Carved Souls - Waveform
Synthpop This is the third album for the Carved Souls, though also their first for several years, and also their first for Conzoom Records, a label who are starting building themselves something of a reputation as a source of polished, quality synthpop. And that's what we get here. Polished quality synthpop. Despite the projects Californian origins, I can't help comparing them to various UK projects, Depeche Mode in particular.

Now, I know it's practically impossible to write synthpop and not sound at least a little bit Mode-like at times, but the singer Suede (no other name given) is VERY Dave Gahan-like in his delivery, and they go one step further by sampling a Speak & Spell machine on the albums title track. If that isn't a blatant reference to a key influence, I don't know what is! I'm not saying that any of this is a bad thing, but it is an obvious thing. Speaking as one still reeling from the self-indulgent Mode-offshoot VCMG album, it's actually something of a relief to hear what I actually hoping said project would deliver - seductively morose songwriting built on a base of synthetic ear candy.

There's still a lot of competition in the genre, and hence the strength of such albums is therefore largely dependent on the quality of the songs rather than some over-arching concept. The album opener 'Broken Soul' works particularly well, making good use of the 'schaffel' rhythm which has characterises many a popular tune over the years - I could quote anything from Iggy Pop's 'Nightclubbing' to Covenant's 'Like Tears In Rain'. The other highlight is the combination of sweet melodics and hard supersaw synth leads in 'Dream Of You', a mere three minutes in length and significantly better for sticking to 7" single time limits and not deviating off into lengthy dancefloor dynamics in the style of just about every other band to combine said techniques.

The real club hit of the album is 'Box', a plain-sounding title, behind which hides a floorfilling combination of thumping beats and heavenly strings that you've probably heard several time before, but it's done as well here as anywhere else. And the aforementioned Speak and Spell samples in 'Waveform' actually serve a valid function. Far from sounding gimmicky, they actually serve as a counterpoint to the rather resigned tone of the actual song. Of the remaining songs, I found the downtempo, slightly menacing 'It's Not The End' memorable enough, and I also enjoyed 'Dependent', but by now I'm running out fresh ways of saying 'This Is Good'. It's just a good, solid synthpop tune with no need for further justification as to why I happened to like it more than the others.

I say this as I get the feeling that other may well find other tracks on here more to their tastes ? it just depends which lyrical device, chord sequence or melodic motif appeals most to your own ears. I didn't care much for the disjointed structure of 'Lost Inside', but there's probably someone out there who sees it as a refreshing diversion from the norm. The lyrics of 'Feel' and 'She's All Alone' had no affect on me whatsover, but you may just find they resonate with one of your own life experiences.

This cannot be said to be a criticism of this particular band, rather an inevitable limitation of the style. Virtually every 'pure' synthpop band I've encountered has had to face the 'Diversify Or Die' scenario eventually. Even Mesh, the yardstick for modern-day synthpop hopefuls, had to resort to adding guitars and live drums to their sound in order to stay ahead of the competition. But within these limitations, this is still a reasonable collection of songs. It just lacks a special something.
3
Brutal Resonance

Carved Souls - Waveform

6.0
"Alright"
N/A
Electroracle
Spotify
Released 2011 by Conzoom Records
This is the third album for the Carved Souls, though also their first for several years, and also their first for Conzoom Records, a label who are starting building themselves something of a reputation as a source of polished, quality synthpop. And that's what we get here. Polished quality synthpop. Despite the projects Californian origins, I can't help comparing them to various UK projects, Depeche Mode in particular.

Now, I know it's practically impossible to write synthpop and not sound at least a little bit Mode-like at times, but the singer Suede (no other name given) is VERY Dave Gahan-like in his delivery, and they go one step further by sampling a Speak & Spell machine on the albums title track. If that isn't a blatant reference to a key influence, I don't know what is! I'm not saying that any of this is a bad thing, but it is an obvious thing. Speaking as one still reeling from the self-indulgent Mode-offshoot VCMG album, it's actually something of a relief to hear what I actually hoping said project would deliver - seductively morose songwriting built on a base of synthetic ear candy.

There's still a lot of competition in the genre, and hence the strength of such albums is therefore largely dependent on the quality of the songs rather than some over-arching concept. The album opener 'Broken Soul' works particularly well, making good use of the 'schaffel' rhythm which has characterises many a popular tune over the years - I could quote anything from Iggy Pop's 'Nightclubbing' to Covenant's 'Like Tears In Rain'. The other highlight is the combination of sweet melodics and hard supersaw synth leads in 'Dream Of You', a mere three minutes in length and significantly better for sticking to 7" single time limits and not deviating off into lengthy dancefloor dynamics in the style of just about every other band to combine said techniques.

The real club hit of the album is 'Box', a plain-sounding title, behind which hides a floorfilling combination of thumping beats and heavenly strings that you've probably heard several time before, but it's done as well here as anywhere else. And the aforementioned Speak and Spell samples in 'Waveform' actually serve a valid function. Far from sounding gimmicky, they actually serve as a counterpoint to the rather resigned tone of the actual song. Of the remaining songs, I found the downtempo, slightly menacing 'It's Not The End' memorable enough, and I also enjoyed 'Dependent', but by now I'm running out fresh ways of saying 'This Is Good'. It's just a good, solid synthpop tune with no need for further justification as to why I happened to like it more than the others.

I say this as I get the feeling that other may well find other tracks on here more to their tastes ? it just depends which lyrical device, chord sequence or melodic motif appeals most to your own ears. I didn't care much for the disjointed structure of 'Lost Inside', but there's probably someone out there who sees it as a refreshing diversion from the norm. The lyrics of 'Feel' and 'She's All Alone' had no affect on me whatsover, but you may just find they resonate with one of your own life experiences.

This cannot be said to be a criticism of this particular band, rather an inevitable limitation of the style. Virtually every 'pure' synthpop band I've encountered has had to face the 'Diversify Or Die' scenario eventually. Even Mesh, the yardstick for modern-day synthpop hopefuls, had to resort to adding guitars and live drums to their sound in order to stay ahead of the competition. But within these limitations, this is still a reasonable collection of songs. It just lacks a special something.
May 08 2012

Jonny Hall

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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