We were extremely pleased last week by the news that Vancouver’s own peace/post-punk act SPECTRES had signed a deal with Artoffact Records. For years they’ve been one of our local favourite live acts, and readers of the site may recall that we counted their LPs Utopia and Nothing to Nowhere as some of the best of releases of their respective years. Now with a new LP and a proper reissue campaign on the horizon, we checked in guitarist Zach Batalden to find out what Tracks he’s been digging recently…

Vancouver’s SPECTRES are a god damn force on stage

Hi, I’m Zach and I’ve been playing guitar in the Vancouver based Post Punk band SPECTRES since 2005. In the last 13 years it’s been amazing to meet and play alongside so many cool bands, and it seems like now I can’t even keep up with all of the cool stuff going on out there. I was just asked to put together a list of five bands that I’ve been digging lately and immediately I started thinking of new stuff I’m really interested in. In the end narrowing it down to just 5 choices was no simply task as there are almost too many great bands out there right now to keep up with. So anyway here goes, in no particular order:

Molchat Doma, “дома молчат”
I heard this amazing band from Minsk, Belarus on my favorite Youtube channel, Harikiri Diat (whoever you are). I will say I’m generally a big fan of Slavic language post punk, bands like Kino, Paraf, Siekiera and Aljans have all had major impacts on me creatively, and I’ve been fortunate to see and play with my contemporary favorites Belgrado numerous times. So naturally, Belarussian post punk is going to grab my attention before I even press play, and I was not disappointed. I’m a person who likes to listen to full albums start to finish and I always seek out stuff where each song has its own feeling and it doesn’t sound like a) the band wrote the same song ten times over or b) they wrote one or two hits and then a bunch of filler. This album hits in all the right ways. The song writing on С крыш наших домов is extremely versatile with feelings of romance, alienation, total estrangement and transcendent beauty, driven along by uniquely programmed percussion and perfectly cold vocals delivered in a classic style that I think really hearkens back to some of the Slavic language greats I mentioned above.

Padkarosda, “Tétova Lelkek”
Another great new(ish) band from Eastern Europe, Padkarosda hail from Budapest, Hungary. I was completely blown away by them last year when I was fortunate to see them play with Diat in Berlin. It’s not hard to figure out why when you listen to these songs, the vocals are very aggressive and the music has a sense of urgency and tension that grabbed my attention instantly-not to mention the unrelenting basslines sending the whole thing careening forward. Musically they remind me of Musta Paraati but with a very stripped down intensity that I love. For me their music is very evocative of the creeping feeling you get when you walk down empty city streets alone and just maybe something dangerous awaits around the next corner. They have quite a bit of material released and it’s a real shame they don’t get much attention internationally, I think this would appeal to a lot people who find themselves interested in the more punk side of post punk. See what you think here.

Riki, “Hot City”
This demo has been on HEAVY rotation for me since it came out a few months ago. I love to dance, and this is unrepentant dance music that is simultaneously very stripped down and novel in its song writing approach. I like everything about these songs but the vocal melodies are the standout for me. I usually find myself listening to Hot City repeatedly, and I feel that this song more than the other two capitalizes on the great dichotomy in Chelsea and Huck’s vocals. Though I feel that this band will directly appeal to fans of dark music, particularly if you enjoy dance oriented synth stuff, it also really calls to mind some of the best parts of 1980’s pop- particularly “Like a Virgin” era Madonna. As milquetoast as that reference may be, this is (dark) pop at its finest and I think you’ll agree. Listen:

Johnny Couteau, “Is My Baby Love Real or Just a Hologram?!”
I pretty much lost my mind over Johnny Couteau a few years ago when he released From the Infamous Mind of a Psychoactive Runner and have followed along ever since (not that there’s been much output to follow). There’s something so unique about his music and I love his latest release, Repeat Function. The lyrics are very unique and evocative, and I always find myself imagining the strangest scenarios, like mutant romances set in a bombed out beach community long after the fall of society. This bilingual band brings in all kinds of eclectic influences and always keeps me following along to the end of the album, not only because of the addictive melodies but also just to see where they will go next. Oh yeah, and there are fucking saxophones. This Montreal based act is also relatively unknown which is a real shame because as far as I’m concerned this is one of the most interesting bands in this genre right now. There seems to be a renaissance in synth driven music happening and I find Johnny Couteau’s sneering vocals, a-typical arrangements and imaginative song writing very refreshing in what is feeling like an increasingly stagnant pool. Dive in here:

Orion, Execution
I’ve said for many years that for a country of its population size, Australia punches way above its weight class. Orion is no exception to this rule, and I simply cannot get enough of this record. Another great example of a band that knows how to write a record that keeps you listening from start to finish, each song has its own feeling and their influences don’t just beat you over the head as soon as you put it on. There’s a great balance in the guitar, programmed drums and layers of synth and ambient noise on top of the modulated bass. There’s also a clarity and earnestness in the vocals that works perfectly with the composition, I immediately think of Bernard Sumner’s vocals in New Order but it’s not a bite by any means. I find myself looking for something new to listen to and then just being like ‘ah fuck it I’m just going to listen to the Orion LP again’. I expect this band is going to be a really big deal, and rightfully so-they are doing literally everything right on this record. Get obsessed here:

Zach Batalden plays guitar in Vancouver post punk band SPECTRES, now on Artoffact records. You can hear him do his thing here: