Asonat: Love In Times Of Repetition

Asonat occupies the poppier end of the n5MD spectrum—and there's nothing wrong with that. Some of the tracks on the Icelandic outfit's debut album are enticing indeed, with ear-catching hooks strong enough to keep them rattling around in one's head long after the disc's done. The group name might be newly born, but its members, Plastik Joy member Fannar Ásgrímsson and Jónas Thór Guðmundsson (aka Ruxpin), are hardly new to the recording game. Pooling their talents—Guðmundsson's penchant for soothing IDM-electronica merged with Ásgrímsson's rhythm programming and guitar playing—proves to be a successful formula, and the two also sing (Ásgrímsson on two songs and Guðmundsson on one) on the fifty-seven minute recording, if not quite as memorably as their guests.

The album's serenading side is on full display in the opener “On the Other Side,” where a luscious arrangement of synthetic vapours provides the softest of cushions for French singer Olèna Simon's sultry vocalizing. She re-appears on “Where the Heart Lives,” this time sounding rather Bjork-like in an English vocal turn that finds her voice accompanied by a more aggressive yet still sumptuous backing. Melodically, the album's peak moment arrives during the downtempo dreampop of “Dandelions (For You)” when Asonat gives Chihiro Dunn a handful of gorgeous vocal melodies to work with, and the Japanese singer makes the most of the opportunity by delivering them with a well-calibrated measure of sparkle and emotion. With a nice, low-slung bass line and mechano drum pulse in place, “What Have We Done (Silence is Golden)” shows off a somewhat clubbier side of the Asonat sound, while Ásgrímsson's vocal at the same time adds a bit of Depeche Mode flavour to the tune (as it does to “Expectations”).

Alluring instrumentals such as “Forgotten,” “We Have Come So Far Again,” and the title track present more-than-credible exercises in electronic-synthetic scene-painting, even if they can't help but seem a tad less memorable when heard alongside the vocal tracks. Less enthralling too is “Last Song (Almost),” whose brief foray into drum'n'bass-styled rhythmning seems like so much unnecessary filler. At the same time, there's certainly no lack of variety on the album, and Ásgrímsson's and Guðmundsson's solid production skills are evident throughout. Simply put, listeners with an appetite for downtempo, vocal-based electronic pop could do a whole lot worse than Love in Times of Repetition.

April 2012