Sometimes it feels like there are more 80’s albums being recorded today than there was in the 80’s. Every other record has an artist drooling over a pile of analogues and drum pads – and who can blame them when it’s clearly a quick pass into internet buzz and adoration. Does the word derivative not mean anything nowadays?
Kurt Feldman of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is the man behind Ice Choir (it’s a side project of sorts, you see), and this debut is a wistful and soft focus montage of the 80’s chart-book. The first few listens to Afar are like falling into a comfy velvet cushion of synthesised pop, it’s positively stuffed with bands from yesteryear. Is this Feldman’s attempt to trump all the other 80’s revivalists?
Thankfully Feldman can pen a tune and his gentle tones are always easy on the ear. Opening with his mushiest love letter, I Want You Now And Always, feels like a statement of intent. The synth basslines bulge while the drum machine is set to lightweight – Feldman bringing in his guitar for a riff within the pleasant refrain. Other tracks don’t stand out so instantly but give them time and you’ll find a few melodious secrets whispering in your ear. Each one comes coated with retro instrumentation, and yes you’ll be confusing moments with Spandau Ballet or ABC, but Feldman never flinches from his 80’s stance.
On tracks like Peacock in the Tall Grass it works wonders. With the arpeggio space dust in the ether and the breezy electric piano rolling onwards you’ll be captivated and swooned for sure.
It’s hard to know where the 80’s end and the Ice Choir begin during the album’s duration. I can’t decide if this is an open embrace for a decade of soft-synth love or just a knowing smile. Either way, Afar is a harmless and fairly enjoyable record.