We had a conversation a while back on the podcast concerning darkwave, and if I’m remembering correctly I opined that darkwave wasn’t so much about a particular combination of musical elements cribbed from industrial, goth rock, and synthpop, but was more about the otherworldly moods that hold sway over any combination of those influences. The result is a genre which can sounds like just about anything on paper, but carries a certain unquantifiable commonality. Synesect and their debut EP are a great object lesson in this. Despite being the work of The Harrow’s Vanessa Irena (teaming here and sharing vocal duties with collaborator Aaron Joel) and feeling just as recognizably darkwave as that existing act, Blue Rooms offers a very different spin on that nocturnal genre.
The Harrow’s excellent Silhouettes LP cleaved closely to post-punk guitar but whipped together an enveloping and dreamy atmosphere far removed from the five stark tunes with which Synesect announces its arrival. The blend of woozy synths and sparse guitar which welcome listeners on “Corridors” brings Nightmare Fortress to mind, but presents those elements in a more sorrowful (rather than anxious) cast. Blue Rooms gets to its most violent and confrontational when its electronic elements are pushed to the fore. There’s nothing especially revolutionary about the staccato sawtooths which open “The Lovers”, but their metronomic presence throughout the track keeps Joel’s vocals or the adorned chimes from ever lifting the piece out of the initial image of dread it provides. The dense percussive blasts of the title track aren’t too far off from the sort of rhythmic unease DSX and Blush Response have been working at, but the pairing of Irena and Joel’s vocals to entirely different musical sections creates a sense of rhapsody far removed from techno.
Five tracks and a trio of remixes (all of which stretch the originals out and then pluck at a particular point to allow one of Synesect’s qualities to resonate out over the whole rework) isn’t a lot, but it feels like enough to get a sense of what Synesect is and isn’t. Yes, it’s perhaps a more musically adventurous project than The Harrow, but its strengths aren’t so much coming from radical experimentation as they are a pervasive and striking mood. Recommended.