Postcards from Berlin Dark Electro, Neo-Classic [debut] This is not [debut]'s debut release. I am pretty much going to think of that the whole time I'm discussing this album, because, like, what - is he just constantly debuting new music? A perpetual debut? It sounds exhausting. "Postcards from Berlin" is, however, Gareth Thompson and crew's debut full-length album so for right now he's not causing me too much of a logical fallacy headache. He has two previous EPs and a couple of singles, but this is the first comprehensive LP we can attribute to this dark wave/electro/post punk/classical hybrid project Thompson calls [debut]. This is also the first album I've reviewed which was funded with a Kickstarter campaign, so welcome to my debut in that arena. Thompson was able to raise over $10k to make "Postcards from Berlin" happen on the Kickstarter campaign. It wasn't just a donation effort, he also sold t-shirts and got fans involved on many levels. All this interest in the [debut] project, in which Thompson is the only constant, seems to have come from the very popular "Sweet Little Girl" EP in 2013. This breakthrough work garnered the project - which Thompson describes as a music and art collective - a cult following. Before that, Thompson started the project in 2006 as a solo effort and a way to play with his beloved vintage synthesizers, which are another constant vein running through the [debut] body of work. On previous [debut] releases, the other artists who contributed vocals or other instruments are named but on "Postcards from Berlin" it's harder to discern which vocalists contributed to which track, especially for the uninitiated. Vocal return performers Cyd Claire, Angela Bartys and Sammi Doll are back for some songs but they're clearly not singing on the first three songs. Thompson decided to take the vocal rudder for the most part on this album, and unfortunately I think that was the wrong decision. The album opens with 'Not the One,' 'More than This' and 'Low.' These are not only irritating because of the perpetually boring and tonally flat vocals, but the backing production is pretty sparse and yawn-inducing as well. On this album Thompson says he made an effort to bring in classical influence as well as more dark wave and emo-style music on this record than he has previously but on these tracks it just doesn't sound right. 'Not the One' sounds like a poorly-vocalized Depeche Mode or NIN knockoff of some kind, though the cello work (again uncredited) is excellent. 'More than This' is essentially more of the same with even more boring almost pop-sounding lyrics. The semi-interesting vintage synths don't even make up for the poor production on this track. The analog instruments like the piano, drums and violins don't blend at all with the synths, and the vocals are totally flat. Similar problems exist with 'Low,' but this track is a little more musically interesting due to the unconventional low key the piano and strings are playing. After this disappointing start, things pick up on Postcards from Berlin with 'Want.' In this track Thompson seems to find his stride in meshing the electronic and analog elements of his composition and the female vocals are much more listenable and on key with the rest of the track. This track is a great example of the experimental electronic dark wave from earlier incarnations of [debut] with the added classical touch Thompson wanted. I think I've determined the main issue with the rest of album is only Thompson's vocals. Every track on which he's not singing is stellar. Unfortunately there aren't many tracks where he's not singing: 'Come Around,' another track with beautiful female vocals and the all-instrumental 'Berlin' are pretty much it. The problem with Thompson's vocal timbre and ability to stay on key is clear on one track, 'Open Your Soul,' where there are dueling male and female vocals. The contrast between the female vocals which are on key and Thompson's which are flat is very noticeable. There is one place where Thompson gets it right, the song 'Passion' where somehow the key of his vocals match the music and they blend well to create the symphonic effect I think he was going for all along. So, my assessment of "Postcards from Berlin" is that it's not generally [debut]'s finest work, which is unfortunate because it was fan-funded. If Gareth Thompson insists on singing main vocals, I think he should get a coach. The best bet tracks on this album are 'Come Around,' 'Open Your Soul,' 'Berlin' and of course 'Passion.' Unfortunately the rest of the album, while musically sound, is just overshadowed by this weird turn of events with Thompson's vocals. Quality-wise it's a far cry from "Sweet Little Girl" and "Starting to Love It". No matter what, however, the new album is worth checking out, and Thompson has allowed for free downloads of some of the tracks on Soundcloud, so there's really no risk. With the ever-changing cast of musicians and Thompson's creative mind, this group is bound to change again for the next release, so keep an eye out. 350
Brutal Resonance

[debut] - Postcards from Berlin

6.5
"Alright"
N/A
Electroracle
Released off label 2015
This is not [debut]'s debut release. I am pretty much going to think of that the whole time I'm discussing this album, because, like, what - is he just constantly debuting new music? A perpetual debut? It sounds exhausting. "Postcards from Berlin" is, however, Gareth Thompson and crew's debut full-length album so for right now he's not causing me too much of a logical fallacy headache. He has two previous EPs and a couple of singles, but this is the first comprehensive LP we can attribute to this dark wave/electro/post punk/classical hybrid project Thompson calls [debut]. This is also the first album I've reviewed which was funded with a Kickstarter campaign, so welcome to my debut in that arena.

