Dec 2013 24

NOIR - Darkly NearNOIR
Category: Darkwave / Electro
Album: Darkly Near
Stars: 3.5
Blurb: Even if one expected what Athan Maroulis’ solo debut might sound like, there are still plenty of surprises on NOIR’s first proper release and plenty of things to cherish.


Almost a year after the release of the first preview of Athan Maroulis’ new solo album, NOIR finally materializes itself as a fully fleshed out musical identity. Arriving in the shape of Darkly Near, this gothic electro act delivers on the promises made on the My Dear EP, capitalizing on Maroulis’ broad experience, and having had enough time to mature and settle, surprises with the fragile equilibrium between its dark evocative soul and the seductive pop shell.

Beginning with NOIR’s first single, Darkly Near does not find its footing immediately. Like before, “My Dear” effectively conveys the style and the atmosphere of the act’s music, but does not carry enough emotional weight or pop derived appeal to easily win over the listener. Every subsequent track, however, further and further invites the gathered audience into the mysterious and enticing realm of the vividly dark electro rhythms. “The Bells” and “The Grifter” work in a beautiful and dangerous tandem, with emotive choruses paired up across the two tracks and vibrating gothic but always dynamic synth lines transcending the constraints of a singular composition. This extended romantic session confirms the seductive allure of NOIR’s music, but the echoes of a more dangerous facet of Maroulis’ persona continue to linger in the background, embodied by the distant Bauhaus-esque bass and the deliberate pace of the beat that stimulates the lively but always appropriately melancholy current of the album. Not only do Maroulis’ natural artistic instincts flourish on Darkly Near; his inspirations and the musical context for NOIR’s sounds and textures translate into the several covers that made the track list. The new version of Roxy Music’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache,” sans the jazzy elements, might be difficult to instantly connect with the 40-year-old original, but has the same distinct tone of a dangerous mystery unravelling through a gentle vocalization. Its electronic passages soaked in ambience echo through songs like “The Voyeurs” and “The Tragics,” gelling the content of the record into a one coherent, atmospheric package.

The first reaction to NOIR might have been lukewarm since My Dear delivered a template for the act’s style without showcasing the key strengths of Maroulis’ songwriting and his outstanding penchant for merging haunting darkwave atmospheres with the melodic flow of electro-pop structures. Thankfully, Darkly Near fulfils its purpose as an introduction to NOIR with ease and expands on elements that were merely hinted at on the band’s first EP. Whether your heart is filled with impenetrable darkness or craves soothing but emotive sounds, this debut is worth the attention and was certainly worth the wait.
Track list:

  1. My Dear
  2. The Bells
  3. The Grifter
  4. A Forest
  5. The Voyeurs
  6. The Tragics
  7. Timephase
  8. When the Rains Came
  9. The Satin Box
  10. In Every Dream Home a Heartache

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Purchase at:
Amazon CD
Amazon MP3
Damian Glowinkowski (DamienG)

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