Eric Random has a strong CV with Manchester and Sheffield connections, with connections to Cabaret Voltaire and the Buzzcocks, and a rich track record of releases, fairly prolific over the last few years. It’s Cabaret Voltaire that I would use as a starting point to describe the dark synthpop sound- light electronic beats, vocoded brooding vocals, crisp analogue synth bass with bleeps and beeps.
However despite the punk credentials, there’s surprisingly little attitude at play here. The production is generally quite lightweight, eschewing modern more-is-more mastering and EQ in favour of a more authentic, thinner, 80’s synthpop sound. Kraftwerk comparisons are obvious and inevitable but relevant in the sonic palette of tracks like “Fundamental Phenomena”.
It’s a genre that’s quite well stocked for new, old-sounding releases, and as with other releases, it’s elements such as songwriting strength that would make it stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, while some of the songs here are catchy and nicely written, there’s a shortage of inspirational moments- earworm hooks, or lyrical wizardry- to elevate this release. Certainly much of it is not bad, but many of the melodies are a bit too one-note, and lyrics like “keep on running to the other side”, in “Compulsion”, do feel like songwriting-by-numbers.
“The Familiar” is one of the brighter-sounding tracks, and probably the track most likely to draw people in if it were to get playlisted. “Sinuous Seduction”, with its spoken word samples and more rubbery electro bass, also stands out as a highlight, as does “Acyetalene Dream Pt. II” which hints at what a more driving and industrial attitude would’ve infused into this release.
“I’m open to ideas” is a lyric in the track “Fundamental Phenomena”. Harshly, it does feel like ideas is what “No-Go” is a little short of, as though we’re going through the workmanlike process of churning out electronic tunes hoping that inspiration or uniqueness would magically appear, and for the most part it doesn’t. But that being said, there is still an undeniable quality to the production, and some strong tracks, and as dark synthpop to work to rather than idolise, this is worth a listen.