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Something Wicked This Way Comes: New York City’s New Dark Sisterhood

23 March 2009

DESTINY, TAMARYN, ZOHRA, ANASTASIA: New York City’s rising coven of seductive sirens, ladies of the new church of post-apocalyptic song. Like Nico, Stevie, Diamanda and Siouxsie before them, these women defy convention in mysterious ways, mixing in the mystik with all that they do. While each fronts a different project – together, with wicked alchemy – they map out a multifarious musical landscape emerging in the city. SHOCK CINEMA, TAMARYN, RELIGIOUS TO DAMN, and CRUEL BLACK DOVE are the enfant terribles they have conjured from birth. NYC now has a new dark scene.

“Musically, the thread between us is a dark sensibility combined with sensuality,” Zohra Atash muses. “We all strike our own variation on that balance.” And in many ways, their four bands couldn’t sound more different.

Zohra’s first single off Religious to Damn’s upcoming release, “Falls Down Again” chicly balances French ye ye and garage rock beneath breathy vocals and xylophones that ornament the shadowy eaves of this sweet offering. Tamaryn’s debut EP, Led Astray, Washed Ashore, takes you on an organic journey through tribal post-punk rhythms and minimal seaside elegies that invoke slumbering sirens of times past.

In contrast, on Hell & Highwater, Destiny Montague’s Shock Cinema embrace a haunted mellow darkness with hints of a 60’s pop sensibility and tough-as-nails indie rock flair, while Anastasia Dimou’s Cruel Black Dove provides moody and romantic electronic rock on their mini-LP, Full Powers, which runs the gamut from biting to bleak with an edge of explicit sensuality.

Using the tricks they keep up their shimmering sleeves, these four women entrance and ensnare their audience in similar ways. Zohra brings along a large supporting cast of NYC cohorts, including JIM SCLAVUNOS of NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS, while Tamaryn’s first EP incorporates the talents of REX JOHN SHELVERTON, formerly of VUE, and guest appearances by the YEAH YEAH YEAHSNICK ZINNER and TV ON THE RADIO’s JALEEL BUNTON. Shock Cinema often feature ...AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD’s CONRAD KEELY onstage, and Cruel Black Dove cultivate strong ties to the brotherhood of NYC’s dark rock scene.

And what will you see in the flesh? Live, with strobe lights flickering or smoke machines churning, you’ll find Zohra in Middle Eastern haute couture, “things that sparkle and glisten,” and “red lipstick always,” while Anastasia works to suit her mood and creates her own outfits, recently resembling a suicidal bride in a torrent of veils and virginal fabric. Destiny has worn headdresses, masks and colorful paint to perform, and Tamaryn insists on organic theatricality that’s rooted in nature. You never know what to expect.

So with their sonic spells, Destiny, Tamaryn, Zohra and Anastasia stir the senses and spark the soul. It all boils down to a perfect mix of sound and vision, and Gotham has been the breeding ground for this sisterhood. ‘Tis time, ‘tis time. Something wicked this way comes, indeed.

For a more in-depth look at these sirens, check out my other blog, Shadowtime NYC

(Photograph by Peter Domorak)