Greek duo Paradox Obscur has been recording its blend of vintage synthesizers and gothic lo-fi vibes since 2014, and the band’s latest release marks a milestone – their first album released on a major international label. Singles & Rarities marks the pair’s fifth full length records and Metropolis Records debut with a collection of selected tracks and unreleased material. Opting to record live in real time without the aid of sequencing and editing software, Kriistal Ann and Toxic Razor create an unpolished and ‘raw’ sound that carries from track to track and creates intimacy with the listener; it truly feels like you are watching this band perform while listening to this collection, which plays out more as an introduction to the band rather than a natural progression or evolution of previously released material.
Unfortunately, the album does feel a bit more disjointed in sound from track to track than previous releases, including the second most recent album Synoesis, released in March of 2020. As a result, this record tends to divert attention away from itself, slipping into the background, which is not necessarily a negative, but may surprise listeners expecting more cohesion. However, as mentioned earlier, this release positions itself as a new beginning for the band on Metropolis, so this aesthetic choice to present the release as more of a playlist rather than a true album was likely by design in order to capture the range of what Paradox Obscur brings to the table.
Lyrically, many of the tracks have a slow-building creep as they play out, evolving thematically as they go, while others approach being repetitive, including the seven-word song “Resurgence.” Opening track “Existence” immediately introduces you to the trademark lo-fi sound, swapping the traditional female vocals with Razor’s echoed crooning encouraging us to “embrace the silence within these blackened walls.” The first few tracks continue to alternate between Razor and Ann’s haunting vocals, with “Tale” providing a spoken-word poem delivered over the signature sound. “Perpetual” and “Superbia” provide the most dancefloor friendly sounds of this record and are by far the brightest songs on a collection otherwise filled with a much bleaker vibe, including the somber and menacing ending track “Throbbing Gallows.”
While what the band do musically is not inherently unique to the dark music scene, the way that Paradox Obscur approaches its craft is, and Singles & Rarities is a perfectly good jumping on point for a listener, putting the raw old-school approach to dark gothic electronic on full display. While not a great album from the perspective of continuity, it is a diverse and well curated playlist designed to show you what PO is all about, providing you everything you need to know as a new listener. In that regard, this release is a success.