What is Darkness? A Triptych of 2017 Gothic Noise

by Diego Aguilar-Canabal

When I was but a wee lad raised in the cloistered, baby-proofed suburbs of America’s car paradise, I was raised to believe that “goth” culture was something sinister, but also crude. Verboten, yet readily available at the mall. It was Slipkot shirts at Hot Topic and Nine Inch Nails wristbands the hair and the cigarettes and, in short, more about buying stuff (namely drugs and ugly clothes) than feeling any sort of way. And it certainly wasn’t about good tunes.

So here are three goth-ish records of 2017 that I wish had been around in 2007. While I may have been born too late for Ministry or Suicide, I’m just in time to enjoy these.

Ötzi – Ghosts

Oakand’s Ötzi is the rare sort of band that seems to genuinely enjoy being dark and dreary. These lush, wintry post-punk songs sparkle with a sheen of sincere, plaintive pathos. And it’s just plain fun.

It’s a good reminder, too, that before even “death-rock” was a whisper from a music critic’s lips, all the anti-authoritarian rock music we enjoy today was just fermenting in a morass of undefined sounds. It wasn’t quite punk, definitely not metal, not glam or power pop but not-not those things either. Just try not to break things in your bedroom while cranking the anthemic banger “Ghosts,” which evokes everything from Siouxsie to the Raincoats to—dare I say, even a bit of Van Halen?

There’s a touch of that driving, relentless pulse that made the Wipers’ “Youth of America” such an unusually psychedelic hit in the 80s punk canon. It’s a brazen stew of rock ‘n’ roll tempered not so much by sophistication as just sheer, authentic emotional depth. It’s what an acquaintance once dubbed—and I promise never to utter this again—“Depeche Motorhead.”

Another personal favorite of mine is “Sunlight,” a shimmery, bass-driven adventure that is restrained by a contemplative 80s-style grimness of a 2am blend of blood, xanax, and eyeliner. You’re likely to find your own highlights that won’t align with mine, though; Ghosts is a sort of Rorschach test for the dark rock fan who, to varying degrees, may allow themselves a bit of fun now and then.

Jarboe & Father Murphy – EP

This single haunted me since autumn, but for the longest time, I couldn’t muster any words about it. Then the local San Francisco news cycle picked up into a frenzied pace, and I scarcely had time to even exchange words with my own family. But Father Murphy’s mystique is just like that: a mercurial undertow of ritualistic power that will take its sweet time to bore into your soul.

There could hardly be a better pairing for the Italian horror-doom outfit than Jarboe, an accomplished vocalist in her own right who emerged as a driving force in the industrial-rock band Swans.

“The Ferryman” is a deeply disturbing spoken-word nightmare, backed by a harmonium drone and lonely acoustic guitar that foregrounds Jarboe’s faded, distant-sounding poetry. It doesn’t stick in your head right away, but upon repeated listens, it’s not the sort of thing you can easily forget.

The B-side track, “Truth or Consequences,” is really where the collaborators seem to let loose and have some fun. Jarboe is joined by a spooky organ line, melancholy bells, and a hissing tape screech that evokes Father Murphy’s heavier moments.

It’s not the sort of collaboration that fans of each artist would have eagerly anticipated, but rather one that shows the most thoughtful merging of artistic visions. While Jarboe’s esoteric and anti-operatic style is obviously well-suited to pair with Father Murphy’s dramatic style, but the result isn’t just a simple juxtaposition of their styles. Better comparisons would include the collaborative album Altar by Sunn O))) and Boris, two drone-metal bands who deliberately put thir heads together to conjure up something far more profound than just a joint jam session.

When I started challenging genre-based stereotypes of my own initiative I happened to dig out an old Bauhaus record from my father’s record collection. After several nights of letting its unforgettable atmosphere wash over me, I demanded that my parents explain just how they could have thought to raise me without this critical artifact in my music education. The response was typical: “What, are we supposed to remember to show you everything we once enjoyed? That would take forever.”

