Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine [1989] (2010 Remaster)

Posted in alternative rock,industrial,synth pop by deek on December 11, 2010

For many artists, a debut album can offer the purest statement of purpose, but for the bands that popularized industrial music, first albums typically served as prologue to a story that wouldn’t develop until later. Although Pretty Hate Machine, Nine Inch Nails’ 1989 debut, bore more of a resemblance to what the band became than, say, Ministry’s cringe-worthy 1983 new-wave debut, it still differs markedly from The Slip, two decades later. Newly remastered with a bonus track (a cover of Queen’s “Get Down Make Love,” a B-side and former staple of NIN’s live sets), Pretty Hate Machine sounds great, but remains the work of an artist just discovering his voice. Where subsequent albums showed more focus, Pretty Hate Machine bounces from the industrial rock of frontman Trent Reznor’s heroes in Ministry (“Head Like A Hole”) to dance-floor jams (“Sin,” “Ringfinger”) to quasi-rap (“Down In It”) to an electro-funk misfire (“The Only Time”). The two songs that most recognizably sound like Nine Inch Nails—“Head Like A Hole” and “Terrible Lie”—are unsurprisingly the ones that remained part of the band’s live sets until Reznor retired NIN as a touring entity in 2009. The remastering greatly improves the dynamics, letting the lows hit harder and clarifying the many sonic elements Reznor works into the songs. But remastering can’t help some of the synthesizers and samples age better (particularly in “That’s What I Get”), or make Reznor’s mopey lyrics less silly. (“Grey would be the color if I had a heart,” “Now I’m slipping on the tears you made me cry,” etc.) Reznor began to hit his stride on the 1992 EP Broken, and he fully reached it with 1994’s The Downward Spiral, which makes Pretty Hate Machine more of an interesting prequel than a pillar of NIN’s catalogue. Sure, Reznor needed to start somewhere, and Pretty Hate Machine has many charms, but 20 years later, it doesn’t warrant repeat listens like its successors. -A.V. Club

Glasser – Ring [2010]

Posted in art pop,indie electronic,synth pop by deek on December 8, 2010

It’s a shame ‘witch house’ is already taken, because, as a handle that suggests a potent, enchanting fusion of seductive gothic atmosphere with digital chill, it’d be better suited to the work of LA’s Cameron Mesirow than the oppressive drag of Salem et al. The likes of the high-priestess menace
of ‘Apply’, in which an lustrously aloof Mesirow admonishes, “If the walls were too thin/You would break right in”, and the gently lurching 21st century spiritual of ‘Glad’, are, like fellow dark ladies Warpaint and Effi Briest, informed by bleak post-punk moods and tribal echoes. Here, though, they’re cleansed in a crisp, modern starkness that’s closer to Telepathe, Zola Jesus or Fever Ray. But, despite forbiddingly minimal song titles like ‘T’ and ‘Plane Temp’, Glasser’s glowing debut offers more melodic and emotional consummation than almost any of her peers can muster, poised in a genuinely transcendent golden balance between the stern, the spacious and the gaudily sparkling. A very precious ‘Ring’ indeed. -nme

Zola Jesus – Valusia (EP) [2010]

Posted in darkwave,electropop,synth pop by deek on October 27, 2010

With her March EP, Stridulum, Nika Roza Danilova, better known to the blogosphere as Zola Jesus, made a confident move away from the lo-fi, doom-ridden, blown-out sounds of her previous studio output and toward a midway point between opera, goth rock and New Order synth dirges. Valusia, her second EP this year, has the same sound but a different purpose: This four-song stopgap is meant to ensure newcomers that she’s playing for keeps. There’s no retreating behind the fuzz again. Zola Jesus is out front for good, basically cornering the market on big, sweeping synth pop. On the excellent Valusia, Zola Jesus hooked up with a producer for the first time.Chris Coady, who has produced Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio, helms the boards on “Poor Animal,” giving it an even bigger-sounding sheen than the self-produced tracks on Stridulum. “Poor Animal” is as close to dance music as Zola Jesus can probably ever get. With its modest increase in tempo, it imagines an opera inside a three-day old rave. Coady’s bigger sound seemingly inspired the re-recorded version of “Sea Talk” — which originally appeared on Tsar Bomba — as well: There’s those distant, marching drums, the post-punk synths climbing toward the sun and Danilova’s voice floating above it all. Like Stridulum, the greatest strength of Valusia is that it gives us just enough to want to spend more time in Zola Jesus’ world, but not enough to subsist on. But if you were to put the two EPs together on one LP, it would form one of the year’s best albums. A full-length of material in this vein is due for a 2011 release, and if it’s as great as Valusia and Stridulum, Zola Jesus should break through in a big way. -prefixmag

Washed Out – High Times (EP) [2009]

Posted in lo-fi,synth pop by deek on February 26, 2010


Washed Out is Ernest Greene, a young guy from Georgia (via South Carolina) who makes bedroom synthpop that sounds blurred and woozily evocative, like someone smeared Vaseline all over an early OMD demo tape, then stayed up all night trying to recreate what they heard. There’s a sense of longing and distance in Greene’s somber, filtered vocals, but it’s what he does compositionally that makes Washed Out stand out. Backed by gently pulsing, Balearic-tinged disco, Greene’s voice takes on a new dimension. Reminiscent of groups like The Glass and the Chromatics, Washed Out is the music to end your night with, when the city is quiet and the walk home, long.

The Radio Dept. – Clinging to a Scheme [2010]

Posted in dream pop,indie pop,synth pop by deek on February 21, 2010

Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club (1981)

Posted in art pop,pop,synth pop by deek on August 19, 2009

Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms [2009]

Posted in indie electronic,synth pop by deek on July 30, 2009

Shiny Toy Guns – We Are Pilots (v1) [2005]

Posted in indie rock,new wave,synth pop by deek on June 29, 2009

The Radio Dept. – David (CDS) [2009]

Posted in dream pop,indie pop,synth pop by deek on June 24, 2009

Chromatics – IV: Night Drive [2007]

Posted in electronic,italo disco,new wave,synth pop by deek on June 16, 2009
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