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Strict Tempo tonight: Vox Sinistra hosts with live set from Xibling

Strict Tempo is a weekly Thursday night livestream originating out of Seattle featuring a world-spanning Whitman’s Sampler of live DJs and live electronic music acts in the musical veins of EBM/industrial, acid/electro/techno, minimal wave/darkwave, Italo-disco/hi-NRG and other equally cool sounding slashed and hyphenated genres. 

The shows kick off at 7PM PST/10PM EST opening with a DJ set from host and curator Vox Sinistra, followed by 3 or 4 featured performers made up of both live electro-based acts and DJs doing their thing in real time. The show goes out live on Twitch just search for Vox Sinistra.

As reigning queen of dark & danceable and occasionally not so danceable beats, Ms. Sinistra introduces each show with a charmingly low-key informative overview of the acts about to perform backed by green-screened dancing skeletons or infinitely scrolling bondage chains or vintage nightclub footage or surreal film clips and with occasional cameos by her tuxedoed cat. Production values on the show are consistently compelling and sometimes appealing demented eye candy with each DJ/electronic artist bringing their own distinct look and vibe.

Tonight’s installment of Strict Tempo features the return of Xibling, a dynamic synth duo comprised of Moriah West and Julian Thieme. Paraphrasing from Vox Sinistra’s Facebook post for tonight: “I'm hosting the release for Xibling's Maladjusted EP out tomorrow and if you haven't listened to Xibling, the Portland ‘post-punk techno fever dream’ wrote/livestreamed new songs every week at the beginning of quarantine last year (!) and are also returning Strict Tempo guests, playing the second show I hosted online last April. Tonight they’re supported by coldwave-y synthesist STACIAN, new PDX dark synth-pop act Pleasure Victim and XOR, the new electronic alias from the bassist/synth player of acclaimed darkwave band Secret Shame.”

And if the lead-off title track single to Xibling’s new EP is any indication, with its stuttering beats and phat electro-bass and ethereal vocals, tonight looks to be a lot of fun. Plus for a further sneak preview you can check out the music vid for “Maladjusted” with its cool Tetsuo-style black-and-white engulfed-by-rampaging-technology visuals in which Julian and Moriah are attacked (or seduced?) by sentient unspooling VHS tapes. 

With a stylistic range across an electro-spectrum from the darker reaches of darkwave to the poppier side of New Order-esque electro pop, the upshot is that if Xibling’s electro-oscillations don’t get your body oscillating wildly then you may need to visit your local testing center and make sure your heart is still beating—an effect that’s only heightened when you see Xibling doing their thing live because high energy is too mild a term for their performative posture.

And speaking of high energy you’re also advised to check out the two recent retrospective broadcasts from Vox Sinistra—one compiling the best bits from various Strict Tempo live acts over the past year, and the other a comp of featured DJ acts. Plus holy Mother of Pearl the live show comp is nearly 10 hours long so settle in for the evening and hit play and I can guarantee you it’ll melt your f’ing face off if taken in one sitting so maybe put on that full plastic face mask before even attempting it.

Not unlike these epically scaled retrospective comps but on a smaller scale each Strict Tempo tends to be an eclectic affair, but overall Vox specializes in a style known as EBM (electronic body music) that’s something like a mutant mashup of industrial, cyberpunk, electropop, and synthwave—different artist highlight different elements of course and throw in their own twists—which is a style of music that’s equally effective whether you’re looking to mosh like a maniac in your bedroom late at night or bop in place equally maniacally like Molly Ringwald on Molly.

Anyways when it comes to the genre of EBM it’s name can be taken pretty literally given that we all inhabit more or less “electronic bodies” by this point living so much of our lives through phones and computers and BlackBerry Storms (for the iconoclasts among us!) but at least watching a live-streamed set by Xibling or a Thursday night installment of Strict Tempo can make “device life” feel more utopian than dystopian for a few hours. 


