Welcome back to Violet Music Digest – Pastel Wasteland’s monthly music retrospective.
Honestly? I can’t wait to see the back of 2018. I’ve mentioned before how grateful I am that the year’s music has been so good; because of what a clusterfuck this year has been in general.
Humanity somehow managed to lower the bar 2017 set. But there’s only one month left and, musically speaking, November certainly helped carry us closer to the line…
#1 – Sweet
2018 has already provided some of my all-time favourite songs, and “Sugar and Spice” definitely ranks among them. It’s short and sharp and further evidence for why they deserve to be massive. I can’t tell whether or not this will remain a standalone work, but my hope is that it represents the eventual album that I am dying to hear.
From old friends to new. London five piece Hexmaze crashed November with single “Hex Hex Hex.” This is some delicious lo-fi blues rock. Meaty, down and dirty fuzz guitar during the verses; glorious thrash during the chorus. Then there’s the slick riffs and gorgeous harmonies which really make “Hex Hex Hex” a joy to listen to.
I do what I do because of acts like these.
#2 – Precious Gems
There was this band called Daisy Chainsaw, who scored a minor hit with “Love Your Money” back in 1992. Vocalist KatieJane Garside, guitarist Crispin Gray and a rotating cast of others did the rounds for a few years; before forming Queenadreena in 1999.
Queenadreena were one of the best bands I’d ever heard. They were also bat-shit crazy and weirdly intimidating. Balancing sweet and savage was what characterised their style of alt-rock. Garside’s tender, breathy vocals would give way to terrifying howls; communicating trauma and wonder in ways few have equaled.
Since Queenadreena’s dissolution, Garside and partner Chris Whittingham have busied themselves as neo-folk outfit Ruby Throat. The forceful delirium of Queenadreena and Daisy Chainsaw were replaced with rootsy guitars; but the effect (thankfully) remains very much the same.
Stone Dress – released on the 9th – is a retrospective of their work since 2007. What’s interesting is that Garside has sounded far more confident as a performer during this period than at any other time in her career. Gone are the blood-curdling glories of Queenadreena tracks such as “Pretty Like Drugs” or “Suck.” In exchange we’ve received lilting, elegant, yet haunting works like “Beneath My Undress” and “Ghost Boy.”
Stone Dress provides a more comforting introduction to one of the UK’s most gifted and daring artists. Though seriously: check out Queenadreena’s 2002 album Drink Me when you’re done.
#3 – Technoir
This one thing could’ve justified November alone: Perturbator is back.
One of the greatest living producers returned with not one, but two volumes of B-Sides and remixes. I’m a relative newcomer to his work, but in the short space of time since “Venger” jumped me from a dark wave playlist; I’ve become an addict.
Perturbator sits comfortably alongside other retrowave outfits like Power Glove and GUNSHIP. But the veins of occult symbolism and meaty EBM running through his work amp it up. Perturbator carries serious imagination and gravity. He can also pack a mean punch.
Volume one puts spins upon the work of artists like Mega Drive, Reznyck and Dizkodeath. There are four remixes of tracks by San Diego’s Dead Astronauts, of which the death-dance of “These Bones (Have Left You)” stands out. And then there’s GosT’s “Behemoth” – satanic, skull-fucking electro which elevates and excites in equal measures.
Despite mixes of work by Starforce and Protector 101; volume two focuses more on Perturbator’s original work. As a result it feels like a journey through his creative domain, rather than curious mementos from along the way. And oh my, it’s all so beautifully twisted and dark. “The Intruder” punctuates an epic soundscape with chilling screams; though if you’d prefer something more upbeat then “Disco Girls” will deliver.
Together these releases provide a heroic introduction to a bona fide, unalloyed genius.
#4 – Ho Ho Ho
The 16th saw the UK physical release of Shatner Claus. Bill’s renditions of holiday classics will surely warm our hearts for generations to come. Or not.
Listening to this was a profound experience for me. Like many, my life has been lifted by his many famous covers – particularly Pulp’s “Common People” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” But Shatner Claus represented the first time that I’d listened to him at length, and well…it’s a no from me.
I actually found this album distressing. It jabbed me on an almost existential level. Why was this made? Why was it released? Why keep this joke going? Why did Henry Rollins and Iggy Pop throw in on it? And crucially: why did I listen to the entire thing?
I don’t like raining on parades, or dismissing the tastes of others. There is a place in this world for ridiculous music and fans of it. For example: one of my favourite songs of the past decade is Little Mix’s “OMG” – a stupid, obnoxious track which I love with all my heart.
And I LOVE Christmas music, even at its dumbest. But Shatner Claus doesn’t cut it. It’s not fun or even lame in a charming way (I’m looking at you McCartney). It’s polished nothing.
#5 – Head Like A Hole
That last one was a downer, so let’s talk about something magical.
Nine Inch Nails legend Trent Reznor trashed ghoulish, melting tradcon Ted Cruz at a gig in Dallas. Cruz secured a meager victory over Democrat Beto O’Rourke in this month’s midterm elections. Having asked Republican voters in the audience to raise their hands; Reznor described how Cruz had requested to be on the guest list. Reznor had apparently told Cruz’s people to ‘fuck off.’
Reznor continued: ‘we put him on a few years ago, he drank all the beer, and was just a pain in the ass to be around.’
Two things really fascinate me about this: Ted Cruz’s apparent enthusiasm for NIN, and how this clashes with his worldview.
Cruz served as Associate Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush. NIN’s Year Zero was a dystopian concept album inspired by the implications of Dubya’s presidency. And it’s curious that a Christian fundie who defended a law criminalising the sale of dildos, would be excited to hear “Starfuckers, Inc” live.
And that’s it for this month. As ever, if anyone has any material they’d like to share over the coming weeks; please drop us a line.
Also, Pastel Wasteland is looking for writers and reviewers to join us. If you’re interested in producing content based around music, film, fashion, graphic design or any kind of art form we would love to hear from you. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send Twitter DMs to:
Rob Ulitski (Chief Editor) – @pastelwasteland
Ryan Cole (me) – @violet_cause
Have a great one.