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Pale Blue Eyes
Souvenirs Irina Shtreis , August 30th, 2022 08:36

The debut album of the Devonian trio sugar-coates memories with bubbling synths and dancefloor beats, finds Irina Shtreis

First impressions can be deceptive. The beginning of Pale Blue Eyes’ Souvenirs suggests that the band doesn’t care too much whether the album is treated as background music or an experience that requires concentration. Although pleasant sounding, most songs have no immediate melodic hooks. After a while, it becomes clear that Souvenirs is more sophisticated than a name which refers ostensibly to tacky objects from seaside shops. Multiple components speak for the musical background of the band’s members. Krautrock guitar riffs on ‘Under Northern Sky’, bubbling sci-fi synths on ‘Star Vehicle’ bringing parallels to Delia Derbyshire's radiophonic experiments, and the wacky intro of ‘Dr Pong’, slightly reminiscent of Magazine’s ‘Sweetheart Contract’. These allusions might not fully outline Pale Blue Eyes’ creative intentions. Yet, such associations – as well as the band’s name – create an echo chamber where various ideas coexist in a single dimension.

Two of the three members of the band, Matt and Lucy Board, are art college graduates. With a specific reference to the late 70s experimental electronic and alternative scene (Lucy wrote her thesis on Cabaret Voltaire), they define their musical roots as modernist. This hints at different elements, both internal and external. Bassist Aubrey Simpson is said to be a Motown fan. The album was mixed and mastered by Dean Honer, a member of electronic music duo I Monster, who worked with the Human League and Róisín Murphy. Perhaps it is Honer’s involvement and Simpson’s Motown-influenced groove that gives this record its impeccable dancefloor touch.

Each composition is a dreamscape, with the layers of synths seemingly sugarcoating the memories that summoned the songs. There is a place for fantasy. Pulsey ‘TV Flicker’ conjures up a transition between earthly reality and extraterrestrial worlds. The ethereal pads and undulating arpeggios on ‘Dr Pong’ create a whirlpool of sound akin to the fast-forwarded swirling ocean in Tarkovsky’s Solaris. The phantasmagorical effervescence on ‘Champagne’ is balanced with the steady bass and drum pattern. This combination of sparkling lightness and the tangible resonance of the drums is one of the album's highlights.

Although Souvenirs is a daring record, there is a feeling that the Pale Blue Eyes’ fantastic spacecraft is suspended in the air before the real take-off. Perhaps, they are about to define the direction for the creative journey. Would be great to see them reaching for upper regions of space.