Nuxx Vomica plays "coldwave" live set in middle of frozen lake for Strict Tempo

If you live anywhere in this country’s northeastern regions you probably got walloped with a foot or two of snow last week and more since. With more of the white stuff and also frigid temps forecast all week it’s perfect weather for staying in--not that we weren’t doing that already, but hey added incentive--and watching live sets of electronic music performed by a wide array of live acts and DJs on the screen of your own choosing. 

Or if you’re NYC-based electronic musicmaker and painter/multimedia artist Nuxx Vomica, who recently released her debut EP A Different Place, it’s perfect weather for traveling a few hours upstate and performing a live set in the middle of a frozen lake to an audience of confused yet grateful freshwater fish. And lucky for us, said performance was filmed and broadcast (and now archived) as part of last Thursday’s installment of Strict Tempo—a weekly livestream originating out of Seattle featuring a world-spanning Whitman’s Sampler of live DJs and live acts in the veins of EBM/industrial, acid/electro/techno, minimal wave/darkwave, Italo-disco/hi-NRG and other equally cool sounding slashed and hyphenated genres. Hit play below for the evidence and get ready to dance feverishly along St. Vitus style.

After watching this performance one thing I’d like to know is where one finds an extension cord long enough to reach all the way out to the middle of a frozen lake. Then again sometimes it’s best for the stagecraft to remain mysterious and what stagecraft it is—a latex body-suited figure crawls across the snowy landscape to open the set and there’s some neat-o Chroma key & chemtrails effects added to the visual mix—and also what a perfectly suited setting for Ms. Vomica’s raw thrumming beats, burbling coldwave oscillations, and icy ethereal vocal interjections. Plus SHE’S PERFORMING IN THE MIDDLE OF A FREAKIN’ FROZEN LAKE. At times I kept flashing back to that one scene in Omen II which thank goodness that didn’t happen. More than just being a stunt tho' the setting ramps up the otherworldly urgency of the music even more.

And as if this wasn't enough for one show this installment of Strict Tempo had/has lots going for it, which granted is pretty typical but this one went extra hard with additional sets by Asymptote from Arizona who creates haunted experimental industrial soundscapes, Crimental from Colombia who specializes in driving dystopic electro EBM (his latest full length The Human Plague is indeed pretty sick) and Hands of Providence--a project “rooted in dark psyche of the human mind” especially those of various politicians and televangelists and other undesirables--all kicked off by a DJ set from our host Vox Sinistra.

As reigning queen of dark & danceable and occasionally not so danceable beats, Ms. Sinistra introduces each show with a charmingly low-key, unassuming and always informative description of the acts about to perform while backed by green-screened backdrops of infinitely scrolling bondage chains or dancing skeletons or nightclub footage or surreal film clips with occasional cameos by her tuxedoed cat—the production values on the show are consistently aces with each DJ/EDM artist bringing their own distinct look and vibe and setting. 

And there's more from where that came from so if you enjoyed these sounds and visions you’re in luck because there’s 43 previous episodes of Strict Tempo in existence as of this writing to be explored in part or in full on Vox’s Twitch channel and Youtube channel and Mixcloud and probably other portals I'm unaware of even existing. (Jason Lee)

photo creditAllyson Pinon

Pixel Grip "Pursuit"

Pixel Grip has released a new single, "Pursuit", from their forthcoming LP, Arena, which is due out later this year via Chicago's Feel Trip. This is the first new music from the trio of Rita Lukea, Jonathan Freund, and Tyler Ommen since their 2019 debut album Heavy Handed.

This single shows the trio's eagerness to return to the stage and club and feel the energy of an audience. Lukea had this to say about "Pursuit"; [it] distills a very specific feeling to me: the feeling of surrendering power, the feeling of having your love chewed up and spit out, the feeling of getting toyed with. Sometimes love isn’t empowering; in fact it can be humiliating and disabling. The only way I can take my power back is to pretend like it’s my decision. This song is designed to be screamed along with by an audience who understands the pain"


Blood Cultures "Keeps Bringing Me Back"

Blood Cultures is a headtrip whether you’re talking about their music or their music videos and “Keeps Bringing Me Back” is no exception. The song’s electro pulses are APA-approved hypnosis fodder in combination with the raspy flute loop and intensifying beat and introspective vocals and climactic finale and all the other little sonic details apparent on subsequent replays.

