10 March 2009

Superoscope: "Mechanism"

If like me, you grew up on a steady diet of electronic body music (EBM) / electro-industrial, such as Nitzer Ebb and Front 242, and have been whetting your appetite for a new band in this tradition that is more than just imitation, you don’t have to wait any longer. Hailing from New York City, Superoscope is a duo composed of Lee Rock and Ex Tymon. Their debut album, “Mechanism,” is going to wow you away.

It may be easy to dismiss this album as something pastiche, but I am reminded of what T.S. Eliot said: “Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.” These guys may have ignored the development of electronic music that the likes of Blank and Jones and the Prodigy capitalized on, they may have also ignored the integration of more traditional elements of music that Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails have infused into their music, but “Mechanism” is not a dreary ode to the past. Quite the opposite, Rock and Tymon may have learned (and stolen) from the past, but they have incorporated new elements to EBM. In today’s upbeat world of happy love songs and never ending superficiality, their music mirrors the dark tensions and anxiety of what the real world is like but we fear to face.

The opening track, “Body Language,” has a harrowing feel to it; like Bjork’s “Enjoy,” there is a sexual tension to the rhythm, always on the verge of breaking into dance, but keeping you in check in the early stages of foreplay. You know those stages, where one is feeling skin, smelling skin, tasting skin… Aptly, the lyrics start “I like the color of skin, sweet and moist skin.” “Hypersensitivity” demonstrates a minimalism common in EBM, but what makes this song stand out is how the texture of the music changes from movement to movement. There isn’t this stagnant repetition of beats and/or mood; percussion elements are introduced and then disappear, while keyboard sounds and arrangements typical of late 80s dance music (“Vogue”) grace the song. “Antilove” has a spy-esque feeling to it. A journey through different textures, the song combines traditional elements of music, static, and a cacophony of sounds – and if love is supposed to be serene and pristine, this song is sonically just the opposite.

More experimental tracks are included on the album, such as “Will I Ever Get Enough,” incorporating human breaths into the percussion, and “Universal Girl,” best described as a study in sound. The closing track, “I Believe in Your Strength,” is more reminiscent of the dream pop / shoegazing of Curve than EBM. Ambient, airy vocal arrangements drowned out by music, the song still incorporates a rhythm style that falls short of letting the beat drop. (This is the kind of song that is ripe for an underground house remix.)

Overall, continuing the tradition of great New York City bands (Blondie, Interpol, Scissor Sisters), this is a solid album that not only reflects the musical past, but points in a new direction of possibilities for rejuvenated old ideas and a music scene dominated by more standard line-ups. This is a five-star album. Sure, perhaps a little impersonal, perhaps a little inaccessible, but you have to remember, it was written by New Yorkers, what more could you expect?

Track Listing:
1. Body Language
2. Will I Ever Get Enough
3. Hypersensitivity
4. Sine Wave
5. Antilove
6. Opus Qwerty
7. Name
8. Love Simulator
9. Universal Girl
10. I Believe in Your Strength

Check out the band on their homepage and/or MySpace.