Release Date: Jun 21, 2011
Record label: !K7
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
That Danish quartet When Saints Go Machine would inspire a bit of fan art specifically referencing a similar Depeche Mode photo shot from 1993 would seem to indicate what's at work on the group's second album, Konkylie. It's a bit of misdirection, though -- if anything, the electronic exploration and understated rigor on their exquisite 2011 release comes from Depeche's mid-'80s era and, more to the point, only makes one small part of the whole. A large part of the appeal lies in lead singer Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild, who's been tagged as a new Arthur Russell but whose voice slightly suggests, if anyone, Antony Hegarty.
Electronic pop has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. In Sweden, The Knife injected a chilly, economical sound with a buried, aching humanity and theatrical costumes and staging; Karin Andersson's Fever Ray solo project elaborated on the theme, mixing the magical and the mundane. The music for the ambitious electro-opera, Tomorrow, in a Year, helped introduce collaborator and cult star Planningtorock to a wider audience - from Berlin via her hometown of Bolton, PTR (aka Janine Rostron) combines high art, gender politics and pop into something that rings true on both conceptual and personal levels.
The absurdly-named electro-pop quartet When Saints Go Machine makes music that’s both unforgettable and frustrating, and mostly for the same reason: the singer’s voice. Nikolaj Vonsild’s falsetto is a dark and throaty thing, and his vibrato is visible from space. In every song, Vonsild’s voice hits its sweet spot like an arrow hitting a bullseye, quivering with passion and pleasure.
It’s awfully hard to walk the precarious tightrope walk between sacred cow adoration and outright plagiarism. The Copenhagen avant-electro group When Saints Go Machine succeeds in their task by creating not only a moody send-up to Arthur Russell, but brilliant chamber music of their own accord. Konkylie (“conch” in Danish) is the name of that accomplishment and the full-length’s echoic sound design definitely reverberates like a seashell.The warm, analog synthesizers on the tribal-pop prism “Church and Law” and the bittersweet summer romance earworm “Kelly” take on onomatopoeic tones.