Fernando Lagreca: Control
Irregular Label

It's telling that Fernando Lagreca's second album arrives in an attractive twelve-inch vinyl format, considering how much its synthesizer-heavy pop calls to mind the pre-digital era when synthpop outfits like Soft Cell, Spandau Ballet, and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark topped the UK charts. And though Barcelona (where the Uruguay-born electronic music producer currently resides) is a long way from England, the distance separating Lagreca's music from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's turns out to be rather small, at least insofar as the nine songs on Control are concerned. Lagreca's music offers no small number of aural pleasures, regardless of whether your preferred term is chillwave, synthpop, electronic pop, or dreampop.

His material is distinguished by a few things in particular. Heavily melodic, brimming with optimism, and expertly crafted, it's largely electronic in design yet also exudes a warm and organic character. And though it does affectionately recall Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's late-‘70s style, Control doesn't feel retro but rather fresh and contemporary, a music very much of its time. The album isn't, incidentally, melodic synthpop only; it also includes material that's dancefloor-ready in its incorporation of pulsating disco and house rhythms (see, as examples, the side one closer “Yes” and hard-grooving “Run”).

Interestingly, the album's opening minute hints that Control might be more indebted to Kraftwerk than anything else when the music plays like a veritable homage to “Trans-Europe Express,” but “Over” gradually begins to reveal its synthpop roots as the song unfolds. In its synth stabs, loping drum groove, and wistful vocalizing, the second song, “Loved,” nostalgically locates itself in the early ‘80s; richly melodic, effervescent, and multi-layered, the song's as good a representation as any of the forty-five-minute album's sound and style.

If there's one thing about Control that's curious, it's how deeply the vocals are embedded in the mix. In music of this genre kind, vocals are typically at the forefront, but in Lagreca's case they're pitched at the same level as the instrumental sounds in the mix. Perhaps the choice was made to distract the listener's attention away from the relative lack of personality in the singing—Lagreca's vocals clearly lack the distinctive character of the singing in Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, for example—or maybe it was done to stress the equal importance of vocal and instrumental elements on the album. Even so, an hypnotic number such as the album standout “Way of Control” is so seductive that it more than makes up for any generic quality the singing might possess.

February 2015