Songs About Sally
No Emb Blanc
Drawing the line between Laslo Antal’s solo work in Diesein and his main project Sixth June isn’t all that easy. Listening to Diesein’s debut LP Songs About Sally and Sixth June’s excellent 2017 LP Virgo Rising reveals more similarities than differences: both feature smart, tasteful electronics, judicious use of guitar and saxophone, and melancholic songwriting that stays on the right side of gloomy. While the absence of 6J’s Lidija Andonov is certainly notable, perhaps the best way to differentiate the projects is in how far towards new wave and 80s pop sounds Antal allows himself to venture in Diesein, shucking off darkwave signifiers for a cool, neon pallette.
Opening track and debut single “You” is almost perfect at capturing that aesthetic. Its chorused bass pops, gated reverb snares, mournful sax are all suspended together by the smooth production, rendering the track as a snappy pop number that belies Laslo’s forlorn vocal. “Without You” pulls a similar trick with jangly bursts of guitar, a simple synth lead and a chorus that goes down easy like a Miami sunset. It’s still poignant, but with a warmth and accessibility that gives it plenty of appeal for casual listening.
The record does equally well in its more laidback moments, like “Watch Out”, whose fretless bass, and gentle melodic pulse is less immediate, but which eventually fills out into a rich ballad, with glowing keys and still more wonderful saxaphone from Amadeus Chiodi whose contribution to the record can’t be understated. Interestingly latter album tracks “Make Me Weak” and “7777” have a bit of early mid-period Depeche Mode in them, with that special mix of crooning, alternately sinister and sweet countermelodies, and slinky tempos. Whether it’s a deliberate allusion or not, it plain works in the context of the record, the darker songs standing in the shadow of the bright, bold numbers that preceded them.
Diesein’s debut is a solidly good listen for the songwriting and performances, but what strikes the listener on repeated visits is the attention to detail and care taken in delivering the record as a complete package, in terms of aesthetics, sequencing and albumcraft. That’s especially commendable in an era when throwback signifiers are such common currency in electronic music of all stripes; Songs About Sally is obviously referencing the past without forgoing substance or reveling in cheap imitation, and that makes all the difference. Recommended.