We are the Infected, born during the days of lockdown, and we are infected with the love of music.
Kaelan Mikla – Draumadís
INSTA OUTCAST! We kicked off this show with Kælan Mikla, an Icelandic synthpunk band, as they call themselves. I had pegged them as goth banshee darkwave, although the best description I found is “dark, dream-fuelled poetry set to sexy doom-laden post-punk.” Well, whatever you want to call it, I like Kaelan Mikla a lot.
The band was formed in Reykjavik by its three female band members, Laufey, Margrét, and Sólveig, who attended the same high school. Two of the band members signed up for a poetry slam competition six years ago in 2014. Although they had no plans to form a band, they won the first prize and were encouraged to continue in music. Laufey joined them, and soon they released their first album independently. In these early days, the band used traditional punk instruments, with Margrét playing bass guitar and Sólveig drums. Sólveig later switched to drum machines and synthesizers, which made the music darker.
The band has performed at various festivals, including Eurosonic, Meltdown, and Roadburn. In fact, Kælan Mikla was invited by Robert Smith to perform at the Meltdown Festival in 2018, of which Smith was a curator. The band also played at The Cure’s 40th-anniversary celebration concert in Hyde Park. More recently, they toured with Drab Majesty. Their last album, Nótt eftir nótt, is from 2018 and is simply brilliant. I’m not the only one who thinks so; it was post-punk.com’s album of the year for 2018. Anyway, it’s an absolute must-listen in my book.
The track we just played was about the Draumadis, the Nightmare Nymph of Death, who leads men into the night, where they dance until they freeze to death. The wide-screen video for this track is stunning. A short surreal narrative set in a place where occult rituals are used as technology and human sacrifice has unusual results. Surrealistic imagery ranges from vast desolation to cavernous ritualism, featuring the three bandmembers as an ice-witch coven engaged in a dark ritual. As Goof likes to say, Powerful Stuff!
Model Man – Honesty Doesn’t pay
I’d like to talk with you about Model Man. I came across his music for the first time around 2007. Friends of mine had their own radio show called “Radio Resistencia” that they recorded from a wharf basement (werfkelder) in your town, Utrecht. They were 4 guys with great taste, and a lot of knowledge about dark music. I discovered and learned a lot from them by joining those sessions. They were broadcast on Intergalactic FM.
Back to Model man: It is the alter ego of DJ Overdose from The Hague. Real name Jeroen Warmenhoven. He’s been active for over 20 years now in producing music. Under multiple aliases he has released 33 singles and 4 full length albums so far.
He’s a driving force in the Dutch Electro scene. But mostly has a passion for Hip Hop from the 80’s. Or from 1995 – 2005 which he calls the second golden age of Hip Hop. He walks around with Kangol hat (remember those??), Adidas sneakers and a golden chain. But also produces great electro, Italo Disco and nostalgic 80’s sounds. A very versatile creature. I must say that Hip Hop does not do it for me.
It does give the basic feel that can easily evolve into electro with Roland TR-808 beats, the rhythm types.
Anyways, under the Model Man name, he’s bringing the 80’s into the recent times. You could describe his sound as a kind of “dark electro pop”. What I love about the track we’re about to play, is the relentless drive of the drums and especially the pounding snaredrum. It’s repetitive, yes, but the mood it offers is just great. It’s typical of the 80’s sound that I love, and with just the right amount of darkness. I highly recommend checking out Model Man on Spotify. This is a track from 2006: Honesty Doesn’t Pay. Does honesty pay? It is my motto that it does. But the honest route is not always easy.
Red Skies over Paradise – Fischer-Z. From Red Skies over Paradise, 1981.
Red Skies over Paradise is the album’s title track, and it’s just such a typical song for the early ’80s. I have played this vinyl album countless times on my boy’s room pick-up.
You have to realize that at the time, we were all afraid that nuclear missiles might be launched at any minute from Russia or America, and it would be game over for everyone. Everything you ever did would have been for nothing. This was the atmosphere of the early ’80s, the pressure on Generation-X in their youth. The anxiety that any minute, down in a bunker, under the sea, a man could press a button, and everything would be gone.
The album featured many songs about politics and several references to the Cold War, this title track and the album cover in particular. The album is quite varied in musical styles, but has that typical post-punk biting guitar sound, and lyrics that spoke to a generation. Red Skies over Paradise received very positive reviews from media and fans and it encouraged band leader John Watts to pursue a solo career as well. He still plays with Fischer-Z, and during these days of lockdown, also likes to perform solo on Facebook simply playing his acoustic guitar and singing, while responding to fans in between songs.
