Staccato du Mal Sin Destino

[Wierd; 2011]

Styles: darkwave, kosmische, minimal wave, post-punk, synth pop
Others: Former Ghosts, John Foxx, Joy Division (natch), Martin Dupont, Snowy Red, Xeno & Oaklander

“Everything the same/ Again and again and again/ Everything that’s old is new again.” In “Monoculture” (from 2002’s Cruelty Without Beauty), Marc Almond — who knows a thing or two about dark synth pop — thus characterized the postmodern musical era, in perhaps the definitive musical statement concerning its revivalist and recombinatory tendencies. So, must we all, as Almond suggests, just give up and submit to the Great God Bland?

It’s not quite so simple. Rather than leading to homogeneity, the extensive quarrying of musical genres past — ghostmining, we might term it with a nod to Derrida’s hauntology — has led to a multiplicitous splintering of sound, a surrealist pop decentralization in which an original, even schizophrenic panorama forms from the unexpected juxtaposition of genres that, in themselves, are lavish, slavish recreations. This applies to both the macrocosm and microcosm of those groups who take the scenic route of recombination within one oeuvre, putting together strange yet oddly overfamiliar new assemblages — a dash of funk, say, a dollop of 80s synth, lashings of scratchy post-punk guitarwork, some sub-Saharan polyrhythms, and a sprinkling of 60s psych freakout — in the attempt to make a given memory hole (as repository) more than the sum of its parts. The bastard child-clones of a capitalist Cronus may think that theirs is a rebellion, but in reality (or should that be temporality?), they form an art-i-ficial assembly-line goop from which not only the aforementioned Titan, but also we hapless, discerning indie consumers are bid to devour all we can eat. When we were enjoined to recycle, I’m not sure this is exactly what they meant.

To be fair, Staccato du Mal (a.k.a. Ramiro Jeancarlo) has been doing the wave analogue synth thing for some years — long before the genre’s recent moment in the merciless Aguirrean sun began. Sin Destino may be eclipsefully dark (I can only assume that bonus track “Kevorkian” is named after the right-to-die activist and not the DJ), but it’s not dreary. In fact, it’s a lot of fun, both when the oomph factor hints at rising (certain moments have Liaisons Dangereuses’ masterful “Los Niños Del Parque” hovering at the edges of the aural imagination) and otherwise. We don’t encounter the hooky tunes or gore-to-the-floor beats of a Cold Cave, but in classic minimal wave style, we meander through territory from which we treasure memorabilia as atmosphere, rather than collecting further pieces for the earworm shelf.

While we might not think of finding Latin influences and darkwave in the same (last) breath, Jeancarlo (also one half of power electronics/industrial dance duo Opus Finis) is based in Miami, and there are indeed unexpected echoes of 80s freestyle to be found in “Desespero’s” “So sorry, Charlie” (“Sorry Charlie, walk out the door” ring any claves?) Tracks are christened and sung in both Spanish and English, and this, along with the album’s title, makes one brood over whether at least a part of the claustrophobic uncertainty and chiaroscuro contrasts into which the album drags the listener might be related to questions of fragmented identity, the weight of history (do we hear the mocking voices of Joy Division’s prayerful conquistadors in “Salvation Through Suffering”?), anomie, and alienation in the post-colonial, post-industrial heartland.

The most successful songs tend to be the ones that eschew vocals. As the album blips toward its end, we glide increasingly toward more cosmic territory, encountering beautiful mini-symphonic melodies reminiscent of a cash-strapped Kraftwerk. And speaking of endings, the nihilistic turn (another thematic hymned by Almond), which is characteristic of minimal wave, may have resurfaced a Vicoesque interpretation of history as cyclical, rather than as a unilinear movement. If this is so, then perhaps we ought to sit back and ride the (minimal) wave — after all, as we should be aware, any journey is joyful to the precise extent that it is sin destino.

Links: Staccato du Mal - Wierd

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