Technophobia is a dark electronic band from Washington, D.C. comprised of Katie Petix (vocals) and Stephen Petix (analogue synths, drum machines and programming). They began in 2013 I believe, playing live and sharing the stage with such acts as Skinny Puppy, Laibach, Douglas McCarthy (Nitzer Ebb) and others. 'Flicker Out' is their first full-length release. This is actually one of the few reviews that I've been able to post timed with the release date (July 17), since I'm always getting backed up here and much of the product sent to Chain D.L.K. central that's handed off to me arrives well after it's been released. (They sent this to me direct, which helps speed things up.) Anyway, prior to the album, a 12" single of the track "Negative Space" was released, and I also received that, but the record arrived BROKEN. Not to worry, I was still able to check it out on the band's site, but we'll leave that to later and go straight to the album.
Opening robustly with "Shame," Katie proves to be a stong and capable vocalist with a very good melodic voice. There are nice harmonies and a ballsy beat with a decent hook. Synthwork is oldschool, and that's reflected throughout the album. There's definitely an EBM vibe here in the music as it becomes more evident in "The Principle," with a copious amount of sequencing and synth sounds you've heard a million times before, but good melody lines and harmonies keep it from heading into clicheville. The instrumental titled "Siroccos" is a sort of dark ambient mood piece with a simple synth line. Very effective. As we move further into the album, I'm noticing one thing I really like about the songs on 'Flicker Out' is the lyrics. They're poetic and meaningful without being pretentious, and a cut above what you usually find in a lot of dark electronic music today. They were written by Kristy Lupejkis and Katie Petix. The songs on the A side of the record were pretty good. Let's turn it over on the B side.
First up is "Negative Space," the song that was released as the first single. I'm getting a strong Depeche Mode vibe on this one, but in a good way. There's this dialogue sample they use in this song from Jean-Paul Sartre's 'No Exit' - "you can't throttle thoughts with hands". (It took me a while to find the source.) Although "Hands" figures prominently in the song lyrics, I'm not a big fan of movie dialogue samples in music. The band uses them in other places on the album, but so far it hasn't really worked against them. (It will, soon.) Still, the song is about the best so far, and the obvious choice for a single. "Trapped" will carry you back the the 80's. Speaking of the 80's and dialogue samples, "Factory 1981" begins by bludgeoning the listener with the (manipulated) dialogue sample "1981 began with the spectre of violence..." and carries on with an apocalyptic theme. Enuff is enough though with the dialogue samples. The kicker on the album though is the revival of an old song by The Cure from their 'Pornography' album - "One Hundred Years". I never really thought much of the song, figuring it to be rather minor in the band's ouevre, but somehow Technophobia manage to inject a new vitality into it and make it theirs; a powerful version and an outstanding track on the album.
So now let's take a look at that "Negative Space" 12" single. First you get the album version which we've already discussed. Then there is the hERETICS iN tHE lAB Meaning Nothing Remix which gives the song a more industrial edge. The Void Vison Remix is full of distorted beats, echoes up the vocal and strips away most of the music replacing it with some high-pitched synth sound in places. Garbage. Hated it. The Alter Der Ruine Remix keeps the vocals and uses minimal beat and minimal synths to begin with, then just changes it into this sequecner-heavy mess. Didn't care much for that either. Final track is a different song altogether called "Passing People". It has a nice groove, but the only vocals are dialogue samples. Overall, I'd pass on this unless you're a rabid collector of colored vinyl. BTW, I forgot to mention that 'Flicker Out' comes on soda bottle green vinyl. Now that I'd recommend buying. Your money will go to a good cause too because this altruistic band is donating 100% of the proceeds to their charity project, Life Pieces to Masterpieces, an arts-based, youth development, and mentoring organization for African American males ages 3 to 25.
Some final thoughts - Technophobia is a band with a lot of potential. I think if they lean heavily on their strengths (melodicism, good lyrics, powerful vocals and harmonies), cut down or eliminate the dialogue samples and rely a lot less on the 1/16 note synth sequencer they could be a force to be reckoned with. As is, 'Flicker Out' is a pretty good album with more ups than downs and has the potential to grow on you.