The gravity is so faithless…
SCALA is an electronic pop project and the brainchild of Frankfurt-based producer and songwriter Peter Johansson. Featuring vocals from Chiara Tahnee, the new outfit’s first release is the 5-track EP:01, featuring songs that have a distinctly retro feel to them, but which keep the melodies crisp and modern at the same time.
Initially, SCALA focussed on remix work, with Swedish outfits such as Electric City Cowboys and 1984 benefitting from the service. Prior to this, Johansson was involved with GLAS with Christian Bayard, a musical venture that featured the vocal talents of Helena Wigeborn (Train To Spain). GLAS produced the stately Nordic moods of ‘Ögon’ that benefitted from Wigeborn’s fragile vocals.
Johansson’s latest venture builds on the foundations that GLAS established, crafting icy synth tunes with a certain European flavour. SCALA exhibit a big reliance on driving beats on their compositions, which keeps things moving, but that’s also matched with a keen ear for catchy melodies and subtly layered electronics. There’s something reminiscent of indie ‘supergroup’ Twins Natalia here, with a nod towards classic synth-pop stylings matched with a Teutonic vocal style.
‘Weightless’ is undoubtedly one of the EP’s finest moments. The engaging synth melodies and robust rhythms are matched effortlessly with Chiara Tahnee’s siren-like vocals. There’s a lightness of touch about this track, yet it still retains an ironically weighty power at its heart.
The more strident ‘Silence’ follows on, delivering synth-pop with attitude. The composition is peppered with drum fills and marching rhythms, while Tahnee delivers striking lines such as “Hear the silence that cuts through the room/Ringing like a sonic fucking boom”. Not surprisingly, ‘Silence’ is also a track being mooted as part of Artefaktor Radio’s Top 50 songs of the year.
Meanwhile, there’s a much more angular element to the dynamic ‘Fake’ with its starker electronic edges. Here, Tahnee’s vocals are much more forward in the mix, exploring themes of authenticity (“I play the role/I fake control”).
‘More’ weaves in some suitable 80s-style synth moods with its curious musings on Wall Street and the money trade, along with some familiar pop culture quotes (“Greed is good”).
Closing the EP out, ‘Forgive’ is an unashamed love letter to classic synth-pop with its percussive fills, Speak & Spell samples and sampled orchestral stabs.
SCALA doesn’t try to hide a certain love for retro electropop, but it’s also a venture that Peter Johansson wisely keeps clear of pastiche. The compositions are kept simple and to the point, but with a flourish for arrangement and production. As a result, there’s an oddly timeless quality to SCALA and, at its heart, this EP offers surprisingly addictive pop tunes. What more can you ask for?
EP:01 is out now.