After previous release “Heart To Heart” collected together some existing releases, And Then represents the first ‘proper’ album release from Maurizio Pustianaz’s A New Life alias. All the tracks were recorded between 2011 and 2015 though, so in that sense it’s not a ‘new’ album, but it’s all previously unreleased and new to the world.
It’s ten new pieces of synthpop that blends some very retro sounds with more up-to-date production touches. It’s not synthwave in the stereotypical sense though, as while in my experience synthwave tends to focus on the brighter and brasher side of the sound, these sounds feel like they are drawn more from the thinner, more fragile and introspective sounds of the era. There are shades of Ultravox or Japan here. Maurizio cites his divorce as an influence during that period, and emotion is certainly on display in and around the synths. Not just negative emotions though, for sure. The point behind the A New Life alias, it seems, was about looking forward, and you can hear positivity and optimism infused into tracks like “Set Me Up”, albeit sometimes in complex and less obvious ways.
The publicity material references The Human League’s League Unlimited Orchestra project and it’s an interesting comparison for trying to describe or pigeonhole the sounds of this album. At times this really does sound like instrumental or experimental remixes of early 80’s synthpop, particularly in tracks like “Neural Link 2”. Four of the songs have vocals, but several of those that don’t, have a space where the vocals could be- or in the case of “She Said” and “Another Day”, keyboard melodies that do sound a little like placeholders.
The vocals have a husky quality to them that sound like a young, less smoky Dave Gahan. Some interesting vocal layering effects in “All The Lies”, where backing vocals and lead vocals are seemingly mixed and matched, give a distinctive quality, though at times it’s guilty of muddying the lyrics somewhat.
Highlights include the very catchy “Lucky You”, with its singalong ‘disappointing’ chorus, and the interestingly off-kilter “Every Day We Die” where some interesting pronunciation and bouncy, wobbly melodies give a strange sort of abject cheeriness to the miserable subject matter, before a near-euphoric synth lead line arrives for something that’s like a hands-in-the-air moment, but sideways. A strong sense of melody is clear in tracks like “Another Day”.
Once you know the story behind it, there is the slight sense that this was an album 90% finished then abandoned, and which is still a vocal or two short of what might have been. Nevertheless, fans of synthpop old and new, looking for something expressive and fresh, should certainly check this out.