Many people have tried to make the claim that rock music is dead. Every time though there’ll be a band that’ll releases an album that’ll buck the trend. It’s probably more like an ageing professional athlete, they still have their moments, but it’s clear rock and roll is past its prime. The trend is definitely heading in one direction, and you see that by seeing more and more electronic based groups forming. Brooklyn label Captured Tracks have found another gem with synth-pop group Soft Metals who are releasing their latest inspired album Lenses.
Originally from Portland, Ian Hicks and Patricia Hall take a moody almost cinematic approach to their brand of atmospheric electronic music. It’s apparent right away on the cover of the album which is a close up of two lover’s faces, the photograph is of a still frame on a TV from what looks like a soft core porn film. It’s enlightening to see a band take care of their visual presentation like their album cover even in a day and age when most people will only download music. The sounds and beats subtly spring to life like a daydream on the title track “Lenses”, Hall’s reverb voice is a perfect match to contemplative keyboards which accompany a steady beat. It’s almost danceable, but just holding back enough to make you pay attention to what the rest of your brain is doing while you’re listening. Having just reviewed Chicago’s Twin Peaks and remarking how their Lynch inspiration took them away from Angelo Badalementi’s score soundtrack, “Tell Me”, the second track, is one that feels like it could be in a Lynch film with Julee Cruise like vocals. The track, and most of the album, feels very haunting, but it’s presented in a more uplifting way with a lot of ascending synth sounds. The opposite happens on the next track “When I Look Into Your Eyes” which could be a airy lovers track if it wasn’t for the descending synth notes which add some foreboding in this ode to longing. The album takes a mature look at love with the next track in “No Turning Back”. Slow synth notes mark a changing heart beat of emotions that happen when you become more involved in a relationship, it’s both exciting but also ominous because of the dangers that may lie ahead. “Hourglass” is a near perfect middle to the story, clock-like notes supply the main hook to a vocalless track that symbolizes those in-between moments of love that have no description and no analysis, it’s just wait and see, which is also agonizing and enthralling. “On a Cloud” and “In the Air” supply a positive spin on what being in love feels like to an introvert. There isn’t a whole lot of outward appearances that mark a change in their behaviour but the muted energy inside is swirling and vibrant. While “Hourglass” seems like a near perfect middle point, “Interobserver” sure does a lot more right in the denouement track of this album story. Long repetitive far away notes make for a spot on ambience of contemplation, like the credits rolling on a film, but without any words.
When music, or any art is at it’s best, it takes you on a journey, like a door to another dimension. What’s been happening with a lot of rock music is that it’s become so self-referential that it adds too many layers to go through before you can take that journey. Bands like Soft Metals are leading the way for music to take you on those journey easier. Sure electronic pop music is trendy right now, but it’ll pave the way to the future.
– Michael Unger