Categories
pop rock

My Friend Peter – Speak

The first thing I thought when I heard ‘Whitening’, the first single from Speak? This is the best pop song in years! And after I tried to put my emotions into intelligent words (I’m a former snobby music journalist after all): ‘Whitening’ is the hybrid baby of early 80s Rush and Talk Talk. Okay, with a little bit of 70s prog rock during the break. And a bit of Gary Numan.

Well, that sounds great, doesn’t it? The best period of Rush meets Talk Talk, one of the best pop gems ever. And it really sounds like that, won’t you agree?

Meet Benedikt Brands from Graz in Austria. A multi-instrumentalist and musical talent on so many levels. He plays in the High Brain, a psychedelic rock band. My Friend Peter is his solo project. He debuted in 2014 with Take A Look On The Other Side, a psychedelic pop album influenced by the 60s. Pink Floyd and Beatles aren’t far away on his second effort Entre les Trous de la Mémoire (2015) and the third one Is It Severe? (2016).

Nice albums, but the first weird pop tunes – blending different styles, taking influences from all kind of genres – are present on In Between (2017). The brilliant ‘Kraut in the Kitchen’ for example, where Benedikt blends krautrock with 60s beat, groovy funk-jazz and popcorn. Absolutely mental.

But Speak is on a different level. Because of a lot of different things. The sound of the bass, being one of them. That could be the most important, because it holds this album together. Benedikt searches for so many different takes on psychedelic pop music on this album that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of common ground. But then there is the bass. There is always the bass. Groovy, a bit funky. Always there. The bass.

That isn’t a surprise. His father is a double-bass player in a symphonic orchestra, his mother is a violin teacher. Benedikt plays nearly all instruments on Speak, recorded the album in his home studio, mixed it in Rio Studios, Vienna. Robert Neubauer did the mastering at Robotonstudio in Vienna. I was talking about a lot of different things that make this album brilliant? The warm, fuzzy production is also one of them.

Then there are the insane songs, their structure, melody, breaks. Single ‘Whitening’ isn’t the only jawbreaking song. ‘Intermission/Transition’ could have easily been an ultracool Stereolab song. The 10-minute pop song ‘Music to Go Anywhere’ is funky as hell (that bass!) and reminds me of the more psychedelic side of Blur.

Excellent tunes. Great album. Please make ‘Whitening’ the summer pop hit of 2020.

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Speak by My Friend Peter is released by Numavi Records.

Categories
electronic film pop

Hunter Complex – Dead Calm and Zero Degrees

Yesterday evening Hunter Complex streamed a live show from his studio to promote his new album Dead Calm and Zero Degrees. The performance showed the difference between this fourth one and the others: Hunter Complex is in control.

That sounds cryptic, doesn’t it?

Let me explain.

Lars Meijer started out as an ambient electronic music producer. He co-founded the influential Narrominded record label in Haarlem and debuted in 2009 as Hunter Complex with the 80s oriented electropop mini-album ‘Here is the Night’. References were Gary Numan, Depeche Mode and Japan. Since then, Hunter Complex evolved in a much more sophisticated blend of different 70s and 80s styles of synthesizer-driven music, ranging from bubblegum pop to yacht rock, electro-pop to film soundtracks. Along the way, Meyer stopped using vocals.

Last years Open Sea was a blend of sultry, intelligent and bittersweet pop music. It was, as Simon Reynolds would call it, music that misremembers the 80s. A, no the best soundtrack for a rerun of Miami Vice in 2019. The album is a monument of desire for a decade in which everybody believed in a better future.

His new album Dead Calm and Zero Degrees sounds different: the longing for a past that never existed is gone. Instead, the album is a soundtrack for an alternative reality that isn’t so much rooted in the 70s, 80s or 90s. One aspect is the way Meijer uses analogue and digital synthesizers from all those decades interchangeably. But that isn’t the essence. His music could still sound aesthetically like the 80s, right?

Well, it doesn’t.

His performance last night showed a remarkable difference with previous shows. Instead of playing with classic movies from the 70s and 80s on the background, Lars played the movies on the foreground, him infiltrating in the images themselves as a spectre haunting them. Maybe you’ll think it is far fetched, but for me, that is a huge turning point in Hunter Complex’s aesthetics: instead of being haunted by the spectres of the past, Hunter Complex now haunts the spectres. That’s the control part I mentioned earlier.

Hence, there is no nostalgia anymore in this new work. Meyer has found a way to use all kinds of sounds and tropes from the past to come up with something that is 2020 at its core: a post-nostalgic ambient synthpop masterpiece.

Dead Calm and Zero Degrees by Hunter Complex is released by Burning Witches Records.

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