Projekt records is one of the best labels for promoting good gothic, ethereal and dark ambient music. Started by Sam Rosenthal many years ago to release his own work, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, it has come a long way since then. They now feature groups that are popular all over the world. These include everything from the harder gothic sound such as Voltaire, Android Lust and Audra, to the dreamy ethereal sounds of Autumns Grey Solace, Dark Sanctuary and Black Tape for a Blue Girl and more recently including some very ambiental type groups such as Vidna Obmana and Steve Roach.
When I first started collecting a lot of the good gothic/ethereal music, I discovered Lycia and Black Tape for a Blue Girl. These led me to discover other wonderful artists from the Projekt label, including many of my all-time favorites. After discovering those artists all those years ago I've kept track of new stuff out on this wonderful label and tried to keep up with all the good music that has been released. I have never been let down, they are moving along very well with lots of new material being released each year.
Sam has a very unique perspective on music, digital music and distribution compared to other labels. I am very pleased with the direction this label is going and I wish them all the best of luck. If you are not familiar with any of the groups on this label, most of them are available to listen to on Gothic Paradise radio. Check out the label's web page for the latest updates, releases, samples and more.
Ornamental - Review
Though the range of artists has grown on this label, expanding beyond the ethereal beauty we've grown to love over the years, there's still something we've always been able to count on for so many years, and that is a selection of great Christmas and other holiday music. We've been able to enjoy the Excelsis trilogy, along with various other holiday singles and one-offs added here and there over the years. This year (2012) we get another great addition to our holiday catalog with this double-disc release. In all we get 23 excellent tracks, most of which are previously unreleased. The first disc features interpretations of classic carols that span the ages, while the second disc represents new, original works from various artists and styles.
Starting off the album we get a completely different take on "Frosty the Snowman" with an airy, ambient ethereal feel of wafting vocals over a frosty soundscape with quickly pulsating bass in the background from Paulina Cassidy. This just becomes a great intro to the diverse styles and sounds we get on this disc. Some we've heard before such as "The Little Drummer Boy" from Nikki Jane and Ego Likeness. Jill Tracy appears with "Coventry Carol", a piece from her newly released album featuring her dark, haunting vocals over the equally haunting piano. The Steampunk style isn't really anything new with the likes of Voltaire appearing in the past on several compilations, but surprisingly enough, he doesn't make an appearance on this album, but we're rather presented with the "Steampunk" version of "Jingle Bells" featuring Abney Park.
While these first few introductory pieces are great alternatives to the classics, I really enjoyed the interpretation of "The Christmas Song" from Ashkelon Sain with Dorian Fields. The ethereal, reverberating guitar and ambient bass create a dreamy atmosphere for this classic favorite, a dreamy soundscape for the solid vocals. Heartbreaking and dreamy is the first thing that comes to mind with "In The Bleak Midwinter" from All My Faith Lost.... I've heard many different versions of this song over the years and I don't think it's possible to beat Siddal's interpretation of this piece on Excelsis vol. 2, however, I think this duo have been able to nearly match it with Viola's dreamy vocals and the somber, minimalistic music. As the album moves on we get more treats, with Ego Likeness presenting their haunting version of "What Child Is This?" and Mirabilis would be missed without their duo of siren-like vocals on the "Wexford Carol"
The second disc starts out with Black Tape for a Blue Girl reaching back a little more to their roots with more of a neo-classical style on "Forbidden Colours", though there's still a lot of the haunting, dark cabaret moods present on this piece. This piece along with Unextraordinary Gentlemen's "Carriage Driven Horses" and KatzKab's "My Sad Wishlist" stand out as the most non-traditional of the non-traditional disc, so those looking for the unorthodox definitely have some gems here. While those looking for a bit more of the traditional style while not hearing the same old carols over and over again, we get some real treats here as well. Favorites range the length of the album including Paulina Cassidy's two contributions "Snow Queen" and "Angels We Have Heard" with her airy, ambient and ethereal style as her vocals become another instrument in the ambient soundscapes mixed with the reverberating layers of electronics, which create in the mind's eye what the typical sound of angels singing would be like, not 100% there, enough to hear and feel perfectly, but not always able to distinguish them from the wind or other elements.
