Wednesday, 13th December 2017. 7:38:26pm ET
Reviews CD Reviews Synthpop, New Wave Underwater Pilots- Tranquil Places


ARTIST: Underwater Pilots

ALBUM: Tranquil Places

LABEL: Van Richter Records

REVIEWER: Matthew J.

DATE: 12-2-08

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First released several years ago and new available in North America through Van Richter Records, this album delivers completely modern synthpop with a few nods towards techno and trance. Think of classic Apoptygma Berzerk or especially Covenant, then dial down some of the melancholy gothic posing, and you get the idea. "Loud and Clear" starts things with a hint of distortion but then segues into a melodic trance-inspired pop number that isn't afraid to be pretty. "Welcome to the World" is more minimalist and spaced out, the vocals spoken over an understated warble before kicking into a gorgeous hook on the chorus, and "Survive" is a perfectly paced dance floor number full of intense vocals and slick, cutting trance sequences. Though there's nothing dated about what Underwater Pilots do, they're definitely influenced by the classics, and they do occasionally let that show, as on the electro-flavored "I Will Fly," but things tend not to work out so well when the band goes too far into deliberate retro territory. This album's only real sour spot is "Ice Cream," an old-school breakbeat number full of cheesy vocoder effects that not only doesn't fit in with the rest of the album, but doesn't really have much going for it on its own, either, except for a sense of nostalgia. Much better are the forays into more modern electronic territory, as on the cold experimental synthesizers of "Why Can't It Be Simple," which, when paired with rather melancholy vocals, is like nothing so much as Some Great Reward-era Depeche Mode with Aphex Twin's Richard D. James standing in for Alan Wilder. Likewise, "My Darkness" sets world-weary vocals to a moody drum 'n' bass rhythm and rich analog choral synths for a track that combines the best of synthpop ballads and modern rhythm programming. Also hinting at the band's more experimental side is a bonus remix from avant-garde French project Mimetic that turns "Welcome to the World" from pulsing synthpop to choppy breakbeats. Also showing up are Italian gothic/industrial rockers Dope Stars, Inc., who provide a mix of "Loud and Clear" that's unexpectedly upbeat and cheery, even bringing in a guitar solo that, though reminiscent of '80s-era heavy metal, is nonetheless infectious. Catchy enough to be immediately accessible while bringing in just enough experimentation to keep things fresh, this album sees Underwater Pilots hitting that perfect sweet spot between club candy and innovation.

Visit the band's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/underwaterpilots to hear samples.


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