Circle of Doom

NNHMN were seemingly part of the current crop of electronic darkwave acts that sprung up in the wake of Boy Harsher and Kontravoid’s success, although their roots as a project go back a decade having recorded as Non-Human Persons and Fuka Lata. The Berlin-based duo’s progress in this incarnation has been somewhat easy to track thanks to the prodigious number of EPs and singles the duo have released between their debut LP Church of No Religion and this year’s Circle of Doom, a record that finds them settling into a comfortable groove that still reads as dark, while integrating some smooth synth and electropop elements.

The opening two tracks of the LP nicely encapsulate the territory NNHMN find themselves in; opener “Hungrige Liebe” is a pleasingly minimal and austere arrangement of synths and snappy drums with bare hints of synthpop flowing through and between its arpeggiated bassline, while single “Gloomy Heart” takes those pop elements and pumps them into major elements, spiking electro-darkwave with breezy italo-melodies and wistful vocals. While NNHMN are fine at the former, it’s the latter sound that stands out, hearkening back to the early days of Kirlian Camera and Colourbox. “NRL” and closer “Unreal” especially make a meal of their big melodic breaks, pushing bits of programming into nigh-trance territory to good effect.

The rest of the record plays back the hooks somewhat, which is good for creating a cohesive mood, but also leads to some sameyness in execution. “Tiger” has a nice slow-boiling groove that always feels like its building to a big chorus that never quite arrives, a trait shared by the charging “Schizophrenic Vitamine”, where some stabby beeps and ghostly synthesized wind-instruments always lurk around the spotlight but never take it entirely. Those songs are fine, even good, but you can’t help but think a few tweaks (maybe in the form of an old-fashioned 12″ dance remix) would take them to another level.

Circle of Doom ends up as a solid LP, not spectacular, but also not without some charm to call its own. Whether those elements that seem most appealing in our listening are a direction the band seek to pursue or just by-products of the process of refining their sound is unclear, but whatever route they take forward, there’s certainly something there to sustain our interest.

Buy it.