Category: Electro / Industrial / EBM
Album: Flicker Out
Blurb: Striking vocal harmonies and catchy song structures make this DC band’s debut album a bright mark in a genre sometimes too obsessed with the darkness.
Among the recent wave of electro/industrial groups drawing on the classic sounds of proto-EBM and early industrial is Washington, DC’s Technophobia, the duo of Steve and Katie Petix that has in three short years accomplished much, having opened for Skinny Puppy on the band’s 2014 Shapes for Arms tour and starting non-profit Working Order Records for this debut album, with plans to perform in Europe in November; no small feat for any band still in its early stages. However, if the music on Flicker Out is any indication of this band’s potential, then Technophobia has a bright future to look forward to. Fronted by Katie’s dramatic vocals, the band’s sound utilizes a range of analog and hardware synthesizers and drum machines to achieve a warm tone on par with the classic electro sounds that have inspired the group, best exemplified by “The Principle.” With a simple but powerful drumbeat reverberating amid percolating synth arpeggios and steely bass, Katie’s harmonious layers at once ghostly and sensual and driving home the song’s pop sensibilities. Similarly, “Negative Space” hits with interlocking layers of melodic synths and handclap adorned beats the likes of which should please drum machine aficionados, amid which a soaring vocal that is simply gorgeous and makes this opening single the perfect introduction to Technophobia’s music.
In fact, throughout Flicker Out is a distinctly pop style of songwriting that ensures nearly every track could make for a great single. For instance, while the metallic textures of “Metal Limb” might appeal to the band’s heavier minded industrial audience, its operatic flairs are inescapably catchy, once again showcasing the power of Katie’s voice. In the same vein is “Factory 1981” with its repeating samples and clanging drum machines that easily put the listener in the mindset of that year, the pulsating synth bass and strident chorus sure to get stuck in many listeners’ heads whether they like it or not. Driving the darkwave and gothic influences home is the closing track, a cover of The Cure’s “One Hundred Years,” which Technophobia has infused with its own inimitably synth-laden style in place of the original’s discordant guitars, the drums serving to maintaining the song’s tension and dread; in fact, and this may be a matter of this writer’s personal taste, but the one downside is that while Katie’s vocals are well suited to this version, they do lack the angry punch and intense despair that the then suicidal 22-year-old Robert Smith displayed on the original. Be that as it may, it’s not a bad cover by any stretch and serves as an effective coda to Flicker Out, almost as a grateful call out to one of the band’s influences.
With proceeds from this album and the Negative Space single to support Life Pieces to Masterpieces’ “Connecting Communities Across the Globe” program, Technophobia is a band that not only has a great deal of talent, but no small amount of humility to work toward better things. While Flicker Out is not without its dark atmospheres, the catchiness and inherent melodiousness of the vocals and song structures make Technophobia’s music almost antidotal to the bleak attitudes that pervade most of the genre… and all the better for it.