Monday, July 23, 2018

Astronomique - Sharp Divide (2018)

Written by Pamela Bellmore, posted by blog admin

“Forefathers” opens Astronomique’s Sharp Divide with the sort of confidence you don’t often hear from new bands. This Minneapolis based four piece has threaded together an irresistible sound coupling the best elements of electronica, eighties flavored Euro pop, and a deceptively strong singer/songwriter sensibility dominating the album as a whole. “Side of Your Mind” has a bright bounce from the first and singer/keyboard player Logan Andra Fongemie’s vocal shares the same upward, optimistic tilt, a mood in short supply on Sharp Divide. Drummer Mitch Billings and bassist Preston Saari distinguished themselves on the album’s opener, but they demonstrate their versatility here as they don’t play such a prominent role in the mix, yet provide a center for “Side of Your Mind” immeasurably enhancing the song.

The tracks “Losing Our Control” and the title song are likely the album’s pinnacle. There are extraordinarily good songs following this tandem, but the duo of songs near the album’s midway point stand a cut above thanks to the unified effort you can hear in both performances. Fongemie’s synthesizer playing is an integral part of the band’s sound, rather than pure ornamentation like it might be for lesser acts, and the delicate, nearly crystalline qualities of her voice are equally fitting for the material. The title song seems to be the more impressive of the two thanks to the extra dollop of passion Fongemie brings to her singing. “Smoke”, however, takes a slightly different and welcome shift on the band’s template this far and succeeds in focusing more on atmospherics without losing the musical plot.

“Unspoken”, however, returns us to the more familiar terrain of the album’s first four songs and rivals the aforementioned tandem of “Losing Our Control” and the title song without ever repeating itself. Hogan’s guitar work here is especially strong and one can feel his inspiration working with such a talented rhythm section team. “Bleed Me” is another of the album’s marquee numbers and effectively juxtaposes its intense lyrical content with another slightly melancholy, but entertaining musical arrangement. “Hardly Deliberate” maintains the same approach to Fongemie’s vocals defining the album on the whole while it brings a tense, rolling arrangement to bear anchored by the potent interplay between Saari’s rib rattling bass and Billings’ drums.

“Heading Nowhere” seems to bring Sharp Divide to a dispirited conclusion, but it is reminiscent of the earlier “Bleed Me” in its willingness to bring a relatively dire lyrical mood together with a freer, slightly more upbeat musical identity. Few albums are as clearly conceived and laid out as Sharp Divide and it’s a testament to the band’s innate chemistry, particularly between Fongemie and her songwriting partner guitarist Sean Hogan, but bassist Preston Saari and drummer Mitch Billings make a big impact on the album’s final form.

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