We’ve got something…well, a lot different here for you today at the Vault: we’re dipping a toe into the world of dark, experimental synthpunk. Definitely not the kind of thing I generally cover, but it’s also definitely not the kind of thing I could pass up – for two reasons. First, it’s a rad song. Second, it’s for a very important cause.
January 22 is International Trans Prisoner Solidarity Day. Most people reading this likely have at least some idea of the discrimination trans individuals face on a daily basis in American society. In prison, that discrimination is much worse; trans inmates are often incarcerated according to their birth sex instead of by their gender, which leaves them especially vulnerable to both sexual and physical assault from guards and other inmates. They’re often denied access to both medical and psychological care as well.
On this year’s International Trans Prisoner Solidarity Day, Psychic Eye Records will release Sacred Spells, a 20-song compilation featuring a wide variety of darkwave, dark electronics, and experimental artists. All proceeds from the comp will benefit the TGI Justice Project, a group of transgender, gender variant and intersex people—inside and outside of prisons, jails and detention centers—creating a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom. Founded in 2004 by several formerly incarcerated trans women of color, it’s one of the first and only legal advocacy and support groups of its kind.
So, to recap: Sacred Spells is 78 minutes of outstanding dark, experimental music, all to benefit an important cause that doesn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserves from outside the LGBTQ+ community. When I was offered the chance to stream a track from it, there was no fucking way I was going to pass on it.
As such, we’re thrilled to be streaming “Tomorrow Never Comes” from Oakland’s ‘surreal doom noise synth-punk industrial dark-wave’ (as their FB describes them) duo V.E.X. (which currently stands for Vortex Empath Xen, formerly Voltage Empath Xanaxax, and Ventriloquest Ectoplasmold Xanaxax before that). “Tomorrow Never Comes” is actually one of my favorite songs on Sacred Spells, which also features tracks from the likes of The Bedroom Witch, Maya Songbird, Yama Uba, Ritual Veil, and Aesthetic Barrier. Fuck if I can explain why, though, which really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise – just about everything the duo of Lu Lucifer Gamma Ray and Roxzan “Roxy Monoxide” Zatan, who also play in art-punk band Moria Scar, has some degree of inscrutability hardwired into its DNA. There are bits that sound like lo-fi Joy Division bedroom demos, parts that sound like they came from the soundtrack of a 70s sci-fi B-movie, and parts that sound like Dominick Fernow remixing Siouxsie Sioux. And then there are the places where it gets strange.
When asked about their involvement with Sacred Spells, Roxy Monoxide and LuLu Gamma Ray replied:
V.E.X. has always stood with the outcasts and against fascism in our songs and lives, but as important as we think making surreal darkwave noise art spells is as part of telling stories below the surface and envisioning new paths, direct actions are also needed. The Sacred Spells compilation is a chance to combine direct action to help support TGIJP, who give direct support to trans people imprisoned, some of the most marginalized people in this sick abusive system, while also letting us dance. Come dance with us, let’s do whatever we can to help those being marginalized and abused, freaks against fascism!
There are plenty of opportunities to dance on Sacred Spells, not just from V.E.X., but on the compilation as a whole. It will be available on January 22 on digital, CD, and a hand-written and hand-numbered edition of 100 cassettes from Psychic Eye (preorder here), with all proceeds going to benefit the TGI Justice Project. Go pick up a copy while you listen to “Tomorrow Never Comes” below.