Various music bloggers (us included) have thought it utterly escandalo that minimalist synth duo Brusque Twins were for so long not signed to a label. Thankfully, the good folks over at Visage Musique have rectified that. Made-up of Hollie Hensman and Derek George, Brusque Twins released their latest EP “A Voice In The Night” in march.
Playing with a sense of tension, this duo creates intense, driving minimalist synth music with a pulse. Hensman’s vocals read like a cross between Cocteau Twin’s Elizabeth Fraser and Warpaint’s Emily Kokal. As accomplished in their genre by the likes of Johnny Jewel and others such as Chromatics and Glass Candy on the Italiens Do It Better label, Brusque Twins have succeeded in crafting and polishing their sound to successfully merge the disparate elements of icy reserve with heartfelt, deeply intense musical structure. Not an easy thing to achieve, and Brusque Twins have managed to do so, creating an excellent EP that invites the listener to indulge in allowing the music to run along like a narrative to an imagined soundtrack. With all due respect, eat your heart out, Mr. Jewel.
Listening to the album, the vocals and instrumentation gradually seem to become more and more fractured and abstracted. This fracturization, instead of creating an ambiguous disarray, lends the ability to separate each beat and vocalization, allowing the artists’ intent to sparkle through like light streaming in through a prism, reflecting a variety of colors across the album as a whole.
This abstraction reaches its peak on the aptly named track “What Else Is There To Say”, which explodes into a wide array of fractured synths, beats, and vocals coalescing into something that is as exciting as it is profound.
While listening to this album, I started thinking of that magic place that great films from the 80s such as “Labyrinth” and “Dark Crystal” were able to conjure, then after the apex of the album, the sunny innocence of the first two tracks began to be replaced with a — while still idealistic at its core — markedly more sinister, complex undertone.
Brusque Twins approach their music with a thoughtful, light touch that goes deep to a gritty core. Upon first listen, it could be easy to dismiss their music as sheer, glossy froth that merely runs over synths and airy vocals, which would be a huge disservice to music that deserves to be heard. Their’s is not music to play at half-volume as background music for a dinner party. Instead, it is music deserving of a pair of good headphones, and a nice late-night walk through dark streets. Stream the album below.
Chromatics is a personal favourite of mine. 2007’s “Night Drive” is one of my favourite albums of all time: I fell asleep to that album every night for months. The production is perfect and the vocals where haunting. A lot of songs were leaked from “Kill For Love” before the release and I didn’t listen to any, I refused. This is a new Chromatics album we’re talking about. I could only listen to the album from start to finish. So the wait was killing me knowing that there were songs out there, while the constant stream of album delays and set backs certainly didn’t help. So now we’re here, I’ve waited a whole five years for this album and was it worth it? In a word, holyshityes.
Johnny Jewel has been working on this album for the whole of the five years since “Night Drive”, it isn’t one of those sit on your ass for 4 years and then get around to making it at some point type deals. Five whole years of working on new beats, trying things out, not scoring the film Drive, and releasing a two hour album under the pseudonym Symmetry, which was actually an outlet for him to be able to practice sounds gearing up for Chromatics, to get the ultimate sound. You have to admire Johnny Jewel’s dedication.
I see him as somewhat of an auteur, he’s put so much work in to his own Italians Do It Better label, which has one distinct sound across a board of many great bands. If it wasn’t for his hard work, specifically for the Holy Trinity of releases in 2007 (“B/E/A/T/B/O/X” by Glass Candy, “Night Drive” by Chromatics, and the After Dark compilation), this now very popular “italo disco” sound would still most likely be unheard.
As well as staying with the aesthetic they are oh so great at, there are some surprising additions to their sound. The album opener, “Into the Black” (a Neil Young cover) is extremely sparse of any electronics for almost the entire song and relies heavily on a mellow guitar riff. There are two songs that use vocoder and I initially thought they were horrible, but after listening intently every night these are dense and incredibly subtle and beautiful songs that leave me speechless. Over the five years it is obvious from hearing this that Jewel has gotten a lot better at making music, not that he wasn’t a mastermind already.
There are certain moments where the beats and the production really hit home and leave me without breath, such as “There’s A Light Out On The Horizon”. It was wise to keep it as an instrumental as it is the most space-y, thrilling beat on the whole thing. The techno and electronic beats wash over you like a baptism, you really do feel like you’re being reborn listening to this. I’m happy it doesn’t sound too much like the Terminator soundtrack too.
As always, at the heart of Chromatics’ music are the beautifully dramatic and lingering vocals. Ruth Radelet’s vocals are as gloving as ever and fit comfortably in this grand musical vision of some dirty 80s nightclub. Or something. Without the vocals, Chromatics wouldn’t be as poignant as they are. I can’t imagine her soft echo-y voice over any kind of music other than this; it’s a match made in heaven. Her vocals are what move the listener and is as vital to Chromatics’ music as oxygen is to the human body, which brings me to my gripes…
The album is extremely long, it’s an hour and 30 minutes, but it doesn’t need to be. The album length is frustrating as there are extremely long ambient songs that go nowhere and ruin the otherwise immaculate pacing of the album. Although not on the CD version of the album, “Kill For Love” closes with a 14 minute song that’s just a few ambient noises away from silence when the penultimate and amazing “The River” would suffice as a finisher. 30 minutes of music could easily be cut without anything being missed. Still, the amount of classic Chromatics tunes tremendously outweighs the slightly off-putting experimental songs.
I hate to criticize what direction a band didn’t go in instead of praising what they did do, but I would have loved to see the concept of the night drive continued. It seemed to be a recurring theme as a night drive was the cover for the Symmetry album and that was a kind of bridge between “Night Drive” and this. It’s a selfish critique and I’m sure as artists the want to progress rather than live in the past, and maybe that’s what I should stop doing, but it would have been perfect.
This isn’t the perfect album that “Night Drive” is, but nothing much is. What it is is a worthy follow up and a deep thrilling and shocking album that is a real masterpiece. “Kill For Love” is a drama in music form. “Night Drive” was an album that got me through a lot of tough times and I’m sure “Kill For Love” will be the new album I retreat back to when I need to relax. I now listen to this beautiful album in excitement as I wait for both the next Glass Candy album and After Dark 2, which are both planned for release before the year is up! I can’t recommend this album enough, it is an adventure you have to experience. Stream the whole thing below.