From truly humble beginnings – believing it would simply be a show documenting the origin years of post-punk (1977-1983) that DJ Dave Cantrell lived through in San Francisco and London – radio show Songs From Under the Floorboard on Portland’s XRAY FM very quickly evolved into one of the world’s premier sources giving focus to the hyperactive, current-day post-punk, synthwave, and darkwave scene across the globe. From that weekly blast has come Songs From Under the Floorboard, Vol. 1, a compendium featuring rare and unreleased cuts from ten US and European bands, each one of which is at the very crest of this ongoing wave. The first in what is anticipated to be a yearly series benefiting LBGTQ and fem-oriented service organizations – this initial release’s residual profits being funneled to Planned Parenthood – we think you’ll find the results scintillating, inspiring, and, more than anything, exciting as hell. The compilation will be out on April 6th via Accident Prone Records (just in time for Portland’s Out From The Shadows Festival – a darkwave and post punk festival which is also organized by Cantrell).
Dave Cantrell, who compiled the compilation, has offered us the track by track on the compilation. Check it out below while you stream the release.
TRACK BY TRACK
1. Shadow Age came to my attention because Shadow Age comes to anyone’s attention that invests even the least curiosity into the current crop of post-punk provocateurs. Endowed with an exceedingly deep, evocative, and, umm, shadowy groove that seems to follow them around no matter which direction their music takes them, theirs is a sound that, as a band, they seem to have naturally been born to, they couldn’t shake it if they tried, and that’s very good news indeed to all involved. That they hail from Richmond, VA, not known as an especially brimming darkwave hotbed, is an aspect of Shadow Age’s innate pull. That they were a highlight among highlights of the Out From the Shadows II festival in 2016 should surprise no one.
2. Speaking of OFTS II (and IV; they’re on tap again for the final night of 2018’s event) and unexpected origins, ANNEX are another band whose primary home town – members have since dispersed a bit though the group dynamic remains as strong as ever – helps prove just how pervasively widespread post-punk/dark punk/call-it-what-you-will has become over the last ten, fifteen years. Speak the name McAllen TX to anyone and the relatively remote locale perched on the Rio Grande’s border likely wouldn’t give rise to thoughts of a noise that deftly triangulates the likes of Crass, Rubella Ballet, and a female-fronted Killing Joke. And yet there it is. As fiercely committed a band as you’ll ever run across, it’s no surprise that a distance of a few Texas miles between some members would, if anything, only strengthen the ties that bond them.
3. Perralobo also count as a rather special breed. Emerging from what I understand to be still another relatively sparse ‘scene’ – this one in the somewhat sunny Mediterranean outpost of Valencia, Spain – the five-piece trafficks in a sound that reflects their presumed surroundings not-(hardly)-at-all. Angular, melodically aggressive, blessed with a vibe that’s equal parts passionate and don’t-give-a-fuck, they’re the kind of band that makes me infinitely glad for the internet. Days when the likes of Perralobo get in touch via a click of the ‘send’ button makes one very happy to be alive in this otherwise complicated digital age. Given the strength of their debut album, however, turns out that’s the least I have to be thankful to them for.
4. Ahhh, Ӧtzi. While not knowledgeable enough of the recent – and rousingly dynamic – surge of the Oakland, CA scene to gauge just how essential to its rise this band was, I can say with some confidence that the Akiko/Gina-led juggernaut has had everything to do with its current breakout status. While they were indeed a widely-cited favorite at 2017’s OFTS III, that’s but a footnote to their West Coast presence considering the profile their own Near Dark fest, held for the first time last August (and set to repeat this coming September) in their hometown, instantly attained. Already a must-attend event, it itself barely speaks to the potential being relentlessly unlocked by this crew, as witness Gina’s new-ish split-off project Adrenochrome that finds her emerging from behind the drum kit to the front of the stage, lead singer microphone in hand. No ‘there’ there in Oakland? Don’t believe it for a second.
5. Long a Portland mainstay (I saw them open for Holograms in Sep. 2012 barely two months after my radio show – also called Songs From Under the Floorboard – launched), Vice Device is that rare band that appeals across ‘party lines,’ drawing the attention of just about everyone involved in the broad spectrum one might call the ‘musical dark arts.’ Into industrial? VDV’s pulse-pounding percussive habits are enough to loosen your teeth. The foggy shrouds down the dark end of Synthwave Street more your thing? VDV often combine the above with synth-lines that could have escaped a John Foxx Metamatic session and wandered the ether until this band laid claim to them. And the band’s natural penchant for bass-led flurries full of earworm melody and passionately delivered lyrics rife with as much intelligence as they are emotion made them a shoo-in for the first three installments of OFTS post-punk fest. Beyond that, one senses they’d even win over metalheads just by the sheer power of their performance, which taken as a whole is itself a sort of extended shred. So, yeah, Vice Device. Portland’s scene wouldn’t be Portland’s scene without them.
