Review: Chiaroscuro – I Break Horses

Rating: 6/10
It’s the year 1988 and you’re in your senior year of high school; the few hours that had been talked up your entire secondary-education career are almost over. The sweat is starting to tickle against the skin of your back and you can easily distinguish who is wearing a healthy amount of deodorant. When I listen to this album, this is the picture that sticks in my mind. Teal and purple polyester gowns, topped with supernatural curls and the odor of recent perms, accompanied by matching cummerbunds and bow ties, scuffle around the dreary dance floor in my mind, which is now covered in the streamers and shattered balloons, listening to the final songs that are designed to push them out of the gymnasium.
At times, however, this CD takes a trip back to the future,  as in the sixth song on this album, which features a little less “Don’t You Forget About Me” synth (see “Ascension,” track 3), and becomes almost dark. If you have ever played Silent Hill, the opening synth sounds almost like one of foreboding the sirens. Besides not sounding like the end of anything from the late 1980s, this song also has some cool fading and while it is quite busy, it is also quite abstract, as high-pitched synthesized organ notes mix with good-old “acoustic” bass-clef piano notes. Not only does the entire mood of the background change, but the singer spends the entire song whispering lyrical nonsense in a not-singing-not-talking kind of voice. To tell the truth it reminds me of the time I went to Les Miserables without prior knowledge that it was a musical. Specifically, this song makes me feel like everytime there was a break from singing in Les Mis. Strangely enough, this song ends with a return to the cutesy, high-pitched synth.
The strangest thing about this album, however, is the seventh track. I nearly chuckled, which would’ve been odd, given I wasn’t alone when I first heard it. I just had to double-check, but my intuition was wrong; “Disclosure” was not titled as a remix of The Xx’s “Intro,” and sure enough, soon there were distorted lyrics and the illusion was ruined. I do however find the synonymity of track titles to be a little more than a coincidence. There is not a doubt in my mind that this Swedish duo was not at least a little influenced by The Xx, and I was not suprised to read that after the release of their first album, M83 took them on as opening act.
P.S. – watch out for “Heart to Know,” especially if you are not accustomed to what sounds like someone breathing haphazardly through a tube. It does get better, though, after you get past the experimental kazoo-esque vocals that act as background.
Sounds like: The Xx, Chvrches, dream-wave/dream-pop
Recommended: 2, 7, 9
Reviewed By: Kaitlyn Ouverson

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