Soft Metals Soft MetalsSoft Metals
The first song recorded by Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks, the twin souls of Soft Metals, one of the latest sensations to come out of the Captured Tracks label, was a cover version of Siouxsie And The Banshees’ “Red Light”. It was a declaration of intent, as the music that fascinates the couple is embryonic electronica, new wave with gothic airs, industrial sounds, Chicago house and Italo disco. They even reinterpreted Throbbing Gristle’s “Hot In The Heels Of Love” afterwards, as if to clarify things even more. Accordingly, it’s logical that when they established themselves as a band two years ago, they completed an already rich collection of old analogue synths and rhythm boxes that Hicks had started to build ten years ago, when he first heard bands like Chris & Cosey and Gary Numan. These instruments form the backbone of their songs, although Hall’s voice also features heavily, forming the warm counterpoint to all the iciness (a good example of that is “Always”). Sometimes she reminds us of the sadly departed Trish Keenan and other times of Young Marble Giants’ Alison Statton. Hicks explains that (despite having many more), for their eponymous debut album he mainly used machines like the SCI Pro One, Juno60, JD800, Jx3p, Mono/Poly, plus the mythical Roland TR-808 and Roland TR-707. Songs like “Hold My Breath” and “Pain” - carried by rhythm boxes - are very reminiscent of the dark wave of Absolute Body Control.
The result on “Soft Metals” is a clearly synthetic kind of music. “The Cold World Melts” (a track from their first EP on Captured Tracks, featured here with a new arrangement) sounds as if it were a forgotten piece – recorded in the eighties - some Clone employee found in a box in the cellar and decided to reissue. To continue with the Dutch references, the start of “Eyes Closed” seems to have the same influences Legowelt used for their superb single “Tower Of The Gypsies”. In a similar vein, the spirit of Patrick Cowley seems to descend on “Voices”. And, just so that it’s not all eighties references, “In Throes”, could be a track by The Knife.
Soft Metals’ enormous passion for Kraftwerk has been much commented on. But - in truth - the album doesn’t contain too many nods to the German legends; although the synth rhythms used by Hicks on “Psychic Driving” is reminiscent of the ones made by Ralf and Florian. The track explores investigations of the human psyche, reflected in the documentaries of the prestigious filmmaker Adam Curtis. Science, love, emotions and imagination are recurrent themes in their music – topics that unites past, present and future, and are arguably at the root of electronic music.
Though they haven’t got much to do with Cold Cave and The Soft Moon, it’s obvious that they all share a love for darkness and industrial sounds. The problem Soft Metals may face is that, even though they belong to one of the most respected indie labels, their electronic music isn’t as indie-friendly as the aforementioned bands. This, however, is only a temporary difficulty and far from a musical one; Soft Metals have proven they have the talent to make tracks that will be favoured by nostalgic DJs.