How and where synthpunk intersects with the broader sounds of Our Thing is usually something you have to parse on a case by cases basis. A release like Thee Hearses’ self-titled EP (one of two self-released by the mysterious act this summer, now re-released on Detriti) fits without too much effort; the manic drum and synth programming and sardonic vocal delivery has a certain dark edge to it. That said, these are still songs that emphasize the punk part of synthpunk with all songs clocking in at two and a half minutes in length and deliberately rough-edged production. Hear how the “It Came From Planet X” puts its Roger Corman lyrical premise over the top with snare accents on the chorus and an unhinged synth lead and how that contrasts with the more sinister “Insects in my Brain” where a ghostly melody floats over the tense analogue synth bass. Then again there’s very little spookiness to “Septum Ring Rock”, a stinging rebuke of “coffee shop indie bands” and “ironic t-shirts” as the vocalist demands to be beaten and put out of their misery. By the time you’ve clocked the tiny bit of desperation behind the chorus of “American Dreaming in the Apocalypse” the track has already ended, all part of Thee Hearses hit n’ run appeal.
A Dormant Vigor
Originally commissioned by Seattle’s Wayward In Limbo Series, offering experimental musicians an online platform during lockdown, Megan Mitchell’s new record functions as an engaging jumping-on point for her Cruel Diagonals project. A Dormant Vigor places Mitchell’s considerable vocal talents right up front – see the elegant and delicate arrangement of wordless tones, emerging and descending, which open the record – but also just as quickly showcases the sculpting of field recordings which make up the other half of Cruel Diagonals’ approach. Tuned, rounded, shaved, and stretched into permutations entirely separate from their source from an outsider’s perspective, the samples which make up A Dormant Vigor fall into micro-breaks or bob and weave like sine wave bass for brief periods. More minimal and fleeting than on the Pulse of Indignation EP from 2019, these sounds might seem at odds with the vocals in isolation from one another, yet that’s never actually the case in practice. The simple tonal beauty of the vocals on “Subterranean Accretion” seems to come from another planet than the stygian murk of “Conduit” and its scuttering drones, but both pieces are united by the fluid but uncanny way in which pitches shift in each. Immediately accessible and enveloping yet also firmly disquieting stuff.