Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dead Can Dance launch their new album

Ambient / Neo-classical / Ethereal-Wave gods Dead Can Dance today launched Anastasis, their first new studio album in sixteen years.

Following the initial announcement and release of a free download of the song "Amnesia" on Pitchfork media yesterday, the band's homepage was today updated to allow free streaming of the 3complete album and pre-purchase options for the album in a range of formats including digital download and deluxe autographed packages.

The official release date of Anastasis has been set for August 9th.

Go here - you just know you want to:


UPDATE (3rd July 2012)
There's now a purportedly complete track listing for Anastasis floating around out there. No sign of this information on the band's official pages that I can see yet, but let us grant it the benefit of the doubt by assuming it to be accurate. Also some dispute about the actual release date with suggestions that it may in fact be August 13. May well depend upon the country in which you are unlucky enough to reside.

1. Children Of The Sun
2. Anabasis
3. Agape
4. Amnesia
5. Kiko
6. Opium
7. Return Of The She-King
8. All In Good Time

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Widowed Isis – Jim Morrison (I Want to be) (Zed, 1985)

This is where I take my mind back to 1985.

I’m fifteen and by virtue of my parents rather than by anything resembling choice, living in the vaguely unfashionable inner western suburbs of Sydney in what, since the rise of the Hill Song megachurch would come to be known as the Sydney Bible Belt. While I would dearly love to relate to you my decadent tales of sex, drugs and life on the post-punk scene, unfortunately I was a rather nerdy teenager with a proclivity for playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. This probably explains why I thought fantasy based metal bands like Manowar were the best thing since sliced cheese while being naively oblivious to the fact that “cheese” was actually the operative word.

Goths were around of course, and I’d see them whenever I went into the inner-city, but it would be at least another year before I heard the term. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that few people in Sydney’s working class west at the time would have had a clue what Goth was, let alone that the subculture existed.

I’m not telling you this for its own sake you’ll be pleased to know, but rather, to outline the context for the rest of this post. At some point during 1985, a graffiti bombing campaign was launched around the inner suburbs of Sydney and there was an explosion of “The Widowed Isis” tags appearing all over suburbs like Newtown. It attracted sufficient attention that the main local rag, the Sydney Morning Herald even ran a brief article demanding to know what it meant. This doesn’t speak well of journalistic standards at the SMH since relatively simple investigation would have revealed The Widowed Isis to have been a local Goth band gigging in Sydney at the time.

I mention all this because 27 years later, that article somehow floated back into my mind today while driving home from work. Was there anything to be found? What could be salvaged?
Although there wasn’t much, I was surprised at what I did find. I say “surprised” because most Australian Goth bands of the period don’t seem to have left much of a legacy, The Birthday Party and Dead Can Dance being the obvious exceptions, both of whom wasted no time in sodding off to the UK, so I certainly didn’t expect to find an actual bone fide video clip.

The Jim Morrison (I Want to Be) 7” seems to have been the band’s first release from back in 1985. Assuming the strength of the video below is indicative of the rest of The Widowed Isis’ output, then it’s a real shame they didn’t become bigger. Possibly if they’d followed The Birthday Party and Dead Can Dance’s example?

Jim Morrison (I Want to Be)

A second offering was to follow, the You Can’t Make Me Burn / Live Your Life 7” in 1986, once again on Zed  about which even less is known, although from the lyric sheet, “Live Your Life” does appear to be a nicely ironic tribute to Australian right wing shock-jocks and the morons who listen to them.

The rear of You Can't Make Me burn 7" God bless you 
John Laws - still spewing right wing populist crap 25 years later.

One more was to come with 1987 bringing us a four track self titled EP, also through Zed Records, containing not only a revived “ Jim Morrison (I Want to be)”, but also “It Only Lasts Forever”, “The Wild Things” and a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “White Light / White Heat”. This is where the level of obscurity The Widowed Isis has fallen to really becomes apparent. Not only is the EP the only Widowed Isis release covered by Discogs.com, but even their tremendous database doesn’t have a copy of the cover art. Indeed, on the entire web, the only place I was able to find an image was on the Post-Punk 80s Underground blog as depicted below .In fact, that blog post also contains a download for the E.P., but sadly, the link is dead. Perhaps if we all diligently click on the link, they’ll get the hint and re-upload it? Perhaps if we all beg them very nicely?

If the band’s moniker of “The Widowed Isis” seems curious, then you obviously aren’t clued up on Egyptian mythology. You should probably investigate. Rather than provide spoilers, I’ll simply say that the tale involves murder, dismemberment, revenge, attempted gay rape, incest, mystical masturbation and a lettuce. If that doesn’t pique your interest, then I’m at a loss to imagine what would.