It would—and I could never hope to do the same for my hypothetical progeny—but for my readers, all I can hope is that later really is better than never. In case you missed this stellar record, I hope I’ve more than made amends.

Pan Daijing – Lack

There was no better mindfuck in 2017 than listening to this album in complete darkness, with a rare California rainfall gushing outside my window, with no other stimulation but some fading Palo Santo embers. The visionary Chinese performance artist Pan Daijing delivered what may have been the finest record I had heard all year, but it wouldn’t have left such an impact on me if these two previous works hadn’t paved the way.

A collage of gasping, howling vocal sceances, scattered stabs of piano, and blistering noise builds up a non-linear narrative of truly spiritual proportions. There’s no other album like it out there, and there are no feelings in the realm of human emotion quite like the ones you’ll feel during Lack’s brief cycle through your eardrums.

Frankly, a point worth addressing is this: male hegemony marginalizes the work of female, queer, and nonbinary artists by coding all “dark” or “heavy” intentional sounds as “masculine” by default. And, even more frankly, until those assumptions are irrevocably torn down, it’s important to highlight those voices that might not otherwise fit in these cultural norms, even at the risk of “tokenizing” what some artists may prefer to simply “normalize.”

Until the children of the future discover records by the likes of Otzi, Jarboe, or Pan Daijing, we can’t take it for granted that we, as their parents, will have the foresight to pass these artifacts on to them. We must make a conscious effort to build a world worth inheriting.

There are many other notable women who sing and make avant-garde noise—take Puce Mary, Pharmakon, an Oakland’s Tainted Pussy, for example—but Pan Daijing has a wholly incomparable, phantasmagoric style that is far more brutal than those aforementioned chanteuses. Fans of Puce Mary may particularly enjoy the hardcore techno bass-throbs on “Act of the Empress,” for example, but there’s just nothing else like it. Pharmakon uses field recordings and distortion, sure, but that would hardly prepare you for the disorienting soundscapes on “Eat” or “A Situation of Meat.”

Closing track “Lucid Morto” serves as a stately theme for the new world you could build with your listening habits. An eerie, singular drone slowly builds into a multi-vocal, microtonal organ theme, which winds and dissolves throw a blizzard of tape hiss and crackle. Its emotional ambiguity is at once arresting and inspiring, full of hope and dread.

“Here’s what I have to offer,” it seems to say—“what you do with it is up to you.”



DECYCAST Premieres: Kinetic Attack “Watch Out” Official Music Video

DECYCAST Premieres: Kinetic Attack “Watch Out” Official Music Video

Check this  world premiere of  Kinetic Attack‘s “Watch Out” video for  Miami based Crass Lips Records  “Watch Out” is directed, designed & edited by Ingrid Mouth (@ingridmouth) and features the band riffing through various  brightly colored scenes, opening passageways to psychedelic portals, glowing, strobing lighting effects give an other-worldly effect, which still maintaining a DIY charm not  too far off from an early Shana Moulton influenced works. Smoke, steam, goblets, antlers, walls of ripped and  tattered fabric play off  each other with skillful, stylized on beat, fast paced editing, gel the  seemingly endless scenes  together.  Kinetic Attack plays a raw, angular, aggressive version of  percussion heavy  synth-punk, with sharp, frantically yelled vocals which play off of the loopy, dizzying synth riffs and  thick, driving bass parts and this video is the perfect counterpart to “Watch Out”. All together, a cohesive, driving interpretation of synth forward punk music with a take all it’s own! The video component is no slouch either, that of a  dizzying array of glitter-bombed, surrealist, brightly painted  props obscure glistening bodies and playfully nihilistic dadaesque actions create a fun, confusing, yet tense and INTENSE visual for the  song, a perfect pairing. Fantastic collaboration.



