Anyone who loved thoughtful 80s synth-pop knows that in the intervening 30 years, technology has come on leaps and bounds. Indeed it’s possible these days to download a Fairlight CMI as a mobile app which brings us nicely to the subject of ‘Slowness’, the sophomore release from this ultra-stylish Wirral quintet who’ve mined that post-punk synth-pop sound from 3 decades or more ago and bought it right up to date with not inconsiderable aplomb.
Ignoring their city’s most famous predecessors completely, frontman Andrew Hunt and his four cohorts’ local influences are nevertheless writ large here, taking pinches of various home-grown musical forefathers including OMD, China Crisis, Lotus Eaters and Icicle Works, creating stark yet engaging nuggets of futuristic pop with liberal sprinklings of electronica, whilst also staying true to the sheen laden production values of that era. Naturally we’ve still to speak about the compositions, the crucial ingredient which made the predecessors stand out from the crowd and I’m happy to say the eleven songs on ‘Slowness’ stack up pretty well too, certainly a step up from the still pretty handy debut ‘Performance’.
Opener ‘New Air' smacks of stylish urbane grown up pop from the very start as the track builds slowly, reminding one perhaps of London Grammar with a bit more oomph and certainly leaving you wanting more. The album’s title track follows as taut bass and clipped guitar are enveloped by lush piano leading us into the more up-tempo yet equally arresting ‘Smart Thing’. ‘Boy’ brings more detached eeriness together with some guitar wizardry, fading away with brass and piano, almost segueing into the start of ‘Happy Birthday’ both pieces combining to sound oddly reminiscent of Talk Talk’s ‘Chameleon Day’.
Instrumental track ‘Wind of Vertigo’ serves merely as the album’s interval piece, the second half proper commencing with ‘Genderless’ complete with slowed down helicopter blade synth and machine gun bass. ‘Framed’ ups the pace again at just the right time whilst the charmingly lop-sided ‘On the Water, On the Way’ is packed with disarming retro synth competing with space rock guitar. Penultimate track ‘Cold Light Home’ returns us to sonic austerity, giving the feel of aliens walking through a deserted metropolis as we finish with the similarly elegiac ’Swam Out’ an ever growing ball of energy from start to finish.
What’s really good about ‘Slowness’ is whilst reminding the listener of numerous bleak places in their record collection, it also sounds as fresh as a daisy, particularly as music like this has sometimes trodden a fine line between sleek and pretentious……we’re firmly on the right side here.
Words - Mike Price
'Slowness' is out via Memphis Industries on June 15th 2015