CD, Abstraktsens Produktions, 2009
As I’ve watched genres mutate and scenes emerge and die over the years my tastes have only become more extreme. At the peak of my minimal techno obsession vocals began to sound alien and intrusive. While I’ve softened a little, I’m still largely content with instrumental electronics/noise but a few times a year something will infiltrate my heavily-guarded perimeter and touch some residual emotionalism. Austere dynamic monotony suits me very well much of the time but sometimes my pop nerve is activated.
Life’s Decay’s music has all the elements almost guaranteed to antagonize an eighties industrial diehard – rolling pianos, strings, overt romanticism – and yet… it somehow works for me, although I must be very far from their target audience. In fact this is probably the most explicitly and conventionally musical album I’ve ever reviewed.
Perhaps the fact that it catches me isn’t (quite) so mysterious; their music sometimes reminds me of the more pop/vocal-oriented music I loved before I sold my soul to the machine. I came to this highly suspicious; I expected to be antagonized yet was rapidly charmed, even though (or because of?) the fact that it sometimes teeters on the brink of kitschy excess. Or is it also perhaps because it’s so very, very, Gallic (almost but not quite preposterously so).
Yet there’s also a strong Anglo-Irish presence on “Dysrieuses”: Kate-Bush, not in person but definitely in spirit, right from the opener “Etasthesie”. The vocals are not quite as child-like as Bush’s can be but their breathy, multi-tracked histrionic quality makes the comparison inescapable, even if some of the music is very different in spirit. Unlike many contemporary groups the eighties references here are fairly tasteful and subtle. “Emerance” has a driving Cure/Joy Division feel that works well and introduces some tension to balance the vocals. “Eabelia” is a lovely combination of piano, drums and the near excessive vocals, while “Iristhetique” is a calmer interlude between the more melodramatic tracks and its drums bear a trace of another eighties favourite – Dead Can Dance.
On the anthemic “Etesse” its Depeche Mode that come to mind. Towards the end the album becomes more slightly more varied. “Exalyne” is both faster and more subtle than many others, making a less vivid impression on first listen but actually working very well once it catches the attention. The tight drumming here and on some other tracks works very well and is a key element of the Life’s Decay formula.
The closing track “Inkerosa” is the real surprise – an odd English vocal sample, electronics and fast drums and even some distortion. Here there’s a trace of Cranes’ work but despite all the echoes I hear on the album it sounds fresh and distinctive and there’s far more life in this than most eighties-influenced work. Overall this is a pleasant and charming holiday from my hardline electronic diet, even if it also makes me want to follow it up with something much more severe – “intensify the treatment!” as the sample on one of my old acid techno singles goes.
— Alexei Monroe