ERASURE – World Be Gone
THE GOOD: British synth-pop legend Erasure (producer/composer/instrumentalist Vince Clarke and vocalist Andy Bell) kicks off a fourth decade together with its 17th album.
THE BAD: Expect great pop, not great innovation. The formula dominates.
THE NITTY GRITTY: But why change? When the duo first came together back in 1986, synth-pop acts were very prevalent. Now, not so much. So Erasure is a survivor. And as long as Andy Bell’s voice is strong (it is) and Clarke can churn out those divine melodies (he does), we’ll still show up every few years.
“World Be Gone” gets political in spots. What album doesn’t in the era of Brexit and Trump? But even the heavy handedness of “Oh What A World” doesn’t come across as confrontational when its harsh accusations are set against a lilting Clarke tune.
Then there are the usual dance floor bangers like lead single “Love You to the Sky” and the warm and soothing bits such as “Still It’s Not Over.” Predictable, but still great.
BUY IT?: As usual…yes.
TEEN DAZE – Themes for Dying Earth
THE GOOD: Canadian artist Teen Daze (Jamison Isaak) returns with a very ambient and collaborative fifth.
THE BAD: Not bad but definitely a case of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Don’t play “Earth” until you can devote the better part of an hour to it.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Isaak takes us through a very personal set that’s one-half sparkling electronic pop and one-half down-tempo tranquility. After traveling the world, the man got back to nature in order to give us something very green and hopeful within our uncertain environmental future. At this moment, the record plays like an invigorating yet relaxing walk through the forest on a perfect sunny spring day.
Tracks like the crisp clean “Cycle” and the fragile yet inviting “Lost” (featuring soothing guest vocals from Nadia Hulett) find haunting melodies riding tempered rhythms. Instrumentals such as the stirring “Dream City” and the layered M83-esque “Cherry Blossoms” are non-intrusive bits of audible bliss.
BUY IT?: Surely.
CAVEGREEN – Vita Lucida
THE GOOD: Pacific Northwest electronic duo Cavegreen switch on their first full-length.
THE BAD: No complaints.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Comprised of multi-instrumentalist Eleanor Murray and lyricist/vocalist GianLuca Bucci, Cavegreen makes synth-driven music that remains firmly grounded in nature and, as their bio states, “an ongoing interest in the ancient and modern philosophical traditions of the earth.”
But this isn’t one of those budget world music CDs your mom bought at the grocery store. No, Cavegreen remind us of everyone from ‘90s synth-duo Olive to modern one-man acts like Porcelain Raft. Plus, there are more organic elements buried not so deep within some of these tracks; distant echoes of vintage Beth Orton or even more recent Tennis. And does anyone recall Tennessee’s Venus Hum?
All these sounds combine to give us a heady mix of plugged-in melodies and dreamy atmospheres recalling woods washed clean by a spring shower or a cool clear mountain stream at dusk. And Bucci’s fragile quivering vocals are the perfect complement to Murray’s cascading backdrops.
BUY IT?: Yes.