10 Track, LP (2012, Two Bright Lakes)
Collarbones like dead people. Their 2009 EP was called Waiting for the Ghosts, their debut album Iconography had a single called ‘The Ghostship’ and now they’re releasing Die Young, an album that will have a film about teenage ghosts as a companion piece. Those references snugly fit the music, which has always been as close as electronic music can get to sounding haunted and near death. If somebody made a videogame about a copy of Cubase that achieved sentience and set out to take over the world and had to be defeated by disassembling its logic cores, I imagine it would sound like Collarbones as it died. Also, Marcus Whale’s vocals are often treated in a way that makes him sound like a murdered R&B singer crooning at you from beyond the grave.
‘Hypothermia’, the opening song of Die Young, is reminiscent of Burial, someone else who likes dead people. Guest vocalist Guerre sings over skitter-y drums and a repeated sample that sounds like somebody saying “meant” over and over again. It’s 2am music. In the title track, HTML Flowers raps in a voice that’s nasal and nerdy, but that’s not intended as an insult. He’s backed by a woozy pulse, fading in and out – it’s the kind of claustrophobic effect Die Young uses a lot, waves of noise lapping against your eardrums. After HTML Flowers, Marcus Whale comes in and does his broken R&B thing, the kind of soaring vocals you expect from that genre. Only, when you pay attention suddenly you realise he really did just sing
“I want to eat your organs" "the water in your organs," which is creepier even than R. Kelly. And R. Kelly is pretty creepy.
Towards the end of ‘Missing’, a wind-up-toy kind of noise joins another of those pulsing washes and Whale’s declarations about how much he misses you, baby. It suddenly powers up into something emotional and effective. ‘Soul Hologram’ is an echoing instrumental, like one of those things Lustmord makes out of samples recorded in a crypt, so glitch-y it made me wonder if my copy had been corrupted. It’s followed by ‘One Day’, the closest Collarbones get to sounding like a boy band.
Collarbones seem like a genuine attempt to recreate the dramatics of pop music, as if the weirdness sneaking in through their choice of sounds and subjects is almost accidental – like they really did set out to record a bunch of club music to make the kids swoon and got lost along the way somehow, winding up somewhere more interesting with an innocent expression on their faces that says, “How did this happen?” And we’re left holding this broken thing that sounds diffuse and eerie but has a poignant charm.
by Jody Macgregor