John Becker of Vaskula on the best gothic rock being recorded today | In Rotation | Chicago Reader

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John Becker of Vaskula on the best gothic rock being recorded today

Plus: Plague Bringer’s Greg Ratajczak on music for flipping tables, Reader music editor Philip Montoro on Inuit vocal games, and more



A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

Two Inuit throat singers perform on opening night of the 2017 Canada Summer Games Festival. - MATT DUBOFF / CANADA SUMMER GAMES
  • Matt Duboff / Canada Summer Games
  • Two Inuit throat singers perform on opening night of the 2017 Canada Summer Games Festival.

Philip Montoro, Reader music editor

Godflesh, Post Self Drum machines and digital production make it easy to achieve robotically precise music. What I like about the new Godflesh record is that Justin Broadrick engineers its pistoning industrial stomps and dirgelike oscillations to sound as though they're kept in alignment only by constant, exhausting physical effort. It helps that his favored vocal style is a hoarse, strained bark—you can almost see him fighting to hold shut a bulging steel hatch.

UbuWeb's collection of Inuit vocal games Though banned by Christian clergy for almost a century, Inuit throat singing survived, and since the 1980s it's undergone a renaissance as a living cultural practice. Avant-garde archive UbuWeb has posted 98 free-to-download recordings of Inuit vocal games, broadly called katajjaq (plural katajjait). They're generally played by two women face-to-face: one creates a rapid, shifting pattern of rhythmic noises, and the other tries to keep up by filling in the gaps. Those noises are what make the games sound fun: growls, barks, gasps, wheezes, hoots .  .  . and often, when someone loses, helpless laughter.

Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard Only time will tell if the new Electric Wizard LP will join Dopethrone and Come My Fanatics . . . in the doom-metal canon—as much as I like the bass playing on this one, I'd prefer less blues-rock and more evil down-tuned slop. But I'm just happy they're still out there, trolling the pious hypocrites who have to believe in covens of satanic baby killers in order to maintain their self-serving persecution fantasies.

Philip is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

The cover of the Soror Dolorosa album Apollo
  • The cover of the Soror Dolorosa album Apollo

John Becker, bandleader of Vaskula and session violinist for Panopticon

Soror Dolorosa, Apollo In September, Paris-based band Soror Dolorosa—led by vocalist, fashion photographer, and all-around stand-up gent Andy Julia—put out an album of some of the finest contemporary gothic rock around. Apollo showcases a mature ability to mix "convertible driving through the desert" rockers with ethereal atmospheric passages—think the Sisters of Mercy plus Alcest. A choice album for a gray autumn day.

The David Bascombe trilogy From 1985 to 1987, British recording engineer and producer David Bascombe was involved with three fantastic albums: Tears for Fears' Songs From the Big Chair (1985), Peter Gabriel's So (1986), and Depeche Mode's Music for the Masses (1987). All three have influenced me enormously over the past few years, and each provides ways to learn about songcraft, studio production, and all forms of musical performance.

Jean-Luc Ponty at City Winery on June 19 Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to witness the greatness that is Jean-Luc in all his glory. His band was made up of longtime contributors, and the set list hit many crucial pieces and favorites of mine. Ponty's music has been with me from a very early age, and I find myself going back to his albums over and over again, discovering new gems each time. My former violin professor Edgar Gabriel was invited to take the stage alongside the band for the encore of "Open Mind," and I met Monsieur Ponty after the gig. Couldn't ask for more.

John is curious what's in the rotation of . . .

  • Courtesy the artist
  • Car Bomb

Greg Ratajczak, guitarist, vocalist, and programmer in Plague Bringer

WVVX 103.1 FM, the Rock Chicago Wants If you lived in Chicagoland in the mid- to late 80s and early 90s and listened to heavy metal, you're probably familiar with the call letters WVVX and the slogan "The Rock Chicago Wants." When I began listening in 1989, this low-wattage mostly talk station, based in Highland Park, hosted a heavy metal show that ran from 8 PM till 4 AM seven nights a week. Night after night, I would tune in to an eclectic array of heavy metal, from glam to death (and everything in between), broadcast in mono into my bedroom. Over the years, the voices of DJs Scott Loftus and Paul Kaiser became like family to me as they guided the first steps of my lifelong journey into metal.

Surachai, Asymmetry Codex/Temple of the Weakening Sun Surachai is one of my favorite local artists, and over past few years his abstract, ominous electronic music has left quite an impression on me. I'm not a journalist, so I'm not going to ramble on attempting to (poorly) describe how "dark" or "organic" it is. Just put on some headphones, dim the lights, and experience it for yourself.

Car Bomb, Meta I love this band, and I can't get enough of their album Meta. I don't know (or really care) how to classify their sound, but whatever it is makes me want to flip tables. Meta has been a go-to album since its release in 2016. Without sounding forced, the music is as weird as it is heavy and as simple as it is technical. (What?) In short, it's not what you'd expect. "Sets," which features Suffocation vocalist Frank Mullen, is particularly awesome.

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