Ortrotasce, "Dispatches From Solitude"

Dispatches From Solitude
Dark Entries

Nic Hamersly’s decade-long tenure as Ortrotasce has moved through a range of styles, especially in the last year and a half. A whole slew of standalone singles, released every month or two, expanded the catchall darkwave purview of the project to include harsher and more aggressive EBM, halftime electro breaks, and more. Trying to intuit Ortrotasce’s next major move based on those tracks proved to be a fool’s errand, as new LP Dispatches From Solitude has a slick and understated unity and aesthetic very much removed from that preceding sprawl and experimentation.

Within seconds of the breezy pings and icy pads of opener “Distant In Time”, Ortrotasce’s approach on Dispatches is apparent: it’s dedicated to a chilly and aloof strain of classic synthpop which brings arch masters of the new romantic like Visage to mind, as well as the more subtle stylings of early Mode records. From the crooning gulp of Hamersly’s vocals throughout the record to the way frantic micro-programming fleshes out the spaces between beats and leads on “No Mortal Harmony”, it recalls the moment in the early 80s when the pure minimalism of the earliest (and in retrospect harshest) synthpop was beginning to augment itself with depth and elegance inspired by the likes of Ferry and Bowie.

Someone with Hamersly’s ear for beats and the technical side of arranging opting for a lighter synthpop touch often refreshes classic tropes of the genre, and Dispatches From Solitude is no exception to that general rule. The rhythmic programming of “Falling Star”, the one previously released single to be included here, sounds dead simple but the way it’s linked both to some muted but still lively bass and more of the previously discussed skittering background programming lends real bounce and loft to what could have easily been a monotone track by any number of bands who’ve been caught in the no man’s land between synthpop and minimal wave. Those chops also work to keep everything aloft for some much longer than expected runtimes.

Die-hard synthpop fans will find plenty to enjoy in Dispatches From Solitude. In addition to the previously mentioned ur-influences, shades of Soviet’s underrated hazier take on the genre, not to mention the better moments in Body Of Light’s recent high-gloss melodies, all seem like fair points of comparison, spanning the decades. For all of these analogies, though, it’s an incredibly unified listen which holds to its smooth, classy, and seductive sound throughout.

Buy it.