French duo HAMMERSHØI make the kind of low-to-the-ground continental synthpop that sounds like it could have been made at any time in the last 40 years or so, largely due to frequent revivals and offshoot genres taking root. The general minimalism of the band’s take on the style and their lean arrangements requires that Anne Dig and Ben Montes’ voices do some heavy lifting in terms of giving D​é​dales its personality. While neither member is necessarily a vocal powerhouse, they have enough charisma and composure to lend the material a pleasing charm.

One of HAMMERSHØI’s key tools is how speedily their songs come out of the gate, and how little time is wasted getting to their best bits. While the gothic organ and far-off chanting that introduces the record on opener “Ouverture” suggests something a bit more grandiose, its immediate follow-up “Sanctuaire” rushes out in a gallop of peppy analogue drums, phased synth bass and a few tossed off 2 and 3 note snatches of melody, leaving plenty of room for Montes and Dig to half-talk-half-sing their way through to its conclusion. Whether on the vaguely menacing pogo of “Emmène Moi Danser” with its octave bass, or the machinegun snares of “Néant”, songs are kept moving and uncrowded with one or two elements keeping the focus.

Even given the relative brevity of these songs, that formula could wear thin pretty quick – there’s only so many ways to keep songs this sparse engaging without expanding their palette. HAMMERSHØI’s approach is to vary how they approach the songs in terms of vocals, using the classic coldwave monotone as a starting point and stretching outwards from there. Staatseinde collab “Diese Seite” notably applies some pitch shifting and breathy gasps in ways that give the song which is otherwise just a collection of stop-start bass licks and gated snares plenty of body. Alternately, “Idées Fatales” layers voices of varying degrees of intensity to create a tension commensurate with its tightly wound rhythm arrangement, with a couple of EBM grunts tossed in for good measure. It’s actually impressive how much they can squeeze out of their voices without straying from their range, all via choices in delivery, production, and by smartly picking their spots.

Still, at ten tracks there’s only so much you can do with an approach like the one HAMMERSHØI uses on D​é​dales, and the lack of any truly memorable hooks caps the enjoyment of the record at solid, never rising to exceptional. It’s fun certainly, and easy to listen to, but no individual song will pull you back to listen on repeat. Thus it’s something of a mood and moment album, guaranteed to be a good time if you throw it on at the right time.

Buy it.