CD, Mechanoise Labs, 2009
The most catching attribute of the project from Robert Andrew Scott and Jacen Kemp is a delicate juxtaposition of stirring vocals against a fabric of technoid- and electro-inspired instruments. Companion to this is an attentive stance toward both structured development and melodic, emotional ingress. Flatline Skyline finally returns, four long years after its insular debut, “Horizon Grid” (2005), with an album that opens up, extravagantly spinning lullabies into unhinged diatribes and subdued atmospheres into new wave hooks. “All Sound / No Vision” pulls classic industrial charm together with post-punk tension-and-release to create something intriguing, if not memorable. Although a window is offered by the vocals on this release, songs remain suitably dense, at once bombastic and muted, an impenetrable quality in which some may choose not to dabble.
Opening track “Sleep Tight, Silent Knight” typifies Flatline Skyline’s approach: blunt, with heavy beats and plaintive singing in counterpoint to deranged shouting of the selfsame lyrics. To complete the composition’s balance, a delicate violin enters later, an instrument that reappears, to great effect, in softly sung “…And the Moon Swam Back”. Others on the disc are more minimal in their appeal. The spindle-pulled tones and chanting included on “Other Dreams” lends it a meditative nuance, while “Aperture” stands as a typical interlude, bulging with the rumbling and clanking to which dark ambient is prone. That same heaviness carries over into “Fearful Symmetry”, a militant yet subdued application of atmospheric pads and muffled vocals, where everything seems to shimmer and fall a bit out of tune in a wavering, loosening grip upon reality. Another beauty, “One Secret” closes the album with barely intoned vocals blending seamlessly into ambient noise that all builds toward a further distorted and layered intensity, with rising intonations and corresponding electronic shrieking.
“All Sound / No Vision” is a multifaceted album that confronts listeners with pop tendencies, taking inspiration from the sharp beats, brimming bass and lyrical delivery of indie rock’s more electronic leanings, as in “Fox Fight”. It similarly finds substance with a blended new wave versus old industrial feel, the former being stressed in angst-ridden wailer “Be Good To Them Always”, the latter in “No Dial Tone”, which itself channels “Pretty Hate Machine”-era vibes, right up until the crashing noise attack in its final minute. In a reductive sense, the suppressed turbulence of instruments on “All Sound / No Vision” presses ever forward, while lyrical kicking and screaming oscillates between buoyancy and dead weight. It fails quite badly, for instance, in “Ex-Marx”, a track containing fabulous instruments where the vocals quite literally strangle any potential. Despite this, Flatline Skyline overall benefits from its oddly familiar genre-bending forms and passionate articulation.
— Dutton Hauhart