Velvet Lightning

These are the show notes that go with Podcast episode s03E09: “Velvet Lightning”

Severed Heads – Dead Eyes Opened (2014)

Severed Heads were one of the pioneering acts on the alternative music scene of Australia. They used elements of industrial, synth pop, electronic, and more during their existence. They wanted to pick a band name that stuck, and they did with Severed Heads. Their sound evolved constantly from their start in 1979 to their retirement in 2008. In that time they also used a wide variety of formats to distribute their music.

Frustrated with the costs and limitations of releasing music on vinyl, Severed Heads 1983 album “Since the Accident” was initially released as a 60-minute cassette. To fill out all 60 minutes, they added the song “Dead Eyes Opened” to the end of the running order.

As luck would have it, the tune was catchy enough that Severed Heads scored record deals with Ink Records in the U.K. and ‘new Australian branch’ at home. The track became a minor hit.

Years later Severed Heads began documenting their work on CD-ROM releases in 1994, and were one of the first Australian bands with a presence on the Internet (the group included an e-mail contact address on the artwork so fans could directly communicate with the group). New media were embraced by the Severed Heads, as it allowed Severed Heads to work with greater independence. New releases were issued as CD-Rs (and later MP3s).

Let’s listen to their small hit track “Dead Eyes opened”. It reminds me of the many Criminal Psychology video’s I’ve watched on Youtube, and the recent Ted Bundy serial killer documentary on Netflix. The lyrics are taken from a radio show that documented the gruesome 1924 murder of Emily Kaye in Australia.

“By strange coincidence, a thunderstorm had been brewing when Mahon, doing his grisly work at the bungalow, was dealing with the most grisly job of all—the head, the woman’s head.

He had severed it from the trunk, built a huge fire in the sitting room, placed her head upon it, then the storm broke with a violent flash of lightning and an appalling crash of thunder.

As the head of Emily Kaye lay upon the coals, the dead eyes opened, and Mahon fled out to the deserted shore. When he nerved himself to return, the fire had done its work”.

Sjöblom – Victory of Love (Victory of Love EP, 2019)

COVER ME! The next band is called Sjöblom. I had never heard of them, but recently our listener Seb from the Netherlands tipped us a couple of acts, and from his selection, I really liked Sjöblom. Thanks, Seb! Much appreciated 🙂 They appear in the Cover Me section performing a cover from one of my favorite bands from the ’80s: Alphaville. Here is the 2019 version of it by Sjöblom: Victory of Love!

Sjöblom is a Swedish indie project founded in 2016 by Johan, a veteran of several other indie pop and post-punk bands. The Sjöblom version of this track has some interesting dynamics, slowly building up the tension before unleashing the song’s full force. They transform the electronic style of the original into their own sound, combining passion and power.

To me, the song is special because it reminds me of a trip to Berlin in 1990. Two friends and I drove an ancient Volkswagen Polo there. We were camping in the wild and washing up at gas stations because we just had no money. The Berlin wall had just fallen, and the Football World Championship tournament was being played at the time. The German Team ultimately won that and became world champions. It was a weird time; it felt like after years of being separated, the East and West Germans had suddenly found each other, and the country was drunk on feelings of nationalism. We were standing in the middle of Berlin near the Siegessaule when the German World Championship was celebrated and German flags from every period in history were flying high. The cold, melancholy electronic music of Alphaville was somehow a fitting soundtrack to all of that. 

Poésie Noire – The Gioconda Smile (Radio Mix 1985)

Thanks to our listener, Dieter, who also made this custom mix for us, I discovered this next track by Poésie Noire.

Very little is known about how the Belgian band actually started their career in music. Nevertheless, they are known to have won the 1985 Breekend Rock Festival (a long-lasting, big festival set in Bree, Belgium that hosted large amounts of prestigious bands such as The Smiths in 1984.

After winning: In the next year the group played support to Dead Can Dance and the Sisters of Mercy and also a lot of gigs on their own. Not a bad start if you ask me.

Originally the Poésie Noire had seven members, but soon there were only three. That makes sense. Imagine having to agree and connect with 7 people to make music..

Their Belgian origins and tendency to develop a goth-oriented, synthetic, gloomy universe with low-pitched voices – Poésie Noire could translate by “Black/Dark Poetry” – had them categorized as EBM like other Belgian members of the 1980s electronic music scene like Front 242 or The Neon Judgement. Poesie Noire wanted to move away from the usual industrial aggressiveness that characterized EBM and developed a more mainstream accessible sound that helped them to be seen as plain new wave or Darkwave.

Unfortunately Poésie Noire ceased to exist in 1992. They were released from their record deal. The band then signed on to EMI-Belgium (a much larger label) and changed their named to TBX (that stands for To Be eXcited). They released some stuff but it didn’t do too well in the eyes of EMI. Their music isn’t meant for mass consumption after all. It was deleted from the EMI catalog shortly afterwards.

