Songs For Cadets
There’s an easy way and a hard way to make a synth-pop album in the 21st century. The easy way, of course, would be to embrace the genre’s synthetic origins and record and release the entire project digitally. One-woman synth act Stacian—a.k.a. Milwaukee’s Dania Luck—elects for the hard way. Stacian’s new Songs For Cadets was first recorded on a four-track cassette recorder, and then transferred to a computer for final editing and release on Moniker Records. That extra analog step may seem like a case of working harder and not smarter, but it lends Cadets an unexpected—and welcome—DIY warmth.
Not that Stacian’s music is easily embraced; Cadets is stuffed with murky, unsteady sonic landscapes that fall squarely on the “atmospheric” end of “atmospheric synth-pop.” Opener “Eye” is a dark, pulsating head-nodder better suited to a darkened bedroom than a smoke-filled dance floor, while the menacing “Absenta” and “Almos Telos Tenoste” play like dirtied-up soundtracks to direct-to-VHS horror movies, complete with piercing slasher-movie keyboard stabs. Throughout it all, Luck’s ethereal, echo-drenched vocals float above the proceedings like a thick, unintelligible fog.
Cadets is slow to find its groove, but when it does, it fires on all cylinders. “Untitled” offers up the album’s most accessible dance-floor-friendly hook and melody, while the terrific “Escapist” piles on effect and effect to create a gauzy, haze-filled nightmare. But it’s Cadets’ decidedly homemade, decidedly human element that gives the album its power. Far from a clinical exercise in 1’s and 0’s, it’s a moody journey that finds both Stacian and the listener clawing their way through the darkness.
(Stacian celebrates the release of Songs For Cadets Oct. 26 at Linneman’s.)