S04E02 – A Cold Spring

I believe we covered Lycia somewhere in our first or second season of The Infected. They popped back on my radar last week when I saw they are also on Spotify and seemingly I missed 2 EPs they released recently. They make the kind of music that really evokes goosebumps with me. I can’t name a single bad song in their entire catalog. I picked a piece from their album “Cold” from 1996. Mike and Tara moved to Ohio in the mid-90s from Phoenix, Arizona. The coldness from Ohio inspired them to make this album with winter-themed track names and a cool atmosphere.

Lycia has been very consistent in its sound over the years since 1989. The only thing to note is that they started recording on cassette tapes, and in the late 90s, things started to sound much smoother and a bit more polished. They began recording on 4 track tapes and only moved to 8 tracks beyond 1997. Some of the best-sounding albums by big bands were recorded on 8 tracks, more than enough before computers started offering the right memory and recording quality hardware.

They only had a few vinyl releases. Primarily they are released on CD or cassette. And luckily, almost all of what they made is available on Spotify these days.

On to a question from Jorrit, one of our faithful listeners: “I read in Bono’s book Surrender that u2 were considered post-punk at the time, in the late 70s. Do you guys agree, and if so, what song would be the best proof of that?”

Interesting question! Put simply, “Post-punk” in music is the punk attitude recombined and blended with other music genres (pop, reggae, electronica, folk, etc.). “New Wave,” then, is a sub-genre of post-punk. New Wave combines punk elements with electronic dance, focusing less on guitars and more on synthesizers.

So back to the question. Was U2 considered post-punk in the late 70s? In the late 1970s, U2 was not seen as anything at all. They first appeared on the radar in the 80s. But yes, Boy, October, and War are Post-Punk albums. Just listen to this track from their debut album, “Boy,” produced by Steve Lillywhite. Pay some special attention to the sound of the drums of drummer Larry Mullen Jr. – Steve Lillywhite had him playing in a stairwell to get the right echo on the drum sound 😀

I’ve known and loved this song for many years but never realized what it’s about. It is about a Dublin friend of the band who attempted suicide and ended up in St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital in Dublin, where his experiences inspired this song.

What happened to him at the psychiatric hospital is that he got electroconvulsive shock therapy, a horrific procedure that was quite common in Dublin in the 1970s.

“The Electric Co.” was neighborhood slang for the procedure, in which electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. The goal is to cause changes in brain chemistry that can reverse symptoms of certain mental health conditions. In early treatments, high doses of electricity were administered without anesthesia, potentially leading to memory loss, fractured bones, and other serious side effects. The Electric Co. Some story, eh?

Just Mustard – Deaf

I like the small room reverb of this track, that sure gives it an intimate vibe if you ask me. Also quite the audiophile-approved recording.

This is a band from Ireland from the town of Dundalk. I’ve never heard of it, but the city is filled to the brim with musicians and is located halfway between Dublin and Belfast.

A group of college friends formed the band. They started noodling around with synths and guitars in 2015 or so. Only to play on major festivals and open for The Cure in 2019.

I really like the simplicity of their music. You will hear plenty of loops, repetitions, and loud beats in their body of music. In fact, they have more in common with electronic artists than with heavy guitar bands. They produce everything themselves from the first note up to mastering.

Here is another band tipped to us by a listener; The Crüxshadows, an American dark wave and dark synthpop band from Jacksonville, Florida, in the United States.

This band has been around for a LONG time, over 30 years. So long ago, they released their first album on a cassette tape! Many of their tracks feature the electric violin, which is quite different and cool. Rogue (vocals, words, concepts, drum machines, song smithing, & electric violins) is the leading man, sometimes even the only man in the band. After many years of record label troubles, he acquired control of the Crüxshadows’artistic catalog, now published on his label, Wishfire Records. Smart move to keep creative control!

Emily K. Eichelberger, thanks for putting this band on our radar by request; this one is for you!

