As we begin thinking about how we might construct our Year End lists (still about a month’s worth of coverage to go, of course), it’s odd to think about how lockdown will affect our view of these records. We haven’t heard them in clubs (most of them at least), we haven’t seen artists play their material live, we haven’t had halfway normal conversations about them with friends as they play in the background of a party. How much will our own emotional and mental states towards the end of a very trying year factor into aesthetic judgments? Tricky questions to keep in mind as we take a look at this week’s Tracks.

Bastet, in what we presume is their natural environment

Mala Herba, “Wszystko Marność”
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but it looks as though we already have to start thinking about records from the far off, likely still-dystopian year 2021. Austria’s Mala Herba has been an act whose ascent we’ve been tracking with quiet anticipation – their work to date has been shot through with an emotive fury rarely found in darkwave so immediate and dancefloor friendly. First official LP Demonologia will be out on a + w mid-January, and if the rest of it has the heavy-duty vocal power and hookiness of this cut, the year’ll be off to a good (or at least better) start.

Bastet, “Reign of Chaos”
Oakland dark punk act Bastet are back with a one-off digital single, a handy showcase for their speedy next generation deathrock. “Reign of Chaos” is appropriately titled, channeling some very tumultuous and anarchic energy into the tracks structure and its atmosphere. Maybe it’s just because of the year that this has been, but this sound is almost comforting right now. Great act, always happy to hear new stuff from them.

Ashbury Heights, “Wild Eyes (feat. Madil Hardis)”
Ashbury Heights roll through with another track from their forthcoming Ghost House Sessions anthology, a collection of tracks written during the band’s hiatus between Take Cair Paramour and Looking Glass Society. As these were largely demos that are now being finished up, and so far as we know the band haven’t officially replaced departed vocalist Tea Time, Anders has tapped into numerous guests to finish these up for release. Damn though if Madil Hardis’ soaring voice doesn’t fit right in on this big spooky club track, almost like she’s making case for herself.

Group Rhoda, “This Flame”
The self-described “soft industrial” and “tropical darkwave” of the deceptively-named one-woman project Group Rhoda left a subtle but lasting impression on us when we saw Mara Barenbaum opening for The Soft Moon years back. Group Rhoda’s hypnotic brand of minimal synth perfectly suited the kitschy tiki-themed club the show was happening in (fuck, now we’re getting nostalgic for venues in addition to live shows in the abstract), and this number from fourth LP Passing Shades, due this Friday, does a nice job of recalling that slow, eerie charm.

Bob Data, “Derranged Private World”
Some discussion of Latvia on our Slack channel (no, really) prompted some digging into that corner of the world’s scene, and the discovery of the Sturm label which has been releasing dark electronic out of Riga for a full quarter of a century. We’re digging the chill and spacey approach Bob Data takes on his The Stars Are Fire LP, pointing to Cryo and Kraftwerk’s darkly symphonic and cinematic momemnts.

Dive, “Death Machine”
Oh Dirk, never change. Dirk Ivens, the godfather of rhythmic noise and dark electro (and like half-a-dozen other genres) is back with more original Dive material, his first since 2017’s Underneath. In case you’re wondering if Ivens has chilled out at all in the last couple of years, the answer is a distinct no; “Death Machine” is the exact kind of intense, unnerving buzzy number that has been the project’s calling card since the early 90s. New album Where Do We Go From Here? drops soon, we’ll be giving it a good and proper once over when it does.