Angular and misshapen beats, bass and noises with heartfelt vocals.
Sitting somewhere between electronica, RnB, coldwave and blade runner are Stubborn Heart. The duo back for the second album some eight years after their debut have really honed their duality of their music. On one hand, you have aggressive, cold and often disorientating electronica that is out to catch you off guard. The other hand brings emotional humanity with dramatic vocals. It’s a match made in heaven.
In many ways, SOHN has filled the void that Stubborn Heart’s debut and then absence created. Opening track ‘Talking Gold’ could have been made by either artist by it acts as a launching point for Stubborn Heart to go darker and deeper than SOHN has ever gone. ‘Proves To Be’ showcases how the album likes to spin beautifully off its axis with chord progressions. The chorus begins like a gentle RnB progression only to spiral into something discordant whilst the vocals pretend all is well. Then you have ‘Against The Tide’ which is easily one of my favourite tracks of 2021. This brings heavy clunky drums that aren’t quite in time and twisted falsetto vocals that disrupt the industrial machine. No sooner are you onboard with the groove, it switches into a vibrant 80’s synth wave thriller with pulsating beats and synth runners. Every time I hear it I smile and can’t help but have a cinematic moment in my head.
These little surprises pop up again and again across the album. The dramatic ‘Everything Matters’ brings a more coldwave tone. The song is thick industrial grungy drums and basslines that burrow deep into your mind. Equally abrasive is ‘Mum’s The Word’ that mixes a sweet ballad vocal and old organs with computer bleeps and retro drum loops. ‘To Make You Happy’ takes synth drones and string arrangements and slowly drifts them off of standard notes like a slow horror thread. When paired with the lyrics ‘If I can’t make you happy then I should let you go’ – it’s the musical equivalent of dread setting in.
The latter half of the album is slightly calmer and quieter but no less impressive or expansive. ‘Oh Stephanie’ reminds me of Bjork’s Volta and Biophilia work. It features round and squishy electric piano bleeps and hushed static noises as percussion. The piece works as a 1-2 punch with ‘Drop The Ball’ which implores you to ‘stop the world if you want to get off’. Its washed-out drones let you focus through the noise of the previous thirty minutes. Like a moment of clarity, and a vulnerable one at that, you get a shock to the system with its directness. The album then closes with the meditative, downcast and haunting ‘Out of My Hands’. The piece crosses over RnB and electro-pop beautifully. It is the kind of track someone like Guy Sigworth would kill to write. Restrained and plodding, it is a fitting way to end what is a kaleidoscope of jagged and jaded electronica.
‘Made of Static’ is a mighty fine album. It takes you on a chaotic and visceral journey of hearts and minds and then places you down in a space of calm mystery. I feel like the message of the album is to understand what to challenge, what to fight for and what to let go of so you can have a better tomorrow. Whilst all the deepness is there if you want to dive into it, you can also choose to just enjoy some of the best leftfield electronica you’ll hear all year instead. Surprising in only good ways from beginning to end, the heart might be stubborn but it is full of passion.
Recommended track: Against the Tide
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