Review : Ice Choir - Afar
PitchforkKurt Feldman is a sensualist among sensualists. The Brooklyn musician's day job consists of sitting behind the kit for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Slumberland revivalists that first gained attention by building a time-traveling rocketship for all those bookish, next-gen indie-poppers who had never heard of Rocketship. A few years before that, though, he was a member of unheralded, neo-shoegaze outfit, the Depreciation Guild, a band that kicked things off by merging brittle chiptune textures with six-string swarm before arriving at the blissful, comfortable conclusion that, if the style itself ain't broke just yet, there's no need to fix it.
The projects that Feldman's been involved with over the last half-decade have been almost exclusively beholden to past sounds, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that Ice Choir, his mostly-solo endeavor following the Depreciation Guild's dissolution last year, once again finds him looking back with reverence. This time, though, the source material is different-- as well as a little surprising, considering his largely rock-heavy background-- as Ice Choir's debut LP, Afar, teems with the lush, swooning textures and big-money eccentricities of 80s pop and new-wave. Granted, when written out, that description is ripe for suspicion; various forms of independent subculture have spent the last few years as Inuits with an internet connection, consuming and discarding the 80s' every cultural facet until the decade itself resembles an imprint of where an animal carcass once lay. Some of the cannibalism has taken place under the guise of sincerity, while a lot of it has reeked of cynical opportunism.
Listening to Afar, however, it's very difficult to believe that Feldman, who wrote and produced the album by himself, is anything but totally serious about this new path he's travelling on. He doesn't just orbit around the usual reference points (Spandau Ballet, the jittery brightness of Jam & Lewis-produced R&B, OMD's more mainstream material)-- he nails them spot-on with an impressive and loving faithfulness, the only thing separating "then" from "now" being that I'm pretty sure nobody was gazing at a glowing computer screen while listening to "If You Leave" back in 1986. The crude, intentional cheapness that accompanies many a nostalgia-mining DIY act nowadays is avoided thanks to Feldman's own glossy production sheen, as well as the deft mixing hand of Jorge Elbrecht....full text
Ttinymixtapes“Everything the same/ Again and again and again.” Soft Cell’s 2002 track “Monoculture” remains one of surprisingly few — and certainly the most wittily caustic — take on what Simon Reynolds calls “retromania.” For critics, the problem with the acceleration of the slavish reproduction of past sounds, their colonization of ever-increasing tranches of the pop landscape, is that it brings one to mirror the repetition in question. Whatever you think of this trend, you find yourself saying the same thing you’ve said before, “again and again and again.”
For psychoanalysis, repetition is associated with death — inasmuch as life is inescapably a process of change over time. But to conclude that retromania is the death of pop music, as many have done, would be, on the one hand, a conclusion that stinks of the love for an unattainable authenticity. On the other, it would ignore the fact that repetition is impossible: even an identical object, if such a thing is possible — the second unit produced on an assembly line — occupies another space and exists in another time. Thus, the “anxiety of influence” becomes not a question of whether (this mitotic) reproduction takes place at all, but what the characteristics are of the object (i.e.,“lost time”) thus brought forth, how it identifies and relates to the mother (another subject beloved of psychoanalysis). Does the subject (the artwork) reproduce the mother internally as a result of grief due to her inevitable loss? Does it arrive at a Freudian, masculinist, and autonomist maturity, in which the subject successfully separates from the mother (in doing so, we might note, repeating the father)? Or is there an attempt at a reparative approach in which the subject recognizes its own admixture of love and hate for that which is gone?...full text
ConsequenceofsoundOver the past few years, there are few influences as pervasive and undeniable in the indie world as New Wave. Whether they’re taken from the big names like The Cure or New Order or the pop hit-makers like a-ha or the Human League, the synth tones and cooing vocals of the ’80s have been a massive force. Few albums take this influence as far as Ice Choir’s debut album, Afar, though. There are few indications on the album’s nine tracks that there’s anything but raw, unadulterated ’80s energy throughout, the tracks bleeding together like a bleary-eyed tribute disc.
Formed as a side project of Pains of Being Pure at Heart frontman Kurt Feldman, Ice Choir pump reanimated ’80s life into the veins of their upbeat tracks like some sort of neon Frankenstein experiment. The electronic bass tones on album opener “I Want You Now and Always” sound straight out of a high-fiving We’re Having Fun Montage from any number of ’80s films, and the cheap bell tones on the title track aren’t far behind. While New Wave fans will be on board immediately, anyone looking for a new take on the all-too-familiar formula will find themselves searching fruitlessly.
The steps away from the expected come largely in the lyrics, couched in the trappings of every trademark possible. The prom-ready grooves of “Teletrips” drip with nostalgia, but lines like “You are a shapeshifting terror/ chasing time ’round the talking table” push into a surreal world that ain’t exactly “Take on Me”. The cheese factor, though, is pumped to 11 in the instrumental, making these innovations confusing at best. While every track carries the same pulse, when that feeling bursts into hyperdrive on “Bounding”, it provides a rare moment of excitement....full text
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