ASTRONOMIQUE - 'SHARP DIVIDE' (2018)
Sharp Divide is the first full length album from synth pop four piece, Astronomique, and it's a memorable release from beginning to end. The ten songs included on this album cover a gamut of synth pop poses, and capture listener’s imagination from the start with the relaxed atmospherics behind the song, 'Forefathers.' The synth pop leanings of Astronomique seek out instrumental balance a lot more than many acts in this style typically do, but there’s no question the material deserves the label. Assertive performances from drummer, Mitch Billings, and bass player, Preston Saari, however, always keep the band near funky or pop rock with the muscular performances they often provide. 'Side of Your Mind' has more energy than the opener, primarily concentrated around the synthesizer playing, but Hogan’s guitar brings a lot to this song as well. Fongemie gives a loose-limbed, confident performance striding through the song, and her synthesizer playing is likewise top notch, especially during a short instrumental break she takes in the song’s second half.
'We Disappear' begins with a synth fanfare, a common introduction on Sharp Divide, soon transforming into a song with a consistent thudding pulse reverberating throughout the track’s entirety. The base of the performance is, of course, the tandem of Saari and Billings, and the guitar takes a supporting role to the synthesizers in terms of providing instrumental color. 'Losing Our Control' returns with the guitar holding a pivotal position in the mix, while still keeping Fongemie’s synthesizer work up front as well. One of the crucial factors sending this song over the top is the five-star vocals Fongemie provides. The feel noticeably darkens with the album’s title song, 'Sharp Divide,' but there’s some reprieve in the track as both the chorus and bridge alike feature some lovely, distinct guitar work from Sean Hogan.
'Smoke' has a tighter lock on the synthesizer as a lead instrument than most songs on Sharp Divide, and both Hogan’s guitar and Fongemie’s singing are arguably more adorned with theatrics than any of the previous cuts. It’s another fine lyrical performance on an album that may not be properly appreciated for its writing. Fongemie and Hogan do a superb job bringing together seeming disparate influences and ideas into a coherent, deeply artistic whole. Mitch Billings’ drumming generates a nice trot for the song, 'Unspoken,' and the crystalline guitar fills from Hogan are quite complementary to Fongemie’s voice. Placed back to back with 'Smoke,' the two songs launch the album’s second half in a memorable way. The album’s concluding curtain, 'Heading Nowhere,' is a final tortured musical missive from Astronomique’s creative world, and the pairing of Fongemie’s voice with the effects laden musical sound makes for compelling listening. Even if they are a synth pop band, there’s plenty going on with Astronomique to help them draw fans from multiple different styles, and that’s a testament to the level of accomplishment and polish they bring to their latest release, Sharp Divide.
-Mike Yoder, Pop Music Paradise