Nedry – In A Dim Light
Nedry is back with its 2nd album and it’s a stripped down, subdued affair compared to stunning debut Condors. Both sonic intensity and vocal angst are dialed down as the band steps away from its earlier electro-rock, dubstep sound. Ayu Okakita’s previously airy, keening vocals are constrained to a downcast, child-like breathiness or laid bare against a backdrop of tinkering percussion and slow-paced beats, creating a drifting atmosphere that is neither electrifying, like on Condors, nor, luckily, stultifying. Scattered fragments of sound flit in and out restlessly and don’t build up to a solid intensity.
In a way, the band’s album titles say it all; where Condors soared majestically, the down-tempo In A Dim Light finds the band in mostly vespertine reflection. Ayu’s hushed, sweetly wavering vocals recall a more contemplative Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead, but it’s difficult to discern her words on most tracks. The endings of both “Post Six” and “Havana Nights” stir up some excitement, with the former breaking it down with a deep beat and marching band chant, coming across like the end of “Crystalline” by Bjork.
Ayu’s sharp keen returns on “Dusk Till Dawn”, where she lures the listener in with high, sighing vocals that float above a rising marching beat. Speaking of hovering in the air, “Float” features piano notes, a percussive rhythm, and Ayu changing it up between delicate and strong vocals as she intones “Sing to me now…” “TMA” goes back to the band’s previous electro-rock style, with a grittier vibe, chunky beat, and emotionally roiling vocal shouts from Ayu. The song brings to mind “Pluto” by Bjork and that’s a very good thing! The minimalistic background of plunked and tinkering beats returns on “here.now.here” as Ayu longingly sing-talks “In silence / calling to you…” in a smoother vocal tone.
Computer Magic - Orion EP
New York-based Computer Magic, AKA Danz, i.e., Danielle Johnson has released a nice slice of bedroom-created electronic and synth-pop with this 5-song EP. A contemporary of Grimes, Danz reaches for the pleasantly fluffy clouds with her wistfully sweet ‘n’ light to uneasy mid-range vocals, buzzy ‘n’ blippy synths, and clacking beats.
Danz has released several singles and EPs on various record labels, with Orion finding a home on the French label Kitsuné. Her clear vocals and bittersweet lyrics shine through the starry buzz and clattering percussion found on most tracks. In what might be a teaser for her upcoming debut album, the short “Introduction Song” drifts by with Danz’s airy, echoed vocals floating away against a syncopated beat and squiggles of synths. She sighs in a melancholic tone “…lost without a cause / without a reason.”
“Trinity” proceeds at a steady clip until the faster, rock guitar-tinge chorus kicks in, with Danz uncovering personal, but universal, truths, admitting that “I can only seem to be myself / whenever no one’s around.” A common thread through all of Danz’s songs is her calm vocal delivery of emotionally unsettling lyrics. On “Help Me” she does sound a touch anxious, asking for help (“Can anyone hear me?”) while dropping the F-bomb lightly amid a clacking beat, quirky synth notes, and fast-ticking percussion. The all-too-brief EP-ender “Orion” fades out just when Danz is getting warmed up, with speedy, blippy synth notes giving way to tweeting birds.
Lux – We Are Not The Same
Seattle-based noise-pop ‘n’ synth-pop duo Leah Rosen and David Chandler released this debut album in early April, and like their earlier Disorders EP, it’s a 100% DIY effort. Leah and David’s musical influences have filtered through many of the album’s tracks, from the gritty patina of Jesus And Mary Chain-like guitar distortion to David’s laid-back, Velvet Underground-like sing-talking vocals. Depending on the song, either Leah or David takes on main vocal duties, similar to Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore’s set-up.
Most songs radiate with a distant foreboding or discontent, both sonically and lyrically, as catchy synth-pop melodies are burnished with noisier, grinding guitars. It’s these melodies that captivate, as well as Leah’s delightfully pleasant vocals. Some numbers even reach back to a classic 50s sound adorned with Leah’s bright, sing-song vocal refrains. The bell-tone melody line of “I had a dream / It didn’t mean anything.” on lead-off single “The Window” will ring in the mind for a good long while.
David is a study of cool-cat indolence, especially on Velvet Underground-influenced “Candy Lux” as he sing-talks non-committally about “blank stares” and “not getting far”. The dreamy “Cachexia” is an interesting departure from Lux’s noise-pop template, delivering synth-based dance-pop with clear vocals from Leah and a sustained, glimmering sheen of synths on the chorus.