Album Review: Tristan B – ‘Porcelain’.

“Wide-eyed and spacious, poppy and quiet, strangely shy-sounding and warm with a chill… fully formed with the flaws that go with.”

There’s a singular type of science fiction future that sounds a particular way. All those well known and lesser loved movies we saw where the future’s defined by glacier shaped synths, ice-frosted sounds, where the Mother-sized spaceships run off Amstrad green typeface and the 80s survived every eon… That’s the world Tristan B lives and thrives in.

Somewhere between an EP and album, these six songs tap into those features. There’s no sly self awareness, no ironic nod-gestures and no hint of revivalist tie-in. I’m wrapped up in how timeless it feels even though it’s exactly the opposite. Between smooth angled pitches, simple pulse base notes and end credit themes, there’s a lost isolation in wide open worlds and a flow of both fear and excitement.

The title and opening track ‘Porcelain’ could be Blancmange at their warmest. Broad backing textures sooth simplified beats, handclaps in reverb punctuate blue skies and singular notes move to back up the vocals. His voice comes out hushed and unhurried amongst waves of sustain that surround, that uneasy comfort of light gothic shoegaze ties the synthwork to cool swathes of dream pop.

Uncluttered and unfussed is central, they act like dual mantras throughout. No extraneous sound can be found anyplace no matter how hard you might hunt. ‘About You’ thumbs a live (or live sounding) bass to dark sparkle synth and pressed drums. There’s the low running vocals and their occasional swell, a one off modulation cascade. And yet with the little there is that gives flesh to the song it all feels full, almost homely and warm. If loneliness and shyness could be worn for comfort, we’d be snug in their fleeces and wraps.

From these opening tracks I skip right to my highlights, bypassing the under worked ‘Esther’. ‘Esther’s a soft pitch for low isolation that never quite reaches its depths. But ‘City Rain’ follows and redeems the release, this could be film theme or stand alone single; it’s fourth track on album and stuck on repeat as I move through its wash-softened hooks.

Carried by broken arpeggios and bass, vocals work a rare tune front and centre. The hush of the words and the tone is still there but I’ve got something to sharp to latch onto. Jilted synth repetitions, melancholic surroundings, a feel of lowlight and warm air, it’s simplicity holds it together. ‘City Rain’ could be Alan Vega or ‘Dream Baby Dream‘ and it plays with its ease like a toy. ‘Identity’ completes this twin dream-pop setup, more Beach House and Tamaryn in scope. This could have been worked to anthemic proportions but it’s restrained and lovingly underpowered. Here in its home of retro scifi futures where new wave and manmade meet with minamalist cool, I’m glad it’s been left as it is.   

I’ve been sat on this release for weeks, let it bleed into playlists and listening. In that time ‘Porcelain‘ has moved from comfort / nostalgia into something that holds its own space. Wide eyed and spacious, poppy and quiet, strangely shy-sounding and warm with a chill, fully formed with the flaws that go with. In spite of its neatness, clean edges and synthwork, it just sounds endearingly …human. 

‘Porcelain’ is out now on cassette and download from the excellent Other Voices Records.

I wish this was available on Spotify so I could add it to Rats On Run Radio.  

Written by RatsontheRun

It’s rats to the ratrace. It’s Rats on the Run. Reviewing what happens from Scratch.

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