(London) Suede - Sci-fi Lullabies (Nude/Columbia)
Often over-looked or lumped in with Blur and Oasis, Suede continue to quietly release some of the finest Bowie-influenced music. Vocalist Brett Anderson's sense of delivery, drama, and honesty can only be compared to the likes of Marc Almond, Peter Murphy and Bowie himself. On this two CD collection, we find Suede establishing themselves as one of the few bands who can honestly say their b-sides were every bit as good as the singles they backed.
Gary Numan - Exile (Cleopatra)
Gary Numan is yet another early 80's darling who turned up missing by the time we hit the 90's. Spin magazine would have you believe that he's long since died with the one-hit wonders (apparently only "Cars" is dubbed a hit by their standards). Thankfully he hasn't died, just continued to walk away from the mainstream. Exile proves to be one of his better efforts, combining a dark mix of synth atmosphere, occasional guitar and Numan's distinctive, although less screeching, vocals. The lyrics continue down the same path of isolation, mistrust, weakness and religion that he started in his last brilliant album Sacrifice (never released in the States). Simply put, this is one of the better darkwave synth albums to come out.
Chandeen - A Taste Like Ginger (Cleopatra)
Chandeen, long time favorites to those who bought the Heavenly Voices compilations, finally has a domestic release. In typical Cleopatra style, this is a compilation of tracks pulled from four European releases recorded '94 - '97 with three bonus tracks of either rearranged or live material. Anyone who enjoys the female driven vocal acts (such as Love Spirals Downwards, Faith and Disease, Edera etc.) will revel for hours. Absolutely an essential introduction to what could prove to be an expensive addiction.
Madonna - Ray Of Light (Maverick)
Madonna, the original spice girl, returns from parenthood and Hollywood with her most solid and sexless album to date. William Orbit proves to be exactly what Madonna needed to escape from the clutches of Babyface, R&B, and monotony. It sounds more ambient and trance-oriented, without sounding the least bit like a trip-hop record or like it was designed to pack dance floors – along the lines of her collaboration with Massive Attack on their cover of "I Want You." "Substitute For Love" already has my vote for track of the year.
Junkster - Junkster (RCA)
You aren't going to find a better straight forward pop album anywhere, and chances are you'll never hear them played on the radio. Unfortunately, this would seem to be one of those albums that falls through the cracks of the major labels. I can only guess that someone high up forgot to listen to it. I haven't stopped since the day I got it. Female vocals, guitar driven pop, sometimes sappy, sometimes bitter, sometimes both, but never boring. Honestly, it's nice to find a band that can write more than two songs accompanied by eight half-developed ideas that fill up the remainder of an album.
Mulu - Smiles Like a Shark (Dedicated)
While the Sneaker Pimps (who are quite good in their own right) are stealing the spotlight as Portishead jr., Mulu quietly releases an album that is far more satisfying. It's not just the typical female vocals somewhat submerged in atmospheric backdrop. It does not sound like a James Bond theme, or any soundtrack for that matter (which is what, perhaps, sets it apart from the rest). Thankfully, someone remembered that one Portishead is great, and two is too many -- which makes trip-hop all the more interesting. Don't worry, <rosettastone> remixed them in the UK so you won't lose any goth points on this one.
Virgin Prunes - Sons Find Devils (Cleopatra)
Considering how difficult it can be to track down anything from the Virgin Prunes these days, I was rather pleased to see this release on Cleopatra's schedule. When I found out it was a live album, I wasn't as excited. Truth be had, it's a good live album, far better than what I expected. Not essential, but anyone in search of material beyond "Pagan Love Song" (which is included) will not be disappointed. And hell, Dave Thompson (who seems to have replaced Mick Mercer as goth's unofficial historian) seems to think that they were the best thing that ever was.
Other Notable Releases
Both cEvin Key and Michael Gira have "psycho-ambient" (which is exactly how they sound) trilogies coming out. The first installment, Key's Music for Cats, is out already. Michael Gira's Number One of Three is due for release in late April under the guise of The Body Lovers. Mentallo & The Fixer re-release their first album No Rest for the Wicked with an extra disc of unreleased material. Project Pitchfork's new album is due soon. A domestic compilation that pulls together various E.P. tracks has just been released. Die Form are set to release their latest, Duality . Finally, In The Nursery's Anatomy of a Poet gets a stateside release.
Anyone with a decent connection to the internet will want to check out this website: www.spinner.com
This is a RealAudio-based web radio, which allows one to listen through a web browser (Netscape 3.0 or Internet Explorer 3.0 only). To listen via Spinner Web Radio, users also must have RealAudio 3.0+, at least a 28.8k Internet connection or better, and a Pentium multimedia computer.
They also offer a desktop application that accesses the same server, but without requiring you to keep a web browser open. It's built directly on the RealAudio Player Engine. Users need a 28.8k or better connection to the Internet, a multimedia computer, and be on Win95+ or NT.
The website explains in more detail, and includes links to get RealAudio, etc.
Channels of interest include a Gothic channel that plays a good mix of new, older, and obscure stuff. A typical hour might include Switchblade Symphony, Love Is Colder than Death, Leaether Strip, Fields of Nephilim, Bauhaus, and the Pink Dots.
The Industrial channel is even better, playing such hard to find bands as Wumpscut and Fishtank (No. 9), and mixing in plenty of Kraftwerk, Digital Poodle, Ministry, KMFDM, Haujobb, and PWEI.
There's something for every mood, too. Other channels include New Wave, Punk, College Rock, Alt. Classics, Awesome 80's, Indie Rock, Ambient, Electronica, Trance, Trip Hop, and too many specialty channels to name.
The music is provided by record companies trying to drum up support (and sales) for their bands, but there's no hype and no hard sell, just good music. If you're interested in a band, a single click will take you to that band's registered webpage (usually at their record company's site). Another click will take you to an online CD store where you can buy the CD. And if you really like something, you can rate it; ratings let them know what their listeners like or hate.
The service is very stable, if you're connecting at a decent speed. I haven't tried it at lower that T1, so I don't know how robust it really is at 28.8, but frankly I'm skeptical. If you've got the connection, check it out.
I must also put in the obligatory plug for "A Study of Gothic Subculture: an Inside Look for Outsiders" at www.gothicsubculture.com. It's intended to be "an extensive information resource for those unfamiliar with Goth, including profiles, interviews, definition, music, analysis, and description of related groups and genres." Tell your parents, teachers, and/or visiting aliens about it the next time they ask you why you wear so much black.