Release Date: Apr 14, 2015
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Alternative Dance
Anyone who thinks electronic music is clinical should listen to Pale Blue's The Past We Leave Behind, an album that proves emotional substance and musical style can coexist in dance music. Producer Mike Simonetti made the album during a personally turbulent time that was bookended by Hurricane Sandy and his departure from the dreamy Italo-disco label Italians Do It Better (which he co-founded with Chromatics' Johnny Jewel). Meanwhile, he was remixing tracks by other artists, which is how he discovered the gorgeous voice of Silver Hands' Elizabeth Wight.
Mike Simonetti has never sat still. Troubleman Unlimited, the label he founded in 1993, started from a foundation of noisy hardcore—bands like Rorschach, Unwound, and Rye Coalition—and expanded to include a staggering range of music, from danceable post-punk (Erase Errata, Tussle) to noise and power electronics (Hair Police, John Wiese) to new-school goth (Zola Jesus, Pocahaunted). When the rock world could no longer contain his ambitions, the obsessive record collector and one-time club promoter—at 17, he had flyered for New York’s Mars nightclub, where Vin Diesel worked the door and Bobby Konders spun house and dancehall—teamed up with the Chromatics and Glass Candy producer Johnny Jewel to create Italians Do It Better.
The Past We Leave Behind is a big deal for fans of Mike Simonetti. His time as the head of Italians Do It Better, the indie-dance label he founded in 2006 with Johnny Jewel, has come to an end (Jewel will continue the label alone). Now it's time for a new chapter, which takes the form of both a new label (2MR), and a new moniker, Pale Blue (a reference to Carl Sagan's famous "pale blue dot" monologue).
Mike Simonetti perhaps decided Italians don’t do it as well as he thought before leaving his previous record label (Italians Do It Better), picking his favourite shade of blue and creating an album arguably completely different from anything this electro god has attempted before. If you’re old school enough to pick up a physical copy of Pale Blue’s debut album you’ll notice the album art is a table (baguette and all) that firstly seems fairly relaxing and tidy, that is until you look at it for long enough and realise it could actually do with a bit of a tidy up. The same can be said for the musical content of the album.
American DJ and producer Mike Simonetti has long been a polarizing figure in the scenes he’s helped to promote and nourish over the course of his 20-plus year career; as the head of the Troubleman Unlimited label he helped introduce listeners to the ragged rock and noise sounds of Black Dice, Rye Coalition, The Walkmen, Erase Errata and Glass Candy, amongst many others. His support for the latter band led to a collaborative venture with Glass Candy’s own Johnny Jewel in the form of Italians Do It Better, which replaced the dirty artist-loft scrappiness of Troubleman’s aesthetic heyday with a cleaner, more blankly stylized po-mo disco shine, but with the glamour of the genre’s stereotypes replaced with a narcotic mile-long stare and a bevy of fluorescent machine tones. At some point along the way, Simonetti and Jewel parted company, leaving Italians under the latter’s care while Simonetti regrouped with a series of low-profile mixtapes, a handful of limited singles, and a new label co-curated by Mike Sniper of Blank Dogs and the Captured Tracks indie empire.
Italians Do It Better co-founder Mike Simonetti recently parted ways with the Italo label to start a new one, 2MR, and focus on his Pale Blue project with singers Elizabeth Wight and Jana Hunter, which he's described as a reaction to "modern dance music and its constant fluctuations" that "intentionally bears no obvious singles or club hits. " The Past We Leave Behind is definitely a record for the crib rather than the club, and firmly the work of someone with an affinity for specific aesthetics: the impressionist vocals and dreamlike atmosphere of 80s bands Cocteau Twins and the Glove, and the techy Italo analog rhythms and arpeggios that give an air of faded glamour to Wight and Hunter's detached vocals. The sprawling title track opener is the closest Pale Blue come to attaining a kind of transcendent ecstasy.