ASTRONOMIQUE - 'SHARP DIVIDE' (2018)
Astronomique’s latest studio release and first full length album, Sharp Divide, contains ten songs that redefine what synth pop is still capable of in 2018. The album begins in a memorable way with 'Forefathers' and its booming rhythm section, which consists of drummer, Mitch Billings, and bass player, Preston Saari. The tandem songwriting and conceptual exploration of lead singer, Logan Andra Fongemie, and guitar player, Sean Hogan, is evident from the start, but equally evident is their desire to present Astronomique's material as a unified band effort. Things take an even better turn with the album’s second song, 'Side of Your Mind,' a track that Fongemie puts her stamp on early in with a strong, catchy vocal melody. Although not one of the album’s prevalent strengths, melody plays an underrated role in the band’s music, and is often invoked through Fongemie’s vocals. Billings' and Saari’s rhythm section stands out once again, and practically dares the listener to not respond physically to the beat.
Bright synthesizer flares punctuate the opening of 'We Disappear,' and we’re treated to one of the rockier tracks you’ll hear from Astronomique - thanks, in large part, to Hogan’s gritty guitar work. The synthesizer recedes in earnest once the song begins, but it continues to reappear and provide a strong instrumental counterpoint throughout the course of the song. 'Losing Our Control' is one of the album’s highlights, mainly due to the romping character of Fongemie’s synthesizer lines. While Fongemie's synth playing sets the tone for a number of songs on Sharp Divide, it's use in 'Losing Our Control' is one of the album's most effective moments. Despite the mid tempo pace of the title track, 'Sharp Divide,' there’s a more meditative edge to this song as compared to earlier numbers on the record. This isn’t a radical departure, however, as the band’s skill with crafting a memorable chorus comes across once again, with catchy hooks overlaid by great guitar playing from Hogan.
A swell of synthesizers opens the track, 'Unspoken,' which then launches into a slightly uptempo jaunt, finding Saari’s bass line popping and Billings laying down crisp, confident accompaniment. Saari on bass has an effortless talent for expanding the sound of each chorus, and he definitely excels with this track. 'Hardly Deliberate' has a restless, rolling quality, which revolves around Hogan’s hypnotic guitar riffs, interspersed with key drum fills from Billings. The final song on Sharp Divide, 'Heading Nowhere,' has a slightly more ethereal quality than its immediate predecessor, with echo surrounding Fongemie’s breathy, upper-register vocals more completely than before. If Astronomique intends to bring the album to an end with a song encapsulating the band’s merits, 'Heading Nowhere' definitely fits the bill. Few albums in any genre are as solid as Astronomique's 2018 release, Sharp Divide, and it should garner them the attention they richly deserve.
- Wendy Owen, Hipsters, Hippies, and Dreamers