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Blaqk Audio – Beneath the Black Palms
Beneath the Black Palms - BMG
I don’t listen to a lot of EDM inspired synth-pop, but when I do, I listen to Blaqk Audio. I was first introduced to the electro-pop duo through Davey Havok and Jade Puget’s long running goth-punk act, AFI, but somewhere along the way I started extracting the most enjoyment from their side project, Blaqk Audio, over their origin. Based on where the duo has been spending most of their time and release schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised if Havok and Puget felt similarly.
It’s been an interesting road for Blaqk Audio, one filled with sonic ecstasy and experimentation every step of the way. From the band’s rather simplistic beginnings, the project has always been about pressing onwards, finding new and innovative ways to evolve their dance-laden style without compromising their sinfully catchy core. Their latest full length, Beneath the Black Palms, is playful in that the duo is comfortable diversifying their tempo, slowing things down for a dreamy ebb and flow that ensures fans have something a little outside their norm.
Opener “Concort” kicks things off with a shining example of the Blaqk Audio you’ve come to know and love. Before long the band explodes into a chorus that marries ’80s style synths and ‘90s leaning electro beats, delivering a pulse pounding first track. It’s simple, invigorating and oh so rewarding to play on repeat, with “Zipper Don’t Work” following on a similar note. Tracks like “A Distant Light” represent the band’s black-light-goth-dance-party-anthem side, leveraging Havok’s haunting, Depeche Mode-esque vocals with an ominous sense of deviancy. “Hiss” and “Bird Sister” draw similar inspiration, feeling like they would be a snug fit on the Stranger Things soundtrack.
But from here on out the band diversifies, exhibiting the courage to explore some minimalist electronic soundscapes. These aren’t tracks that will translate to the dancefloor – unless perhaps people are open to a little fluorescent, neon slow dancing. “1948” is a slow moving collection of rising and fading electronic tones, conjuring dark, mysterious imagery against Havok’s hushed whispers. Others like “Burnt Babies Fear The Fire” are a little more active, boasting more complex arrangements, but still present uniquely. “It’s Not Going Well” makes for a slow moving but fully fleshed out take on Blaqk Audio’s reduced tempo offerings. The track is unlikely to be a go to classic, but in terms of filling out an album, it does round out Beneath the Black Palms with greater variation.
The only song that left me a little confused was “Fish Bite,” which feels a little like an adult alternative easy-listening ballad (or something along those lines). That’s not necessarily an insult, it just felt like a rocking Kenny G solo was imminent, especially with the piano, jangly chimes and instances of female chanting stealthily echoing Havok for a brief moment. It actually felt like the band was holding back and could have really committed to the “cheese” more fully instead of stopping just shy of the cusp.
Beneath the Black Palms marks another energizing offering by Blaqk Audio. In this world of long, dull, COVID-19 quarantine days, anything that ups the energy in our otherwise mundane lives is more than welcome. Beneath the Black Palms is the type of album that can spice up any of your rather vanilla daily routines (I should know, I was grooving to it while cleaning my bathrooms over the weekend). Beneath the Black Palms is a more sonically ambitious and diversified offering, but retains that trademark Blaqk Audio style. Fans of retro style electro-pop will find plenty to enjoy with this one.