2. The Bells
3. The Grifter
4. A Forest
5. The Voyeurs
6. The Tragics
8. When The Rains Came
9. The Satin Box
10. In Every Dream Home A Heartache
Starring Athan Maroulis of Black Tape For A Blue Girl and Spahn Ranch
New York City is a world of shadows, thieves and con men, its chilling concrete landscapes are a fitting filmic backdrop for the aural futuristic pleasures of NOIR, a band whose deep electronic rhythms fuel darkened beats that conjure stark cinematic images from yesteryear merged with the cold machinery of the future. Conceptualized by vocalist Athan Maroulis, veteran of the pioneering electronic industrial act Spahn Ranch, NOIR is a sensuous electronic release form for Maroulis, who also fronts dark cabaret legends Black Tape For a Blue Girl. NOIR combines the bleak irony of Weegee photos, fleshly lyrics, empty subway stations and the dark sarcasm of Rod Serling into a collection of throbbing dance floor interludes. Surreal and sensual, Darkly Near is a brilliant merger of Maroulis’ past with a contemporary yet moody present.
The voice of Athan Maroulis will always be linked to the seminal Los Angeles based trio Spahn Ranch, a band that pounded the ’90s Industrial scene with a daring mix of electro-flavored Synth Pop fused with a menacing pall of atmospheric Goth. To this day, a number of Spahn Ranch songs like “Vortex” and “Heretic’s Fork” still pack dark dance floors around the globe. In the aftermath of Spahn Ranch, Athan returned to his native New York City where he took a decade-long break from performing, and instead produced countless reissues of 1930s and 1940s jazz and blues music while working behind the scenes advising a number of varied Darkwave bands. In those years, Athan occasionally appeared as a guest on albums by Razed in Black and Black Tape for a Blue Girl. He joined the latter officially in 2009, cutting an album while also completing tours both here and abroad, highlighted by a packed show at the Leipzig Opera House during the 2011 Wave-Gotik-Treffen Festival.
While on hiatus from Blacktape, Athan conceptualized NOIR as a project where his Industrial and Gothic past would walk the wire between retro and futuristic sounds, brought into a moody electronic present by synth-laced hooks meshed with elements of dance, dark ambient and touches of glitch-induced EBM. The result is Darkly Near, an album influenced by an idealized black-and-white perception of New York City, where yesteryear’s views of tomorrow are pressed against the machinery of today. Lyrically, Darkly Near is an album of endings, a montage that travels through a dreamy death trip of sensuality littered with faded film stars, Rod Serling scripts, Weegee snapshots, con artists, replicants, and the layered recollections of a solitary man waiting for a train.
Released on the heels of 2012’s successful digital single “My Dear” (that featured an exclusive Assemblage 23 remix), NOIR’s mature yet strikingly refreshing Darkly Near album will be supported by a select string of exclusive live dates.
Read an interview at Regenmag.com.
Reviews Editor –
From Intravenous Magazine
Athan Maroulis should need no introduction. However if you are unfamiliar with the man, his associated projects Spahn Ranch and Black Tape For A Blue girl should be some indication of the prowess of his back catalogue. Now he returns with Noir, a project which blends the gothic and industrial elements of his past with filtered through a retro-futurist conceptual view of New York City. The end result is a dark mix of minimalistic electro-goth and beat-driven futurepop.
The opening track (and lead single), ‘My Dear’, sounds like a stripped-back take on ‘Beat Noir’ era Spahn Ranch with its compulsive beat and dance floor pace make this simply a must have track. ‘The Grifter’ is a little more layered with more vocals and synths building throughout the mix, but again it keeps that nice dance pace for an upbeat counter balance to the dark melodies. The first of the covers on the album, Maroulis’ take on The Cure’s ‘A Forest’ is simply divine, transforming the morose pop of the original into decadently dark electro hinting at the atmosphere of albums like ‘The Coiled One’. Whereas ‘The Voyeurs’ ventures into the dark cabaret of Black Tape For A Blue Girl with its sombre lead and reverb drenched vocals.
The synth-driven and beat-free formula formula of ‘The Voyeurs’ is then carried over into ‘The Tragics’, which blends the likes of David Bowie’s ‘Warszawa’ and Wendy Carlos’ soundtrack for ‘A Clockwork Orange’. However, ‘Timephase’ brings the album back into more dance friendly waters with its filthy bass grove. The penultimate track, ‘The Satin Box’, is simply an excellent dark pop song which, despite it’s straightforward style, is very addictive. The album then finishes off on a cover of ‘Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’, which until now was definitively done justice to by Rozz Williams, however Maroulis still manages to wrestle out some originality of this gloomy glam favourite.
Darkly Near is like a computer-generated art deco poster for a forgotten film. The the beats are clean and sparingly used, while the synths are dark and haunting. There is no over saturation, and Maroulis’ distinctive vocals permeate every layer with emotion. This is an excellent consolidation of the two distinct musical strands of Maroulis’ career that have come together to open up a whole new chapter for him. -Sean Palfrey