Speaking of hypnotic, the music video which features actor and activist Dimitri J. Moïse (pictured above) depicts a Freudian psychotherapy session complete with pocketwatch-induced hypnosis gone horribly wrong or horribly right or possibly both. And then there’s a nice little homage in there too to “Karma Police” as a bonus. If you dig this vid you may also wanna check out their videos for previous singles “Dunk On Me,” “Hard To Explain,” and “Broadcasting”—plus the “Operators Are Standing By” apocalyptic informercial series to fully delve into the heart of darkness of late night channel surfing—which are all equally thought-provoking or thought-revoking depending on where your head's at man.

Finally, when it comes to the thematics of the song and the video for “Keeps Bringing Me Back,” you're encouraged to check out Blood Cultures' official Book of Face page for a thoughtful statement on the artistic and personal reasons for keeping his/their identity shrouded up until now (plus some very cool maskwear featured on their photo feed) and for deliberate self-revelation at this point in time as a proactive political gesture, which revolves in part around the challenging realities of being a Pakistani-American coming of age in a post-9/11 America and of being a rational adult in an age of white nationalist reactionary revolution, but with the opportunity to be agent of change. (Jason Lee)

Trace Amount

Trace Amount isn’t really a phrase you want to hear too often as in “your bowl of Lucky Charms may contain a trace amount of toxic heavy metals and/or rat feces” or “you failed your drug test due to the trace amount of THC in your Maui Melon CBD gummies.” The same goes for "trace amounts" of highly contagious and equally toxic sociocultural and biological viral agents, which under the right/wrong conditions have the potential to spread unchecked and infect an entire body or body politic. Not that we'd know anything about any of that lately.

Brandon Gallagher’s industrial music project Trace Amount takes this notion of the toxic trace amount and translates it into sound and image. Following up on his debut 2019 EP Fake Figures in the Sacred Scriptures with a second EP Endless Render released two months ago, Gallagher describes the latter project as “about all of the uncertainties and varying levels of anxiety that were felt during the times of quarantine, the feelings about the recent upsurge in police brutality and political injustice, and first hand encounters of other people’s ignorance regarding basic human rights in general.” 

The track “Pop Up Morgues” is a perfect example of how industrial music, with its characteristic harshness and fatalism and fury, is a good antidote to help with purging at least some of the toxicity hanging everywhere in the air today. As John Lydon once put it, before he was totally embarrassing, “anger is an energy.” But then on the flip side laughter can be good as well for dealing with crazy shit and exposing real-life absurdities. Trace Amount has us covered here too given that Gallagher happens to be a graphic designer/video artist which is a side he brings to the fore in recent collaboration with BTKGOD where they riff on the classic apocalyptic "War of the Worlds" alien invasion scenario whilst bringing an agreeable synthwave vibe to the mix musically.

Speaking of collaborations I’d be remiss not to mention Trace Amount’s latest project that came out just last week, which is a fully re-imagined remix of his first EP undertaken by Blake Harrison, yes that Black Harrison the one from East Coast grindcore legends Pig Destroyer, retitled Under the Skin in its new form. And while listening to the remixed EP may not conjure up Scarlett Johansson in alien form ready to f*ck your brains out and submerge you in oily viscous goo, it does at least include a remix of the track “Scarlett Johansson” (retitled, you guessed it, "Under the Skin") which may at least count for something for all you craven maniacs.

And finally, speaking of maniacs, you should know that Trace Amount/Brandon Gallagher is also one half of grungy-sludgy bi-coastal hardcore-sters Coarse, alongside Ryan Knowles, whose latest EP features “The People of the State of New York vs. Coarse,” a song inspired by the two bandmates being arrested by the NYPD in late 2018 for putting up wheat paste posters around lower Manhattan. And on the musical side the song was inspired in part by the Cure’s epically bleak/seminally goth LP Pornography (1982) which leads us to the perfect outro as witnessed in the video above, Trace Amount’s rather awesome cover of a rather awesome Cure track originally off that very album. (Jason Lee)


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