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Wednesday
Sep072011

Soft Metals - Soft Metals

Captured Tracks

Known more for its indie & rock credentials, Portland has in recent years seen its electronic music scene thrive with the formation of the Italians Do It Better label, the burgeoning reputation of retro-house stylists The Miracles Club and now with the release of their debut album, we can add Soft Metals to that list. Borne of production duo Ian Hicks and Patricia Hall, with the latter also adding her vocals to proceedings, Soft Metals have provided an album that could make for a mean game of 80’s Synthpop bingo with influences of cold wave, EBM & italo. Armed with a mountain of analogue equipment, the resulting album is a rich musical affair that deserves repeat listening.

“Psychic Driving” sets the tone for the album with the introduction of Hall’s languid vocal style over a rudimentary bassline and cosmic keys that builds with layers of sound. This one song perfectly encapsulates Soft Metals’ avaricious approach to pop-based electronic music with the lyrics informing the listener that she’s ‘going to take back what’s mine’. “Voices” envisages a darker version of italo with a chorus that, if placed higher in the mix and given some sheen, could trouble the charts before “The Cold World Melts” comes in with a thunderous Front 242-esque beat that is softened by some celestial chords, sparse vocals and some gentle 303 action. ‘Do You Remember’ is the closest the duo come to a club track before ‘In Throes’ gradual descent into disparate sounds triggers the end of the album.

Hall’s vocal style is to act as an atmospheric melodic device which can be seen as lazy by some but with the current trend for over-the-top acrobatics from the likes of John Maus, James Pants and Ariel Pink, it makes for a refreshing change and dovetails nicely with the music here. With a wave of synth-heavy artists emerging from all over the US, Soft Metals aren’t as overtly pop as the likes of Rainbow Arabia nor as dark and fast as //TENSE// or Void Vision but appear to straddle both camps. This stance of a having a foot in both the underground electronica and pop circles is one that creates an obvious tension but rather than appear as lack of decisiveness, it adds to the atmosphere of the record. For an album that mines the history of electronic pop music, Soft Metals’ debut never once appears contrived or hackneyed and that’s a high accolade.

Paul Fanning

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