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Vandal Moon “Black Kiss” (2020)

As you may know, I have very eclectic tastes. I like to write about music that I have discovered that is new to me, whether it is new or not. Recently, a lot of posts have been focused on older artists that I have only recently discovered. Today is something different. Vandal Moon is a dark wave outfit that I have only just discovered, though they have been around for about a dozen years already. Their debut album seems to have been self-released in 2013. Their latest, Black Kiss, came out digitally this month, with the vinyl coming soon (though pre-orders for the ridiculously low pressing of 300 have already sold out!).

They are definitely an indie band, with their first two albums being self-released, their third via web-only label Werkstatt Recordings, and their last three coming to us via Starfield Music of Vancouver, Canada. This adds to the appeal for me because I like to see what an artist is interested in doing without the interference of a large record company whose idea of marketing is to pigeon hole everyone into sounding the same. Sometimes it is difficult to discover new indie bands, especially for someone like me who prefers to only buy music on vinyl, but I really lucked out this time.

One of my favorite record labels, Graveface Records of Savanna, Georgia, has acquired the rights to release Vandal Moon’s newest offering, Black Kiss, on vinyl and I am excited to say that I was among the first to be notified via e-mail!

I have been a fan and collector of Graveface for a long time. I was one of the first members of their fantastic record club and I am almost always happily surprised with their random roster of artists. Vandal Moon is much more random that I would have normally expected from Graveface, but somehow the vibe seems a good fit! So, when I got the e-mail from Graveface earlier this month to let me know about the upcoming release, I checked it out via the Graveface Bandcamp page and was blown away by the sounds I was hearing. This was not guitar based post-punk as expected. Think Sisters of Mercy meets The Cure with a dash of Echo and the Bunnymen and some Ultravox thrown in for good measure.

Consisting of duo Blake Voss (vocals, guitars, synthesizers) and Jeremy Einsiedler (Drum machines, synthesizers), Santa Cruz’s Vandal Moon is firmly in the Goth/Dark Wave family, with a distinctly 80s feel that will make you want to dance to their songs of decay and abandon. There is a crispness to the production that reminds me of early Human League, or Gary Numan/Tubeway Army albums but with more of an emotional connection. It makes me think of a goth Visage. The vocals are reminiscent of Ian McCulloch or a young Dave Gahan. The driving bass is exactly what I want in an 80s synth band, reminiscent of something by Giorgio Morodor but not quite as mainstream, with occasional driving bass that feels touched by the hand of New Order. They definitely wear their influences and affections on their sleeve.

Now that I have essentially name checked  your entire childhood, maybe I should tell you what Vandal Moon is NOT. It isn’t typical pop music with nothing to say and generic keyboard sounds thrown on top of a bland rhythm. These guys obviously have a love of 80s synthesizer bands and early new wave, and they have channeled it into some gorgeously crafted songs that feel nostalgic without feeling old. There is a definite shiny newness to the sound. I have had the pleasure of living with this album for a week or so now and I am still enjoying it tremendously! It has been on high rotation since I discovered that it was available on Spotify. I was so surprised by it that I had to add it to the top of the list of upcoming blog posts.

Of the ten tracks on the new album, only the album’s title track, “Black Kiss”, doesn’t really resonate with me. The rest of the songs are compelling and keep me listening. (As an aside: is it just me or do you also find that the worst song on an album is often the title track?)

The album starts out with some typically goth sounding electronic tracks, lead single “Hurt”, followed by “Dead” and then the aforementioned “Black Kiss”. It is only once you get those three tracks out of the way, however, that the album really begins to shine. It is one of those rare albums that gets better as it goes along as opposed to petering out by the half-way point. In fact, I think the second half of the album is stronger by far than the first, though it begins picking up steam on the fourth track.

“We Are Electric” is one of my favorites. I can definitely see myself grooving to this on the dance floor in a kind of eyes-closed trance. “We live Forever” is a gorgeous little piece with some wonderful vocals from Voss accompanied by Leanne Kelly’s haunting backing vocals (the song features fellow indie artists New Spell). It probably has the slowest tempo on the entire album, and I generally hate “slow” songs, but I really get into this one every time it comes up on my playlist. As is usually the case, there are always standout tracks, even when you enjoy the whole album. and “We Live Forever” is one of them. Other standout tracks include “Wicked World”, “Suicidal City Girl”, “Robot Lover”, and “Pretend to Die”.

I think a lot of what I liked about this album, initially, was the fact that it really does it’s own thing. It doesn’t sound pre-packaged and designed by committee so as to appeal to as many people as possible. It’s as if the band said, “Here it is. We like it. Like it or don’t, it’s up to you.”

I definitely like it. If you don’t, then I’m sure there will be a new Katy Perry clone available soon (not that there is anything wrong with that… just not particularly groundbreaking or original… or creative..or… mind expanding… or…  well, you know what I’m saying, right?).

I am happy I can check out most of their older releases on Spotify as well. Hopefully some of their earlier material will also get a vinyl re-issue (I make no apologies for being a vinyl snob xox)

You can stream Vandal Moon‘s new album here via Spotify:

Alternately, you can check it out and buy the album here via Bandcamp:

If you like what you hear, by all means share this post! It’s the best way to help an indie band get exposure/cover costs.

#music #vinyl #vinylcollection #myvinylcollection #recordcollection #myrecordcollection #musicboxtw #birdienumnumsmusic #Taiwan #Chiayi #vandalmoon #graveface #darkwave #goth #newwave #newspell #台灣 #嘉義 #黑膠唱片 #音樂

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