Soft Error - Mechanism

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:6 Release Date:2017-01-13

Soft Error's new album, Mechanism, is probably best described as ambitious. The set aspires to great heights, and often achieves them, although its reach sometimes exceeds its grasp as it lashes out in all directions. There are probably at least three different types of song in here, with a little overlap but quite a bit of separation between the various spaces.

The first group is the dramatic. Opener 'Silberblick' is impressive, starting with a humble piano and slowly building itself with layers and layers of synths, until the full vision is briefly realized, a place of misty mountaintops and sweeping vistas. It then dissipates back to its simple beginnings with a few sparse chords. The effect is nicely intense, and a worthy stage setter. 'You Caught Up 1' has an almost shoegaze feel, with some odd echoes and bits of strumming guitar worked into the mix, and a good amount of expansive chords. 'Southbend After Everyone Has Left' is extremely sparse, with gentle strings and pads giving it a very new age feel.

The second group is the meditative. 'Hyena' has a deep, percolating interplay between treble and bass synths, with an almost tribal feel to the simulated percussion, and an assortment of percolating synths to keep things moving along. The occasional distorted burbling is either a nice flourish or an annoying distraction; it's difficult, at times, to decide which. 'Ridges' takes a similar approach with the drums, but adds in some creepy strings that keep things unsettled and give a feeling of uneasy anticipation.

The third group is the straightforward. These include 'Bad Habits', a real highlight, which leads with a solid synth melody and mixes in cinematic strings to create a vibrating, numinous experience. 'Turncoat' is another, ditching the bombast and going instead for late 70s space mission vibe, driven by a piping synth and big pads before the almost post rock centerpiece arrives with its tom toms beats and warbly melody. 'Motorbath' has big floaty guitar licks bracing the synth leads, but doesn't get as fancy as some of the other tunes. The album closes with a sweet, benign little tune called 'Everybody Runs'. It has a simple two-piece melody composed of a small, pure synth, and a janglier bit that plod along delicately before the whole thing explodes into action. The frenetic middle section is happily reminiscent of someone like Bauer, just steamrolling along like a train made of cotton candy.

The mix of strategies makes it difficult to categorize or pigeonhole the album. It takes cues from a lot of genres and their associated sensibilities. The overall effect is that there's a little bit for everyone, but the lack of focus gives the set a disjointed feeling that makes it hard to settle into a groove of expectations.

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