During the end of the nineties, the bandmembers chose different career paths. Johan worked in a company that co-ordinates musical mega events and Marianne worked in a large company who helps people to find a job. Herman was working on making electronic gear under the Sherman brand name. In fact, he worked on first hand-made filter known as the Sherman Filterbank used by many renowned artists such as Air, The Chemical Brothers, Madonna or The Rolling Stones. Cool little fact.

At some point they joined up again, because in 2010 an album was released. Anyway, it was hard enough to find some info on them.

Velvet Condom – Samt und Stein (Stadtgeil, 2008)

This is Velvet Condom, with Samt und Stein!

You might think that this is a German band, but Velvet Condom is an art-wave project from Strasbourg, France. Founding members Nicolas Isner and Oberst Panizza were brought up with classic guitar bands. Still, they shared the love for synths, drum machines, and Cold-Wave music that were incorporated into what would become the Electro Clash genre.

The time was 2005, and they blended shoegaze guitars and electronics with German lyrics. Due to this, they got a lot of attention in Berlin. The duo, who lived and worked together since 2005, relocated to Berlin in 2008. The city inspired them to record their excellent second album ‘Stadtgeil’ there, as an ode to the city. This track, Samt und Sein is from that album.

The official video of Samt und Stein was recorded in Berlin, and I have to say it is pretty special… go check it out

Stadtgeil was the start of their “golden age,” as they call it, from 2008 until 2013, with the release of their boxed set ‘Vanity and Revolt’ as the climax and final touch. In 2014 they disbanded after ten years of Velvet Condom.

In 2015 they returned as LISTE NOIRE, a new incarnation of Velvet Condom, with Nicolas Isner and Oberst Panizza now joined by new member Kalle on guitar and keyboard to play ‘Disco Noir.’ LISTE NOIRE released two EP’s, an album, and their last single in 2018.

Nicolas and his partner in crime, Djamila Paris, now perform together under Nicolas’s stage name Alice Gift. Also, in 2021, Velvet Condom released a new remix of a song by Paranormales, so the story continues…

Death Bells – Nothing Changes (Standing at the edge of the World, 2017)

Death Bells are a duo from Australia consisting of Will Canning and Remy Veselis. They formed the band in 2015 during their late adolescent years. They picked their band name from a movie, but a Death Bell is also a bell you hear at a funeral as a symbol for passing away and transitioning to the other world. It’s a quite ominous sounding band name, and not in line with the music they make.

They are kind of blurring the lines of post-punk and garage rock but with a very romantic undertone and not gloomy or ominous sounding at all. Will describes their music as “a love song gone wrong”.

2 years after the incarnation of Death Bells, they moved 7000 miles across to Los Angeles after they did a big tour there. Well big, they were booked for 20 shows, but 7 of them got cancelled. They were driving around in a rental van with musical equipment they bought at Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard. It was a bit of a mess and if you see the footage on Youtube, Will’s voice lasts for 5 minutes and then completely breaks down. Anyway, I really like what they have put out so far, and it’s all on Spotify. I’ve been following them for a while now, and I think the track Nothing Changes paints a good picture of the band, this is it.

The video of Nothing Changes made me think about a movie, I’ll include the video on our website so you can see for yourself.

The Big Picture: The Place Beyond the Pines (2012, 7,3 op IMDB)

It’s a movie from 2012 with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper as lead actors. It’s about a motorcycle stunt rider (Ryan Gosling) that turns into a bankrobber as a way to provide for his lover and their newborn child, a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop that’s working in a department ruled by a corrupt detective. It has a 7,3 on IMDB, a lot of atmosphere and suspense. Highly recommended.

Goose – Control (album: Control. Control. CONTROL!) (2012)

Control is the title track of the third album by dark electro-rockers Goose from Kortrijk, Belgium. When they started out I was living in Belgium and I heard them first on the famous radio station StuBru, which I highly recommend, by the way. Goose are still active today, but this track is from 2012, a turning point in their career. After a hard-hitting debut album that took the world by surprise and a much more sophisticated second album, by 2012, Goose had become an act of international renown, with a reputation for delivering high-energy live performances.

Having played several prominent festivals and getting frequent airplay in Belgium and England, at the time, they felt it was time to set up their own record company for their third effort, which would guarantee the foursome complete ‘control. control. CONTROL’ over their music.

Interestingly enough, for the first time, they did outsource the production. Producer Paul Stacey, who had worked with The Black Crowes and Oasis, clearly focused on the group’s raw live energy. With that, ‘Control’ instinctively feels as spontaneous as their first album or their infamous Rock Werchter gigs.

From the very first note, the guitars claim a prominent role. Not so surprising: Goose started as a full-blooded rock band before they turned to darkness, synths, and beats. The track makes me feel like I’m wandering through a slum where the darkest elements of the eighties still hide and come at you in mist and shadows. The track invokes the sinister spirit of forefathers’ Front 242, blended with barbed wire strung guitars and punishing beats. An orchestra of the damned, playing symphonic synths that build up and swell into a sweaty, restlessness, distorted nightmare. Exciting!

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