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Don’t be fooled by it’s title, No Rave, the five-song cassette EP by local synth-wave trio Brutalism is a party. With its vintage analog-sound that feels like a throwback to a mix of mid-’90s college radio hits, ’80s Krautrock, and indie pop sing-a-longs, Gavin Holland, Zach Carter, and Benjamin Bruno touch on a plethora of emotional vibes. In filtering those vibes through synth-laden melodies, it creates a unique connection between listener and material that grows on you like an infectious beat.
“Friday Night” is perhaps the EP’s most triumphant track, with surging power chords, a three-part harmonic chant, and an ever-so-slight funk that gives the track both an ear-worming pop appeal and an inherent dance floor energy.
Opener “New Empire’s” minor-key synth chords tickle the looped sounds of a scratching, popping vinyl record. It’s a bit darker in production than the other material on the EP, but the repeating effects on the vocal lead, the 8-bit bass line, and the fuzz-rock distortion rise above the somewhat tacky production concept. After all, this is a trio who claim throwback computer program Windows 95 as a key creative influence. With a sound that’s more Commodore 64 “Summer Games” than Windows 95 “Minesweeper” though, the advertised influence and overall output may differ.
But Brutalism isn’t just a flash-in-the-pan concept project. That much is evident on “Human Being,” whose soul-synth vibe can certainly be capitalized upon for future releases. The metronome keeps pace while break-beats slip into an ambient background. Talk-box aided vocal adds dynamic color and shape that bear deep similarities to the best of Midnite Vultures-era Beck. In finding the perfect, yet awkward imbalance between pushing more into soul and rock and less into proto-techno dance vibes, there may be something significant in Brutalism’s sound-to-come.