Artist: Neon Fires
Title: Traces (EP)
Keywords: Electropop, New Wave, Techno
Reviewer: Alex Spalding, Dick Assholson
I’ve been stuck for words while trying to write an intro for Traces, the first EP from Neon Fires which I was requested to hear a week or several ago… ok, there we go, that’s the intro. Good thing, too, I was starting to get worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything. You see, it’s not really so hard to write yourself out of a block. Gripping material here, too, I mean… it could be my best intro yet. Let’s ask Dick Assholson!
Dick Assholson: It sucks!
… ok, that will be the last time I ever ask you for your opinion!
Anyway, as I’m sure you’re all anxious to get to the more reviewy part of the review, I’ll… waste some more time asking Dick Assholson if he’s sure that that intro was not a pretty good intro, I mean really?
Dick Assholson: It was absolutely terrible.
… I spent all day on it. >:'(
I guess what it is is that an album of this quality, in such a genre as electropop (or any kind of pop), can be difficult to talk about in a preliminary sense. Indeed, I find it quite hard even to write synopses of tracks for albums like this, due probably to their focused sound and other things that lend an album a certain… I don’t want to say repetitiveness, because that really wouldn’t be the right word, but every track possesses a cohesion with the others that can make writing a review like the ones I try to write very difficult as I’m want to say as many and diverse things as possible in relation to the sound I hear. Despite these obstacles, I would like to try and find as many things to say about all the tracks on this album as possible. This could get ridiculous.
The Traces (EP) begins with a track titled ‘Invisible’, and it begins with a rolling, deadened 909 kick. Dark, very slightly detuned piano chords play. Whispery vocals enter the mix, and I’m reminded a little of Air. Synth strings come in now too, and then the beat goes kind of electro… oh, I just heard some dreamy chimes! Gotta love the chimes. Touch of loud muted guitar plucks. No, that is not an oxymoron, haha! Muted strings are a thing, and they can be loud. I love when the synth strings become a 1/16th sequence, it really pushes the groove to the next level. There’s a coldness to this track, and yet a feeling of some small warmth. Warm and cold are definite modes in the vast and ever-expanding trove of electronic music that I listen to and love. You’ve got electronic music that is warm, to various degrees approaching the level of acoustic. You’ve got electronic music that is blatantly cold, chilly, frozen, binary. There is plenty of electronic music that achieves a juxtaposition of warmth and coolness, and then there’s this, which sounds like something cold but trying very hard to create its own warmth. It’s like a still beating heart on Pluto, a shrouded and frozen form sending out a signal of interplanetary love.
The second track is the title track, ‘Traces’, which feels a bit brighter. It begins with some heavily modulated piano-esque synth, joined soon by a pulsing, compressed bassline sequence and vocals. There are some orchestral string sections, a 4/4 kick and snare groove. The hats sounds robotic, the vocals intense and emotional. There’s some effectual distorted feedback that comes in as well, a nice touch, as well as the filtered modulations. This track sounds like a dancefloor killer for a cold, neo-electro wave klub.
Next up is ‘It Must Be Me’ which hits with a synth bass wah and evocative vox. More strings, which add to the emotional impact. The groove on this one is another 4/4 housy thing, with a nice modulated bass feel. Electropop/electrohouse vibes, almost a touch of futurepop. Very melodic, lots of interesting synthetic/mutational sounds warping around. Traces of piano…
… and then it’s ‘Tokyo’, an upbeat 4/4 house beat with filtering organ. Vocals come in… there are additional vocals on this track by My Beautiful Mistake. This one gets a lot of energy with the addition of sequenced kind of trance-style saw wave chords. I like the short breakdowns right before the highly energetic sections.
‘Happy Ending’ begins with what sounds like a toy xylophone, then adding a sequenced bassline and vaporous synth chords. The beat on this one’s nice, as are the vocals, minimally interjected among the sounds at first. The more of this I’ve gotten through the more I feel it really does have that futurepop sound… just a touch of darkness, but mostly very melodic pop structures with an updated synthfeel and somewhat electro/trance vibes, driven by the emoting style of the vocals.
‘Battle C (Instrumental)’ has a sequenced pulsewave intro, very melodic and dreamy, trance-esque. Then it goes into a more layered, saw type sound… hats come in, keeping the feel up of progression, and then a 4/4 kick and rim groove creeps in. String chords, frequent brittle crash cymbols. It goes into a section that’s a bit acidic, then the beat slams in, getting a little more pummeling. It calms for a bit with mostly piano, strings and the beginning sequenced melody. Very nice!
I found this album of electropop/futurepop very enjoyable! It is my strong intimation that you probably will too, unless you just hate music or something, like Dick Assholson.
Dick Assholson: Actually, I liked it.
… what? Really!? O_O
Dick Assholson: Yeah… but I wasn’t really listening. I’m watching cat videos right now on YouTube.
… ok. Well, here’s a link to the BandCamp page featuring this album, for your pleasure: