’s cult movie ‘Manhunter’, Bernstrup’s beautifully pulsating treatment offers a big improvement on the original. However, although ‘Staring’ does the full Italo with brassy synths stabbing away, it paradoxically captures the spectre of solitude to encapsulate the Noirish ethos of Bernstrup.

Continuing this theme, the steadfast ‘Petrichor’ title song utilises the pitched up choir samples as its tool of expression while ‘Into Oblivion’ is more swirly Eurodance while on the same lyrical gist. The Jan Hammer-inspired ‘Only One’ closes and reinforces Bernstrup’s outsider status as a purveyor of “Italo Noir”; melodic yet vocally more in common with Goth and EBM, it makes the Swede quite unique.

A worthy and enjoyable follow-up to ‘Technophobic’ using the vintage digital rhythms of the Oberheim DMX and LinnDrum as its heart alongside Korg PolySix basslines and Roland JX-8P pads, ‘Petrichor’ is as Bernstrup himself puts it, “a Film Noir in cold blue and pink light that you can dance to”.


‘Petrichor’ is released by Nadanna Records on 20th August 2021 in CD with 7 bonus tracks and 18 track digital editions, limited black or transparent magenta vinyl LP with lyric inner sleeve, A3 poster + numbered postcard available in October

The CD can be ordered from https://www.poponaut.de/tobias-bernstrup-petrichor-limited-edition-p-20549.html

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th August 2021

CATHERINE MOAN Drop It!

Having treated the world with her charming cover of the Alan Wilder-penned DEPECHE MODE B-side ‘Fools’, Philadelphian songstress Angel Jefferson returns as CATHERINE MOAN with the self-composed ‘Drop It!’.

Coming from her forthcoming debut long player ‘Chain Reaction’, ‘Drop It!’ channels Angel Jefferson’s innocent sound in the manner of ELECTRIC YOUTH meeting STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE and MARSHEAUX via her own bedroom aesthetic. As she craves the nightlife after a year of lockdown confinement, her DIY approach carries over into the karaoke booth video for ‘Drop It!’ which illustrates the sense of fun behind CATHERINE MOAN with Jefferson happily performing to herself.

Dreamily floating over a classic four chord progression and eerily, if coincidentally, reminiscent of the great lost 1984 single ‘Summer Spies’ by FATAL CHARM, ‘Drop It!’ is the result of isolation yet is musically soothing and uplifting, despite a sombre apocalyptic understatement to “let’s keep this fire burning ‘til the record stops turning, ‘til the lights and the drugs stop working…”

While ‘Chain Reaction’ will not include ‘Fools’, as well as ‘Drop It!, the album will feature the airy CHROMATICS meets THE CURE moods of ‘Body Work’ and the punchy North American popwave of ‘The Ordinary’.

Along with DANZ CM, GLITBITER and MECHA MAIKO, CATHERINE MOAN is among the emerging crop of independent North American female synth artists who are demonstrating how modern pop can be self-produced, accessible yet artistic and considered. Not pandering to the mass market expectations of major record labels, they are projecting their own voices without interference and acting as fine role models, highlighting that reality talent shows are not the only way…


‘Drop It!’ is from the forthcoming album ‘Chain Reaction’ released by Born Losers on 24th September 2021 as a transparent electric blue vinyl LP and download, pre-order direct from https://catherinemoan.bandcamp.com/album/chain-reaction-2

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https://open.spotify.com/artist/1j3eSDACLPhrEDYDkHYF9I


Text by Chi Ming Lai
16th August 2021

JAKUZI Hiç Işık Yok

Istanbul-based JAKUZI released their debut album ‘Fantezi Müzik’ in 2017.

The musical vehicle of Kutay Soyocak, JAKUZI impressed with their 2019 second album ‘Hata Payı’ (translated from Turkish as “Tolerance”) with the NEW ORDER influenced synth driven post-punk anthem ‘Toz’ being a key track.

JAKUZI release their first new music in two years with a two song EP ‘Açık Bir Yara’. The best of the pair is the great new Italo flavoured song ‘Hiç Işık Yok’. The usual cowbells are substituted by processed pots and pans, while the mix of classic brassy Italo tones and chilling synth pads blend to create something rather unusual and extraordinary.

The approach to the vocal intonation on ‘Hiç Işık Yok’ recalls the sinister but celebratory club romp ‘Take Me To The Club’ by MANNEQUIN from the Electroclash movie ‘Party Monster’; it has been co-produced with Maurizio Baggio who mixed the most recent albums by BOY HARSHER and THE SOFT MOON. Working with the man from Vicenza, the Italian turned what had been a gothic futureless mood piece into a dark but catchy dance number.

Meanwhile the accompanying ‘Açık Bir Yara’ title song co-produced by Kerem Brumend takes more of a gothic vibe like an EBM flavoured DEPECHE MODE with Soyocak sounding perfect for its sombre mood.

Both songs show an increased use of electronics compared with JAKUZI’s previous output and were written before the pandemic crisis, but their release is timely as they address the world’s changing needs while many reconsider the priorities in their lives. Never afraid to address the sort of personal psychological and mental health issues not known for public discussion in Turkish society, JAKUZI continue to offer a voice of hope.


‘Hiç Işık Yok’ is released by City Slang as part of the ‘Açık Bir Yara EP’ bundle, available as a download from https://jakuzi.bandcamp.com/

https://www.jakuz1.com/

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https://open.spotify.com/artist/0xeyL5pfnTtx7LGpqLo4PG


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th August 2021

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