May 22 is, as I learned on Twitter, World Goth Day. As Wikipedia told me, it’s ‘a day where the goth scene gets to celebrate its own being, and an opportunity to make its presence known to the rest of the world.’ Now that sounded interesting. A few people in my TL shared their favourite music videos, or other cool art. So why not join in, I thought. Why not make a short mixtape from YouTube links of tracks I like? Maybe someone finds something there they kinda like. And that would be cool.
So I assembled a list of 10 songs because I figured that is enough to get a bit of diversity, but also not so much as to be overwhelming. Now that I tweeted them all, I guessed I could mirror the list here, maybe go a bit beyond 140 characters per song, and have it saved in a medium less prone to obsolescence than Twitter. And maybe it’s a nice change from all the techy computer hardware posts I’ve been writing lately. Now go grab your eyeliner, black nail polish, and headphones, because off this list goes!
Oh, one political caveat before we start: Many projects featured here are from the Neofolk genre, or have close ties to it. Neofolk is often painted with a broad brush as ‘Nazi music’, a vehicle for right wing extremists to brandish fascist aesthetics under the guise of art, and subvert the receptive-because-romantic goth scene with their right wing ideology. With all the runes and uniforms and ‘suspicious names’, it’s easy to come to that conclusion when looking at it from afar. What this misses is how Neofolk derives from Avantgarde/Industrial, a 1970s outgrowth from conceptual and performance art where the deliberate use of provocation and induced repulsion is used to make the listener question assumptions (as to the form of music, pre-established boundaries and notions, etc) and ultimately reach emancipation. In a way, one could see it as an intellectualistic companion to Punk’s more visceral, direct: ‘Hey asshole! I’m everything you think uncultivated. And I’m right here where you can’t ignore my existing.’ Neofolk bands especially are known to employ symbols and topics pertaining to fascism, and to not explain their motives. It’s obvious that such an aesthetic context, and some tendencies in the goth scene, can be a fertile and welcome ground for actual fascists. But at the same time, not everything is as brown as it seems.
Now let’s get on with the music for real!
1: Kirlian Camera – Black August
Kirlian Camera is my favourite band, period. Concerts usually aren’t a big draw for me, but I just can’t pass the opportunity to see my favourite italians live. ‘Black August’ is neither their most famous song (that would be ‘Eclipse’), nor is an old, legendary album’s unsung gem, but I really like it and think it pretty representative of their recent sound. They’ve been around since 1979/80 and are still going strong!
2: Allerseelen – Mit fester Hand
Allerseelen is a really unique little beast. A one-man project from Austria that sits in an undefinable space between (Post-)Industrial/Noise, Ritual, Neofolk and Military Pop, with an occasional dash of Flamenco. Mit fester Hand is one of their more approachable tracks, featuring lyrics by Hermann Hesse.
3: Dead can Dance – Enigma of the Absolute
Dead can Dance are legen–waitforit…sorry. but they really are. They’ve made their kind of dark/mystical music before that genre even was a thing. You might know DCD’s Lisa Gerrard from her collaboration with Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack for Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. Listen to this if majestic-sounding epic soundtrack-y music with influences from folk musiv all over the globe sounds like a good thing to you.
4: Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio – In High Heels Through Nights of Broken Glass
Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio is a swedish Martial Industrial/Apocalyptic Folk project with an eerie poetic tinge to it. They have a faible for dark erotic and surreal imagery (Lyrics excerpt: The killing of mankind won’t ever desist//I’m God, I am Satan, I’m all that there is//The sun is my kingdom it is where I dwell//In high heels we wander through heaven and hell//We dance in nights of broken glass//Where stars collide and dreams collapse) and ridiculously long titles.
5: Camerata Mediolanense – Il Trionfo di Bacco e Arianna
This song was one of the first Neoclassical/Neofolk-y tunes I ever heard, and it drew me right in. Leave it to the Italians to take a simple melody and make it into magic.
6: Siderartica – Antland
More Italians! Siderartica were a sideproject of Kirlian Camera’s Elena Alice Fossi. (For her Dark Wave-y Glam Rock girl band project, go listen to Spectra*Paris!) Very driving and stompy, but still elegant and melodic. And pretty damn 80s.
7: Wolfsheim – The Sparrows and the Nightingales
Maybe the quintessential german dark Synthpop band. If only for Peter Heppner’s voice. Distilled goosebumps, I tell you! A good friend of mine – a school teacher – mentioned that he got a few pupils hooked on Wolfsheim several years ago, only to have their mothers come and ask who that band with the dreamy singer was. More people have become aware of Heppner’s singing by his more melancholic-Rammstein-y duet with Joachim Witt, Die Flut, that stormed the german charts in 1998.
8: Sagittarius – Lieber einsam mit den Freien fallen
I have no clue how I became aware of Cornelius Waldner’s Project Sagittarius. But something about the melodies and the simple instrumentation grabbed me. This song is from a concept album about Ernst Jünger’s 1939 novella ‘Auf den Marmorklippen’ (On the Marble Cliffs) that is interpreted by some as a critical parable on Hitler’s rise to power.
9: Soap&Skin – Thanatos
If I recall correctly, it was a small blurb in Vogue that made me aware of Soap&Skin. I have no idea how to describe her musical style, so just listen.
10: Stalingrad – The Road on Which You’ll Die (Morriconiana)
Oops, another Kirlian Camera sideproject. How could that happen? In their own words, this one is about ‘pompous, shamelessly uncool, heartfelt b-music’. In this case, with a hommage to Ennio Morricone.
Bonus Track: Helium Vola – Veni Veni
Helium Vola is another very strange beast. The brainchild of studied conductor and professional composer Ernst Horn, whos other profession seems to be to form ultra-influential goth bands: Together with Alexander Velianov, he is pop/dark wave legend Deine Lakaien, he is a founding member of the electro-medieval band Qntal, and then founded the similarly avantgarde electronica/medieval band Helium Vola after cutting ties with Qntal over a dispute. Always an eclectic mix of medieval sources and deceptively simple but structured to the point electronica, Helium Vola really is worth a few minutes of your time.