Black Tape for a Blue Girl
Sat Sept 18
4811 SE Hawthorne

Even the undead succumb to musical sub-sub-sub-genres. Back in the day the goth scene essentially revolved around the gloomy, edgy post-punk of Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Cure. But as those sounds began to mutate and seep into other styles, the scene split into the countless factions that exist today--terror EBM, futurepop, powernoize, Scandinavian death metal made by guys named Shagrath and Mortiis, the mainstream quasi-goth-rock of AFI and Evanescence, etc.

And then there's darkwave, which affixes goth's shadowy atmospherics to New Wave synth-pop--creating a lush, haunting, and ethereal hybrid. It's a style that emerged in the late '80s and early '90s, and is usually associated with the work of Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Clan of Xymox, and other bands on Britain's esteemed 4AD label.

But it was actually Sam Rosenthal, a skinny Jewish kid from Florida, who coined the term "darkwave," and--as founder of long-running Projekt Records and the darkwave collective Black Tape for a Blue Girl--is considered one of the most important figures in the American goth-rock underground.

In 1983, Rosenthal was putting out a fanzine dedicated to local ambient and experimental music when he decided to put out a series of compilation tapes spotlighting those acts and his own nascent electronic instrumentals. Thus began Projekt, and after relocating to California to finish a degree in journalism (and going through a self-described "bleak period"), Rosenthal formed Black Tape, debuting in 1986 with the harrowing, captivating Rope. On their eight subsequent discs, Rosenthal (who provides electronic soundscapes and lyrics) and a rotating cast of singers, violinists, guitarists, cellists, and percussionists have crafted equally dense, ambitious recordings, all of them autumnal and tragically romantic in that Emily Brontë kinda way.

The newest, Halo Star, features vocals from brooding Bret Helm of Projekt band Audra and the medievally operatic Elysabeth Grant. The album's also replete with flute by Rosenthal's wife, Lisa Feuer, and idyllic acoustic guitar from Michael Laird of Unto Ashes. The darkwave drama level is high, but there's a lighthearted moment or two--in "Knock Three Times," a waltzy, goth-deprecating takeoff on Tony Orlando and Dawn's similarly titled tune, Helm deadpans, "She was so cute in a 'why don't you get out and see the sun?' kind of way and I say/ Knock three times on your coffin if you want my love." Apparently, even the undead need to laugh at themselves.