Siglo XX – Answer

  • Genre: Post-punk
  • Produced by: Antler Records
  • Released: 1983 on Antler Records, 2018 on Onderstroom Records

Siglo XX hail from Belgium, and is the unpolished diamond in the rough for the post-punk fan. The original lineup consisted of vocalist Erik Dries, guitarist Antonio Palermo, guitarist/bassist Dirk Chauvaux, drummer Klaas Hoogerwaard, synth player Chris Nelis and bassist Guido Bos. Both Nelis and Bos left to form other bands. They formed in Genk, Belgium in 1979, and were described as being heavily influenced by Factory Records and Joy Division. Indeed, Wikipedia lists them as the ‘Belgian Joy Division’, so I’m not alone in my sentiments.

Siglo XX’s namesake is an interesting rabbit hole itself – it’s both the name of a Bolivian tin mine that constantly saw unrest during its operation. A bloody massacre fnally erupted in the late 1960s, when government troops advanced onto the mine. In Spanish, it also translates to ‘twentieth century.’ These extra bits of information add a wonderfully dystopian touch to the band’s image. Think Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, The insightful notes to Siglo XX’s Answer in the website here are worth a read, and is also my way of badgering you (heh) to buy the album, if you enjoyed listening to it.

First track Answer throbs with the familiar menace and dystopian atmosphere aided by the monotonic synths and guitar strumming, and is the most obvious ode to the Mancunian band, while the short, sharp bursts of drums and stray, squiggly saxophone punctuate After The Dream. In Room, the unobtrusive bass suddenly gives way to a flourished synth, like someone pulling a velvet curtain open. The drums richochet across the vastness, with Erik Dries’s sparse lyric delivery filling up a space here and there. The synths mourn, flutter and glitter in the hotbed of the darkness. The listener is soon lulled into a comfortable numbness in observing this mutant beauty coming together…then a glass bottle shatters, and the song fades out with someone’s boots crunching over the fragments. Endless Corridor provides a welcome respite of sunniness, with sunny guitar melodies, whose mix of gloominess and upbeat poppiness is reminiscent of New Order’s Movement for me. The final track, Dreams of Pleasure, is where Siglo XX discards the Joy Division mantle and into industrial territory. Enter the associative tendencies of ominous radio broadcast samples, set against squalling saxophone and aggressive, sludgy drums. Yum.

On the whole, Answer is a meaty album, with some fascinating sonic explorations into the other aspects of post-punk. The only regret here is that the aforementioned sonic explorations aren’t properly explored and expanded upon. Sigh…

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Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

  • Genre: Alternative
  • Produced by: FINNEAS
  • Released: 2019 on Darkroom/Interscope Records

If you’ve been trying to get away from Billie Eilish, have we at CVLTYOUTHS got great news for you! For this blog’s first post in 3 years (life intervened, unfortunately), we are extremely pleased to present you with this review of her debut album. If you don’t like her, you can eat my ass (ok, no, I was kidding on that). Before we begin, here’s some background info on her:

  • Born to actor parents as Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, she’s also the sister of Finneas O’ Connell (known professionally as FINNEAS), who produced her debut album.
  • Homeschooled from young, she grew up singing early, and was also part of a children’s chorus group that she says helped her “learn the proper way to sing.” She started writing songs at age 11.
  • She and FINNEAS released single Ocean Eyes via Soundcloud in 2016, with the accompanying video’s choreography done by their dance teacher. The EP Don’t Smile At Me was released in 2017.
  • CVLTYOUTHS admits to being drawn to bitches’ broken eyes and bellyache. Oh, and Bury A Friend. Alright, this is not a fact, but still.

What stood out for me is Eilish’s chameleon-like ability to switch between different roles in her songwriting, but retain her hand-on-heart honesty and compelling vulnerability throughout, delivered with youthful flippancy. Her aggression is never overtly expressed throughout the album, but when it’s wedged between hip hop beats and sound effects that sound at home in a horror movie, it becomes curiously addictive. because a complex personality comes through. Musically-wise, she is highly reminiscent of Lorde, with the very minimal musical arrangements and her excuse-me-but-I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude, and Lana del Rey, queen of tragedy and her memorable, larger-than-life characterisation.

Bad Guy announces itself after !!!!!!!! with a thumping bassline, her hushed voice muted with a menacing subtlety. She plays with the amorphous theory of identity and gender, neatly tearing the lampooned version of the alpha male into shreds (So you’re a tough guy/Like-it-really-rough guy/Just-can’t-get-enough guy/Chest-always-so-puffed guy), then countering it with the typical roles of femininity (I’m that bad type/Make-your-mama-sad type/Make-your-girlfriend-mad type/Might-seduce-your-dad type/I’m the bad guy), before ending it with the outrageously dismissive ‘duh’.

bury a friend tosses the ball back into Billie’s court, where she examines the proverbial monster under the bed. Where do we all disappear in our sleep, when we are transported unconsciously to that mysterious tunnel without an end? For Billie, it tends towards the latter – a great, dark mire of insecurities, unfulfilled yearnings, a wry statement about fame and sleep paralysis. Again, we get a minimal drum treatment, her soft vocals hovering between a wide-eyed numbness and a strange pliability. In the video, she is roughly manhandled by numerous hands, with syringes stabbed simultaneously into her back. Billie has this to say about the video in an interview with Rolling Stone, which sums up the gist of the song perfectly:

“I had this idea where I’m naked. Like an abduction-type thing, completely not in control, just a helpless body, and people putting syringes up my arms and in my neck. That’s one of people’s biggest fears — needles — and that’s what I’ve been doing recently: honing in on people’s fears.

Rolling Stone

listen before i go stood out for me on the first listen, because of the way the piano lingered so prettily, and how Billie’s vocals drift haphazardly across the horizon. One reads the lyrics and is presented with an emotional render. The listener is treated to an almost comfortable numbness, the tender prelude that brushes one’s fringe away, before death (Sorry can’t save me now/Sorry I don’t know how/Sorry there’s no way out) before being punctuated with a barely audible ‘sorry’.

On the whole, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is an excellent debut, its often playful lens revealing an unsettling complexity, even in the most mundane of events. What are we truly, deeply inside, and why do we behave the way we do?

CVLTYOUTHS admits to not having an answer for this sudden, philosophical musing, but perhaps we can divert your attention to the video for bury a friend instead?