After ushering the long-forgotten cold wave genre – an early 80s European movement with an icy aesthetic that combined brooding post-punk with mechanical krautrock rhythms – in from the, umm, cold, and releasing a series of dark, eerie and jarring minimal electronic music, Wierd Records is taking a leftfield turn.
The grass-roots Brooklyn label is dipping a tentative toe in the mainstream with a couple of records packed full of aching pop sensibilities and catchy tunes. Covered In Dust, the debut by the Louisiana group Kindest Lines, is grounded in the same mechanical drum patterns and metallic tinge that dominates cold wave, but differs in having a heart of pure pop and melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Lady Gaga track. This pervasive pop influence is apparent from Covered In Dust’s opening track, Hazy Haze, which drifts slowly into life with a Phil Spector drum beat and shimmering guitars soaked in reverb, before segueing into an uplifting chorus with a desperately gorgeous vocal line.
And a second pop-tinged release comes from Wierd this autumn in the shape of Xeno and Oaklander’s new long-player, Sets And Lights. The album, out next month, takes their stripped-down analogue synth sound and injects a dose of joyous warmth to proceedings. The leading single, The Staircase, is still an unnerving (and slightly creepy) slice of music that wouldn’t sound out of place in an early David Lynch film, but elsewhere on the album a certain lightness starts to illuminate the dark corners. “It’s a lot more baroque… and has fast celebratory beats,” informs singer Liz Wendelbo. “We also harmonise on a lot of the songs. At its core, the tone is still dark and melancholic, but with ornaments and flourishes: some sort of renaissance.” Sean McBride agrees and adds that “it’s a touch more hopeful… although that isn’t saying very much”.
But on the back of these two surprisingly commercial outings, Wierd is set to return to the darkside, and as the NYC summer turns to icy winter the label is due to release a slew of noirish, angular, dissonant music. Among the releases in the pipeline are a compilation of twelve young industrial noise groups who all live together in a sprawling, dilapidated house in Queens, and the debut album by Vaura, who take the cold wave foundations and sculpt on top a claustrophobic world of dense back metal. “In addition to the minimal synth and cold wave scenes, Wierd has been aligned with the industrial/ noise scene since the beginning,” says label boss Pieter Schoolwerth. “More recently, as metal and noise scenes have been bleeding into one another, even some aspects of metal have emerged in the Wierd fold. These groups are making fantastically inventive sounds that defy any genre tags.”
Text: Rob Dabrowski
Photos courtesy Weird Records Flickr stream