Xmal Deutschland – Matador
X-Mal Deutschland was a band from Germany that started off with raw and bleak gothrock in the early 80’s. The band featured women only, and the leading lady was Anja Huwe.
As a girl in her teens, Anja would make several trips to London with her boyfriend to check out the Punk scene in the late 70’s. At the time, she also wanted to become a model in Paris. But heavily influenced by the punk scene, she chose the musical path and soon formed the band Xmal Deutschland with the assistance of some borrowed equipment from friends and boyfriends.
Soon they captured the attention of BBC’s DJ John Peel and they gained a substantial audience. They performed live with Einsturzende Neubauten, The Cult, The Stranglers, and many more big acts.
After 2 sounding albums on the famous 4AD record label, they chose a more mainstream path. But still with a dark edge. I’m referring to the 3rd album “Viva”, that I picked a track from for today. The album did not do very well, but I think it is their best and offers a very enjoyable listening experience.
Soon after Viva, the band split up and in the 90s, Anja was more interested in the techno/trance scene. She worked for the international broadcast music station VIVA TV where she hosted the show “HouseFrau,”. A one-hour TV show with videoclips, dj’s and reports on raves and parties. And these days she’s working as a visual artist, moving between Hamburg and New York.
Ghosts – Japan. From Tin Drum, 1981
A track I played over and over during my high school days. I even had a T-shirt with the lyrics. Japan was a British group led by David Sylvian. Japan was ahead of its time. They stood at the foundation of the New Wave and the Blitz movement but just when those trends were breaking through to a larger audience; Japan disbanded in 1981. Ghosts was their greatest hit, just before the break-up.
This song is extraordinary in the sense that it’s very different from what you’d hear in the hit parade. It is a haunting ballad with a very minimal arrangement, yet it managed to reach the UK Top 10 in 1981.
Over 25 years later, Sylvian said that this song is the only piece that Japan produced that still resonates with him since it’s the most autobiographical piece. He explained: “It was the only time I let something of a personal nature come through, and it set me on a path in terms of where I wanted to proceed in going solo.”
Despite the song’s success, Japan split a few months after its release.
Sylvian later explained that even though the band was becoming successful, he found himself no happier than when they had started. He didn’t like being held in; he didn’t like being filmed, photographed, and written about, he didn’t enjoy people walking in his footsteps, trying to look like him. In short, he found the experience of fame underwhelming. Fame wasn’t what he wanted, and that is the revelation that David Sylvian describes in this song.
Just when I think I’m winning
When I’ve broken every door
The ghosts of my life
Blow wilder than before
Just when I thought I could not be stopped
When my chance came to be king
The ghosts of my life
Blew wilder than the wind
David felt he had to disband the group to regain his freedom. In doing so, he had to upset the lives of some very dear friends. But to him, it was a means of survival and a way of trying to find a purposeful existence.
This track is special because Ghosts was Japan’s greatest hit, and at the same time, it was David Sylvian’s official announcement to the band and to the world that it had come to an end.
Synthpop, synthwave and such styles are also part of The Infected, but we haven’t featured much recent stuff over the last months. Today I bring to you: Vaporwave. A musical genre that was born on the internet, in the early 2010’s.
Looking for new vaporwave in 2021 is almost impossible. The genre has been dead since around 2016. So how do we discuss a style that is dead, well, maybe we can bring it back to life, at least in this episode.
Vaporwave was born in reaction to huge economic and other forces that are still very much a part of our lives: globalization and extreme consumerism as most important themes. Mostly, it is an over-the-top attempt to recreate cheesy 80’s nostalgia.
For instance: In a lot of video’s on Youtube you can see the glorification of old American shopping mall footage from the 80’s. Also, the band names often have brand names, or logos in their artwork. They also seem to have a lot of computer references, like early Apple computers, floppy disks, and an example of a band name like “Windows 96” (which was of course has never actually existed, only Windows 95 and 98).
By the way, don’t confuse it with synthwave. Because synthwave is more of a serious attempt to recreate the 80’s vibe.
One of the bigger names in Vaporwave is without a doubt: Telepath (Real name: Luke Laurila). And of course they are so obscure that it’s hard to find any info. That’s why elaborated a bit on the genre instead of the artist. Telepath has made 1 live appearance in 2019, dressed in a costume and mask so you can’t recognize or see who it is.. I’ve made a custom edit of a track by Telepath, one by Disconscious, and also 1 that is regarded as the very first Vaporwave track ever, from 2008. To give you a taste.