Cleopatra Records/Danse Macabre
With a sound situated into the nexus of post-punk, goth rock and darkwave, Florida three-piece Astari Nite are well positioned for the release of their new album Midnight Conversations. With production by Assemblage 23’s Tom Shear, the record is certainly the most refined the band have sounded since they first emerged back in 2011, with a boldness undoubtedly bolstered by several years of live gigging in the US and abroad.
That confidence is best reflected on the LP’s first half. Opener “Sunday Queen” strikes the right balance between 80s goth drama and peppy danceability, rolling along on a steady kick snare groove accented by tasteful guitar figures\ and high keening pads. “Rosary Society” holds the same appeal but adds in some strummy rock action on the verse and some more ambitious arrangement ideas, transitioning snappily from breakdown to build up within an economical three minute structure. Even the cover of Til’ Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” has quite a bit of pep to it, with singer Mychael owning a Bowie-esque vocal take that elevates the song from rote new wave cover to toe-tapper.
The record’s back-half is less compelling however, composed as it is from songs that previously appeared on the group’s 2017 EP Dreams of Majesty. While obviously a product of the same band working in the same style, the tracks just don’t feel as developed or as self-assured as earlier numbers. “Divination” for example has some good ideas but comes up short with a vocal that never goes all the way over the top, where closer “Lovesick” leans so deeply into confessional rock that some of the band’s glum charm is lost. In a vacuum these songs would probably be fine, but taken in the context of a record where we’ve heard Astari Nite at their best they seem unremarkable, and one can’t help but wonder how they’d sound with a new mix or a few re-recorded parts.
While not the big arrival for Astari Nite that it might have been, there’s still plenty to recommend Midnight Conversations. The band have embraced big feelings and dramatic delivery pretty fully, and there’s no attempt to distance themselves from that via irony or posed cynicism. In their finest moments the band hit that sweet spot where gloominess and liveliness coexist, with all the potential to do big things in that space in future.