Night Sins - New Grave

Night Sins
New Grave
AVANT! Records

When you’re talking about new dark classicist stuff that rides the goth/post-punk border, style and songwriting must be kept in harmony. There needs to be drama and flair in the delivery (otherwise we’d be listening to Pavement revivalists, not fellow Chameleons fans), but if you cling too close to yr influences without delivering at least a couple of memorable tunes, all you do is drive listeners back to the source material. On their debut LP, Philadelphia newcomers Night Sins keep the theatrics at an even keel, and allow their influences to shine through without ever overshadowing their accomplished tunes.

Songwriting-wise, straightforward post-punk bass shoulders most of New Grave‘s weight. While the synths aren’t deeply produced, they change up to suit moods and songs, setting them apart from each other but without ever straying too far from a minimalist ethos. The no-frills presentation allows the bitter simplicity of the material to punch through and leave its own mark: it’s all personal relationships and vendettas amplified by the static which a bad winter can add.

It’s against this simple staging which songwriter Kevin Kimball pits himself, managing to evoke some Eldritch-like whispers without ever actually mimicking his voice in that manner we’ve heard umpteen times, and there’s the odd tic of Ronny Moorings and Simon Jones of And Also The Trees in there as well. While Kimball never uses the restrained instrumentation as an excuse to showboat, he plays his cards just right: the lilting vocal melodies on the chorus of “Spectral Bliss” are simple enough, but click the song over the line.

Although Night Sins’ direct musical influences don’t stray too far from some agreed-upon classics (Seventeen Seconds, the Sisters’ waifier moments), they never lift too heavily from any of them at any one time to invite distracting super-imposed comparisons when it comes to their compositions. The scene recriminations of “Playing Dead” feel too fucked up to be staged, while the determined fatalism of “Wild Eyes” rolls out of Kimball’s mouth as though murder were the only logical conclusion.

Far more calm and icy than US predecessors like The Opposite Sex or Turn Pale, in their more poker-faced moments Night Sins recall the enigmatic also-rans of I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, or the rain-slicked guile of Canada’s own dearly departed The Floor, but more than any other band I think Soft Kill are perhaps the most apt comparison. Like those cool customers, Night Sins seem to be taking up genre motifs as simply the handiest and most adaptable tools for the job, neither disavowing their roots nor straying from the task at hand. It’s a cold job, but someone’s gotta do it.

New Grave is forthcoming on AVANT! Records. An abridged version can currently be bought on cassette.