"Ath.Lon" (Album, 2016) !Recommended!
This is the first Marsheaux album I've chosen to review as it has easily made the biggest impression on me. I've always enjoyed Marsheaux live but their recorded output has for me come up just a bit short too often. There's been a tendency to the lightweight side of synthpop and whilst that in itself wouldn't be a reason to disregard their releases, I've never been completely won over. Until now.
Anyone craving more, new Ladytron (I know there are a lot of you out there) since their quiet demise, could do a lot worse than pick up Ath.Lon. Nowhere is that need better met than in the thrilling opening track Burning. Channelling everything from a swaggering New York bassline of Suicide, to The Jesus and Mary Chain simple, thumping drumming. In less than four minutes, Burning kicks off the album in admirable, bold style and whilst much of what follows never quite thrills in the same way, this does lay down a statement that Ath.Lon isn't the safe 'twee' sound of Marsheaux of old. Glorious stuff.
Like A Movie (the latest single) is the perfect Marsheaux pop song. This is a superb example of what they do so well. Again, I'm getting an Americana vibe. Only here the shadowing city streets of New York are replaced with the American mid-west, the girls cruising in a Cadillac convertible, with farmland and huge skies providing the backdrop.
Sunday another low-key excursion, then Wild Heart picks up where Burning left off. More of that Mary Chain percussion, but also a bass guitar played in a relaxed manner, recalling other UK bands of the 1980s. This though, like much of the album, is a mid-tempo affair and works well thanks largely to Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou providing for and allowing the song to have the space to breathe. It's never too busy or cluttered and that combined with the unintrusive production its strength.
If it's sing-along choruses you're after with your mid-tempo tunes, then Now You Are Mine and Safe Tonight will do that very effectively. Mediterranean sounds like a chillaxed Vince Clarke out-take from his Yazoo glory days and their second work of genius You And Me Both. Not an out-take in a bad way, rather this is more overtly restrained and introspective than most of what Mr Clarke chooses to release to the public.
The Beginning of The End ends Ath.Lon on a very different tone to opener Burning. With its warm strings in the background, reverb drums and ethereal production I'm reminded of the understated power of some of Covenant's fine album tracks. Credit to the production team, comprising Marsheaux, Fotonovela (another electro duo from the Undo Records family) and Rodrigo Silva-Ramos from GeeksMusic.
Not so long ago, Marsheaux covered Depeche Mode's little-loved second album A Broken Frame, in its entirety. It was a curious thing to do, cover an entire album, but it kinda worked... kinda. But, more importantly, it demonstrated that Marsheaux do have their own view on the world of synth music. On Ath.Lon they state their case in their most confident terms yet. If, like me, you've never been entirely convinced before now, this is the album you need to listen to, before making your judgement. 8/10
Rob Dyer (December 2016)