Release Date: Jul 19, 2011
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
All pop music is love and theft, and Soft Metals are particularly upfront about both. The arty Portland electronic duo formed in early 2009, with singer Patricia Hall and keyboardist/programmer Ian Hicks becoming a romantic couple not much later. The two recently did a mean cover of Throbbing Gristle's 1979 "Hot on the Heels of Love", a techno-predicting cult classic that mixes robotic arpeggios and steamy vocals (recalling Donna Summer's rapturous "I Feel Love" from a couple of years earlier) with the industrial pioneers' own creepy foreboding.
Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). If we examine the phrase “Soft Metals,” our thoughts extend in opposite directions along the timeline. On one hand, we might think of literally soft metals, lead and gold in particular, and remember alchemy and royalty; on the other, a vista opens out of cyborgs and synthetic flesh, of the body as soft assembly, the dehumanizing erotics of the post/modern machine age (or, as the opening track has it, a Ballardian “Psychic Driving”).
What with the retro-flavoured synth revival in full swing, it's getting to the point where it's possible to isolate a series of reference points that hold true for a striking volume of 2011's underground(ish) music. The most obvious is the whole sepia-tinted, bottom-of-a-swimming-pool approach that's proceeded to drench bedroom pop since last year's emergence of chillwave (itself frustratingly responsible for eclipsing a great deal of excellent music working a similar aesthetic in genuinely interesting and provocative ways, rather than treading through insipid nostalgia trips clad in swimming shorts and big sunglasses). Then there's another swathe of music taking audible influence from 70s and 80s sci-fi and horror flicks - the likes of Hyetal, Xander Harris and Gatekeeper in particular have cited John Carpenter's soundtracks as a major inspiration, and Leyland Kirby's recent Intrigue & Stuff records harked back to the uneasy drift of Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack.