Tag: Sacred Bones Records (Page 3 of 4)

ZOLA JESUS Okovi: Additions

Following the remarkable success of her latest album, the American songstress, who loves all things Russian, comes back with a few “additions” to the stunningly personal record that was ‘Okovi’.

Nika Roza Danilova, also known as Nicole Hummel, is the artist behind the ZOLA JESUS project. Known and adored for her darker fuller synth productions, the intensity of her vocals and the poignant subjects of her lyrics, Danilova brought back the frosty aura to her recent offering. Dealing with the pain of her closest, a friend’s suicide attempts, mental illness and cancer, gave ZOLA JESUS a challenging canvas upon her Wisconsin homecoming. Shackled in Slavic “okovi”, the artist channelled her strengths and weaknesses, stressing that her work wasn’t up for critical scrutiny, as it remains of a personal and fragile nature.

The ‘Additions’ offer further remixes of four tracks from ‘Okovi’, with ‘Ash To Bone’ featuring Johnny Jewel of CHROMATICS’ cinematic take on the melancholic masterpiece, as well as Katie Gately’s dark version of the stunning ‘Siphon’. The black metal band WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM take on ‘Exhumed’, turning it into a punchy industrial anthem while lastly, Joanne Pollock twists ‘Soak’ into a parallel reality of tomorrow.

But the real treat arrives with the four brand new tracks, extending ‘Okovi’ into an even more epic enterprise. Gleaming with powerful gritty synth, ‘Vacant’ hits where least expected, mutilating all senses and destroying all predictions. It’s tribal, harsh, pushy and well above board.

The single ‘Bound’ continues the utilisation of found sounds and marries dance elements with the uniqueness of Danilova’s musical interpretations. Hauntingly eerie, purposefully messy and freakishly fresh, ‘Bound’ rips apart the boundaries. The more classically sounding ‘Pilot Light’ irons out the creases with multiple vocal interplays, the gentleness of straightforward melody and the uncertainty of its ending.

‘Bitten Wool’ meanders through Japanese bells, a raw vocal and the pure genius of a non-complicated melody, fitting with the concept of ‘Okovi’ in a seamless manner. As Danilova puts it: “The songs on ‘Additions’ traverse a vast amount of sonic ground, but taken together, they cohere remarkably well as an album, all while serving to enrich the experience of Okovi”

Danilova follows IAMX’s idea, where his 2015 ‘Metanoia’ was followed with an ‘Addendum’; something a little bit extra to complete the album journey.

The four new songs were indeed to be part of ‘Okovi’: “Each of them represents a snapshot of my journey in making the record, and are just as precious to me as the songs that made it onto the final track listing. The remixes are beloved in their own way, as most were born from organic circumstances, and have drawn the original songs into completely new atmospheres”

‘Okovi: Additions’ is released on 6th April 2018 by Sacred Bones Records as a limited deluxe edition grey + black starburst vinyl LP combo with a cassette in a latex printed wrap around sleeve, pre-order from https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/products/sbr197-zola-jesus-okovi-additions





Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
27th March 2018

THE SOFT MOON Live at The Dome

With fourth album ‘Criminal’ now doing the rounds, The Dome in Tufnell Park was filled to the brim as Oakland’s THE SOFT MOON performed the only UK date on their current tour.

Essentially the one-man project of Luis Vasquez, their live line-up is expanded with the addition of Luigi Pianezzola on bass / synths and Matteo Vallicelli on live / electronic drums including a nifty four pad retro Simmons combo.

Vasquez started the show solo with a rendition of the dark Numan-esque title track from his new album before being joined by his two sidemen. What initially hits home most about THE SOFT MOON live experience is the clarity of their sound; on record they have (at times) an impenetrable and murky aesthetic.

But here in the live arena, there is a much more muscular delivery with the superb PA system at The Dome proving transformational sound-wise for the band. On stage, Vasquez showcases himself as a really accomplished musician, effortlessly flipping from guitar to a Moog Sub 37 synth and then to live percussion; he is an artist that holds the audience transfixed, combined with a low down (head bowed) signature synth playing posture.

Special mention must also be given to percussionist Vallicelli; combining the tom-driven style of NEW ORDER’s Stephen Morris and the motorik beat of Krautrock, there was never any unnecessary overplaying and when a song needed electronic drums, he switched to his stand-up Simmons set-up instead.

With a set combining an even balance of tracks from THE SOFT MOON’s four albums, there was plenty here to please both old and new fans alike, with the newer material from ‘Criminal’ slotting in effortlessly with cuts from ‘Deeper’, ‘Zeros’ and their eponymous debut long player. Standout track ‘Give Something’ from ‘Criminal’ proved a mid-set highlight and showed off Vasquez’s wide vocal range, whilst from the same album the EBM bass-driven ‘Father’ got The Dome crowd moving.

