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altar eagle - Mechanical Gardens
This excellent debut-proper from hotly tipped duo Altar Eagle finds itself nestled somewhere between the icy drum machine pop of Cold Cave, the Kosmische refractions of Emeralds and the classic layered shoegaze of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. Eden Hemming and Brad Rose have previously made music together as Corsican Paintbrush before changing their name and style on a pair of sought-after cassettes absorbing darkwave pop genius and the 1st wave techno moods of Juan Atkins. With a heavy heart and distorted touch they've drafted a deeply affected sound where vocals are typically half-heard and happy to be so, while an ongoing mastery of their analogue synths lends a flush of wide-eyed man/machine pop potential. In opener 'Battlegrounds' they crumble Slowdive-style guitars with submerged drums and viscous distortion, while the effect of 'Honey' is akin to Au Revoir Simone in the early flushes of a heady narcosis. Following this, 'You Lost Your Neon Haze' blissfully smothers Eden's vocal in a blanket of decaying noise signals, while 'B'nai B'rith Girls' filters cascades of bubbling synth juice into spiky drum machines and billowing techno signatures. In the second half of the album their darkwave addiction becomes more virulent, resulting in the pounding effect of 'Monsters', while 'Spy Movie' fuses the warring sounds of Juan Atkins and MBV in an emotive deadlock. One of our faves, 'Breakdown' harks to early Factory and 4AD releases with reverbed shivers of Vinny Riley-ish guitar and drowned vocals. 'Pour Your Dark Heart Out' is the cathartic swansong, perfectly channeling a bedroom spirit, while 'Six Foot Arms' leaves us in a state of cathartic euphoria, comfortable to wallow in a mire of murky inspiration and unbearable glamour. One of the debuts of the year, no doubt.