Au Revoir Simone. Super Mario. Two seemingly unrelated phrases. However, ever since the bouncy Casio stylings of the band’s first album, I’ve always connected the two. Now, their latest release has ditched the Italian plumber soundtrack for something dreamier and just slightly ominous.
While their direction may have altered course, they still retain their precise, stripped back reliance on keyboards, drum machines and barely-there vocals. The tracks are almost mathematical, with each section of the music an A or B in a baroque pop equation, while prolonged intros often mean the vocals don’t enter the mix until well over a minute into the song. This lack of an overarching sense of pop sensibilities is surprisingly refreshing.
Still Night, Still Light chronicles lost loves, dark secrets and being trapped in suburbia, along with the associated loss of a sense of self, a longing for escape and disappointment at letting life slip by. The calm vocals, verging on the brink between singing and speaking, are well executed throughout the album, purposefully evoking the sense of disembodiment the lyrics express. They are at their most mesmerising when each band member contributes, particularly in the overlapping harmonies of ‘Knight of Wands’ and ‘All or Nothing’.
Firm favourites include the spooky organ-led ‘Knight of Wands’, which lulls you in with its sireny cries of ‘Oh joy’, punctuated hand claps, and spectral, synchronized vocals. The haunting single, ‘Shadows’, perfectly captures the sense of doomed love, with its eerie, lingering end to the last chorus. This succinctly leads into the trademark instrumental section, heightening the tension briefly before fading out. ‘Another Likely Story’, with its heartbeat drum and stirring synths, suggests a freedom akin to flying among the stars, or in Au Revoir Simone’s case, a revolving, mechanical planetarium.
The alarming, darker tracks play off against the more upbeat, poppy examples in an inspired combination. Although each song works individually on its own merit, the album as a whole evokes a sustained dreamy trance which sounds best when listened to as an entire piece.
Words: Jason Williamson