Music Reviews



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Artist: Duck Duck Punch (@)
Title: Human Chemistry
Format: CD
Label: Truth No. (@)
Rated: *****
Are you ready for some sythpop? Whaddya mean, 'NO!!' Doesn't everybody love synthpop? Well, I guess not, but lucky for these guys, I DO. Well, good synthpop anyway. This Minneapolis duo is Bryan Rudell- programming, synths, piano, trumpet and vocals, and Trent Waterman ' synths, violin and vocals. This is synthpop of the lighter 'feel good' variety rather than the dark, cold or overwrought, serious kind. On their one-sheet (actually a two-sheet) the band lists the bands they think they sound like as: Depeche Mode, Ladytron, Fischerspooner, Gary Numan and Goldfrapp. Depeche Mode? Maybe from the 'Speak & Spell' and 'A Broken Frame' period. Ladytron? Not so much. Fischerspooner? Yeah, sure. Gary Numan? No way Jose. Goldfrapp? Uh, don't think so. I'd say more like Freezepop but with all male vocals. A little like early, pre 'Don't You Want Me' Human League, and later dance-synth New Order. Pleasant tunes. Good harmonies. Mode of the music? Plenty of analogue synths, Roland TR_808 drum machine online, that sort of thing. Lyrically ' smarty pants art school nerds who know how to crank out sweet pop melodies and harmonies with clever lyrics. Don't get me wrong though, I'm not dissin' it, I'm LOVIN' IT!

Here's the thing though ' I hear some really good tunes, but I don't hear any major-league hits. (Hey, that's what the cigar chompin' big label bosses used to say.) And this band really needs a big hit to catch on. It's not like they don't have the ability to generate one (I can tell they do) but it's going to take a little more time and effort. I hear lot's of catchy mini-hooks, and they're very close, but no cigar'¦yet. 'RGB' is the closest thing to a hit, and their YouTube video of the song is a hoot, with a sort of spoof on the Robert Palmer video girls. (RGB = Red-Green-Blue, as in what you're looking at to read this review.) Other songs have the effervescent ambience of say, Owl City, nearly no matter what DDP is singing about, even on a cynical social commentary song like 'Midtown Hater'. The most experimental DDP gets is on the longest (7:23) track on the album ' 'The End,' which ironically is not the final track on 'Human Chemistry'. Trent breaks out his violin on this one for an extended instrumental break, and while it's not quite John Cale vintage Velvet Underground (I know, Cale plays viola), it's still pretty cool and adds a lot.