‘Wrong’ from ‘Deeper’ gave Vasquez a chance to showcase his percussive skills with an improvised trash can drum played almost Batucada-style plus additional hi-Q synth drums overlayed by Pianezzola on a Roland trigger pad. ‘Tiny Spiders’ was one of many songs in the set to feature the classic Post-Punk flanged guitar sound much beloved of SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES’ John McGeoch and PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED’s Keith Levine and in places, the spirit of Crawley’s finest THE CURE was also summoned.

After a set which seemed to cruise by, the band came back for two encores of ‘Black’ and ‘Want’ (with one word titles being a signature thing for the band).

With ‘Criminal’ picking up some really stellar reviews and the band selling out venues effortlessly, it is surely only a matter of time before THE SOFT MOON shift up to a higher level of exposure and popularity.

In the wrong hands, this kind of material has the potential to fail live, but Vasquez and co show how nihilistic anthems of despair and alienation can be truly engaging when performed. At the risk of being overtly pun-tastic, it really would be criminal to miss this band live… highly recommended.

Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity

‘Criminal’ is released by Sacred Bones Records in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats

THE SOFT MOON 2018 European Tour dates include:

Yverdon Les Bains L’Amalgame (20th February), Milan Magnolia (21st February), Rome Monk (22nd February), Napoli Lanificio (23rd February), Bologna Covo (24th February), Munich Kranhalle (7th March), Leipzig UT Connewitz (8th March), Hamburg Hafenklang (9th March), Cologne Gebäude 9 (10th March), Saarbrucken Garage Club (11th March), Nijmegen Doomroosje (13th March), Lille Les Paradis Artificiels (14th March), Nantes Stereolux (15th March), Lyon Epicerie Moderne (16th March)





Text and Photos by Paul Boddy
19th February 2018


THE SOFT MOON is essentially a one-man project comprising of multi-instrumentalist and producer Luis Vasquez.

Hailing from Oakland in the USA, THE SOFT MOON gained wider exposure when they supported DEPECHE MODE on the EU leg of their ‘Delta Machine’ tour.

With a sound that distills both synth-heavy Krautrock and dark Post-Punk guitars+bass, ‘Criminal’ is the outfit’s fourth album following their emergence in 2010 with their eponymous debut.

Opening track ‘Burn’ is a take no prisoners kind of track, combining a lo-fi electronic kick with a flanged guitar sound favoured by John McGeoch from SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES; the guitar riff itself helps differentiate the track from your typical angsty NINE INCH NAILS fare and ‘Burn’ provides a strong opener to ‘Criminal’.

‘Choke’ slows the tempo with a vocal buried in a fuzz of what could be synths or guitars, the mixed up wall of sound obscuring the detail in the individual elements. Dirty, but hypnotic, the three minute track doesn’t outstay its welcome and signals to the listener that ‘Criminal’ isn’t going to be an easy ride…

’Give Something’ is a reverb drenched piece with the first real slivers of a more melodic vocal line from Vasquez; showcasing a bass part which recalls Simon Raymonde from COCTEAU TWINS, the song features a nifty gliding synth solo. The dark and twisted chorus hook “Give, give me something, when I give nothing” is wonderfully catchy and pinpoints ‘Give Something’ as a real highlight here and a certainty to be a candidate for a future single.

‘Like A Father’ initially revolves around a filthy EBM bass synth sequencer part, live / electronic drums and another densely textured vocal / guitar wall. The main elements which save the track from being one chord repetitive filler is the mix of time signatures which keeps the listener on their toes and a middle eight breakdown which takes ‘Like A Father’ on a welcome diversion with a driving live bassline entering the mix.

‘The Pain’ takes you on a cathartic journey with another bass heavy delivery, a self-doubting Vasquez intones “How can you love someone like me?” and climaxes the piece with a drum-less MY BLOODY VALENTINE-inspired ending.

‘It Kills’ is a dense tom-driven piece with another Banshee-inspired guitar line and a fuzzed-up chorus which recalls mid-period NINE INCH NAILS, the synth-based finish to the piece provides a welcome respite from the full-on assault of distortion.

‘ILL’, ‘Young’ and ‘Born Into This’ all mine a similar sound to their predecessors, before the title track ‘Criminal’ shares some welcome musical DNA with the direction that GARY NUMAN is currently following. The usage of a Roland CR78 loop and bolt-like shots of distorted noise help to reinforce this and a more melodic vocal from Vasquez brings the album to an epic close.

Ultimately it’s the live guitar and bass sound here which saves ‘Criminal’ from sounding overtly like a NINE INCH NAILS pastiche; but this aside, if you are a fan of the UK Post-Punk scene and favour flanged / reverbed guitars, then there is plenty to lap up here.