DECAYCAST Reviews: BLEEDERS “We  Hate Men”  Cassette (Crass Lips Records, 2017)

DECAYCAST Reviews: BLEEDERS “We  Hate Men”  Cassette (Crass Lips Records, 2017)

Anti patriarchal pro femme photo punk from the PA outfit, BLEEDERS. from Miami’s Crass Lips Records  Intro track “I Hate Men” starts out in the perfect foot  forwad for smashing the patriarchy, Angular guitar, punchy, punded drums, and  screamed / yelled “crew style” on the  chorus of  “I Hate Men” prove  you do have to bash a man in the side of the head about  fifteen times  before you get a small enough crack for anything to sink in, but when it  does, for  4/4 punk, this is the type of ear blood  you want  dripping into  your  brand new headwound. Super fuzzy and  distorted sounding recording, but the playing is phenominal, and for the style  its done super well and interesting. Straight up all women/non pinary proto punk stylings churn out three  heavy and guitar/vocals forward tracks of pure misandry! It’s  fantastic!  Other track titles such as “Backstabbing Scumfucker” and “Forced  Vaginal Ultrasound”  don’t let the  listener map their own confused musings into these tracks, they are  exactly what they are and don’t need to be interpreted, if you have an ear, you’ll get it, if  shit  clogged canal is how you roll then move right along and await the eight am ding of the churchbell for the  three thousandth time (to go away)

DECAYCAST Reviews:  LEECHER “Retfa” C/S (Oxen, 2017)



Oxen Records is becoming one of North America’s prominent labels specializing in harsh noise, and a short cassette from their newest batch, featuring Tokyo’s Leecher project delivers just that! Two full sides of technically, flawless, sharp, soulless harsh noise blasts. Leecher has the chops and isn’t afraid to use the listeners inner ear ear canal with a digital thrust of blasting, blistering, shattering vaces of harsh noise.

Leecher builds a masterful composition of cascading heavy and difficult harsh music on the A side, masterfully leaving plenty of space for the sharp shredded sounds to do their damage and decay before the next big event slams the listeners head through the speaker cone once again; it’s time for high frequency brain modification techniques, and Leecher will be administering the tests today folks.


The B Side is Just as noisy and chaotic, though considerably less dynamic, while overall offering an equally loud and punishing composition, with much more of “live” feeling and movement. A different kind of sonic kinetics. If the A Side was the lead in to the death of consciousness and growth of disorientation, the B side is the accumulation of every negative thought and emotion thrust into a whirring, spinning, spitting sonic fireball which again and again crashes into the throat while simultaneously exiting through the ear. The B side is most likely a live performance, however lacking in intensity is not something that needs to be mentioned, as the energy that was present or absent in the room during this recoding, without a doubt transfers it’s manic, spitting energy info this cassette for the listener to enjoy in a self-loathing aural assault. This is noise music for true noise music, not for car commercials, not for sound design, not for gallery window installations just for cold unrelenting noise itself.



Menacing, torturous screams echo and decay over sharp pillars of white and pink noise, with shifting amplitudes of chaotic sputtering’s and groans of agony, bleed and squeeze each other to bits with constant regurgitation, to add to the general uneasiness and confusion of this release, the listener never knows when the end Is near, and when they will be hit with a sonic hammer. Is it over? I don’t think it’s over unless it’s the ear once again feeding back into itself after twenty minutes of harsh, tenuous pulses of harsh noise feedback. Leecher operates his devices like a manic surgeon hopped up on his own supply and ejecting, dense, dark noise blasts in every direction, which a morbidly confusing and disorienting array of precision. Leecher is precision noise, and if you fancy the harsh side of things, GO BUY THIS TAPE NOW.