Of course, what would a holiday disc be without Unto Ashes? On this disc we get another of their excellent, dark selections in "King of Frost". This piece drifts from one minor chord to the next, slowly descending through the dark and cold, seemingly bringing on the cold and frost just by listening. A piece that many listeners might be familiar with is "Through the Snowy Trees" from Autumn's Grey Solace. From past compilations (Excelsis 1, 2 & 3) this piece stands out as the most typical and in my mind, one of the most appreciated and classic ethereal pieces on this disc from Autumn's Grey Solace. Erin's siren-like vocals soar across the frosty air, giving life to the lyrics, mixed with the music to form the visions of the frosty, snowy landscape of the north in the winter. Lovespirals appears as well on this disc, and they reach back to more of the classic ethereal styles as well for their piece "Happy Holidays" with Anji's moody, silky sweet vocals bringing on the feelings of steaming hot cocoa and sugary sweet treats.
Both discs close with ambient pieces from Forrest Fang and Erik Wollo to bring them softly and dreamily to a close. I think about this album and the artists that presented their music and I think you really have to hand it to them. It takes a lot of talent and creativity to take timeless classics, or even just the timeless classic feeling of Christmas and other holiday music and still come up with something "new", whether it's an original piece or a variation on the classic. I think it's great that Projekt Records remains a great fountain of this great music. A definite "must have" for any collection!
Under the Weight of Light - Review
Here is the latest sampler from this long-time favorite label for us and many of our listeners. This sampler goes beyond just a small collection of songs from latest or upcoming releases, unless the label is expanding more than I'm aware of. The selection is diverse and includes many new favorites for a dozen tracks in all, making it well worth picking up.
The music ranges through a broad spectrum of styles, including Sam's seemingly new favorite style of music in cabaret, not something I'm particularly fond of and so like The Cure when they shifted away from their dark and moody sounds to what they release today, Black Tape for a Blue Girl and the other new cabaret bands and albums recently released drop off of my favorite list of bands. I realize there are those gothic-oriented fans that like this style, and there are a few that are enjoyable such as a few works that we do feature and enjoy here.
With that behind us, the favorites are many on this disc including Doc Hammer's latest project Weep which we've featured here before. The alternate mix of "Ever Shy" is a nice addition with it's driving guitars that mix well as a male version of the popular female-fronted counterparts in the ethereal shoegaze arena. Right along these lines is a new project called Makaras Pen with "Currents" that is absolutely spellbinding with the layers of guitars and stunning female vocals gliding over a moving beat. I look forward to an album from this group, I'm sure it will be a great addition. Another upbeat favorite piece is "Dead Adults" from the recently signed artist The Twilight Garden with more of an electronic style mixed with dark wave.
Leaving the driving guitars and percussion behind we have several dark folk pieces that have also become favorites. We're introduced to an unreleased piece from Unto Ashes titled "She Binds Away the Night". This piece continues on in the dark, moody male-fronted folk sounds we've enjoyed with their most recent releases. ROME is a new favorite dark folk band of mine and the selection "We Who Fell in Love with the Sea" provided on this disc is also a favorite from their recent album. This piece displays their soft, yet moody style of acoustic folk music with deep, somber vocals. This is an excellent match with the other somber folk track "Blossoms" from Lux Interna. Listeners will also pick up on the unique newly added talents of Soriah (with Ashkelon Sain) with the gutteral droans layered over mystical ambient soundscapes. The selected remix of "Tonacayotica" is a nice addition to this sampler and gives a good idea of what this project is like.
These highlights should be enough to entice the average listener to pick up this sampler, often offered free or for a very low price when purchased with other material from the label's website.
Projekt 2008 Sampler - Review
This is another great introduction to some of the latest and upcoming release from this label that has become a backbone of the gothic ethereal genres. Albums like these are excellent collector items as well as great for the budget. It gives people an excellent taste of what the label has to offer. For such a nice price, it's great to get so many tracks, a dozen in all, and spanning all the great genres the label release.
I've listened to and reviewed a lot of label samplers over the years and I have to say that the group of artists that are represented on this album and with releases on the label this year are excellent. The best way to just go through this is to hit each track in turn. It all starts off with the stunning shoegazer band Tearwave with a hauntingly beautiful new track "Read Me". This is followed up by yet another captivating shoegazer piece "Tusk" from the latest album by Autumn's Grey Solace. These two groups each have completely unique styles that hold the listener entranced and impressed with their talents yet it's amazing how they have their solid common ground in the same genre.
