Samaris - Black Lights - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Samaris - Black Lights

by Justin Pearson Rating:7 Release Date:2016-06-10

Icelandic indie trio Samaris return with Black Lights, their third album of otherworldly electronic pop. Where before their mystery was further enhanced by lyrics sung in their native tongue, the veil has now been lifted to reveal sentiments that match the atmosphere of their songs. It's their first album in English, and it's also the first time they've been so relatable. The melodies here are more definitive, expressive, giving voice to inward meditations on life within the construct of love. Movement is less subtle than before, and shifts occur more frequently, so that as a whole it quakes and rattles, even if not entirely shattering. For a subdued band whose magic is most dazzling in low-lit, dusky conditions, they seem to have turned the dial up a little on the energy that trembles through much of their past work without losing grasp of the DNA strand that makes them unique.

When the album works, it works quite well. Most of the songs are solid while still maintaining that drifting, liquid-like quality they've come to embody so well. There's a careful balance of bright pop and loose experimentation that lend a seamlessness to its more polished moments. Opening track 'Wanted 2 Say' has a twinkling, night sky synth that lights the song from a lofty space while Jófríður Ákadóttir's vocals work like gloss to coat its uneven, skittering-beat surface. The drowning danger of a lyric like "Tread the water or you die" feels more like an invitation than the warning that it is.

The passionate, dripping bass-patters of 'T4ngled' are all sensuality, even if its subject matter concerns an inner struggle to accept the tenuous promises of another: "Your words got me tangled/ Your whispers are soft as silk." There's an aching sense of melancholy in the weary, mournful synth that follows. The ambient techno of 'In Deep' also benefits from an equally logical juxtapostion with the distant sound of a clarinet in the mood-heavy background.

The twitching beats of 'Black Lights' compliment the opposing forces of light and dark, and how sometimes there's comfort to be found in both extremes: "White lights/ In the distance/ Black lights/ When they close down/ It's hard to disguise/ When you want them to find you/ When the vaults open and the rain falls/ Washes away the tar/ But it won't undo/ Come back to me..."

Throughout, the album is capable of a quiet power, even when it relies at times on wispiness and formlessness like the brief 'Gradient Sky' that's a little too unchanging, feeling more like a drawn out interlude than a proper song. Similarly, '3y3' seems minor in the scope of the album, but both songs still occupy necessary slots to fully express the intention of its journey.

With Black Lights there's a marked shift in sound and direction. Taken out of context, you could read the lyrics of 'T3mp0' to be aimed at the listener: "I can see our tempo/ What is your tempo/ Can you keep up with the driving force?" That force is still riding in the air stream of mystique that pervaded previous releases, only it's higher now and more commanding, navigating on a plane with a wide open view toward the future. It's a fitting, accessible entry into a catalogue that should hopefully now gain the recognition it deserves.

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