A Sound Seal
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/24/2011
For the deep inspiration that they derive from ‘80s alternative music, Kiseleff doesn’t let their sound be a mere mimicry or even an homage to this particular period in popular music that they are so very fond of. The band shares elements of musical styling from post-punk acts such as Killing Joke, The Psychedelic Furs, The Chameleons, and The Church. But A Sound Seal – this duo’s debut record – sounds as fresh as any of these bands did in their heydays.
The basis of Kiseleff’s guitar-based electropop is contemporary, and one that dominates the indie music scene. A Sound Seal is primarily an album of synth-based electro cuts; the additional ‘80s influence gives its music a glam electroclash appeal. But the album also has moments of melodic guitar-based music, which have somewhat of a deeper nostalgic character, especially in lead vocalist Alan Renwick’s vocals, which have the softness and ardor that are stereotypically ‘80s.
But without trying to have a dated sound – blatantly or subtly – A Sound Seal seems very much an album that wants to create its own niche in the present time, even though it still has retro traces. The band’s cover of “Chaos” (originally by The Church) is like an industrial-electro mishmash with its synth-heavy sound, which is a total departure from the song’s psychedelic original version. In fact, Kiseleff originals like “Vera Cruz” and “Tightrope” have more of The Church appeal than “Chaos.”
Unlike the obsessive pristine production quality that many of the ‘80s New Wave bands were committed to, Kiseleff’s production is grimy and disheveled, kind of like most of today’s electro-rock acts. The reverbs on Alan’s vocals are perfect, but they still don’t have the balance of the reverbed smoothness and crispness that the ‘80s bands mastered. However, this very natural lack of studio mastery of this tenderfoot act works in their favor and makes Kiseleff not sound like any other ‘80s band. On the other hand, the absence in studio expertise hurts some of the disc’s electro cuts, as they often miss the punch in the beats or the drive in the synths to match the aggressive rhythms.
Although Kiseleff’s talents aren’t honed to the fullest, A Sound Seal doesn’t leave too much room for gripe. For the eclecticism that Kiseleff shows as essentially a techno band, they do a pretty good job at not getting lost.