Broken Spear - True
(2016 Pedicure Records)
A heat-warped 7" single's worth of post-human synthpop augmented by an LP-length collection of plunderphonics experimentation, unzipping your copy of Broken Spear's True feels like inadvertently acquiring a cursed Limewire torrent of a Pet Shop Boys album in the mid-2000s. The latest Pedicure Records release is a pop album in the loosest sense of the word: though awash in Sprite®-fizz effervescence and infectious new-wave hooks, True revels in virtual surreality.
Broken Spear courteously opens the album with its most accessible offering, True's title cut, a clumslily tender take on 80's club music that attempts to extract indications of the human condition from powdery synthesizer chords and the hollow anatomies of SecondLife avatars. Guest vocalist Maria Ivanova's eurobeat-inspired stanzas are so inundated with digital effects that they begin to resemble the compressed chunks of syllables unconsciously communicated by text-to-speech software. Despite their eerie artificiality, there is still a faint whisper of mortality imbued within Ivanova's delivery: a sense of urgency that still desires to appreciate the glow of a laptop's "sleep mode" light in a darkened room.
"L.E.D. / Cause the blue is all we need" // "it might all be over soon"
Its counterpart, "Julius", snaps a retrospective image of the Human League's aggressively catchy new-romance through the filtered, lo-fi lens of Ariel Pink and John Maus. Mystery-collaborator Julius Metal provides the sneer-supplemented delivery of an 80's teen flick's football-captain antagonist. Arpeggiated synths oscillate wildly like mirrorball reflections to the shuffling of drum machine hi-hats.
Over the course of True's next 14 tracks, Broken Spear drapes macerated Avril Lavigne choruses and CD-skipped post-grunge tunes in a sanitized shroud of glassy mall-jazz synthesizers. Though similar in approach to the skittering sound collages cut-and-pasted by Oneohtrix Point Never, True's caffeinated, decadent demeanor acts as an antithesis to Daniel Lopatin's ascetic avant-techno - the shockingly anthemic transition from tertiary-toned mid-00s R'n'B to one of the corniest hair metal breakdowns I've heard this side of classic rock radio is a moment of intensely concentrated pop bliss. The pitch-shifted vocal chops sewn into the mix, meant to resemble a stadium-rock outfit's six-string shreddage, are a thick layer of icing liberally applied to an already saccharine cake.
At its core, True is a pastiche of guilty pleasures - a chaotic regurgitation of discarded pop tropes that is surprisingly consistent in its ability to derive vibe-able tunes from the minced remains of bargain-bin discs. Why reach for the car radio dial when Broken Spear can provide a Cubist perspective of all channels at once?