Collins' released the fantasticly dark Secret Admirer EP early last year, reviewed on Synthetix here, and I for one instantly became a fan of his dark minimalist synthpop sound. His use of vocals and guitars were sublime and made for a wonderfully menacing experience. With his new album released recently it's time to take a ride into the darker parts of the 80s inspired synth scene and as the blackness envelopes us we'll try to resist Collins' Animal Magnetism.
Animal Magnetism is an eight track diatribe of total conviction and condemnation of the principles of love. The record's tone is thoroughly enveloping as Collins' gift for adding darker emotions into minimalistically oriented soundscapes has developed even greater maleficence with a sting and bite that penetrates deeply, leaving scars that refuse to heal.
It's this tone that seethes and festers from the opening chapter, Heartbreaker, and spreads like a virus throughout the entire album. The real clincher for this is sample used in Heartbreaker which is warped just enough to make the words "I have this really huge crush on..." sound like the most diabolical threat possible. The pain of love in it's unrequited or broken form drives Animal Magnetism into a downward spiral that drags the listener into their own personal nightmare, but theres another force at play throughout this journey, am I the victim or the villain?
As the second piece whispers it's demonic intentions to you there begins to permeate an air of cat and mouse in Collins' new album. "Serenade" features a fantastic vocal track performed by Ana Gabriela Accioly that serves as a playful ying to Heartbreaker's yang with a femine touch that is haunting and enticing. This showing of both-sides-of-the-story, even if they are unrelated shows, a masterfully executed arrangement by the composer.
When the third chapter begins, it becomes clear that the opening stanzas were merely a taster of what was to come. "The Sacred" is one of the most tortured and terrifying experiences I've had in 80s inspired synth music. From the distorted and distended melodies to the conviction of the vocal track it all combines into a nightmarish vision of the power of the scorned and betrayed. Marvellous from beginning to end.
Something from way out of left field takes place in the fourth act of Animal Magnetism. It's entirely unexpected but an entirely perfect fit within the context of the record. "Fallen" is Collins' reworking and renvisioning of the classic Julee Cruise song Falling, made famous in the Twin Peaks TV series. The original of this track is haunting enough, but Collins' new spin takes the musical elements and paints them even darker. The guitar track on this is utterly entrancing and the bassline provides the perfect accompaniment. "Fallen" is outstanding in every respect and gives a very welcome insight into Collins' creative process.
Moving into the next chapter we're drawn into a spatial and smooth ambience sliced with the panic of passion and accented by more of Collin's esoteric guitars. "We Were The Ones" serves as a short interlude between tracks, but for me it makes for the perfect scene setting intro for the next experience; the brilliantly titled "Coping Mechanism". The sounds become a tad more buoyant in this piece, it's a faltering rise that breaks down into a complete tragedy, making the denial of opening emotion decay into a tear streamed act of fist pounding loathing. The story told is relatable and lamentable, it speaks to the listener in a knowing and understanding way, but there is no solace in the complexity of the tattered emotions on display.
Animal Magnetism's stand out song for me is definitely the second last track "If Looks Could Kill". Collins' takes you out to the disco in an italo tinged meeting of passion and violence. The hook of the main synth melody is totally irresistible, the vocal is absolutely perfect and percussion work is stunning. This song is well rooted in the classic late 70s disco with a nod to the classic "I Feel Love" colouring the atmosphere, but it's the Collins magic that takes this experience into a whole new plane of danger.
The final chapter of the album once again finds inspiration from Twin Peaks in "Walk With Me". Enlisting extra guitar work from Johnny Accioly adds another layer to this composition which is much more reflective than vengeful. Synths are kept to positive ends of the spectrum as the reprise coerces the listener rather than commands them. Moods are kept uncertain however, and the ending asks more questions than it answers but it leaves one satisfied in the fact they've survived the experience and lived to love another day.
This album shows how much Collins has developed as a musician over the last twelve months. His way of making the thematic work through different styles with each element completely complimentary to the others is a marvel to behold. It's a testament to the quality of this experience and a sure sign we're going to become more intimately acquainted with this producer in the future.
Animal Magnetism is presented by Telefuture Records on their Bandcamp page here available as a digital download and also available for purchase as a limited edition on cassettte, which pleases me greatly. This release comes highly recommended by Synthetix and I hope it takes you to the dark, uncomfortable but totally exciting places it took me.