Lovataraxx - Sophomore

Cold Transmission Music

Grenoble duo Lovataraxx put their interests and their influences right up front on their aptly-titled second LP Sophomore. Even a cursory skim of the record by a listener halfway conversant in coldwave will bring classic French acts like Norma Loy, Kas Product, and Martin Dupont (and possibly Swiss band Mittageisen) to mind. But once that milieu is established, those classic allusions will likely fall away in said listener’s mind, with the hooks and sheer busyness of the material taking hold.

Despite a heavy synth focus, Lovataraxx quickly show themselves to be capable of handling just about every mood and motif that coldwave brings to mind, hopping between the frantically icy skip of “Heidi Montauk”, the proto-house of “Earl Condition”, and the anthemic build of German-language album highlight “Träumen”. Despite each of these tunes bearing markers of halcyon days, Sophomore doesn’t trade in nostalgia for its own sake. The production on the beat-heavy “Tilda Vaast” and the morose synthpop of “Zerrissen” sounds up to date and ready for modern club floors, bringing the tasteful restraint of coldwave classics into the present without the need for “vintage” muddying of the sound.

As much as the listener can hear the acknowledged influence of minimal wave throughout the record, there’s nothing stripped down about Sophomore. The interplay between piano melodies and vocals which run through a range of verses, pre-choruses, choruses, and bridges on “Bruxism (Fire)” is as structurally maximalist and ornate as music of this style can be without feeling overstuffed (to wit, ten songs in fifty minutes is a much more ambitious LP structure than could be reasonably expected in this field). Lovataraxx bring drama, hooks, and excitement with an immediacy you just don’t hear very often in contemporary coldwave records.

Lovataraxx are walking a fine line, connoting the past but not depending on it or petitioning it for support. The sort of tasteful handling of long-established sounds the duo aims for here requires confidence, certainly, but also a good amount of skill and songcraft that simply can’t be fudged.

Buy it.