After the 2017 album “It’s All We Feel Every Day”, Eric Shans is back with his established Phenotract monicker for a new three-track EP of unabashed and proud synthpop songs. Drum machines, synth arps, bleeps, squeaks and a generally melancholic and traditionally structured verse-chorus vocal can all be ticked off, present and correct.
Opening track “Turning Tides” is actually the weakest I think, with an acoustic guitar loop that comes across as awkward and which takes away from what’s otherwise a perfectly decent synthpop song, with slight shades of New Order, and which benefits from a rich, almost folky female backing vocal.
“Seven Days” is the highlight for me, a catchy chorus, some bright pads and a few less predictable chord changes making it the most attention-grabbing of the pack. “One Last Time”, with some quite lush string sounds and another strong chorus, is quite reminiscent of the earliest material from Mesh, and also randomly throws up memories in my head of the Cicero album as well.
Whether deliberately or accidentally, but there’s a thickly 90’s style to the production, eschewing more modern synthpop wall-of-sound approaches in favour of a thinner, less heavily processed sound that could even pass for a live recording at times (and subjective I think there may even be a vocal bum note in track 3). It’s an approach that will endear itself to fans of synthwave and retro sounds, but which will hold it back from having a broader appeal, which may be unfortunate as the songwriting is strong.