After last year’s 6-track EP “We Are Nowhere”, the duo of Eric Shans and Augustine Backer have returned with a full 10-track album that continues the journey through some of the more introspective sides of synthpop.
Instrumentally the format is for the most part familiar- drum machine, pulsing synthbass, skippy arpeggios, and warm pad sounds, with a homely analogue feel. But in a genre that somehow never manages to sound tired, so no problem there. Now and again there are some other details to give variety, like the twangy and faintly Depeche Mode-ish guitar that opens “Vanishing Point”, the funkier wobbly bass of “Polyhedron”, or the higher-energy urgency underpinning the unexpected lyrics of final track “Splatter”.
While the production is reliably bright and polished, it’s tracks like “Colors Monochrome” that demonstrate a strong feel for a catchy melody, which are the make-or-break element. The vocal isn’t particularly punchy, and seems to make nervousness part of its idiom, but luckily this is in keeping with the mood of the lyrics. Unexpectedly, the vocal tone of it at several times of the Pet Shop Boys-produced Cicero album from the early ‘90s- an obscure reference, certainly, but a fairly strong one. It’s not always totally successful- the sustained multi-tracked melody of “Diode Glow” doesn’t quite scale the heights it thinks it does- but it’s predominantly strong, as demonstrated in more understated tracks like “Flipping Stones”. The tracks all sit very close to the five minute mark, allowing for extended instrumental breaks and intros, so it’s far from wall-to-wall lyrics.
Most experimental moments come in tracks like “Eigenvector”, with its spoken word core and tense, rustling percussive sounds and horror-movie-ish synth strings, or the early OMD-ish slow, quirky drum patterns and theatricality of “White Dust”.
Synthpop is still alive and well and still has its serious face on, and Elegaic is a well-above-average example of the health of the genre.