Saturday, March 7, 2020

Boy Harsher's "Careful" & Mechanismus: Resistance at The Highline and Mercury at Machinewerks: Jun 11 - 14


Seattle goth and industrial music culture has had a number of locus points over the decades of its existence as an urban-centralized subculture in the city. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, at the apogee of the genre's ascension, clubs like Re-Bar, The Monastery, The Vogue, The Catwalk and Fenix Underground had regular nights dedicated to the bondage, fetish, leather and BDSM scenes that offered alternative lifestyles to the crass commercialism of the Reagan and later Bush eras. These were booked concurrently alongside nights specifically dedicated to post-punk, gothic rock, and industrial music and the interweaving of these two subcultures, and offered physical spaces for these like-minded communities to convene. Foremost among them was the speakeasy known as Machinewerks, which shortly after traversing the city in a series of changing locations to avoid various authorities, then became incorporated as a legitimate, licensed private club. Decades later, there are few remaining goth and industrial nights in Seattle. Those that remain are at Kremwerk, The Rendezvous, Clockout Lounge, and the long-lived home for this culture, at Machinewerks, which continues on in its newest iteration as Mercury at Machinewerks. Along with these daily and weekly DJ and dance nights, there are also monthly and seasonal bookings of live music by Musicwerks and Mechanismus at the two venues of El Corazon and The Highline respectively. Mechanismus also plays host to an annual festival, largely culled specifically from the domestic United States electro-industrial and EBM styles, and what the international press is now calling Darkwave, as covered in recent features in the pages of The Guardian.

These subgenres, which came after the initial European and United Kingdom scenes of the earliest part of the decade, instead began to manifest with the technological developments of the mid-to-late 1980s. Following in the wake of techno in Detroit, the American continent saw its own electro-industrial variation on the form, harnessed largely by label's like Nettwerk and Chicago's Wax Trax! Records. Their legacy, beyond just releasing a body of music that bred the more commercially successful acts of the 1990s, like Nine Inch Nails and Prodigy, is that Wax Trax! were defined by a then-radical business model. Acting as more than just the setting of a retail record store, and label with an atypical contract process, the environment its founders created was a cultural locus of related aesthetics, sounds, values and lifestyles. This year's Mechanismus festival, titled Resistance, features a three day lineup of DJs and established names at The Highline and Mercury at Machinewerks, encompassing both of these electro-industrial and Darkwave sounds. In Resistance’s three nights of showcases, it’s lineup of live acts include; Clan of Xymox, Boy Harsher, Funker Vogt, Stabbing Westward, Velvet Acid Christ, and as-yet-announced secret headliner. In the case of the foremost two acts, theirs is a relationship of early European progenitors from the 1980s, and a new American contemporary 21st century neo-gothic variation. Initially signed to the influential 4AD label four decades ago, Clan of Xymox have returned in recent years with new albums to find audiences at gothic culture events like Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival in their current home of Leipzig, Germany. This has been alongside the new generation of Darkwave artists like The KVB, Twin Tribes, She Past Away, and Boy Harsher. The latter releasing their "Careful" album last year on their own Nude Club Records, a sound once described as a "Moving Choker-Collar Muscle Mash", which NME's review suggests; "contains a dark power, an atavistic pull" ...and that listeners should simply, "Give in to their bad romance".