DECAYCAST Reviews: GRAVE MOSS “Mosswave” Cassette (Crass Lips Records, 2016)

DECAYCAST Reviews: GRAVE MOSS “Mosswave”  Cassette (Crass Lips Records, 2016)


Grave Moss play fuzzed out psychedelic lo fi synth punk/rock/death/doom/comedy/sludge.  But it’s not really that, but it kinda is? The label whom released this short little ripper of a cassette, Crass Lips Records, is just as all over the map in a great and eclectic, but uncontrived way. Sabbath mock band? Perhaps, but it sounds damn good? I think? I can’t tell my mind seems to be altered by some gooey, slippery off blue fungi, that could only be described as one thing; mosswave. Borrowing equal parts from Chrome, Black Sabbath Volume 4, Sisters of Mercy, and a broken Yanni answering machine greeting, Grave Moss create a style of deathrock that is both comical and serious, lighthearted and menacing, heavy yet gurgling with comic relief, nauseous yet satisfied. Drugged out, fuzzed out, mold puffed riffs, cavernous percussion, and angrily sneered vocals are the go to weapons of Grave Moss. The hammering guitar makes you split your head open like the village wino running circles until he spins out his blood and collapses from disorientation.

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Oscillating between synth-driven death rock, dirged -out pop power chord progressions, scraping their way to the bloody tip of the mix, flustered with doubly duty screeched/howled vocals to boot. The falsetto voice it’s so low oscillates sub bass gurgle for an accentuated evil grin. Almost sounds like it could be mocking early Christian Death in the laugh out of the side of your mouth smile slicer. This is fun music to discuss how much Death in June is not that interesting, whilst keeping awake at the wheel to the next five-hundred-mile marker of death. Driving music to vomit to all whilst still head banging, this appears the aesthetic of Grave Moss Probably a laugh-treat live if they play it up to the absurdity of these recordings. The thickly churning bass lines and bass/lead synth parts glue the low end perfectly together to belch to thick, quivering sound, a tonal, dissonant, and slightly comical versions of alienating guitar and synthesizer riffs, pummeling bombastic percussion chugging away like the ergot beneath the old wooden keg nobody would dare drink out of, sans the drummer. Infected sound, stitched side to side through the singer’s flanged out, chopping, angsty barking fits which are hurled at the listener like a rickety crossbow, and with a creaking, sinking, smelly, ship collapsed into a swamp of disease and mutation, the sound of GRAVE MOSS is complete.

DECAYCAST Reviews: RICHARD GUMBY “Mem’ree Coil” Cassette (Crass Lips Records, 2017)

DECAYCAST Reviews: RICHARD GUMBY “mem’ree coil” Cassette (Crass Lips Records, 2017)


Big boatload of tapes  just arrived  from Crass Lips Records, Miami based  home  imprint cranking out dozens of releases monthly operating mainly outside of the mainstream bore patterns of music industry hogshit. There’s a plethora of noise, experimental, punk, lo fi pop , garage et al plastered throughout the labels discography, which you can take a peek at here at their bandcamp . 

The casuality the  label takes is a refreshing return to almost a tape  trading  aesthetic where  inserts don’t really  fit, home xeroxed art  crammed into recycled cases, but the music is the message,not the medium. In an era where everything is  deluxe this and that, it’s nice to see a label taking a more primitive  approach. The Richard Gumby  cassette  which arrived, which I believe to be self  titled  covers  thirty or so minutes of  mangled, floating, ballooning deconstructed pop music blending spoken word, home brewed collage and  sampling techniques between fuzzy, whined vocals not so far off  from a natural blending of pre Spacemen 3  outtakes, early John Dwyer era pop punk, and even a  country-ish influenced ballad to boot, which could easily spark the interest of an early Silver Jews fan or two, on Richard Gumby, even within a certain song, a number of  artistic pop styles are buzzed through almost like primitive radio scanning needle techniques  at times even at a near feverish pace, and the fidelity and pacing lend the listener ‘a chair in the room at the end of the hall’- style voyeuristic  approach to this quaint, lush, mangled and warped pop songs. For a short tape, Gumby covers a wide range of  vocal and  instrumentation styles oscillation between lush, dreamy pop and  broken whirring  slightly out of  key music boxes,  tastefully used percussion and  synth, with even some noise/glitch  sections to boot, with a surprise double bass break down  with chopped/screamed vocals and  some pretty intense screams to boot for an album that boasts mostly pop offerings  Honestly, sort of a  hard to classify release, check it out for yourself here. Weird  stuff. We  can say for sure  haven’t heard much like it. Check the  track, “Simon Said”


