Supersynthetic is the new EP from NYC-based electro-rock group First Blush. Taking direction from a number of well-trod musical pathways both old and new, Supersynthetic manages to pack a good little bit of melody and heart into its brief twenty-six minutes of runtime, and demonstrates the group’s ability to subtly blend a variety of genres much reworked by today’s cadre of synthesizer brandishing indie-poppers into something that doesn’t smack of outright adulation. Helmed by jazz pianist and Juilliard/Peabody Institute alum Charles Sekel, First Blush consists primarily of Zak Croxall on bass, and Zach Honoroff on drums, with Randy Runyon joining on guitar.
One of Supersynthetic’s inherent strengths is its ability to rather seamlessly change style and mood without sounding overly forced. While songs tend to remain fairly simple in their lines and changes, textures and atmospherics run from big money Euro electropop (“Off The Lights”) to airy organic Kraut synths (“Supersynthetic”), gritty post-millennial electro rock (“Pack It Up”), and late 80’s rave ups (“Velvet Remix”). Running through it all, there’s an unmistakable strain of the analog electro romanticism indicative of the lion’s share of 80’s synthpop, calling to mind seminal acts of both yesteryear and last year, from Kraftwerk to Cut Copy, Erasure to Radiohead. And luckily for First Blush, there’s seemingly little by way of the oft-criticized indietronica rehash of the genre’s more regrettable elements in the name some vanilla tween American Apparel utopia, with the band demonstrating both current chops and room to grow further into their sound.
Given the emotive strains of EP opener “Off The Lights”, what sounds initially to be the opening salvo in a slightly backward-glancing indielectropop outing aimed for the slightly more sensitive set turns quickly into a much more nuanced venture. As the track opens, the nicely dated synth and bass lines swirling under Sekel’s hushed vocals call to mind a muted Yaz mashed up against the tendrils of a This Mortal Coil style goth sunset, only to open outwards into a melancholy yet upbeat electro line that wouldn’t have sounded out of place as the soundtrack of the Berlin wall coming down. As it moves forward, the EP takes this mindset and attempts to apply it, paintlike, to a number of different canvases.
Throughout Supersynthetic, Sekel and company flit through a range of stylistic program layouts, with a nice blend of old and new framing conversations between Krautrock, electro-psych, New Wave, and other 70’s/80’s laced synth-driven anthemics. Title track “Supersynthetic” is uptempo and bubbly with its looping analog lines and staccato bass work serving as the scaffolding for Sekel’s fever-dream vocals and effects hewn button twiddling, jutting out on its own particular forward momentum until it drops into the amply space lounge bridge piece. Next up, “Pack It Up” drops the floor out from underneath the two previous tracks with its immediately compelling scuzz-crunch bassline, roughly calling to mind the sudden shift in perspective going into “The National Anthem” on Radiohead’s Kid A, though here Sekel’s lilting vocal harmonies manage to turn the ship away from Thom Yorke’s claustrophobic shores. Following, the gossamer, slighty jazzy and Radiohead inflected day trip of “Velvet” is paired against its predecessor “Velvet Remix”, which opts instead to employ the evergreen sounds of the Roland 808 that continue to work steadfastly for everyone from New Order to Coldcave. Finally, “Venture” is more indiepop than most other tracks herein, with a slight new wave feel overall that blends around the curvatures of its slightly island feel (perhaps it’s the oceanic lyrics).
First Blush have a little ways to go to further approach the depth and stature of the stylistic influences being bandied about on Supersynthetic, though the record’s easy feel and overall competence are a boon that works to make for a good listen. Here’s hoping a proper full length will see the band exploring ever increasing levels of musical complexity.