Another couple of tracks along the lines of ‘Give Something’ would have been welcome, but for fans of the darker side of electronica combined with live instrumentation, ‘Criminal’ would be a welcome addition to their musical collection.

With thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity

‘Criminal’ is released by Sacred Bones Records in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats on 2nd February 2018

THE SOFT MOON 2018 European Tour dates include:

Baden One of a Million Festival (2nd February), Marghera CS Rivolta (3rd February), Copenhagen Pumpehuset (6th February), Gothenburg Pustervik (7th February), Stockholm Slaktkyrkan (8th February), Oslo Bla (9th February), Berlin Urban Spree (11th-12th February), Paris Le Trabendo (14th February), Amsterdam, Paradiso Noord (15th February), London The Dome (16th February), Brussels Orangerie Botanique (17th February), Luxembourg, LU – De Gudde Wëllen (18th February), Yverdon Les Bains L’Amalgame (20th February), Milan Magnolia (21st February), Rome Monk (22nd February), Napoli Lanificio (23rd February), Bologna Covo (24th February), Munich Kranhalle (7th March), Leipzig UT Connewitz (8th March), Hamburg Hafenklang (9th March), Cologne Gebäude 9 (10th March), Saarbrucken Garage Club (11th March), Nijmegen Doomroosje (13th March), Lille Les Paradis Artificiels (14th March), Nantes Stereolux (15th March), Lyon Epicerie Moderne (16th March)





Text by Paul Boddy
17th January 2018

JOHN CARPENTER Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998

In terms of his importance in regards to the timeline of electronic music, JOHN CARPENTER often gets overlooked in favour of the usual suspects like KRAFTWERK, DEPECHE MODE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE et al.

Carpenter was unique in that as well as directing his movies, he usually scored them too and in his canon has a huge range of influential works, ranging from the proto-slasher ‘Halloween’ to the pre-CGI horror-fest remake ‘The Thing’ and the unique and prescient political commentary ‘They Live’.

‘Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998’ sees Carpenter re-recording his most well-known film themes with the help of his son Cody and his godson Daniel Davies, both of whom collaborated on his 2015 ‘Lost Themes’ album.

Rather than running chronologically, ‘Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998’ chooses to open with the theme to the Lovecraftian psychological horror film ‘In The Mouth of Madness’; unashamedly owing a huge debt to METALLICA’s ‘Enter Sandman’, the track is not typical of Carpenter’s most well-known soundtrack material, but still showcases a huge musical diversity at work.

‘Assault on Precinct 13’ features one of THE great synth basslines, latterly re-worked by BOMB THE BASS on their 1998 hit ‘Megablast’ and also re-interpreted by UK synthesist Mark Shreeve, it still sounds an utterly brilliant and minimalist electro track. Lesser known themes such as the ones to ‘The Fog’ and ‘Prince of Darkness’ are both paired-down atmospheric pieces which evoke a sense of menace and whilst the films they accompanied were not Carpenter’s strongest works, they still hold up as standalone pieces of music.

It could be argued that the theme to ‘Escape From New York’ almost single-handedly invented the Synthwave genre; with its TANGERINE DREAM influenced synth brass motif and unique chord progression, Carpenter and collaborator Alan Howarth were some of the first musicians to use a Linn Drum Computer on the original soundtrack and it’s hard to imagine films like ‘Drive’ sounding the same without their influence.

There is very little left to say about the iconic ‘Halloween’ theme, except that the version here remains relatively faithful to the original with the exception of an added prominent 4/4 kick drum and a more Moog-like bass sound. Equipment and budgetary limitations had a huge influence on the Carpenter sound, often resulting in a paired down minimalist feel with sometimes only a skittering hi-hat providing the only percussion; ‘Halloween’ remains a classic example of this.

The theme to Carpenter’s version of ‘The Thing’ was intriguing because composer ENNIO MORRICONE was drafted in to provide the score and the music he came up with sounded exactly the kind of motif that one would imagine the director conceiving.

Unrelentingly dark, the music fitted the gloomy all hope is lost theme to the film, one of which took several years to gain appreciation.

At the time ‘The Thing’ was a box office flop and resulted in Carpenter being dropped from directorial duties on ‘Firestarter’ film adaptation.

Although ‘They Live’ remains one of Carpenter’s most original movies, its blues-inflected soundtrack is not one of his strongest and this re-recorded version still sounds at odds with the illuminati-themed film.

The closing track to the album sees a re-work of the theme to the Stephen King-penned ‘Christine’ with Carpenter returning to the director’s chair for a promo video which has nods to both ‘Drive’ and ‘The Thing’.

For a director that had admittedly lost his film-making mojo a long time ago, it was a logical, yet genius move to for him to revisit his musical back catalogue both here and with his live shows over the last few years.

