DRAWING A BLANK: Bl_nk Sp_c_s’ Memory Man innovates synth-pop for a new decade

Listening to “Memory Man,” the title-track off Bl_nk Sp_c_s’ debut album, is akin to hearing what Pink Floyd would have sounded like if fronted by Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan. And that’s a sound I can stand to hear a great deal more of. Memory Man contains nine additional tracks just as genre-busting, a unique take on electronic pop which merge krautrock guitars with pop hooks, delivering a synth-laden mix perfect for solo listening or club excursions. You can watch the video for “Memory Man” below, a clip heavily inspired by David Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell To Earth” and Maya Deren’s “Meshes of the Afternoon” short.


NEW MUSIC MONDAY: Schizophrenic melodies, synths unite adventurous singles from Ninetails, Arum Rae and Sleep Thieves

Ninetails – “An Aria”
Album: Quiet Confidence
Release Date: March 10, 2014

A trippy exercise in merging a dense yet adventurously free-wheeling arrangement, this second single from Ninetails’ upcoming album Quiet Confidence showcases a band with music perfect for close headphone listening. The vocals hide hauntingly out of reach, as the ears focus on the ornately schizophrenic melody, with bells and horns competing amid a constantly shifting aural backdrop. Definitely music worth savoring.

Arum Rae – “2001”
Album: Warranted Queen EP
Release Date: April 22, 2014

The backdrop of this endlessly addictive single which Spin dubbed “Auto-Tuned soul” is awash in synths and electronic dub elements, but Arum Rae’s distinct vocals delve into 808s and Heartbreak-esque territory while making subtle shifts which belie her advanced study of jazz vocals at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. What sets the song apart is that constant shifting between the worlds of hip-hop, pop and electronic, with a minimal use of instruments allowing Arum Rae’s voice to really twist and turn. There are moments where her voice, heard through this chaotic prism, takes on a vaguely middle-eastern touch, as though blending human voice and synth strings.

Sleep Thieves – “City Of Hearts”
Album: You Want The Night
Release Date: Spring 2014

The intro at first sounds like come of Enya’s more twisted synth tracks, but once the drums kick in this single quickly falls into a groove more akin to the sound of the Knife, as filtered through the more poppy nature of early Tegan and Sara. It’s a sound both modern and retro, which is sure to give Sleep Thieves plenty of potential appeal. Their debut You Want The Night, which as a full-length follows their successful 2012 EP Islands, is due out this spring and should quickly assert the Dublin band’s global status among synth-pop taste-makers. It doesn’t hurt that the song is instantly ear-catching and repeatable, which makes you want to blast it from your speakers to anyone who will listen.




Erase the grey: Golden Bloom’s “Flying Mountain” a nugget of winter bliss

And when the morning starts
What’s left behind is where the broken hearts lay
Let’s proclaim there’s no day like today

Shawn Fogel sings of too many thoughts and ideas floating around his head sometimes and few among us will fail to relate. Thankfully his music with Golden Bloom keeps the clutter at bay, vividly waking us from those pre-Holiday blues with a shining nugget of pop like nothing you’ll hear on the radio. “Flying Mountain,” off the band’s latest album No Day Like Today, gently cuts through all that noise we’re inundated with on a daily basis — Fogel suggests if there’s a flood of information, maybe we should simply ride the surf. Hints of darkness within the mix have been very much overblown by the band’s press material, but no matter; there’s always enough darkness to go around elsewhere. What we need now is a shelter from the storm, with enough pop in the mix to make the feet dance. Everything else is gravy.

UNDER COVER: Gitar – “Hippie Dream”

Gitar Hippie Dream

Toronto's Gitar brings some serious urban grime to a Neil Young cover.

This isn’t your dad’s Neil Young, but if this teaser is a true hint of what’s to come with Gitar’s Seen As Unclean later this year, the results should be impressive. Toronto’s Gitar exists to bring eclectic beats into the world of rock and roll, which is certainly a worthy endeavor. On “Hippie Dream” we’re hit immediately by fuzzed out bass and popping synth percussion, as Mikhail Galkin layers his off-kilter vocals into the mix, the entire affair sounding as though it takes place in a world where we’re about half a minute away from succumbing to drowning — though that’s certainly not a terrible effect, once you’ve heard the whole thing and hit repeat a few times.

Hell, it’s a step up in pace from the lugubrious original by Young, which features slowed-down bass oppressive enough to fully suggest the death of the hippie aesthetic. According to the band’s press materials, this is the first time they’ve dared to take on the music of a Canadian legend. The finished product showcases their ability to live up to the challenge, and one hopes this won’t be the last time they throw caution to the wind and reach for something legendary. At the very least they don’t lack for balls.