San Franciscan Mara Barenbaum’s debut as Group Rhoda is exactly what I needed after Peaking Lights decided to sing sweet lullabies for a living. Her DIY designed songs unwind like an old cassettes, repetition and analogue channels learnt from Suicide’s undeterred innovation.
Barenbaum’s vocals have a natural solitude and suit the cyclical motion rolling from the machines. From the opening track, Virtual Dancer, the minimal electro arrangement maintains a cold yet always hypnotic air. The beats are light, scattered patterns of dated electronics. Hi Rise, a sparse, dub-tinged rhythm, is built with a skeletal construction and Barenbaum’s detached tones. It carries an air of late 70s in its attitude and distaste for the overly-melancholic.
But when At The Dark opens with a diluted pop persona you wonder if the atmosphere is warming. Even the vocals start to abide, latching on to what could almost be deemed a hook. Its low humming basslines and trebled, Casio-style beat, turn over beneath the electric piano and effective keyboard pads.
What is so impressive throughout the set is Barenbaum’s assured and single-minded vision. There is no way she’s about to make you a deal and drop a swooning piece of pop into the mix. Her industrial and minimal waves of sound skirt the edges of society – much like many of her influences once did. And with tracks like Nightlight, which feels like a drive through Brenbaum’s visual mind, you are led into an effectively hypnotic soundscape via the electronic rhythm and fading daylight.
If you’ve started to feel a little queasy with all those Nu Soul singers spewing soul-less pop into the blogosphere then you might have just found somewhere to hide.