In closing, let us present to you this very eccentric and unfortunately badly preserved TV interview that appears to be from after the Jim Morrison video clip was released, although by this stage drummer Jeff appears to have been replaced by Rex Mansfield. Although I was actively watching music shows on 80’s TV in Australia in 1985, I honestly have no memory of Radio Vision. If this pilot episode is anything to go by where the rather clueless and dodgy looking host descends into less than insightful questions as to whether any members of The Widowed Isis owns a dog, then it’s not hard to understand why it never made it into regular broadcast TV. Really quite bizarre viewing.

Track Listing:
i.              Jim Morrison (I Want to Be)
ii.            Plastic Babies

Line Up: Bryan Zee (vocals, bass), Mark Rainford (guitar), Marvin Druid (violin) Jeff Ryan (drums).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Salvation – Clash of Dreams EP (Unreleased, circa 1984/1985)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away when I was still a poor university student, I actually owned a copy of Salvation’s Diamonds are Forever LP (Ediesta Records, 1987). To say that it did nothing for me would be something of an understatement. The mere fact that I can’t find it in my collection any more strongly suggests that it was one of the many mediocrities that I hocked to afford bus fare to uni back in the day.

Now that I finally get hold of a copy once again it’s a tad disappointing that I still can’t find much good to say about it – it remains, at best a very flaccid beast, hard to listen to without making the “meh” face and it’s easy to see how I was able to sell it with few regrets.

Mercifully, this is not the album this post is about.
What we are talking about is something much earlier, much, much better and sadly unreleased.

Salvation were yet another of the burgeoning Leeds Goth scene in the early 80’s.
Never bearing quite the stature of the early Sisters, MarchViolets or Skeletal Family, yet (initially) working happily alongside them. With their first single, “Girlsoul / Evelyn”  coming out through The Sister’s of Mercy label Merciful Release appearing in 1983 all seemed well.

Things were sufficiently cosy in fact for Andrew Eldritch to take mixing duties of Salvation’s new EP, even lending them The Sisters' trusty drum machine Doktor Avalanche and understanding that the band were a bit skint, to accept payment in magic pixie marching powder in lieu of cash. Everything seemed fine, and yet the Clash of Dreams EP was never to be released.

So what happened?

Well everyone, both bands and commentators, seem to be a little coy about saying outright, but the general gist seems to be that it may have had something to do with the cover art of this little number:

The Sisters of Mercy Body and Soul 12"  
(Merciful Release, 1885). Anyone else feeling a sense of deja vu?

Regardless of who came up with the concept first, a schism does seem to have taken place between Salvation and Merciful Release with the single Jessica’s Crime (a different version from the EP) eventually emerging on Simon D of The March Violets’ label Batfish in 1985 and produced by Wayne Hussey.

The Clash of Dreams EP is clearly a child of the Leeds scene – the drum machine alone is a dead giveaway. Not to mention how much “Burning On” can’t help but invoke thoughts of The March Violets. What sets Salvation apart from their Leeds contemporaries however, is the inclination towards psychedelia, that seems to have become more prominent as their career progressed, perhaps a result of more prominent groups like The Cult and All About Eve giving license to such indulgences.

“Jessica’s Crime” is the obvious single here, but really, the EP as a whole does little to disappoint. You can hear it online here: and I strongly suggest you do. A downloadable version is available at the most excellent (and apparently sadly dormant) Return to the East blog, but sadly both versions seem to have been taken from a damaged cassette that has been shakily repaired. If anyone has access to a more pristine version, please let me know and I’ll be more than happy to arrange to make it more widely available.

Little of the abandoned Clash of Dreams EP remains. Jessica’s crime was released as a 7” (Batfish Incorporated, 1985) and Sea of Dreams would eventually re-emerge in a very different version on Diamonds are Forever. Nothing else remains.

The October Hour / The Return

Jessica's Crime (7" version)

 Meanwhile, Salvation went on to produce two LPs and a surprising number of singles. With that kind of dedication, it almost seems rude to scoff at the undergraduate humour that led them to include a song called  “Pearl Necklace” on the B-side of their Sunshine Superman 12” (Karbon, 1988).

If you did want to chase down Salvation, a compilation called Salvation: The Complete Collection 1985-89 (Cherry Red, 2005) exists, apparently a re-release of the earlier Hunger Days 1985-89 comp (Timeslip, 1997) but with the Girlsoul 7” tacked on. It’s readily available on iTunes.

Good God, they’re still going!” declared an astonished Mick Mercer way back in 1992 (Gothic Rock, Pegasus Publishing). If that amazed him then, he’s probably going to spit his wooden dentures across the room when he discovers that 20 years later, they’re playing the DV8 festival at the end of this month.
Heads up to those of you in York.

Track Listing:
  1. The October Hour
  2. Jessica’s Crime
  3. Burning On
  4. Sea of Dreams
  5. Figurehead
  6. No Return

Line Up: Danny Mass (synths), James Elmore (bass), Mike (guitar – but replaced by Choque Hosein before the Jessica’s Crime 7” was released)

Although the official Salvation site describes this photo as an "early" lineup, the extra head leads me to suspect that is is probably from around 86 when the band decided to replace the drum machine with Paul Maher.