Playing on Prefix is a feature on KCRW’s Music Blog in which writers from the eclectic music site Prefix hip you to what’s coming out of their computer speakers each week.
Much has been made of a late-’00s goth revival, and in their typical cringeworthy fashion, Internet hype artists coined the term “grave wave” to describe the indie world’s recent influx of doom and gloom.
While this may conjure up nightmarish visions of Robert Smith hairstyles and high school scaremongering, it’s actually produced some pretty great music: elegant, high-concept, and (though the asymmetrical coifs and monochrome stylings may fool you) decidedly modern.
Observe Automelodi, the brainchild of Montreal’s Xavier Paradis and one of many well-heeled coldwave acts on Brooklyn’s Wierd Records.
Automelodi’s eponymous full-length is a meticulously curated collection of post-punk gems — alongside Frank (Just Frank) and Xeno & Oaklander, one of many impressive, early-’80s-style LPs from Wierd last year. (It’s all too tempting to talk about the label as a sort of collective, singlehandedly guarding the altar of virtually forgotten synth groups.)
What distinguishes Paradis from his labelmates, most crucially, is his well-tuned ear for pop. Although Automelodi’s songs are as icy as they come — the tension of “Stylo-Bille,” for example, or the undercurrent of pounding percussion on “Rayons De Rien” — it’s all done with a romantic, Italo disco flourish that’s infectious and dance-floor ready.
“Buanderie Jazz” is the album’s most traditionally indie cut, a slice of C86-style pop with moody guitars drenched in reverb and the omnipresent throb of Paradis’s synthesizer work. One of Automelodi’s most immediate highlights, it’s been given new bounce in a remix by Plastic Flowers.
Stream “Buanderie Jazz” remix
Plastic Flowers is the one-man nom de plume of Tallahassee’s Sean Earl Beard, whose own brand of synthy dream-pop has made him a darling of Internet-era DIY. He’s re-imagined “Buanderie Jazz” as a fanciful blend of earworm-quality Bronski Beat synths and Nada!-era Death in June percussion — that is to say, it’s a playful, disco-ready introduction to 21st-century new wave.
Though unsigned, Plastic Flowers has captured the hard-to-impress hearts of New York’s insular synth elite; he’ll be playing a show at the Delancey with Blush Response and Dream Affair on March 25, proving that this new era of coldwave has legs well into spring.
By Hilary Beck