Dead and Gone
For better or worse, Stabbing Westward are synonymous with the boom and bust of mainstream interest in industrial rock in North America during the 1990s. That association fails to take into account the band (anchored by singer Christopher Hall and keyboarist and programmer Walter Flakus)’s deep roots in the verdant Illinois scene of the era; Stabbing Westward were pertinent to Our Thing before MTV, as exemplified by their cult favourite 1994 LP Ungod. New EP Dead and Gone, the first new material since their reformation in 2015 feels like a nod to those roots, with an emphasis on club-ready beats mixed with Hall’s distinctive vocals. The title track starts with a 4/4 pattern of kicks and processed guitars that summon contemporary Numan to mind, a fine and danceable song that switches up to a doubletime chorus for oomph. “Cold” goes harder with thicker bass synths and a sticky hook of the type they’ve always excelled at. Closing out the new songs ballad “Crawl” works a toy piano melody against slowly escalating arrangement of bass and drums, more straightforward as a rock number, but not unwelcome. Packaged with remixes of the club songs, Dead and Gone satisfies the question of whether Hall and Flakus could recapture the feeling of Stabbing Westward in 2020; it plies nostalgia while offering something new and worthwhile to listen and dance to.
Turkish act Affet Robot brings classic moody atmosphere and clean melodies together in its iteration of darkwave. On new EP Huzursuz Seyirler, Eren Günsan manages to move through a quick series of charming homages to varied influences, though with only three original tracks there’s not much space for repetition. Comparisons to Seventeen Seconds-era Cure are easy enough to make, but in contrast to the dour foundation of “Firtina” sit spritely synth melodies and spirited vocals. Bringing the new wave energy of acts like Fatidic Seconde and Spoons to mind while maintaining darkwave cred isn’t easy, but Affet Robot pull off that balancing act well. Similarly, It’d be very easy for a slow and submerged track like “Hala Rüya” to become gloomy and stifling, but some plaintive arpeggios and dreamy pings bring about a pleasant sense of nostalgic reverie (and possibly even memories of 8 and 16 bit gaming scores). Enjoyable stuff with a deft and light approach to styles which are often heavy-handed.