Boomkat Product Review:
Pop subversives Beth Roberts and Andrew Hargreaves (The Boats, Tape Loop Orchestra) pose their 2nd album as The Mistys with ‘Pregnant Mannequin’, following some five years on from their debut album ‘Redemption Forest’. It basically sounds like an incredible, saccharine shoegaze/dreampop album recorded to a salvaged D90 tape that's about to disintegrate, warbling in and out of time.
Referencing a wealth of pop archetypes via their uniquely claggy, recombinant filter to render a new vision for subversive pop music, Beth Roberts’ sugary vocals are smudged and buried deeper in the mix, processed with fizzing textures that only add an extra poignancy and a sense of struggle to the classic pathos of her voice. In key, Andrew Hargreaves lends some of his most sharpened, devastating hooks, bringing their project closer to a polysemous conception of ambient-EBM-pop.
The formative experience and naivety of 2013’s ‘Redemption Forest’ album has given way to a newfound complexity over the five year interim. It’s there in the sense of gauzy ambiguity that oozes through the record’s synth, drum machine and vocal construction, with results that speak to a mix of uncertainty and determination, asking and answering ideas of imposter syndrome that can sometime undermine the urge to self-expression.
The diaphanous scale of ‘Bite Marks’ welcomes us into their distant, yet familiar world, where the tape worn cadence of Beth’s vocals leave indelible marks on the mind in ‘Womb’, and ‘Velvet Water’ leads us down a pinched ginnel of darkwave pop, to arrive in the stately air of ‘Heat Death’. At their most forceful, they’re still a pair of tender souls, though, as in the push and pull of tempered rage and romance in ‘Cut by Degrees’, while ‘Celluloid Skin’ sees them offer a warm, fuzzy embrace of shoegaze-pop akin to The Cocteau Twins heard underwater, and the dark blue swells of ‘Blades and Boardwalks’ and ‘Metabolisms’ reveals their natural affinity to what was once called Witch House, and can now be heard as a modern form of cold wave or gothic synth-pop - styles that take their pleasure from a feeling of negative ecstasy, an effective inversion of ‘poptimism’.
Proper bittersweet and addictive pop feels on this one...