In the same way PARRALOX’s ‘Electricity’ was a homage to the then brave new world of digitally sequenced electropop, MAISON VAGUE’s debut harks back to an earlier stage of Synth Britannia.
Consisting of lone American-born keyboardist / programmer Clark Stiefel, the title track of MAISON VAGUE’s album was initially a reaction to a YouTube video entitled ‘Synthpop Is Dead’. Totally disagreeing with its creator, Clark responded but instead of speaking his protest, he sang it in a classic synthpop style.
The opening salvo of “Everyone’s entitled to opinion… you have yours and well I have mine. And though it seems that our opinions differ… you’ll agree in time!” could be the sound of PLACEBO gone electro. Featuring lots of organic synth sounds and rich vintage soloing, some clever programming helps to provide a fluid as opposed to mechanical rhythm section to give it heart and soul.
With a template of GARY NUMAN meets DEVO, among the other tracks from the album, the brilliant ‘Give Them Away’ takes its lead from ‘The Pleasure Principle’and in particular ‘Observer’ but is developed into a far more complete composition. It also finishes with a simulated violin solo that recalls ULTRAVOX’s Billy Currie who incidentally played on that very Numan album. Its second cousin ‘Buried In Sandstone’ is also decidedly Numan-esque while ‘My Situation’ takes its inspiration from THE HUMAN LEAGUE.
Changing the tempo slightly, the reggae stabbed electro of ‘Tunnel Vision’ recalls late 90s cult combo BAXENDALE and lifts in the chorus via some lovely layers of string machine. As a whole, ‘Synthpop’s Alive’ combines aggression with eccentricity although a sly tongue-in-cheek irony allows the listener to have fun and not take it all too seriously!
With thanks to Jer White at Pansentient League
Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th February 2011