Dance With the Dead – Near Dark

Yeah, needed a soundtrack for the death of the world as fall sets in, and here it is, mein kinder.  Feel like creating a dark, 1980s sci-fi/horror soundtrack for your life?  This is the perfect time of year for it.  Around this time of year this feeling seems to set in for some of us, like this solstice period for the human soul, this dark, brooding, and pleasingly eerie otherness.  You need music for this, but something that doesn’t just kill for a single track and then sleeps for the rest of it.  Near Dark is sadly the first exposure Deaf Sparrow has had with Dance With the Dead, but not this kind of music.  Lazerhawk, for example.  Gatekeeper, for another example.  In spite of some of the awesome work bands like that have done, they all tend to ultimately reach the status of “good for a cursory look” for a very simple reason.  One of the key elements of this type of aesthetic is sounding “old”, utilizing electronics that at least approximate how it used to sound in the 1980s to make a soundtrack for a B-movie, or even big-budget sci-fi, if they’re not actually literally using old electronics.  The issue with that is it tends to constrict the palette being used to create, and it can cause way too much similarity between tracks, even albums.  Dance With the Dead, however, have somehow avoided this problem, for the most part, and it’s likely due to the fact that they have absolute control of their hardware, and your mind is their software.  That was the least clever thing we ever said, with pathetic rhyme too.


God, check out that artwork.  These guys have the theme down to complete exactness.  Looking at their earlier work, their overall concept involves using references to forgotten films of the 1980s, with a heavy leaning towards sci-fi and horror, even a bit of old 80s and 90s comics action in there.  And boy do they ever have the sound to back up the image, hot damn.  Near Dark, which we’ll assume was titled after the vampire classic, is perfection in dark synthwave.  Opening with “Invader”, this one utilizes old-sounding synth work and spectacular programming for its approach.  Each song paints a picture with multi-layered electronics.  As such, it’s probably the best example of this genre we’ve ever seen around here, because it actually holds the listener for longer than the usual.  The clear winner out of all of them is easily “Andromeda”, which opens with sounds of a storm and then the most spectacular beat patterning and electro-melodies on the entire album.


Dance With the Dead know their instruments like their own bodies to create this type of music and hold the listener through an entire album.  Near Dark has a variety of sounds to investigate, and each track has a unique sound.  However, there is still a sense of semblance throughout most of the work presented here, Dance With the Dead just know how to work it better than most.  Their ability to create memorable patterns within largely similar sounds is a testament to their abilities as musicians.  But regardless, as it goes with this type genre, it’s still somewhat restrictive.  If it weren’t for the abilities these two have with programming, Near Dark would have likely ended up the same blah many dark synthwave acts crap out every month.  Because of how it’s designed, there are always going to be those few tracks that enslave the rest.  “Andromeda”, “The Pitt”, “Invader”, those three in particular crush, but luckily not enough to make the remaining tracks pointless.  It would also be nice to see some hardcopy releases in this age of digital madness.  Gatekeeper already did the VHS thing, so hmm, maybe you guys can put this stuff on 16mm or something elite.  Either way, and regardless of our blather, this is the best example of this type of music we’ve come across, it deserves more than a passing glance.


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Written by Stanley Stepanic

Dance With the Dead – Near Dark
4 / 5