(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, April 26, 2010

CD review - Deluka, Deluka EP (2010)

The cool thing about retro is that there's so much to choose from. Of course, many lesser bands fall into the trap of irrelevance. Deluka uses their 5 song EP to explore a series of synth pop oriented influences from the '80s, ranging from Duran Duran to Blondie. The quartet updates the sound with a modern dance pop sensibility. Despite the focus on synthesizers and tight beats, the guitar work is particularly interesting. Kris Kovaks and singer Ellie Innocenti have worked out some tight riffs that complement the songs and add some depth. There's clearly a love of new wave arrangements, but it's all in the service of making tight pop masterpieces.

The EP leads off with Cascade, a shimmery synth pop that hearkens back to the band, Berlin. Ellie Innocenti doesn't sound like Terri Nunn, but otherwise, they've captured that drive. It's got a danceable beat and the interlocking keyboard parts form a smooth simple groove.

The fade out on Cascade lulls the ear before the sharp start of OMFG. It's choppy, with some cool mutant guitar fills that were clearly influenced by Adrian Belew. It's rooted in a modern pop as it deconstructs a new wave backing track. Any of the more interesting pop femmes could have made this, but they wouldn't have had the same edge.

Angular guitar fills balance the tight groove in Finito. The guitar work on the bridge adds context for the earlier riffs. The song picks up tension leading into a contrasting chant: The boy, the girl. This builds into the root of Finito's irreconcilable differences: The boy won't give her a straight answer, the girl won't ask him a straight question. The vocals here evoke a touch of Debbie Harry.

Wake Me Up starts out like Duran Duran, but by the end of the chorus, it's exploring the same musical space that the Arctic Monkeys do with their dancier songs. The sequencing is clean and the production work (stuttering parts, selectively echoed phrasing) has a thoroughly contemporary feel.

Mixed Messages updates an old Missing Persons feel. There's a driving rock beat underneath the pop groove. The chiming keyboard accents blend perfectly. Innocenti has some nice vocal phrasing to keep things interesting and impart some mixed messages of her own.

Deluka's take on synth pop remains organic and interesting. These five songs were all fairly catchy. It will be really interesting to see how they would fill out a full album. Of course, albums are less important today as consumers shift to buying singles. So, maybe the EP is the right release vehicle to reach their audience. In any case, Deluka's EP is like a perfect Kir Royale: sweet and a little tart, with a drying complexity to balance.

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