I’ve been following Scenius since their first single release, and with each release I’ve been more impressed. So the surprising news – the duo haven’t been working together that long – that an album was to be released was something I heard with happiness.
And before you dive into this review – do make sure you come back now, won’t you – you can read about the duo and this album in an interview I did recently.
The opening song – ‘Make It Shiny’ – sets out the band’s stall musically. Let’s divert briefly.
You can expect electronica from them. The music has that early 80s electronica feel but with something that says it’s of now, it’s moody and dark. It’s meticulously put together, crafted. With great words – sometimes it’s not immediately obvious what a song is about – sung fabulously.
Anyway let’s get back to ‘Make It Shiny‘. If you’re one of those people who want a FFO, here goes; later Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, early Human League. And the title might get you thinking that it’s something of a happy bouncy song but it isn’t it’s moody.
‘Some Of Your Nights’ has a feel I can only describe as rainy late night. It blends smooth sounds – I get a hint of Roxy Music but you can insert your own, and even Soft Cell – with of the most outrageously retro sounding synths I’ve heard in a long time. It’s a joy, it’s huge and epic sounding.
Ever since I first heard ‘Wild And Wooly’ (it was released as a single) there’s been something bugging me about it. It has this skittering and bass sequence intro and that intro runs through the track. I’ve been trying to work out what it reminds me of, and suddenly as I write this I got it, it reminds me of the skittering and bass line that runs through ‘White Lines’ – it’s not the same as that exactly but it has that feel. Over this is laid what I can only describe as weaving melodic rhythm patterns, huge synth lines. Because the rhythm patterns are not the same tempo this song has an edge that is uncomfortable, but in a very good way.
‘Less Than Dreams’ musically is retro electronica. At the start you basically hear a rhythm pattern, a synth pattern and vocals before it adds extra richer sounds, breaks down into tumbling notes, adds bass synth sounds before breaking into sometime richer and layered. It sounds grand, theatrical, even slightly proggy at points. It’s a journey into sound.
The title track – ‘Enough Fears’ – has something of an OMD feel, it’s sweeping and melodic. A sweet sweet vocal. But are they satisfied with this, no way. Scienus add in some somewhat jarring bass synth lines. Edgy synth creeps in, it breaks into a burst of synth patterns, the sweeping melodic sounds creep back in, it starts to all break down. But you see this isn’t what it sounds like. Listening to it you are led through the track as it twists, as it does the unexpected.
‘Held’ is beautiful. Rich synth over washes of sound, a repeating bass line, tinkling synth sounds. Vocals that take an age to come into but are deep in the mix, more a sound than a vocal. It has that same feel that some of the Bladerunner soundtrack has.
There are times when I wish I’d tried harder with French and ‘Superposés’ is one of those times. The words to this song are in French (the singer and lyric writer – Fabrice Nau – is French), The vocals are wonderful. The song itself has a great, really earwormy tune,. I just wish I could understand the words.
We are back in really retro electronica sounds with ‘Cookie Cutter’ but it’s not straight retro electronica. It’s warped, sounds bend and twist. There’s something of a rave feel very slightly in there. ‘Like Our Bones’ is another big sounding track – huge synths, layers and layers of sounds. Mysterious sounding words.
‘Stark Relief’ is moody and dark. It’s a song made up of weaving patterns of sound, swelling synth sounds. Over which a brooding vocal is heard. At times the sounds are unexpected, a strident sound over that sweeping melodic sound. I get sounds of post-punk electronic music. It’s a track that sounds visual, I see a dark B&W video, things in the shadows, a sterile cityscape. The closing track – ‘Darkest Lines’ – continues the sound feel that ‘Stark Relief’ has. It has a somewhat Germanic feel.
I guess that some of you might be asking where this sits – is it experimental electronica, is it pop, is it electronica you can dance to. The answer is that it can be two of those things or even all three at the same time. But there’s more to what Scenius do than that. The thing is that although their music is made using synths – old synths – and drum machines, these are merely the tools that they use to make music, their music. And their music has depth, it has feeling, it has a heart, it’s human. It conveys emotion. It has, and this is important, soul.
This album is a keeper, it’s one of those albums that you keep ready for the appropriate moment. And every time you listen to it, you’ll hear something new, you’ll get something new from the songs.