The Demystification of the Human Heart
Non Ordinary Records

Sasha Mario Klein has been steadily refining the nature of his work as Neuroticfish since the project’s return from a decade long hiatus in 2015. The last eight years have shown the producer and performer’s focus becoming ever more personal and emotional, no small feat given the passionate nature of his peak futurepop-era take on the German electro sound. On Demystification of the Human Heart Klein and longtime collaborator Henning Verlage have delivered possibly the least ambiguous and most direct Neuroticfish record to date, a frank examination of Klein’s own state of mind, and an exploration of the limits of his empathy and understanding.

Which is basically to say, that like every Neuroticfish album there are club contenders, but the songs that fit into the band’s anthemic singalongs are shaded with a directness that feels very different. Where Neuroticfish has frequently dealt in ambiguity when it comes to the subjects of songs (often leaving the listener to question whether Klein is addressing himself or someone else), the energy of cuts like “Bring the Noise” and “Echokammer” is clearly directed outwards. Whether those uptempo and slickly produced cuts have the sort of easily to recall melodies that you would expect, their lasting impression is in Klein’s frustration with some unnamed friend or acquaintance, addressing relationships gone toxic or his own disgust at a lack of compassion. “We Are Not Safe”, on which Sasha rages against the futility of online interaction and how it has enabled our worst social tendencies is a key moment; its one of the album’s most slamming, club-ready cuts because Klein understands the power of a catchy tune to convey his message, and is taking full advantage.

That’s heavy stuff no doubt, but the sonic palette of the LP offsets it to a degree. As listeners have come to expect the production is sleek, tasteful, and carefully treads the line between modern mainsteam pop electronics and the project’s schwarz roots. The crispness of the design and sound design certainly helps to keep the record from being a giant downer. The diffuse bitterness in “Rival”‘s lyrics is balanced by its speedy sequencing and bright pads, while the somber mood of “Tail Lights” is given lift by its snappy drums and and arps.

That careful construction extends over into the overall shape of the record: even for a project that his traditionally been good with albumcraft, there’s a real consistency in delivery here that elevates each track. Opening with a soft, piano-led ballad like “Impostor Syndrome” is a choice; it’s the kind of song that might have been a late or final track on any preceding record, but in this case allows Sasha to plainly announce his state of mind from the outset, its notes of sorrow and uncertainty setting the table for the interpersonal themes of the album. That sadness runs through the breakbeat driven synthpop of “Light My Way” and the showstopping slowburn of “Rain”, but each explores it from a different angle, the former as plaintive call for help in dark times, the latter as a necessary if not welcome farewell to some malignant presence in his life. It also means that the album’s truly uplifting moments like the bouncy “How to Suffer” have unusual impact, its soft, slightly resigned melancholy washed away by notes of hope in its chorus, the light shining a bit brighter due to the darkness of its surroundings.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Demystification of the Human Heart is its transparency; while the production, songwriting and performance are as smooth and considered as ever, this might be the first time that the content of the songs is the most memorable part of a Neuroticfish record. You may well here some of these at your local club, or on online DJ streams, but the message that Sasha Mario Klein centers here resonates beyond those venues. Its an album born from a deep personal discontent, that manages to address it and while not entirely resolve it, at least engage with it in ways that feel honest and, as has always been the case with Neuroticfish, deeply sincere. Recommended.

Buy it.