Swiss Dark Nights
For a band so heavy on atmospherics (and whose name hints at being smudged and indistinct), Ash Code come across as clear as day on their third LP, Perspektive. Partially that’s a function of their often blunt and repeated lyrical declarations (“Give me my life back”, “There’s no mercy anymore”). But it’s also due to a canny sense for arrangement and production which delivers driving, full-impact post-punk instrumentation just as well as it does coldwave drama. The end result is as good a marker as any of how different sub-genres of dark music are intersecting in 2018.
Make no mistake, Perspektive is a dark and gloomy record, but the Italian trio behind it are able to bring to bear an unblinking and strident style of songwriting, buoyed by a knack for putting each piece’s weightiest passage front and center. Check the opening of “Disease”, with magisterial yet mournful synths set atop a foundation of alternately mechanical and echoing percussion. It’s the sort of synth tour de force one might expect from Ultravox at the height of their powers, yet Alessandro Belluccio’s tortured vocals quickly brush off external comparisons. The slinkier “Betrayed” isn’t nearly as portentous, but it pings a light synthpop melody off a trad post-punk bassline right off the bat to set up the structure Ash Code build upon for its remainder.
Despite the clarion punch of so many of Perspektive‘s highlights, it’s also a record full of the odd restraint and labyrinthine compositions which makes classic 80s coldwave so beguiling and inscrutable. The skittering beat of the title track draws in the listener but never settles into dancefloor simplicity, making the chiming refrains of Claudia Nottebella’s vocals all the more mocking and haunting. It’s catchy, it’s insistent, it’s a complete earworm, but it retains the sense of mystery that is central to music of this ilk.
Coldwave hasn’t sounded this rich and full-bodied since Die Selektion recently upped the ante (it’s perhaps no accident that Die Selektion’s Luca Gillian appears on the title track to offer backing vocals), and like that record Perspektive has the core songwriting and gothic drama to justify its ambitious production style. Highly recommended.