What I really like about the band though is that they don't employ that big overblown synth and big beat sound typically geared for dance clubs and found in remixes. It does have a very 80's style, minus the naiveté of that decade, with a 2013 perspective. Apparently I'm not alone in this assessment; when I had the album playing in my bookstore I received a lot of positive comments from customers, and even some requests to buy it from me. Sorry, I told them where to go'¦to get the CD. If blithe and bouncy synthpop does it for you, this is a MUST BUY. If you'd rather wallow in nostalgic angst, look elsewhere.
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Artist: Nouvelle Phenomene (@)
Title: Caresse
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Other Voices Records
Rated: *****
Coming from Budapest, Hungary, Nouvelle Phenomene is a band formed by Santa Angela, Santa Fanni, Dziba Zsolt and Peter Buza. After self producing a CDr EP the last year, they are preparing their first album for Other Voices and this two track digital single is an appetizer of what is coming. Both the tracks, "Caresse" and "Glory Of Romance", are deeply rooted into the lushy electro wave sound of bands of the likes of Visage thanks to catchy melodies, overall dance attitude, sensual girls vocal performance, synth sounds and 4/4 powerful drum beats. Both the tracks catched my attention immediately and I think that their first album will be a real test for them. For the moment they won and you can check the proof here http://othervoicesrecords.bandcamp.com/album/vox-18-dd-caresse-glory-of-romance
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Artist: Twins Natalia / Poeme Electronique
Title: I Avoid Strangers / I Wouldn't Change Me For Anyone
Format: 12"
Label: Anna Logue Records (@)
Rated: *****
Twins Natalia are back after their split 7" with Marsheaux with a new split. This time we have a two tracks 12" with Twins Natalia, with "I Avoid Strangers" and Poeme Electronique, with "I Wouldn't Change Me For Anyone". Always formed by Steve Lippert, Marc Schaffer (Anna Logue Records' boss) plus Sharon Abbott, Julie Ruler and Dave Hewson of Poeme Electronique, Twins Natalia are presenting a nine minutes 'special extended night version' of the track which is coming from their forthcoming debut album "The Destiny Room". "I Avoid Strangers" is a powerful retro electro pop upbeat dance floor killer based on bouncing bass lines, catchy lead solos and rich synth arpeggios. Dave's vocals recall a bit Human League and in the middle of the track you can find an intermezzo which could fit an 80s ebm tune. This song is a hit, no doubt about that! On the AA side, Poeme Electronique present their first track after 25 years. "I Wouldn't Change Me For Anyone" is a really good song about empty glamour lives and behind its upbeat rhythms it has a certain dose of darkness and mystery. Girls' voice are passionate and good as in the past and the track sound just like one of their classic hits. The release is presented in a deluxe package with posters and postcards ( Poeme Electronique's artwork is based on original paintings by German artist Peter K. Endres) and it's also available on digital download.
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Artist: The Blank Vrs
Title: The Idiots And The Envious
Format: MCD (Mini CD)
Label: Pale Music International! (@)
Rated: *****
Originally from Stockholm, Sweden and currently based in Berlin, Germany, Kalle Fagerberg is the mastermind behind The Blank VRS. Active since 2010 or so, he did a couple of releases (a tape for Color Triangle Recordings and a digital self produced release) before making his first CD EP "The Idiots And The Envious" for Pale Music. Based on a piece of poetry by John Wilmotworks, the EP contains six tracks which experiments with synths, electronics, guitars and melody. Listening to tracks like "Pigeon Song (for Sparrow)" and the following "Polygraph", I think about a raw mix of Placebo, early Gene Loves Jezebel (check the opening "Fig Head") and early Cindytalk. The sound is based on guitar riffs, synth melodic distortions, 4/4 upbeat drum machine beats and new wave vocals. Already having played a lot in Europe, The Blank VRS is now looking west and plans a NorthAmerica/Canada Tour in early 2014 and as many shows in Europe as possible. You can check the whole EP at this link http://theblankvrs.bandcamp.com/album/the-idiots-and-the-envious
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: The Return
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: BIOS Recordings
Rated: *****
Before the barrage of beats and the warm blast of wind of the track which introduces this compilation, "Sirocco" by Raw Q and Thomas Amaning, who plays host, the first atmospheric seconds seem to evoke the arcane words of the magic formula by a necromancer who can resuscite dead and such an introduction for the official and well-appreciated return on the stage by Amaning's German dnb label Bios Recordings after five years of silence sounds right and proper. Bios comes back to fertilize the acquainted stylistical grounds where airy and liquid sonorities blend into quick-paced breaks and loops, an explosive concoction which is going to accelerate body movements and spin heads towards unexpected mental destinations or supposedly inside some hidden level of Wipe Out whose finish line got placed over the clouds by means of many interesting variations of the above-mentioned dynamics: the oriental scents of Indian summers of tracks like "Heaven Sent" by Simplification, Sunny Crimea and Scott Allen and the awesome "Bangra Nights" by another incendiary trio made up of Submatic, Dan-E and S.Finesse, the overshadowing popping of darker tunes such as Survey's "Chatter" - one of the tracks on the top of my personal liking rank -, Generic's "Get Away" and the spooky "Below The Down" by NotioN, the twinkling sub-bass rotations of "Nomad" by Savage Rehab and Physics, the holistic hyper-reality of "Love" by Locksmith, the balearic reverie of "Moonlight Piano" by NajeemS, the daydreaming junglism of "Blue Velvet" by Stereotype, the radiophonic hooks of "All Because Of Me" by Bassface Sascha, whose rubber bumps, pulsating whooshes and female singing could resemble Tali's style, the soulful protease of "All Wrong" by Random Movement and the flipping guitar which entwines on rolling beats of the final "Soul Prints" by Furney and Locksmith. A cruise on deeply emotional waves and top-notch sounds.
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