To London or the Lake
What pushes current groups back into the sounds of the early '80s is generally nothing surprising or premeditated. It's more than likely an expression of their musical genesis in adult life. However, 2013 brought some of the best retro-inspired albums of recent times, mostly within the dark realm. Even a few of them have shown enough potential to turn their young creators into true break-out bands. The Night Sins' second album "To London or the Lake" may clearly fall within this category. First pressed to our consciousness by their debut LP "New Grave" in 2012, the Philadelphians are causing a stir in the underground scene with their refined crossover of post-punk, goth rock and synth music. It's hard to find a modern outfit who demonstrates such knowledge of dark ambient tones and textures, not to mention their ability to manage melodic power and anthemic drive. In this regard, "To London or the Lake" speaks to the band's talent for songwriting. Also remarkable is the production work, which artfully sharps the lyrical yearning and conveys certain alluring rawness to the sound. "To London or the Lake" comes on a 33 rpm 12" vinyl (limited to 500 copies, with full-color printed sleeve), what adds even more authenticity to the repertoire. Kyle Kimball (singer/songwriter), Drew Ferry (guitarist) and Chris Betts (bassist) are able to evoke early The Sisters of Mercy's sinister vibe while giving the songs enough catchiness and energy to seduce the audiences from far beyond the limits of gloom. Good evidence of this effective alchemy is the title track - which was not chosen by chance to launch the album. Built on a bouncing bassline and a ringing melody riff, "To London or the Lake" rises to an emotional peak that recalls '80s at their most wide-eyed and haunting with a modern-day ignited passion. There is dramatic immediacy in the croons, which lead into choruses that last in memory. Thrusting of thuds and chords - in the style of the lesser preachy U2, soundtrackish synth passages, and all of them working brilliantly. Shortly after, little more than two minutes are enough to bring eerie sci-fi prophecies flooding back throughout "Rain". As a sequel, "Bound 'Round The World" extends the cinematic feel, more icy and radiactive, with reminiscent of the British New Wave. Kyle's timbre drips with dejection and paranoia, merging with the distant-sounding melodies in a beautiful choral lament. Breaking through the dense atmosphere, there is a crunchy, rocking guitar solo to take pleasure in. However, you can - partially - escape the longing that lies beneath the entire album by picking up "Evangeline", which is sophisticated club number, or "Heaven in the Snow", propelled by rattling drums, with a swirl of keyboard arrangements enhancing all. On the contrary, "Dear Marquis" weaves a Post-Punk inspired tale into the neurological throb of strings and the ghostly split of voices. So far, Night Sins are experts in soundscape design and style fusion, but also this recording treasures a pair of Goth Rock gems that seem like they was written at some point in this genre's inception. These are "Air Dance", whose vibrant, lush guitars bring to mind the high points in The Mission's career, and "Neon Light Intoxicants", which lives up to its title by sounding poisonous and wintry. There are squeaky riffs slashing through vapours of dissonances, synths and baritones, while the rhythmical section stays hypnotic across the whole track - those basslines point the shortest way to "Floodland" and I can think no better place for rounding off this worth experiencing journey. Barely half an hour of intense, well-written music is enough for Night Sins to ensure ample sustenance for the state-of-the-art in gloom. I don't know for which movie this soundtrack has been written, but I need to watch it.
Review by Billyphobia