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Leviosa Hannah Pezzack , February 9th, 2021 09:08

Knekelhuis Records’ latest release is a testament to the unfettered cool of synthpop, finds Hannah Pezzack

In her writing on the “phantasmic cyborgs of early synthpop,” musicologist Judith A. Peraino points to the queer synthesis of the genre: its ability to meld robotic, computerised instruments with an all-too-human sentimentality. Think of The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me.’ Essentially the song is about someone who refuses to accept they’ve been dumped and yet, thanks to the deadpan electronic score, comes across as blasé. Or Gary Numan, looking disaffected in a dry, grey suit on an album sardonically titled The Pleasure Principle. 1980s synthpop was apt at capturing the ambivalent human condition in the technological age, refracted by lyrics on the simultaneous adulation and alienation of romantic love.

Composed of real-life partners Lou Savary and Luc Bersier, Reymour carry forward this droll, automaton spirit, inflecting it with psychedelic dimensions of minimal wave, rolling bass and infectious guitar. Opening track ‘Le flot de ces Mots’ (The Flow of Words) contains oscillating sweeps and a steady, drum-machine beat. Detached vocals – conjuring the static of analogue radio – are eerily less expressive than the synthetic melody. Throughout, Lou’s voice rises like unctuous fumes, as hazy as cigarette smoke or oil on water. The distorted, bi-lingual lyrics of ‘Holly Mother’ crackle and dissipate into a cloud. Together with stoic percussion and a smooth, waltz-like rhythm, the song (at least to Anglophone-ears) brings to mind New Wave French cinema and chansons. Picture the irreproachable love interest in a Jean-Luc Godard film, set to a retro-futurist soundtrack. Or Édith Piaf with a Moog accompaniment.

Titles such as ‘Je te tiens, Tu me tiens’ (I hold you, You hold me), which is immediately followed by ‘Au Rythme de l’Ennui’ (To the Rhythm of Boredom), seem to depict the familiar mundanity of living together as a couple, particularly in claustrophobic lockdown conditions. Yet Leviosa also emanates movement and travel, a theme that is encapsulated by the band’s recent emigration from their Alpine home in Switzerland to Brussels. Featuring experimental musician and Lyl Radio-host Low Bat, the duet ‘Dans l'oregon’ (In Oregon) swings lethargically, recalling the mythos of a cross-state, American car journey. At once danceable and introspective, Leviosa moves continuously between melancholia and amour, outer and inner worlds.

The album arrives on the Amsterdam-based Knekelhuis, a label that has released some of the most interesting, nostalgically tinged synth music to date, including Dutch cult-favourites De Ambassade. Fitting succinctly into the Knekelhuis discography, Leviosa is yet another testament to boss Mark van de Maat's cherry-picking capabilities.