Many people have tried to make the claim that rock music is dead. Every time though therell be a band thatll releases an album thatll buck the trend. Its probably more like an ageing professional athlete, they still have their moments, but its 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. Its apparent right away on the cover of the album which is a close up of two lovers faces, the photograph is of a still frame on a TV from what looks like a soft core porn film. Its 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, Halls reverb voice is a perfect match to contemplative keyboards which accompany a steady beat. Its almost danceable, but just holding back enough to make you pay attention to what the rest of your brain is doing while youre listening. Having just reviewed Chicagos Twin Peaks and remarking how their Lynch inspiration took them away from Angelo Badalementis 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 its 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 wasnt 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, its 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, its 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 isnt 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 its best, it takes you on a journey, like a door to another dimension. Whats been happening with a lot of rock music is that its 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 itll pave the way to the future.
– Michael Unger