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Heathen Harvest reviews 'Don't Open Till Doomsday'

Heathen Harvest Magazine reviews 'Don't Open Till Doomsday'

by Jack the Ripper
1 May 2009

Very fond memories from my childhood come whenever I listen some of the classic hits from the 80's, vivid episodes are taken back: friendships, places, pleasures and sorrows, vital mischief and discovery, it's like a funny time machine game working inside the mind. Nevertheless, this doesn't happen with all kind of songs or authors. Some songs or even albums definitively mark the soundtrack from our lives while others simply don't. No wonder why many of the hits that mark a facet, that ultimately conform a file inside our memory leading to a full set of feelings and experiences correspond to historical pop hits then. These hits are not only related with our own life experience but with a global one, a mutual feeling and perception shared by millions of other souls that ultimately granted the song its historical status. Things that survive are the things that are representative for culture; a song is just a modern version on oral tradition, a tale about time events that keep a close relation with the individuals exposed to it. Only the important tales prevail, the strong ones, the ones charged with the magic and dimension of the instant that they ultimately capture. For some just a hit would constitute their fame while the rest of their work will remain obscured, some others instead, maintain an inspired insight that allows them to be in touch with the time they live into, the things that happens and the idiosyncrasy of the moment allowing them to expand their creation for decades, transforming their work into cult and to mark historical breakpoints even. When someone who has already inscribed his name in the annals of music history comes back with another project one may especially project an especial kind of attention over him.

This is the case of Alien Skin, a side project from the talented synth master George Pappas, ex member from the Australian band Real Life creators of the famous song "Send me an angel", a hit that got branded as one of the best synth pop songs from the 80's. "Don't open till doomsday" pays homage to classic 80's genres, worshiping its sensibility and love for synth melody in a more traditional sense but opening the door to experimental additions and contents bordering ambient psychedelia that at times reminds of Coil in its intricate arrangements and complex sonorities. A dark wave tone is also noticed that could be referenced with flirts with Martin L Gore solo works, as a matter of fact the melancholic tone given to the synth lines and the touch of darkened atmosphere landed in ambient textures and sophisticated digital and analog components remits to a defined influence in this direction. But there is a varied definition on his composition, an expanded colour palette is appreciated that adds a marginal tone and takes distance from a definitive imitation. His voice and some arrangements reminds of the experimental side from Marc Almond, mixing exoticism with romantic themes and somber backgrounds that intensify the aural expectation from the listener. His compositions are really meticulous, evidently dedicated to detail and subtleties, this is also appreciable on the vocal arrangements, changing tones and yet maintaining a natural flow that is both mellow and shady.

This music has an odd character, sometimes sensual and earthly while others is just like a lone abandoned spaceship floating in the immensity of space, this aspect could be related with the fact that the voice constitutes the organic component while the electronic ambience and rhythmic accompaniments are melancholic and cold, opaque in contrast. Tracks wander between typical analog synth-pop harmonies adorned with sophisticated digital textures and accompanied by downtempo rhythms filled with an organic touch and sometimes subtle electro infiltrations. Following the logic from this combination a modern act that could be coupled with this creation is Othon, minus the operatic side. Percussion is minimal but notably based on downtempo leanings, glitch details are found, micro beats and simplistic sequences that share sympathy with trip-hop and chill out. The preoccupation with melody and texture above rhythm results impressive and seducing and probably constitutes the principal ace along with the inclusion of modern technologies and sound additions, its relaxed chill out melancholia suits well in the night that falls over the city.

So the debut from Alien Skin constitutes a modernized version of synth-pop, avoiding the extreme simplicity from the beginnings of the genre and advancing into the sound of the future with their alliance of darkened ambience, coupling modern rhythmic synthesis and ultra polished finishes impress with its marvellous combination created, ultimately the whole union from these characteristics results exquisite, a strange potion with dark magic. Its beautiful evocation of melancholy through lyrical content dealing with varied thematic on dark love, loss, despair, solitude, ontological alien encounters and even an ambiguous notation on existential horror found in "Dust to ashes 1945" gives a glimpse on how vast the thematic form the work is and the experience from the author in terms of musical inspiration. Ultimately the work is solid as it uses the past on his favour, reviving dreams and evocations from it (as its structured in synth-pop basics) but adapting them into our times, our feelings and aesthetics condensing in it a contemporary universal experience. A modern tale is told by Alien Skin, ultimately a hit for the soul and the heart.

-- Jack The Ripper for Heathen Harvest
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