Album Review: Soft Metals’ Lenses

Photo Credit: Suzy Poling

 

Soft Metals

Lenses

Captured Tracks Records

Release Date:  July 16, 2013

 

Track Listing

1.     Lenses

2.     Tell Me

3.     When I Look Into Your Eyes

4.     No Turning Back

5.     Hourglass

6.     On A Cloud

7.     In The Air

8.     Interobserver

 

Personnel

Patricia Hall

Ian Hicks

 

Originally formed in Portland, OR the now Los Angeles, CA-based duo of Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks formed Soft Metals over their mutual love of 70s and 80s synthesizer based electronica music, and in the spring of 2009 they began writing and recording songs which were heavily inspired by film soundtracks, early industrial music, minimalist techno, synth pop, shoegaze and several other genres. Both members share songwriting duties and the bulk of the material on their critically well-received self-titled debut and on their sophomore effort, Lenses (which Captured Tracks released in July) was created from improvised sessions in which the duo composed the instrumental portion of the song first, followed by lyrics which cover a variety of themes – including personal experience, film, literature, history, conflict and death.

    With Lenses, sonically, Hicks and Hall owe a great debt to both the legendary godfather of electronic dance music, Giorgio Moroder and to the house and techno music of the early 80s. Although the material is shimmering and slickly produced, the material pulsates with a raw, carnal, decadent sensuality – and despite its seeming efficiency, there’s a sense of improvised experimentation beneath the surface. Interestingly, the material manages to carefully walk a careful tightrope between a taut minimalism and a densely layered lushness. The instrumentation is spacious enough to allow Hall’s seductive coos to ethereally float through the mix – and yet its dense enough to require repeated listens to reveal nuance. “Tell Me,” which may well be the most decadently seductive track I’ve heard all summer, if not all year, pulsates with an urgent, almost desperate carnality – of the sort that Giorgio Moroder specialized in. But the track also manages to possess elements of industrial electronica as blaring sirens and other ambient noises swirl about the beat. The slow burning “On a Cloud” owes a debt to 80s house and under the track’s icy sheen, there’s a gently stirring sensuality. And one can say the same of album title track, “Lenses.” “In The Air,” radiates with a cosmic glow and has a propulsive drumbeat, programmed by Optimo’s JD Twitch, backed with hypnotic, undulating synths. And with vocalist Patricia Hall gentle coos, the entire track possesses a sense of being pulled under a bracingly icy wave.

   Pulsating with an urgent sensuality, Soft Metals’ sophomore effort is the sort of album that electronica DJs long for – every song is a certified club banger, guaranteed to inspire the listener to get up and go to the dance floor to impress a pretty young thang; and yet, there’s a thoughtful, deliberate level of nuance that reveals itself upon repeated listens – the ambient noises behind the tracks that add an icy veneer; and the lyrical content which is deeper than expected. By far, the album rivals that of the output over at 100% Silk Records, and may arguably be one of the better electro pop albums I’ve heard this year.