Songs in a Nostalgic Shade
Beyond the vague notion of an “80s revival,” over the last 10+ years we have seen an overwhelming number of genre resurgences, from post-punk to synth-driven pop. Tie this in with the last 20 years of “electronica” and we find a wave of happenings within electronic music that are familiar. Many artists of this kind give a strong nod to the “first decade of digital” but the recordings are crisper and more dynamic than could really be accomplished 30(!) years ago.
I Break Horses is built of the talents of Maria Linden and Fredrik Balck, two Swedes who embrace the brooding sonic textures of synths synths synths (try and say that out loud) and distorted guitars. There are many bands like this, but what separates the great from the not great are SONGS. A strong sense of melody perhaps, a great hook, maybe the push and pull of a high-low dynamic. Anything juxtaposed to keep whole notes, too-perfect percussion and washed out keyboard sounds from lulling you into dispersal and pushing the music into the background. But more important than anything is the vocal delivery.
Unfortunately, Chiaroscuro does not effectively tap into the above well enough to stand out. Live performance is always a different matter for electronic acts, where the music is loud enough to feel and there are often creative visuals and the band themselves thrashing about on stage. But the record, though well produced, does not make enough of a statement to stand up against some of the fiercer electronic competition, such as Chairlift or CHVRCHES, who have songs, who impinge. The album is well composed, but lacks a certain spark, something to cling to. Maybe it’s the way Linden’s vocals never quite settle in, acting as more of a texture than actually saying anything, but we are left flat. A statement needs to be made, a dynamic position taken. Music can be so much more than background in commercials.