We recently were introduced to the long-awaited sophomore album from Mirabilis, so it's no secret that another solid piece on this album would be from this talented duo with their mesmerizing piece "Aubade". Fitting nicely in place next to this haunting piece is a taste of the long-awaited new work from the classic medieval project Arcana. The piece presented here, "Lost in Time" was also present on last year's Lightwaves Part II label sampler from Kalinkaland Records. This piece is already a classic on Gothic Paradise Radio and this band remains a favorite for us and our listeners. Without too much of a jump, we're presented with something of a neo-folk track from Lux Interna sporting deep, brooding vocals over minimal guitar and cello that has quickly become a favorite.
Shifting gears into something that the label has gotten into a little more is a touch of cabaret with Revue Noir. While not a favorite of mine and not something usually heard or mentioned here at Gothic Paradise, there's just a touch of mystery and style on "Sometimes Sunshine" that makes it interesting. But this brings us to the love/hate relationship with Votaire and the horrible piece "Zombie Prostitute" that's just off-color and distasteful. I guess it's virtually impossible to find a label sampler that spans a broad range to appeal to everyone all of the time.
This brings us to another shift in style on the album as we take a turn to more of a focus on the ambient and dreamy side of the label. Here we have two great pieces starting with and excerpt of "A Drone Song for Alienor" by Alio Die and Martina Galvagni, leading us right into the surprisingly moving electronically based "Arc Of Passion" by Steve Roach. That leads us to the awesome comeback from the talented dreampop project Chandeen and the inclusion of "From The Inside". For anyone as broken-hearted as I was with word they were disbanded a few years ago, this was an absolute dream to have something new. All My Faith Lost presents their other-wordly splendor on "Notti Bianche". This is a hypnotic piece that is a reflection of what's available in every track on their album. And finally to wrap up the album we have the dark ambient excerpt of the piece "Rock Of Ages" from Attrition. With that it all comes to a close and we're reminded why when your hear the name Projekt Records, the thought of excellent gothic, ethereal and ambient music comes to mind.
A Dark Noel (2007) - Review
I have been a huge fan of the Excelsis series of holiday music released over the last several years. For those not familiar with it, be sure to check out projekt.com/excelsis for more details. Either way this is a great way to pick up a great selection of a dozen great tracks from this series and some of the recently released holiday singles.
I have always been impressed with the music from this series and this disc is no different, choosing some highlights from these past releases. The overall album stays well within the more heavenly genres of beautiful ethereal music with a nice holiday touch. The music remains hauntingly beautiful in most cases and is accessible enough that non-gothic audiences can enjoy as much as anyone else. Yet it all remains well within these genres that this is a great treat for those of us sick of all the same old songs over and over again done in the horrible pop flavor of today.
To kick it all off is Arcanta with the presentation of "Carol of the Bells" in his unique, old-world chanting vocal style with haunting ambient music as backdrop. Voltaire is present with "Peace in the Holy Land" which I could have gone without listening to, but I know there are lots of fans out there, so this is sure to be a hit for them. However, you really get into the beauty of this album with one of my all-time favorites from Love Spirals Downwards with their rendition of "Welcome Christmas" from the classic movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas. One thing is certain that through this era of their career, this band was one of the best ethereal shoegazer bands around and this piece really proves it. Showing us how they've come in to pick up the pieces within this genre, Autumn's Grey Solace provides us with an outstanding and mesmerizing piece "Through the Snowy Trees".
Shifting gears slightly we go back several years to Black Tape for a Blue Girl and their piece "Chanukkah, Oh Chanukkah". This features the hauntingly beautiful vocals with plenty of reverb and mystery behind it all in the music and percussion in true Black Tape style. Building up with that middle-eastern flare we have Rhea's Obsession and Athan Maroulis presenting us with "We Three Kings". This has been a favorite of mine and seems to fit the authentic nature of what these magi would have been singing back in the time. At this point we come to an interesting choice for The Crüxshadows to cover with "Happy Xmas (War is Over)". They add their electro-dance-goth style to this popular song as only Rogue and company can do.
Bringing the tempo and intensity back down a bit we have Audra with their piece "Let the Reindeer Live on My Roof". This is a nice turn for this duo as they've always been pretty heavy into the classic gothic rock style, so they take that and perform this in an acoustic style that works out really well. Unto Ashes appears and dig deep into the haunting and dark medieval styles with "I Am Winter Born". Build into a certain religious old-world flare we have Oscar Herrera (former male voice of Black Tape for a Blue Girl) with his group El Duende performing "Gaudate, Gaudete". We leave this realm and build up to a fun piece "A Winter Wassail" with a fun celtic style that Faith and the Muse are able to do so well. This brings us to the dark finale to the album with Attrition and their dark ambient rendition of "Silent Night".