When the orchestral score was the norm, both JOHN CARPENTER and TANGERINE DREAM showed that electronic music could work in a film soundtrack context and ‘Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998’ reinforces how influential the man is and helps to cement his place in electronic music history.

Purists would argue that it would have been essential to have copies of the original versions here as well, but this is a minor quibble when the interpretations here remain faithful and act as a wonderful reminder of what a superb back catalogue of music JOHN CARPENTER has produced.

‘Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998’ is released by Sacred Bones Records and available in vinyl, CD and download formats from https://johncarpentermusic.bandcamp.com/album/anthology-movie-themes-1974-1998

JOHN CARPENTER tours the UK in 2018, dates include: London Eventim Apollo (16th October), Newcastle Tyne Theatre (18th October), Glasgow Barrowlands (19th October), Manchester Albert Hall (21st October)




Text by Paul Boddy
18th December 2017, 19th July 2018


Every now and again an album passes under the radar, being understated and not necessarily given the attention it deserves. But as we are entering the fully autumnal atmospheres, one opus stands out to fulfil the musical void, heading towards the wintery blues.

‘Okovi’ is ZOLA JESUS’ fifth long playing offering, which brings back the previously abandoned colder auras adored by her followers.

America’s ZOLA JESUS aka Nicole Hummel aka Nika Roza Danilova debuted in 2009 with the magnificently underrated ‘The Spoils’.

Having quickly aligned herself with the Ice Maiden Of Synth, Sweden’s FEVER RAY, who she supported live, Danilova started building a rather faithful fan base. Unlike her musical colleagues such as GRIMES, GAZELLE TWIN or KARIN PARK, Danilova with her operatic voice, plays within the boundaries of exceptional vocals over her very own take on electronica. All that against the backdrop of freezing Russian inspired themes, brings along a serving of uncommon coldness and eerie uncertainty.

‘Okovi’ or “shackles” in many Slavic languages, marks another symbolic journey for ZOLA JESUS, this time affected directly by her loved ones’ misfortunes. If life’s a struggle, we all carry our own shackles, which would stunt our progress, but it’s essential to learn how to exist through the journey regardless.

And with this theme in mind, Danilova invites to travel alongside her; a painful walk through the life path to perhaps let the shackles fall eventually.

From the dark opening with ‘Doma’, Slavic for “Home”, all the way to the wonderfully cinematic, heavenly orchestral ‘Half Life’, with nothing but monumental voice over sublime melody, Danilova takes one on a trip of self-discovery and self-respect.

Surreal, fear inducing and menacing strings lead into ‘Exhumed’, which opens up into a tribal magnificence of drums, along with a plethora of synthesised sounds and haunting choirs; a grown-up EVANESCENSE in essence.

How different is ‘Remains’ with its goth danceability factor, with powerful piano elements and iridescent vocals, or ‘Soak’ with the pop particles, reinforcing the message of support (“you should know I will never let you down”) with hauntingly beautiful vocal execution?

‘Ash To Bone’ continues the monochrome feel with classic instruments entwined with the wires of sparse electronica, which repeats in ‘Witness’, the latter being a melancholically wholesome offering of help against the darkest thoughts, “to keep the knife from you”.

‘Siphon’ takes the message of lending a helping help to those in depths of depression (“we just want to save you… we just want to show you there’s more to life”), Danilova “won’t let you bleed out, can’t let you bleed out” over an offbeat extravaganza of mesmerising noises, which towards the end become gritty and grizzly.

This leads into the masterfully menacing ‘Veka’, which features samples of words spoken backwards, similar to those used by Lynch in his celebrated ‘Twin Peaks’ series every time deceased Laura Palmer spoke. They certainly add to the spooky feel of the tune, being ghostly and not from this word entirely. The song flourishes into an alarmingly paced hybrid of euphoric revelation a la FAITHLESS’ ‘Insomnia’.

“If it doesn’t make you wiser, doesn’t make you stronger, doesn’t make you live a little bit, why do you do it?” Danilova cries in ‘Wiseblood’, questioning the motivations in our actions. Why do we hurt ourselves continuously? To learn perhaps…

The subject of depression, feeling unnecessary and unwanted has been portrayed by many artists over the years, throughout many genres, taking on many shapes and forms.

But what Danilova shows here is not just hope; it’s the realisation that it’s ok to be less than happy some of the time, to carry your “shackles” and to be ordinary. And it’s ok to think dark thoughts, it’s cathartic.

By far, ‘Okovi’ is her most grown-up, wholesome offering. Musically and otherwise, Danilova excels herself, having fought her own demons, and in the process creating an electronic masterpiece.

Congratulations ZOLA JESUS, you have made an album which will knock many of their pedestals. You have certainly erected yourself a monument here.

‘Okovi’ is released by Sacred Bones Records




Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell with special thanks to Simon Worboys
8th November 2017

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