DECAYCAST Reviews: SPORE SPAWN “Ochistuitara” Cassette (Oxen Records, 2017)

DECAYCAST Reviews: SPORE SPAWN “Ochistuitara” Cassette (Oxen Records, 2017)


Spore Spawn is a nearly decade old project based out of Japan, and also happens to be an end level boss in the  popular fan favorite video game, Metroid.

The project name choice is Probably not an accident based on the title and  aesthetics of the artists imprint, 16 Shots Per Second   but this cassette is released by Leah and Matt’s imprint OXEN, based out of LA.  “Ochistuitara”, from Tokyo’s underground legend SPORE SPAWN, boasts a twenty minutes’ sacrifice of masterfully crafted, exciting, kinetic, dynamic harsh noise, and supposedly is made from a myriad of homemade joystick synthesizers and crude noise devices. While essentially existing in the harsh noise realm, “Ochistuitara” actually covers a rather wide and refreshing array of harsher sounds, compositional strategies and dynamics, and even musicality at times, almost a virtuosic approach to harsh noise. Spawn creates dense walls of feedback that violently and aggressively cascade into spacious vignettes of ambient drone, expertly blended field recordings, slow rhythmic pops, and chirps like a glitched- out, off-kiltered, dying alarm clock that fights the plug to stay in the wall when it’s angrily yanked out.   The walls of blistered, busted out, serrated chaotic mayhem crescendo into utter sonic chaos, and just as the ear bleeds for mercy rescind into a cold, alienating, isolating hum.  At times, the ambient sections act as a break from the unrelenting mountains of noise, and other times, function as matrix of brain mutes with respect to the ear fatigue. Loud is only loud when quiet is quiet, and on “Ochistuitara”, the artist is no doubt conscious of this strategy in respect to the timing and composition of this EP.


Things never stay the same to become predictable or flat, Spore Spawn is constantly shifting though wavetables of disorientation, fear, chaos, tension, and even a few brief moments resolve. The tones themselves have a cold, digital body, while swells of analog chaos modulate themselves and the sharp digital pillars of extreme sonic swells and decays, and the start /stop style of aggressive noise, on more than one occasion even function as a “drop”. What was  dropped  we don’t know,  however it carved a  deep impact into  the  ear canal, even noted on one of CLIPPING‘s year end  best of lists! In short, this is a must have for fans of ASTRO, K2, early MERZBOW and even some of the work of CLIPPING themselves.   OXEN continues to remain at the forefront as one of America’s most aesthetically and conceptually consistent harsh noise labels.   Grip this fantastic tape before it’s too late.  Here’s a few world from OXEN that represent the complexity and brevity of this EP flawlessly,

Ochitsuitara brings any fan of modern harsh noise (nostalgists won’t be disappointed though maybe not specifically catered to) closest to articulating what it is that sets Spore Spawn apart from decades of legendary noise pioneers, his modern myth building utilizing swirling loops of cacophony and squelching stabs, uncompromisingly outpacing any modern competition in his unique patterns of ecstatic jarring drunken fervor and (sometimes) vocal delivers closely woven into and through electronics culled from homemade disused gaming controllers. Just harsh as fuck. All measurements of harsh noise enjoyment of this genuinely gifted noise artist will be vastly rewarded and on abundant display on Ochitsuitara.”



SPORE SPAWN Soundcloud