There you have it, the perfect soundtrack to the holidays for those into the gothic ethereal music genres. The only way to make it better would be to pick up the entire box set and the holiday singles for a full collection. And if you were lucky enough to pick up the Hot Topic "Best of" version of the Excelsis, you might find a few extras there as well.
Projekt 200 - Review
This release marks an incredible milestone for the small label that we've grown to love over the years. Similar to the milestone of their 100th release, for this milestone they put together an excellent compilation, but this one is destined to be a great collector's item. It's released in a beautiful DVD-sized digipack with three CDs covering the great music released from this label broken down into three categories of "The Early Years", "The Current Era" and "Ambient Loop".
We'll start with the first disc with "The Early Years". The music contained on this disc is very special to me, because in many ways these groups and selections were key in my discovering the beauty of ethereal music. During this era two groups became absolute favorites with Black Tape for a Blue Girl and Love Spirals Downwards. The music from these two groups alone could span several tracks of favorite pieces, but what's presented on this disc is a great selection of excellent pieces from these two in the form of "Across a Thousand Blades (2007 version)" and "Write in Water" respectively. Add to these selections from Attrition, Area, Lycia, Arcanta, Thanatos and Human Drama and you have the core of the Projekt label from the early years. This disc is a true treasure all on it's own.
The second disc is labeled "The Current Era" which shows how the label has expanded somewhat in genre selection with the release of works by the somewhat electro-industrial oriented Android Lust and the cooky sound of Voltaire or the shoegazer rock side of Lowsunday and Mira. Of course they manage to seek out and find more great ethereal and captivating shoegazer bands like the recent signing Tearwave and Autumn's Gray Solace. Add to these talents the excellent beauty of old-world flare from Mors Syphilitica, Unto Ashes and Rajna and you are really getting to have an excellent, full collection of great talent for the Projekt roster. So whil the first disc is an excellent collector item and way to look back on the history of the label, from this disc you can catch the incredible new and existing talent that remains active and releasing great music. This disc will soon signify some of the best ethereal and goth-related music of the start of the new millenium.
And finally we come to the "Ambient Loop". This seems to be kind of the "guilty pleasure" for Sam Rosenthal as he has experimented with music of this style with his Black Tape for a Blue Girl project as well as other releases and especially by signing and releasing music from giants such as Vidna Obmana, Alio Die, Faymann & Fripp and Steve Roach to name a few. This final disc is the perfect way to wrap up this release with the caressing ambient sounds.
This is an excellent release and anyone who would call themselves a fan of any ethereal music should be ashamed not to own it. I know my collection would be very incomplete without it.
Summoning of the Muse: A Tribute to Dead Can Dance - Review
Out of all of the labels in the world, Projekt Records is the perfect choice to gather and compile the best possible tribute to the legendary band Dead Can Dance. With the label showing good activity with some incredible releases in 2005, it's only fitting that this tribute should round out the summer releases with possibly the best piece out this year.
After enchanting us with their own legendary music, Arcana enters onto this tribute with two excellent covers of "The Arcane" and "Enigma of the Absolute". Both of these tracks sport the bombastic approach to neo-classical and medieval music that we've enjoyed so much from them over the years. Another absolute favorite of mine appears on this disc as Dark Sanctuary presents their beautifully captivating version of the title track "Summoning of the Muse". This is truly a rendition to be remembered and cherished by fans worldwide.
A true treat and something entirely unexpected is the guitar-laiden, dreamy, shoegazer version of "Musica Eternal" from Autumn's Grey Solace. Among the many other great covers we're presented with Black Tape for a Blue Girl covering "Fortune presents gifts not according to the book". As their style over the years has dictated, this seems to be the perfect cover by Sam, Lisa, Vicki, Elysabeth and Athan to do. Another slight surprise was presented in the form of "In Power We Entrust the Love Advocated" by the now defunct band Chandeen. Many fans will remember this track from several years ago.
The album packs a dozen excellent tracks, all to be highly commended and excellently done. Each band presents their own style and interpretation of the legendary works, but stay very true to the original styles to provide something that Dead Can Dance fans can really enjoy. I think that is the real key to these tribute albums, providing something that fans of the original band can listen to, relate to and really enjoy. This album is highly recommended not only for DCD fans, but for anyone that enjoys anything by any artist on this compilation. Be sure to check it out!
See Projekt's website for track listing.