Music of the world review: 'sharp divide' lp

ASTRONOMIQUE: 'SHARP DIVDE' LP

Astronomique return to the fray with their first full length release, following up on a pair of successful EP releases, which have established them as a major force in synth pop today. Their ten-song record, Sharp Divide, covers an impressive breadth of sound while remaining internally consistent and tied together by unity of tone and themes. Lead singer, Logan Andra Fongemie, and guitarist, Sean Hogan, are the primary creative movers behind the project, but they are ably accompanied by a powerhouse rhythm section of bassist, Preston Saari, and drummer, Mitch Billings. The rhythm section makes it presence felt on every song, but ultimately, the heart of the album lies with the conceptual and musical ideas shared by the aforementioned vocalist and guitar player. Astronomique has reached a new peak with the release of Sharp Divide, but there’s every indication among these ten songs that the band hasn’t fully realized their potential - though they are quite obviously on their way. 

'Forefathers' brings us immediately into Astronomique’s musical world, and it’s steered for the most part, by the rhythm section’s stellar interplay. The production emphasizes their role in the songs to a greater and lesser degree throughout the album’s ten songs, but the performance shines through because of talent rather than fortuitous production choices. There is a much more forceful dance beat driving 'Side of Your Mind' forward, and Billings’ relentless drumming is key to the rambunctious feel of the song. Fongemie’s synthesizer playing streaks over the steady rhythm section on 'Losing Our Control' - one of Sharp Divide’s clearest highlights, which succeeds largely thanks to Fongemie’s visceral, fluid synthesizer work. Hogan’s guitar makes a deep impression as well, and Fongemie’s vocal performance is one of the best yet from this talented singer. 

The title track, 'Sharp Divide,' creates a lot of space for the music to breathe, and Hogan’s echo wreathed guitar crafts a solid melody to hook listeners in. Fongemie’s synthesizer has a more ornamental air than we customarily hear on Sharp Divide, but her singing has the same dream-like ambiance distinguishing so many of the album’s songs. There’s some truly exceptional melodic breaks built into the song, 'Smoke,' which returns the songwriting to territory where keyboards and synthesizer are much more prominent while still effectively weaving with Hogan’s guitar work. Saari and Billings, likewise, play a reduced role in the song’s eventual outcome, but their presence is always felt while providing a solid foundation for the song’s ambitions. 

'Bleed Me' is one of the more fatalistic turns this album takes, and the synthesizer work does a good job of strengthening the intense mood. Despite the typical production job surrounding Fongemie’s performance, it stands out as one of her finest moments on the album, with a vocal delivery every bit as forceful as the backing music. The finale, Heading Nowhere,' has a more moderate tempo than some of the other songs on Sharp Divide, but it nonetheless feels like a definitive closer despite its downcast mood. Sharp Divide isn’t necessarily a cheerful sounding album, but there’s immense beauty in the various tapestries of sound Astronomique conjure for their audience. Sharp Divide, if nothing else, showcases that there is a gulf between the talents of this band and virtually every other outfit working in the synth pop style today. It’s one of the year’s best full length releases.

 - Laura Dodero, Music Of The World