03 September 2010

Miami Horror: "Illumination"

We have been drowning in electronic music lately, which is not in and of itself a bad thing; however, in the past few years, so much electronic music has been led by nostalgia for the 80s and synthpop. Enter stage left: Miami Horror. Neither “sunny” nor “horrific,” this Australian quartet (started by producer/DJ Benjamin Plant) combines retro-disco, house music, electronic savvy, and solid craftsmanship to create their debut album “Illumination” (20 August 2010, available as an import in the USA as of 31 August 2010). Sure there are a few moments that are very 80s influences, I would not call this album synthpop, which in my eyes truly refers to the electropop of the early and mid-80s and the future musicians that follow that tradition. The references here are broader. Australians exist in musical reality that gives them complete exposure to the music scenes of North America and the UK, not to mention New Zealand, but at the same time has its own thriving, often time insular, scenes. As compared to other musicians on current bandwagons, this allows for Australians to really have more to pick and choose from, while allowing them to develop their own niches within musical scenes. Miami Horror is further evidence of this.

Opening with “Infinite Canyons,” you may be deceived that this experience may be heading towards a dark downtempo experience, but when “I Look to You” kicks in with that disco-esque guitar strumming, the party begins. What I like about the disco references on the album is that they are not all American. Think ABBA and Cerrone, so many of the references in style are eurodisco in nature. But, the references do not exist in isolation; they intertwine and dance with one another throughout the different tracks on the album. It gives each of these tracks a very distinct sound.

“Sometimes” has quickly become my favorite track on the album – and anyone who knows me could have guessed this right off the bat. With the New Order / Cure feel to the guitar (or is that a six-string bass), this song is definitely the most 80-esque on the album. Even the lyrics have that post-punk feel to it: “Sometimes, when all that’s lost remains, drink from the fountain of youth and never age again. Sometimes we jump across to every cloud, fly away, get lost, and never be found again.” The following track, “Moon Theory,” is the most haunting. With some acoustic strumming, competing ambient and quirky house electronic arrangements, a thriving bassline, and the most visceral vocals on the album (an amazing feat as the lyrics really do not facilitate this!), the song boasts many different elements that should be contradictory and conflicting, but mesh together into the most memorable listening experience.

As for the rest of the album, it runs the entire gambit. There are big songs, like “Grand Illusion,” and small, understated tracks like “Illuminated.” There is homage to the past, like “Echoplex,” and there are new takes on old musical style that takes a step into the future, like “Summersun.” And then there is the closing track, “Ultraviolet.” The album definitely ends with the most “rock-ish” track on the album; though it is unified with the rest of the album with its rhythm style, a thought should creep up in the back of your mind: they have more tricks in their bag than they are letting on to.

Miami Horror’s “Illumination” is a strong debut that pulls that proverbial bar a little bit higher this year. Inevitably, I am going to predict that they will be compared to another Australian favorite of mine, Cut Copy. No matter how much you love Cut Copy, resist the temptation of that lazy comparison – and I so hate lazy comparisons. Okay, they are both from Melbourne and they both are savvy with electronics, but let’s cut off the comparison there. Not to short change either band, Cut Copy is more analogous to sythpop and post-punk of the 80s, while Miami Horror extends their references towards the 70s and house. Ultimately, this is a party-ready album full of feel good music; and though there is a small theme running through the album, what is going to strike you is how infectious it really is, even if you typically do not fall for disco references.

Track Listing:
1. Infinite Canyons
2. I Look to You
3. Holidays
4. Summersun
5. Sometimes
6. Moon Theory
7. Echoplex
8. Imagination (I Want You to Know)
9. Grand Illusion
10. Soft Light
11. Illuminated
12. Ultraviolet

Keep up Miami Horror at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here are their videos for “Sometimes,” “Moon Theory,” and “I Look To You” from their Viemo Channel: Miami Horror.

Sometimes from Miami Horror on Vimeo.

Moon Theory from Miami Horror on Vimeo.

I Look To You from Miami Horror on Vimeo.

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