I Break Horses make contemporary electronic music for the discerning under 25’s but you wonder how they manage to sound so influenced, not just by the past but by their contemporaries and in being so they seem to have mislaid what made their Electronic Shoegaze debut so impressive. Whereas Fever Ray’s unnerving Electronica has you trembling in your deserted cottage, I Break Horses has you wondering what time the last tube goes when the club closes. They have simply changed direction for better or worse and are heading towards Synth Pop at an alarming rate. You Burn, the opening track starts off a tempting pulse, and then out of nowhere the dreaded clap – you wonder did someone buy them a Roland 808 drum machine for Christmas year before last as they chase the early records by The Knife?
Is it just that records like this are made on computers for computer people with computer speakers and everything sounds tinny anyway? Through it all I miss Curve and though there’s still many elements I like about I Break Horses, even though there is less mood than their 2011 debut Hearts and despite the unnecessary fiddly busy eighties drum machine programming. Faith sounds like Pink Floyd’s On The Run with New Order’s Hi Hat. It’s like they were sick of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s old synth and crave an easier darkness. Otherwise Faith is a little too club for my tastes but will probably satisfy the band’s core audience, but what happens when the night club closes?
The semi-sour Ascension has sea-sick synthesizers and sounds like Mazzy Star in space. I really like how loud the synth is (like on Souvenir by OMD) and how buried the vocal is in Jesus And Mary Train reverb but could do without the clattering woodpecker.
Denial is next and the German dance synth with the Hi Hat sound makes me miss the shadows – but that’s just not where they are anymore. I guess it’s hard to sound dated if you are influenced by the past but with so much to offer in electronics these days and with analogue equipment so primed for the ears of the audience, I wonder why they are using these rhythms and this sound – unless trends have dictated so.
On the next track Berceuse I realise that they simply like their choices and I wonder how a piece of equipment can cause me such discontent, okay the syn drum too but without this clapping sound I could accept the German dance synth and maybe others don’t mind their new mechanical addition but as far as a listening experience, not a night club experience, it bothers me.
Medicine Brush sounds like the beefy masculine machines are playing themselves and making their own decisions and have run off with Phillip Glass’ female robots, Maria Lindén’s voice sounds like a projection on a screen. I like it – it’s sci fi.
Disclosure has an early Human League sound about it, that English new wave electronic sound that also came from John Foxx and Cabaret Voltaire, that had in turn been influenced by early Kraftwerk (taken more like) and the German electronic visionaries of the early seventies.
Weigh True Words is the essence of the problem for me, one side I love, the other side I can do without and really it’s all to do with the choice of tools. It’s a taste thing, not a style thing and on the first album they hadn’t bought the machine that did this yet. With it they lose their darkness, their intrigue, their mystery. They become lighter and maybe that’s better for the clubs but that’s for dancing and socialising and when I listen to I Break Horses, I want to listen to their music.
The last track is Heart To Know and it works the best for me with its funereal qualities and the way it makes everything in the room rumble and shake. I see black veils and slow processions, I see grey landscapes, slow moving cameras and black and white footage. Perhaps this is all to obvious for them, maybe they feel like they need more coloured cocktails in their repertoire, an easier neon darkness like a New York bar rather than a London alleyway.
If your poison is dark synth pop, this is for you, if you poison is dense electronic shoegaze it isn’t, it is in fact a mixture of both things(Chiaroscuro – light/dark) and that in itself keeps it interesting but I get the feeling I won’t be able to hear your opinion…it’s so noisy in this club.