Alien Skin: “P.O.P. POP” – an absolute depth of craft!
Accomplished painters have the innate ability to activate neural pathways to create a remarkably pleasing viewer experience that defies explanation or analysis. With his latest album release, “P.O.P. POP”, Alien Skin has shown that he has mastered the neuroscience of music in a similar way. However, having said that the music in is very mystical and it transcends spiritualism and puts you in a deep cosmic state of mind.
Not unlike most intelligent music, this isn’t only a challenging listen, but it’s an endlessly gorgeous one. Especially if cinematic synthesizers, resonating analogue sounds and dark poetry is your thing. Since indie-pop’s obsessions began to converge with the dance community’s, and vice versa, this album is as atypical and retro-futuristic gazing as anything you’ll find on the market. Alien Skin’s defining factor is that he interested in extracting real-life warmth from his machinery. Something he achieves with ease on “P.O.P. POP” notwithstanding the mechanical beats and robotic basslines.
A run through Alien Skin’s back catalog will tell that the man actually named George Pappas is a near genius in his field. A long-time keyboardist and co-songwriter with chart topping Australian band Real Life, who had a multi-million selling ’80s smash with the track, “Send Me An Angel”, Pappas made the transition to electronic music in the early 80’s.
Hence he has been through all of its evolutionary changes, and unlike many of his contemporaries and current colleagues, he has brought all the good bits along with him. The sound of analog being his major preservation. Alien Skin’s swirl of analog keyboards and measured grooves can sit comfortably in any era you choose to mention.
As soon as the opening track, “Take Me To The Theatre” kicks in, Alien Skin’s percolating electronica starts to take hold. This is electronica in its truest, purest sense, intended for intense listening, as Alien Skin maintains a musical identity that’s distinctly different from most of today’s genre artists. This is when Pappas proves that he can write songs. Simplicity is the key here.
“Monochrome” is driven by the percussion and synth bass, while Alien Skin leans in with a low-register vocal appearance. And by the time you press play on “Byron Said To Mary”, you realize the importance of this body of work is undeniable. Electronic music simply hasn’t caught up to where Alien Skin is going. This sounds futuristic, enigmatic, distant and complex.
It’s unlikely that any contemporary electronic artist would be able to navigate the same musical thematics Alien Skin has taken to get to tracks like “P.O.P. POP” or “Devil in the Detail”. In fact, it often feels like Alien Skin is all-too aware of the depth of his craft regardless of the small corner of his music world in the face of current electronic genres, and has produced a set of tracks designed to show the breed of young whippersnappers how it’s really done.
It often feels like these songs are pinging back and forth through various time zones – listen to the stunning bass-dominated urgency of “Charles Dickens” or the raw synthesizer crunch of “Aim with the Wrecking Ball”. It’s an album of varying intonations and feelings with urgent basslines and snare snaps of “Isambard Kingdom Brunel” quickly followed by the bubbling tweaks of “Endsong”.
“Isn’t it Cliché” could be more obviously catchy and accessible than it is. This is a great way to close the album with an extremely memorable song all awash with rhythm and melody. This would have been a sure-fire hit in the eighties, it has all the ingredients to be one right now.
Despite the laptop and soft synth brigade, Alien Skin still shows that he can be innovative with his setup. Hardly will you find a better album of similar nature to “P.O.P. POP” this year.
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]
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