Category: Electro / Rock / Goth
Album: California Noir – Chapter One: Analog Beaches & Digital Cities
Blurb: Darkly sensual, cinematic, and ironic, Julien-K takes listeners through the Palm Tree-laden boulevards of California’s underbelly with a danceable and energetic rocker of a third album.
After releasing the California Noir single last summer, offering three tracks that hinted at the band’s new creative direction, the band launched an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to complete the full-length album; a campaign that exceeded all expectations as an unprecedented success, meeting its goal within 10 hours and ultimately surpassing it threefold. Taking the band’s signature dark electro/rock style further into what may well be considered the next evolution of goth, this first chapter – Analog Beaches & Digital Cities – stands simultaneously as both a consistent and an adventurous offering with some of Julien-K’s best songs yet.
Setting the stage is the title track with the sound of the Malibu waves crashing upon the shore, Amir Derakh’s pulsating synth rhythm rising to evoke a deceptively monochrome ambience, which then gives way to the energetic rocker that is “Strange Invisible.” With a catchy synth riff and an undeniably catchy verse and a powerful chorus, “Strange Invisible” is pure Julien-K as Ryan Shuck’s emotive vocal carries the listener through memories of the best ‘80s new wave and gothic rock hits – refreshingly familiar yet satisfyingly fresh at the same time. This can also be said of a song like “Cast into the Sea,” the crystalline strums of acoustic guitar floating from start to finish atop a steady beat, easily calling to mind the likes of The Mission UK or The Church but given added dimension by Shuck’s smoothly higher register. Similarly, the groovy dirge of “Eviscerate,” the thrums of Anthony “Fu” Valcic’s bass and Derakh’s baritone guitar textures topped off by a complementary female choir provided by Amber Snead is evocative of The Cure’s best moments, while the electrified pace of “No You Can’t” and especially the darkly bluesy “Black Market Machines” flare with a decidedly rock & roll flavor that is sure to get more than a few hips shaking on the dance floor. Speaking of the dance floor, “Deep Beat Overground” will undoubtedly have listeners chanting along with the infectiously anthemic chorus, the forceful beat and scathing electronics bearing a close resemblance to past outings like “Technical Difficulties” from the band’s Death to Analog debut or the title track of the last album, We’re Here With You. The real star of the album in this writer’s mind is “Photo Voltaire” with its marvelous melody teetering between a rhythmic chant and Shuck’s soulful falsetto, the chorus shimmering lush and luscious.
Always a band that has delivered on its promises to the fans, Analog Beaches & Digital Cities is Julien-K at its best, giving the audience more than what was only hinted at with the three-track single. Merely the first chapter of a larger concept, this third album is a darkly sensual, cinematic, and ironic ride through the underbelly of sunny California, every song serving as a soundtrack to bleak narratives sure to play out in the listeners’ minds with each listen. As Chapter Two: Nightlife & Neon is to follow (hopefully soon), Analog Beaches & Digital Cities will undoubtedly serve to satisfy both longtime fans and newcomers alike.
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)