Right after that, we played I’m Coming by Executive Slacks. Another tip by Emily and one that really hit home with Goof. One of the most overlooked acts in Post-punk, if we can believe the notorious Post-Punk.com. The Killing Joke’s bassist Martin Glover produced their second EP, “Our Lady,” in Philadelphia in 1984. He even makes a cameo in this same track, “I’m Coming.” Yes, that is Killing Joke’s Martin Glover with his distinguishable bass playing on this very tune. Great track, great tip, much appreciated. Thanks for reaching out to the show Emily!

Next is Sour, a track from Void Vision’s debut album Sub Rosa on Berlin-based label Mannequin Records. Mainly a solo work by singer and producer Shari Vari, the album has an infectious wave/synth sound, with songs lush and dynamic in range and structure and with a strong sense of personality. A bit rough around the edges, but I like that 🙂

Void Vision was formed in 2009 when the minimal synth and cold wave genres were greatly revived. They had previously recorded an EP and released a single, but this is the first (and only) full-length album. It contains tracks that were recorded between 2011 and 2013.  

“Sour” was released as a single; it is an excellent synthpop track. I like that Void Vision hits us with a quick chorus, and Shari Vari’s icy vocals combine perfectly with her epic synth sound to create a calm and catchy song. 

This is a demo version of the song called Sadacic from the 5th studio album of the Cure. The Top. When they were still angry.

After recording the psychedelic album Blue Sunshine for the one-off project The Glove, Robert Smith finished off the year composing and working on this album, The Top. This album from 1984 came after Pornography and broke with the sound of The Cure until then. The Top sounds psychedelic, unpolished, and angry.

Ryuichi Sakamoto, music innovator and master of synthesizer music, died on March 28, 2023. 

Mr. Sakamoto-San combined Western and Eastern sounds like no one else, a unique combination characteristic of much of his work. 

Already at the University of Fine Arts and Music in Tokyo, where he studied composition, he showed himself to be a student of both the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu and the Frenchman Claude Debussy.

In 1978 he was one of the founders of Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), a pop group with mainly electronic instruments. The group was often seen as the Asian  Kraftwerk, but YMO’s music was considerably lighter and more melodic. In their own country, Sakamoto and his friends achieved Beatles-like popularity with it. 

Ryuichi was married to Akiko Yano, his YMO bandmate, for a while. 

YMO combined traditional Japanese music with sounds like those heard in video game halls. American genres like funk and disco also influenced the group. 

Outside Japan, YMO was an example for British synthesizer groups such as Depeche Mode, Human League, and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark in the 1980s. Like Kraftwerk’s music, YMO’s music laid the groundwork for later dance movements such as house and techno. But even Michael Jackson and primarily his producer Quincy Jones were big fans.

Ryuichi Sakamoto’s first solo album Thousand Knives was released as early as 1978, but his personal career took off in the eighties. He had great success with pop music and as a film composer.  

The music he composed from the 1990s onwards was mainly minimalist and meditative. The piano was often the main instrument in his almost Classical piano works. Asia and Debussy shone through in it, and Erik Satie was never far away. 

In the 2000s, he mainly focused on ambient works. His electronic sound always carried an organic warmth unique to the genre. His cooperation with the German Alva Noto is particularly worth checking out. 

Popular tracks, more pop-style, were always part of his portfolio, although never mainstream. 80’s sound influenced him, and David Bowie was an inspiration, but he was not a singer but rather a composer. Sometimes he added some spoken word sounds to his records. 

His movie score works are deeply layered, each film score soundtrack somehow building on the previous one. Notable are his works for Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, which earned Sakamoto an Oscar in 1987, and The Revenant, with its deep piano sound building into great orchestral work as well as Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, a movie about an impossible love between a prisoner of war and a Japanese soldier, in which he starred together with David Bowie. David Sylvian of Japan is the singer in this hit song from the soundtrack. 

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