Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Spleen United - School of Euphoria

Once more in 2011, we were greeted with the gorgeously-high volume of electro-pop slash synthpop slash alternative dance bustling onto our doorstep with the most gracious of introductions, both high up in the mainstream community and down below in the more underground indie circles. The likes of Cut Copy, Little Dragon, Friendly Fires, Austra - a mix of new, newish and already established bands - cementing electro's position as one of the forefront genres of the 21st century. So it's not surprising to find that beyond our own shores, new bands from the other just-as-fine coasts have stepped up to the plate.

Spleen United, a Danish electrorock five-piece, brought highly energized fusions of rhythmic beats and dreamy sailed vocals on their debut 'Godspeed Into The Mainstream'. In their third outing, we find ourselves plunged into the coloured flutter of this kaleidoscopically-varied sound with an album that takes everything euphoric that made this genre what it is, and here, amplifying it further with what else currently makes this genre such a crowd-pleaser. The rhythm.

'Days Of Thunder' makes no hesitation to make itself heard as a jolt of synthetic drums pave the way for vocalist Bjarke Niemann to fill the stadium-tuned zone, ahead of a hop of bass and beats that knock about in as confident but as off-focus as the thinning of background voices that feature so heavily. Follower 'Misery' continues the album's energetic discotheque vibe as choppy vocals provide the main hook to a drum-heavy rush that never appears to cease nor be depleting its energy in whatever shape or form.

You'll notice as the album progresses that the band have taken careful consideration - maybe even priority - in the transitioning of this album's adrenaline-pumping sound. There are hints here of early Chemical Brothers work, and even further back, the likes of Orbital and other fellow British electronica pioneers. But if there is any sign that this album maintains its '-rock' originality, it may be in Niemann's direct call of vocals that clash against the sudden implantation of sound. It's hard to determine whether this is a full-fledged transgression into pure synthesizer-ran territory, but it's curious how the band test their new-found approach. 'Simplicity', for example, is not as direct and bold as its former comrades, but still maintains the electro ideology of solar-like risings of synths and mushed-up drumbeats, all rolling between the squirm of other machines doing their job.

Clearly synthesizers are at the top of the 'most-used instrument' list, it's a no-brainer. But as I listen to this more thoroughly, it's almost instinctive to feel that these synthesizers and these electric melodies provide little more than an excuse to up the tempo and max out the disco lighting to the point of epileptic danger. 'Bright Cities Keep Me Awake' is an interesting one, because while its material feels almost like a catalogue of past and present homages, as a result, it comes out clustered and jam-packed to the point of bursting. The kiddish vocals reminiscent of a 'D.A.N.C.E.' out-take; the synth beats sounding like something picked out of a Yuksek lead single; the drums too as if entirely french in origin. You find yourself switching focus between what you hear and what you think you hear, that the track loses all potential recognition as a possible highlight.

'Loebner', one of the more instrumentally-focused selections of this record, is a highlight. And a major highlight at that, not just in its construction, but also in it's styling. Or rather, the contrast of styling. One of the few tracks to feature acoustic strumming - featuring near the end of the track - it has a tremendous build to it, wobbly electronics sounding as if head to toe in water rummage between the clogged clapping of hands and cymbal hits. It's only at a sudden ceasing that the track leads into its lighter acoustic formatting, soon dissolving away into foggy obscurity.

'School of Euphoria' on reflection pushes the boundaries as to where rock as a conceptual approach can take the introvertly-complex device that is, the synthesizer. This isn't always a good thing, and it's usually something that when it does go belly up, it shows. Still, Spleen United have tapped into something here, electrorock has its way of tugging at the very fibres connecting our hands and feet. Sure It may come off as a lifeless pile of machines, wires and flashing lights to some people, but on this the band's third outing, it may not all be bad news. So long as they don't disappear into the void of buttons, knobs and the long-list of applied effects, this tiny little (buzzing) corner of synth-driven rock still has its charisma about it.


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