Avant! Records: It’s not goth, it’s not post-punk, it’s not coldwave – It’s the dark side of Europe.
Usually, dark songs come from dark places. That’s why when you think of goth, you think of England. Yes, England is dark, not only because it’s mostly cold and damp but also because they were, and sort of still are, one of biggest colonialist countries, and that’s some dark shit right there. But I digress. Conversely, when you think of electronic music, you think of Germany. What you don’t think of when you listen to dark music is pizza, pasta, sun and sea. That’s why it might seem weird that a label like Avant! Records (yes, with an exclamation mark like the Mysterians) is based in Italy, because most of their stuff is dark and cold like the cold-war era Berlin I imagine Bowie and Iggy in, trying to kick off drugs, practicing macrobiotics or whatever the hell the story was.
In case you’re wondering, Avant! Records is called Avant!, because it’s the label of the last vanguard. And if that may sound pedantic to some, vanguard here just represents the ideal of a particular period: the late 70s/early 80s post-punk stuff, which for Andrea, the label owner, represents the last vanguard. And even though Andrea doesn’t recognize any of the stuff Avant! Records puts out as “goth,” one of their bands is Night Sins which come pretty fucking close. They do that wall of sound thing with the rough voice that sounds something like Count Dracula seducing virgins before sucking their blood. They may not be goth, but they sure do talk a lot about death, dying, eternity and night and neon lights. And like them, there are other bands, like Horror Vacui, who sure seem to obsess about the dark side. Then, there are some other post-punk bands like Agnes Circle or Death Bells that showcase ear-catching melodies capable of fighting a lot of 80s stuff. The thread that sews all the bands seems to be not a particular type of sound but the aesthetics of it all. Not everything sounds like Night Sins, Agnes Circle or Lust for Youth; some records are closer to noise, others seem to be closer to electronics, but the spirit kinda remains the same. I know this, because I’m the type of obsessive-compulsive maniac that spent almost two weeks listening to everything Avant! Records recorded, even though Night Sins are still the band that really makes me want to go out at night, jump the cemetery gates and desecrate some graves just for the fun of it.
Andrea tells us that the only criteria for a band to be featured on Avant! Records is that they need to impress him, and not just with music because everything counts in large amounts (I hope this Depeche Mode quote doesn’t go unnoticed) from the record covers to the way the bands presents themselves live. When shit clicks, they have a go. If you consider that there are more than 50 records on Avant! Records, Andrea must be certifiable to devote all his time to the label. Maybe music isn’t a business for him, but it sure is a lot of hard work: I mean, with looking for bands, going to gigs and just the contact portion of it all, how the hell does he find the time to still work a part-time job, when this label is more intense than a full time one? It all seems a big risk, especially when you consider that in this day and age most people don’t even take the time to download mp3 files, they just stream songs online. But Andrea is the romantic type, or he wouldn’t be recording these kinds of bands. That’s why he believes in the cult of the music object, particularly vinyl, even though the label does digital-only releases sometimes, which sooner or later end up on vinyl as well. Why the hell would you put out records, if not to be featured on vinyl? Goth, electro, post-punk or death-rock, it doesn’t matter, because it’s how dark the music that really counts for Andrea, so who cares where bands come from, as long as they’re dark. So maybe it makes sense after all that such a label is based in Italy, if you consider it’s the home of Giallo movies. That would explain why Andrea says that punk, metal, experimental stuff and their derivatives are all in good health precisely in the land of the Roman-Catholic church. That’s pretty grim stuff too, if you come to think of it.
Avant! Records’ biggest hit record to this date is still the Rendez-Vous 12” that is as cold as the dead and sings about distance in the most detached fashion or about foreseen death, ignorance and cruelty; they also have the beautifully baptized song “Euroshima.” Other Avant! Records top sellers are Lust for Youth, whose record is called Saluting Rome and on which there is a song about virgins holding hands, the great Night Sings and Qual that verse about being raped in the Parthenon. There are also excellent record covers like Scorpio Violente, that features a big black scary goat – but maybe I’m just a sucker for big black goats. The newest stuff is Father Murphy’s last and final double-LP, Death Bells euro-pressing and SDH (Semiotics Department Of Heteronyms) debut full-length. So just stop being a pussy and fall in love with the dark side of Europe, since the bright one doesn’t seem to be all that good.