6. From my perspective getting Golden Apes to be part of this comp was something of a coup. Though somewhat under-known in this country, the Berlin-based band has been around for twenty years, their first EP, The Outside’s Inner Life, self-released in 1999. Whether due to their activities – and physical product – being limited primarily to the European continent or simply being another (too-frequent) example of my stumbling upon an otherwise well-known band a little late down the road, I only became aware of Golden Apes when sent a copy of their late-2016 afmusic-issued M A L V S (prononced ‘Malus’) for review. It’s the type record that brings instant joy by virtue of how full it sounds, how it resonates with that kind of almost casual virtuosity that itself can only come from the confidence that many years of being together in a devoted project can bring. Like all truly great bands, they ignore the fact that they have nothing left to prove by going out and proving it anyway, both in the studio and live on stage. What can I say but ‘Long live the Golden Apes’ and ‘Dammit, find a way to tour the West Coast!’
7. This is an LA band that from my perspective is built on several subtle paradoxes, which, of course, makes them all the more interesting. Seeming on one hand a bit under-the-radar, they in truth have over two thousand followers that includes everybody that’s anybody in the LA scene and beyond. They are also, in person – Ghost Noise was another participant in OFTS II in 2016 – pleasingly mild-mannered, an appearance that’s maintained visually while on stage but not one all that much supported by the romantic/existential desperation that most often animates their songs (an effect greatly enhanced by the frequent call-and-response vocals between singers/multi-instrumentalists Gawby Weinstein and John Casey Connolly). And as to those songs, while the contrast of John’s shiver-inducing baritone with Gawby’s angelic-if-knowing countertenor can’t help but charm, it does so in a way that also can’t help but unsettle. A delicate, and in fact delicious, tension, I feel their track, with one of the comp’s most arresting melodies, provides the perfect bridge between the classicism that precedes it and the sublimely propulsive, slightly more aggro track that follows it by…
8. …Sculpture Club. To crib from a thousand previous writers in as many different contexts, what’s to be said about Sculpture Club that hasn’t already been said? Yes, they also emerged out of city that most of us wouldn’t have ever considered as a contender for ‘scene-ness’ – in their case Salt Lake City – but of course that otherwise dry factoid no doubt prefaced nearly every piece of media coverage they’ve received (and they’ve received plenty) as well being the de facto lead-in to the majority of their interactions with fans while on tour. And yes, in one Chaz Costello they have a guitarist/frontman with an elegantly rough-edged charisma that, with his bandmates (in whatever band he’s in; there’s another Costello-fueled project called Human Leather), produces an abundance of material in what seems short periods of time while simultaneously touring at a tireless rate, all of which has no doubt also been oft-commented upon since it’s all so bloody obvious (and, yes, they too performed at OFTS III last year). So, with all bases already covered, one turns to the only element not capturable in a quick and pithy media phrase: the music. As exemplified by their contribution to SFUTF Vol 1, the band’s songs tend to present us with a pop sensibility tangled down in the root cellar with garage’s idea of post-punk. It’s brilliant, it’s a little bit guttural, a little bit to a lot beautiful, it’s Sculpture Club. What can you say?
9. What happened was, I produce these periodic columns for Stereo Embers that have become known as the NEXT lists. The first one, published back in 2013, was called “Twenty Current Post-Punk Bands You Should Know About” and I figured that would be that. Then it kind of took off. The second one was “The NEXT Twenty Current Post-Punk Bands You Should Know About,” then “The Third NEXT Twenty…” and so it’s proceeded, with May of this year seeing the publication of the Thirteenth NEXT. During its run the pieces have become standardized, the chosen bands now listed alphabetically and with a thumbnail bio of sorts to give some background. Which is nice, but part of me can’t help but yearn for that simpler anarchic time of the original class, the one that included Bernays Propaganda. BP were one of the first contemporary bands I’d discovered via Bandcamp and playlisted on my show. They had a sort of exotic quirkiness that provided a window into what a Macedonian aesthetic might be and I was hooked from the off. Plus, in putative leader Vasko Atanasoski they have a tireless creative force that has been around a few Balkan punk’n’roll blocks, not to mention one of the most personable people I’ve ‘met’ during the ride so far. With those character traits, it wasn’t really a surprise to find that he’d attracted the attention Mike Watt, someone whose tireless creativity and magnetic personality are almost as much the stuff of legend as his bass playing. It was our good fortune for this track to land on our compilation, and to Vasko I tip a very grateful hat.
10. And then we come to Forever Grey. Smitten early and often by their take on the shadowy down-low end of the darkwave spectrum, I was truly, truly thrilled when they agreed to travel across ⅔ of the country to play OFTS II (at risk of becoming a broken record here but FG come from another unlikely locality in Grand Rapids, MI). So you can only imagine how stoked I was to have them say ‘yes’ to this compilation. While in person upbeat and unstintingly polite, once they take to the stage or studio a veil descends, behind which a shimmering dark bedevilment of smoky synthesizers, end-of-times intonations, and melodies that fall upon your heart like billowing sheathes of the most beautiful despair that, for your sake, we hope you’ve ever encountered. Which, of course, to this writer is actually uplifting as f*ck, its downcast gorgeousness like a balm of joy from the deepest dark center of the sun. And while you may or may not agree with all that (even if it’s difficult to see how anyone couldn’t) but we’re fairly certain you’ll concur that the SFUTF Vol. 1 comp could hardly have ended on a more appropriate note.