FAKELOVEMUSIC 2nd October 2015
This couldn’t possibly be any more European / British New Romantic cum Post-Punk – but it comes from China. Chock full of retro synth sounds, guitar effects and moody alienation, this channels the early eighties from its portentous bass to its choppy guitar. It is somehow right that this comes out at the same time as New Order release a new album, seeing as both bridge a distance from thirty years ago to now – New Order have travelled that distance, whereas Nova Heart have made an intuitive leap from the sounds of Ladytron backwards in time.
It doesn’t hurt that Radion, the Italian dance music maestro, has done the recording and production. The other big feature is a sequence of very nice bass tracks. Instantly, with the opener, there is something Ultravox about the rhythm track, which gets menacing before heading into metallic off-key dissonance. The female vocals are cool and alienated, sometimes treated, sometimes a bit Debbie Harry. The guitar (and for an album that is heavy on the synths, there is plenty of guitar on selected tracks) is marvellously overwrought – never in your face – but squalling picturesquely alongside the beats and keys. Think, maybe of how Eno made Adrian Belew sound on Bowie’s albums. The pacing and poise is excellent and the effect is very Mittel-Europa. In fact, it sent me back to digging out old Yello albums. It is a wonder to me how a group from Beijing has conjured up this sound but no matter, it’s a pleasing and needed reminder of the application of electronics to tunes without shrillness.
This is the work of a trio – bass, drums and vocals / keys. The album obviously sees multiple overdubs but the simplicity of the compositions a trio comes up with has meant all these songs have a really solid backbone. At the same time, Helen, the vocalist and keyboardist, has used nearly every synth effect invented to make for continual changes, colour and and grabbiness, which, allied to the massive chorus hooks, makes this rather special. The only misstep is the cover of Patti Smith’s Dancing Barefoot. Patti is always a bit of a hippy and this is one of her earthy, swirly creations, not best suited to a detached treatment. Don’t let that put you off – come and listen to the band using old sounds without being revivalists.