COMMENTS & CRITIQUES
THE POST-PUNK MONK
When we last checked in, ex-Visage synth player Logan Sky was two EPs into a partnership with vocalist Steven Jones with cassettes/DLs available at their Bandcamp page. That was then and this is now. The duo report that their songwriting is not moderating and the first EP new material this year is cued up for an August 19th release, this time under the imprint of the legendary Some Bizzare label. Can it be that your friendly, neighborhood Monk is writing about music to be consumed in DL format two posts in a row?! Do not adjust your sets! It looks like the 21st Century is finally beginning in earnest for this not so young man.
The first song here, “Maria” actually is a re-dux of an earlier song dating back to 2012 and Logan Sky’s Saar + Sky project. The difference here was not only was Steven Jones the singer but the Italodisco quotient of the original was moderated here to a more introspective early Depeche Mode vibe. The bell-like clarity of the synths recall the almost late 60s vibe that I enjoyed to well on “A Broken Frame” and have waited for 34 years for someone else to pick up the threads and continue forward with them. Depeche Mode were definitely the touchstone for this EP with Steven Jones vocal phrasing bearing the influence of early David Gahan.
The next track featured another Visage veteran, Lauren Duvall, performing the song as a full on duet with Jones and her presence on the track as both co-lead and backing vocalist lend this throbbing slice of electro a complex character that I would like to see Jones + Sky pursue further going forward. Ms. Duvall’s ethereal b-vox hit a lovely note her of crepuscular melody that fans of Gazelle Twin would surely enjoy.
The eclectic A-side of the tape concludes with “The Meaning [Catherine Deneuve mix]” that saw Jones once again using his voice over technique juxtaposed against his singing for greater vocal nuance. Particularly, when the samples of Cathering Deneuve were brought into the mix. I love how the lyrics that Jones sang here were directly inspired by the Deneuve samples, lending the affair a distinctly integrated feeling that many examples of found vocals usually lack. When Jones choses to use voice over instead of singing it makes for a very Gavin Friday feel to the performance. Listen below:
Steven Jones & Logan Sky's Polaroids EP
By Andrew B. White
Polaroids is the second EP from the UK’s Steven Jones and Logan Sky. The two met through a mutual friend, the late Steve Strange from 80s synth pop legends Visage, with whom Sky has played keyboards with since 2010.
The new EP follows-on from where there duo’s 2015 debut EP Desire Lines left off but with more of a late-night and darker direction. Jones and Sky’s feet are firmly in the early-80s UK synthpop camp with influences from early Depeche Mode, OMD, Ultravox, Soft Cell and of course Visage. Sky handles the music production, predominantly using vintage hardware, while Jones writes and performs the vocals which are a mix of sung and spoken word.
Title track Polaroids has a half-time, electro-dub feel to it. It is brooding and reflective, with the lyrics “moments burnt in to polaroids” referring to a more glamorous life captured at an earlier point in time. The lo-fi video for the song, shot in London’s Soho, appropriating the atmosphere of the song. Additionally on the EP, Polaroids gets the remix treatment from Daygun and is taken in an uptempo vocal dub direction but still retains the broodiness of the original.
‘Hi-Rise New York’ is based on Jones’ experiences of visiting New York City with a visually-inspired narrative of observing his fast-paced surroundings. “We came here to play the game” Jones recites and it sounds like he’s been dropped into a video game on the “Manhattan Level”. The track is all spoken word which is most suitable for the subject matter. It would certainly make for a good music video.
‘Intersection’ floats along with a reflective mix of spoken and sung vocals. It’s no surprise the lyrics mention train stations as the song’ implies a feeling of being on a train, in both its rhythm and of observing life as it passes by.
‘The Now Crowd (Slow Exposure)’ is a fitting tribute to Visage’s Steve Strange and his legacy. It has an almost a slow-motion sense of feeling to it that helps it to convey the sentiment of the lyrics: “we are the now crowd, loud and in time, dancing endlessly, deep in desire”. It’s obvious Jones and Sky want to continue Strange’s legacy, in the present and into the future.
‘Fake’ starts with a subtle arpeggiation and Jones’ spoken word, decrying the falsity of religion: “You make us fake/your mantra’s money”. It makes heavy use of toms to add to the intimidatory poke at the mundaneness of life from organized religion to money and fame.
Overall, Polaroids gives you the authentic feeling of a cold and grey London in the early 80s with its fashion, taxi headlights reflecting on rainy nighttime streets sweeping by New Romantics en route to the next night club. The songs have a sense of space using minimal instrumentation, omitting what isn’t needed for a more concise sound. The EP emulates the sound of a musical point in time without being cheesy or ironic. Some parts remind me of the darker moments of Yazoo’s album Upstairs at Eric’s (albeit less shiner) and early Ultravox and OMD, or more precisely, that particular point in time.
Polaroids is not what you would call a straight-up “synthwave” album. The synthpop scene has been around for a very long time and while it shares some common ground with synthwave, the two scenes don’t always merge. Fans of synthwave aren’t invariably attracted by synth pop’s sometimes androgynous and sparse sound or its lyrically darker subject matter. At the same time, the two genres are becoming more compatible, with stylish synthpop now influencing a number of synthwave artists, especially when it comes to vocals. The embracing of styles makes for interesting results. With Steven Jones and Logan Sky we see the result of two artists that have a direct connection to one of the originators of synth pop creating new music and extending it out, not merely recreating it.
Steven Jones and Logan Sky have a new release on Some Bizarre — the Maria EP features 6 tracks revealing a stirring blend of New Romantic and Synthwave style — the EP which has hit the Bandcamp New Romantic #1 spot after two days of release is also being offered in a limited edition cassette shipping out on or around August 1, 2016.