Plastic Ivy has one sole figure listed as her influence: Marcel Duchamp. Taking inspiration from Duchamp’s philosophy of art serving the mind over the eye, Philadelphia artist Lira Marie Landes has utilised this cerebral approach to explore her search for self-knowledge and actualisation, in the midst of a gender transition during the writing and recording of the album.
The Glass Horizon is six songs of exemplary minimal-synth pop, taking cues from the rich crop of contemporary icy synthesist’s (Xeno & Oaklander, Void Vision, Speaking Parts) and authentic electronic sonics being attributed to her primary use of analogue Roland keyboards. ‘Exit Strategy’ is a frenetic chiller, chunky arpreggiators drive against discordant sinewaves, echoing the aggression heard on Martial Canterel’s Gyors Lassú. Landes’s Residents-like vocals come to the fore on lead single (video shot by Liz Wendelbo) ‘Never Caught in Amber’, a jubilant BPM pop-banger espousing the liberation of embracing your true self. Epiphany turns to playful with instrumental ‘Sticky Fears of Inner Néant’, complete with melodica played by Landes herself, before the post-punk ‘Anaphora’ details the blank canvas our bodies are, backed by Frank (Just Frank) indie guitars and a glorious big synth lead right at home with The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. Menace follows with the cavernous funk of ‘Usury’, then cinematic closer ‘Love on the Floor’ drops us into a sea of reverb and delay, held together by steady drum machines and bass throbs, culminating to a thrilling end to the atmospheric tundra.
Plastic Ivy’s sophomore effort is a dynamic first entry to a proposed series of thematic works, and her balancing of pop immediacy and the weighty quest to promote communication and questioning have been well and truly realised.
Rarely are solo and side projects as indispensable as an artist’s main acts output, but Laslo Antal’s DIESEIN debut LP is a glorious entry in an impeccable run of dazzling, synthwave mood-pop.
Belgrade born Antal formed Sixth June with Lidija Andonov way back in 2007, and were the progenitors of the so called ‘minimal synth’ movement, alongside Xeno & Oaklander, Daybed, and Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave label/reissue project. Kindred spirits they all may be, the lush and rich production behind Sixth June was contrary to their ‘coldwave’ tag, their first album Everytime being a dramatic and nostalgic journey with unashamed pop sensibilities, married with Antal’s unique cinematic video style, all painting a romantic picture of a Berlin you had always imagined. Two EP’s followed, and in 2016 Antal teamed up with Sally Dige Jørgensen for their one and only Cult Club record, introducing mean bass work and Antal’s backing baritone vocals.
Songs about Sally expands upon the pallet of sounds first hinted at on Sixth June’s ‘Night Before’ from last year’s Virgo Rising. Gorgeous sax work shimmers over the first two tracks ‘You’ and ‘Make me Feel’, irresistibly complimenting the funky basslines reminiscent of Play with Lies. ‘Tell me’ recalls that special Sixth June urgency, effortless pop which builds into a satisfying crescendo, awash with synthetic strings that are so exciting you jump out of your skin. ‘7777’ takes a step away from the organic, all analogue arpeggios and an infectious sequenced drum beat, before album closer ‘Make me Weak’ ends with gothic guitar licks and cavernous ghostly vocals coalescing to a moody finale which would make Martin Gore proud.
Melancholic but never cold, nostalgic but never ‘retro’, Songs about Sally is an authentic and earnest demonstration of how pop can inhabit our most sentimental inner spaces, and form the soundtracks of our lives.