Sunday, March 3, 2013
STRFKR / Orbital
Basically synth-pop with the beats boldly front and center. The vocals tend to either sound like a group of kids or one snotty adolescent is singing. It pulls from the basic indie synth-pop playbook quite a bit, which is really me saying my standards for electronic music (or pop music that leans electro) are impossibly high, because a rock band can mold the standard rock elements into something magical rather more easily. Mood is a big deal with all music, but perhaps especially with this type, and poppy electronic music whose atmosphere reminds me of what might be playing at your local Forever 21 on a Saturday doesn't do a whole lot for me. To their credit, they have molded these populist electronic elements into cohesive songs, full of hooks with beats that work, but it's among the more simple, more mindless, executions of this style. Kind of a third-rate Cut Copy/Passion Pit clone. I often feel a little silly while listening to stuff like this. Sometimes that effect is offset by some interesting sounds that pop up or some sentiment in the lyrics I can identify with but I didn't find that here.
An hour and seventeen minutes of what they apparently call "acid techno" seems like way too much. This is the first album released by this project, which is still active and made up of a set of brothers. It takes a certain kind of boldness to put out a debut record this lengthy and I think they back it up because this definitely didn't feel tiring or drawn out in the slightest. The first thing I noticed is that the sound, while not feeling totally foreign to me, is in a sort of unique place as far as electronic music goes. I listen to a lot of dark, noisy and abrasive electronic stuff and a good amount of bright, happy dancable stuff, but this is somewhere in between. It has these techno beats that we all know too well but a synthesizer sound that can be a bid moody and even eerie. They make heavy use of samples and while I'm not well-versed in sample-based music, I felt like they generally contributed to the mood these songs aim for. And that's really what makes this so good; it creates a really convincing atmosphere. Far from being shallow dance-floor music, the sounds themselves seem to actually communicate emotion. Also to their credit, these songs feel relatively complex, at least by IDM standards. I think something in the way they've layered one sound upon another creates a rather dense atmosphere. Not only that, but the songs definitely evolve from beginning to end, which is good because most of them are between six and nine minutes long and they really have to go somewhere if they're going to justify those track lengths. All in all, one of the better electronic records I've heard and I look forward to discovering the rest of their discography.