July 16, 2019

Future Islands - In Evening Air (2010)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Synth Pop
Label Number: THRILL 235

© 2010 Thrill Jockey
Review by Zach Kelly for Pitchfork.com
Future Islands have described their first full-length for Thrill Jockey, recorded after relocating to Baltimore and falling in with Dan Deacon's Wham City collective, as "post-wave." Taking cues from early Devo and New Order and replacing the dance-pop movement with rich characterization and storytelling, they've found themselves at a pleasant distance from most formal genre comparisons. Their music is playful but steeped in subtle detail, with both emotional heft and a pungent sense of theatricality.
Playing together since their college days in North Carolina but not truly finalizing the band until 2006, the trio seems comfortable bouncing ideas off each other while remaining anchored in their individual roles. J. Gerrit Welmers' synth work reinterprets those crystalline new wave textures and enhances them with feedback and buttery depth, sometimes accented with sparse snippets of programmed drums and rusted samples. But Future Islands avoid cluttering their music, allowing bassist William Cashion (a Peter Hook disciple if there ever was one) to direct the ship with his undulating plunks and strums, stringing the rest of these mercurial details along with him.
Any talk of Future Islands is bound to come back to scene-stealing frontman Samuel T. Herring, a dramatic, verbose showman eager to spin each one of these lush but simply-stated orchestrations into something grander. At times wailing like a cross between Tom Waits and the Sea Captain from "The Simpsons" (nicely exemplified at the stirring peak of "An Apology"), occasionally adopting a strange British patois to augment a sort of sing-speak, Herring's presence is over-the-top in just the right way. He often seems overwhelmed by tragedy (usually waxing cryptic about lost love), and brings a great sense of damage and loss-- as well as welcome spots of humor-- to each acrobatic performance. But what he uncovers in the patches of calypso, sci-fi movie noise, and circling synth patterns is often surprisingly heartening. Drawing from a few different traditions while making them their own, Future Islands prove here to be a well-versed group of wild, woolly storytellers.

tags: future islands, in evening air, 2010, flac,


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