ALBUM REVIEW: ASTRONOMIQUE - 'SHARP DIVIDE' LP
Astronomique’s new studio release, Sharp Divide, is the band’s first full length collection, and they’ve amassed a powerful bevy of songs for this important benchmark in their career. None of the songs are remotely self-indulgent (a semi-frequent knock on acts working in the synth pop genre), and songwriters, Sean Hogan (the band’s guitarist) and lead vocalist, Logan Andra Fongemie, craft distinctly darker musical narratives than a lot of their peers. Their subject matter has a decidedly different slant as well – you’ll find precious little in the way of “it’s Friday night and let’s have a good time” or “boy meets girl” songwriting on Sharp Divide. There’s a strongly personal and intimate feel to Sharp Divide, and there’s plenty of imagination powering this album as well.
'Forefathers' introduces us to one of the album’s strongest suits: the engine room of bass player, Preston Saari, and drummer, Mitch Billings. They have a kinetic rapport with Hogan’s guitar and Fongemie’s vocals, even on a recording, so it’s intriguing to wonder what they could accomplish live with these songs. 'We Disappear' has a relentless thump with bass and drums working in lockstep with one another, peppered with staccato guitar rhythms that expand with the song’s chorus and bridge. The chiming guitar effect achieved by Hogan is effective in lightening the song’s melancholy mood without making it unfamiliar to vibe of the other songs. Despite any differences in approach, there’s a common stylistic and sonic thread uniting these songs.
The pulsing synthesizer intro to 'Losing Our Control' sets the stage for one of Sharp Divide’s most forceful tracks. Saari's gurgling bass is particularly effective. He knows when to shift into a different gear, and seamlessly does so. Hogan’s guitar is clear and punchy here without ever dominating the performance. 'Sharp Divide,' the album’s title track, has a more spartan musical thrust than the previous tracks. Astronomique’s individual brand of synth pop continues to flex its muscles here, although in a decidedly darker, more thoughtful fashion than the album’s straight-forward numbers. 'Smoke' has a stronger synthesizer base than most of the album’s other songs, but it’s nonetheless quite successful and features one of Fongemie’s best vocal performances on Sharp Divide.
'Bleed Me' is another of the darker tracks from Astronomique’s latest record that will decidedly gain listener’s attention. It’s one of Fongemie’s most impassioned, haunting performances on Sharp Divide, and the intensely human quality of her voice plays off nicely against her synthesizer melodies. Billings and Saari, once again, lay down a steady groove for the song. 'Heading Nowhere,' the album’s finale, flaunts a less defined of groove with Saari and Billings as standouts once again, leading the song's instrumentation in their performance. Astronomique’s Sharp Divide is their strongest release yet and clears the road ahead for even greater triumphs to come.
- Drew East, Burned Out Borders