Thompson was able to raise over $10k to make "Postcards from Berlin" happen on the Kickstarter campaign. It wasn't just a donation effort, he also sold t-shirts and got fans involved on many levels. All this interest in the [debut] project, in which Thompson is the only constant, seems to have come from the very popular "Sweet Little Girl" EP in 2013. This breakthrough work garnered the project - which Thompson describes as a music and art collective - a cult following. Before that, Thompson started the project in 2006 as a solo effort and a way to play with his beloved vintage synthesizers, which are another constant vein running through the [debut] body of work.

On previous [debut] releases, the other artists who contributed vocals or other instruments are named but on "Postcards from Berlin" it's harder to discern which vocalists contributed to which track, especially for the uninitiated. Vocal return performers Cyd Claire, Angela Bartys and Sammi Doll are back for some songs but they're clearly not singing on the first three songs. Thompson decided to take the vocal rudder for the most part on this album, and unfortunately I think that was the wrong decision.

The album opens with 'Not the One,' 'More than This' and 'Low.' These are not only irritating because of the perpetually boring and tonally flat vocals, but the backing production is pretty sparse and yawn-inducing as well. On this album Thompson says he made an effort to bring in classical influence as well as more dark wave and emo-style music on this record than he has previously but on these tracks it just doesn't sound right.

'Not the One' sounds like a poorly-vocalized Depeche Mode or NIN knockoff of some kind, though the cello work (again uncredited) is excellent. 'More than This' is essentially more of the same with even more boring almost pop-sounding lyrics. The semi-interesting vintage synths don't even make up for the poor production on this track. The analog instruments like the piano, drums and violins don't blend at all with the synths, and the vocals are totally flat. Similar problems exist with 'Low,' but this track is a little more musically interesting due to the unconventional low key the piano and strings are playing.

After this disappointing start, things pick up on Postcards from Berlin with 'Want.' In this track Thompson seems to find his stride in meshing the electronic and analog elements of his composition and the female vocals are much more listenable and on key with the rest of the track. This track is a great example of the experimental electronic dark wave from earlier incarnations of [debut] with the added classical touch Thompson wanted.

I think I've determined the main issue with the rest of album is only Thompson's vocals. Every track on which he's not singing is stellar. Unfortunately there aren't many tracks where he's not singing: 'Come Around,' another track with beautiful female vocals and the all-instrumental 'Berlin' are pretty much it.

The problem with Thompson's vocal timbre and ability to stay on key is clear on one track, 'Open Your Soul,' where there are dueling male and female vocals. The contrast between the female vocals which are on key and Thompson's which are flat is very noticeable. There is one place where Thompson gets it right, the song 'Passion' where somehow the key of his vocals match the music and they blend well to create the symphonic effect I think he was going for all along.

So, my assessment of "Postcards from Berlin" is that it's not generally [debut]'s finest work, which is unfortunate because it was fan-funded. If Gareth Thompson insists on singing main vocals, I think he should get a coach. The best bet tracks on this album are 'Come Around,' 'Open Your Soul,' 'Berlin' and of course 'Passion.' Unfortunately the rest of the album, while musically sound, is just overshadowed by this weird turn of events with Thompson's vocals. Quality-wise it's a far cry from "Sweet Little Girl" and "Starting to Love It". No matter what, however, the new album is worth checking out, and Thompson has allowed for free downloads of some of the tracks on Soundcloud, so there's really no risk. With the ever-changing cast of musicians and Thompson's creative mind, this group is bound to change again for the next release, so keep an eye out. Mar 27 2015

Off label

Official release released by the artist themselves without the backing of a label.

Layla Marino

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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