Au_Revoir_Simone_Move_in_SpectrumsGenerally in the music press, writers love the idea of ‘genre’. The desire to pigeonhole and categorise artists is an instinctive one: it give us the ability to compare and contrast similar artists, which in turn allow us to grade them based on their individual merit.

However as we plough ever further into the 21st century it becomes rapidly more difficult to do this successfully. Genre is becoming more subjective; one person’s ‘chillwave’ is another’s ‘shoegaze’, which is another’s ‘electronica’, which is someone else’s ‘psych-folk-post-rock-dub-bass-electroclash with classical bits on top’. Music is so varied and nuanced now that nothing is really, strictly what we say it is.

I only mention this slightly bloated and pretentious preamble, because this problem of labelling was exactly what I experienced when listening to Move In Spectrums, the most recent offering from New York’s achingly-hip keyboard three-piece Au Revoir Simone. Every time I thought I’d got their sound labelled and defined, I was thrown a subtle curveball that just allowed an element of doubt to creep in and throw me off the scent. Forget “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole”. By the time the credits rolled over the final track ‘Let the Night Win’, I’d broken the peg, forgotten where the hole was, and (mentally speaking) gone to the pub.

Now, is this blurring of genre lines a positive or a negative thing? Is it an indistinct and unfocused mess, or an ingenious blur of musical androgyny? I’m inclined to go with the latter. Although by no means straightforward, Move In Spectrums is certainly an enjoyable listen.

Having formed in 2003, Annie Hart, Erika Foster and Heather D’Angelo have been forerunners in the world of cutesy, naïve, but pleasant synthpop for a fair few years now. Popping up with the odd moment of genius here and there (2009’s ‘Shadows’ was absolutely brilliant), they’ve been consistent, if unspectacular over their last two albums. However, today, it’s apparent that they’re now confident enough to push themselves past what they’d formerly established and fashion something bolder and more inventive, crafting something with the potential to be considered one of the best albums of 2013.

Kicking off proceedings is ‘More Than’, a clearly 80s influenced disco treat, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in an episode of Ashes to Ashes. It’s all four on the floor beats mingling with ghostly vocals and gleefully retro swathes of synth, a sure-fire ‘choon’ if ever I heard one. The same can be said of much of the album, and it’s refreshing to hear something that has some great sing-and-dance-along tracks that also manages to sound considered and expertly composed.

Midway through, we start to see the sonic diversity that the combined vocal and keyboard trio of Heather D’Angelo, Erika Foster and Annie Hart start to employ. On ‘Crazy’ the girls get post-punky, bopping and twanging their way through a slightly bitchy yet lovelorn ode to a relationship that fizzled out. Immediately after we lurch into the moody, low tempo, heave of ‘We Both Know’; a track which belongs on the long panning shots of every French arthouse movie of this coming decade. Morose and brooding, it’s one of many tricks up Au Revoir Simone’s deceptively long sleeves.

If the album could be considered to have a lull, then it comes on the slightly languid ‘Just Like a Tree’, which starts with a fair amount of promise, but ends after an elongated synth-venture that would have even Rick Wakeman tapping his watch and yawning, as they chug their way through to a run-time of 4 and a half minutes that feels far longer.

That’s not to say they totally eschew their prog-rock side, it resurfaces on ‘Hand Over Hand’. This time, however, rather than becoming stagnant and boring, we’re taken on a proper tour of Au-Revoir Simone land, which by all accounts is a beautiful, crystalline place. Like Yellowstone, but with Mini-Moogs.

Album closer, ‘Let The Night Win’, finishes everything off on a now quite familiar note. Grandiose and sweeping in a similar way to ‘We Both Know’, it’s the perfect curtain closer on an album which is as enjoyable as it is exhausting.

Similar in many ways to Manchester, New York is a city that has provided the world with an embarrassment of musical talent. With Move In Spectrums, we have proof that it continues to do so. I have no idea what Au Revoir Simone are doing, but I know that they’re very good at it.


Release Date 23/09/2013  (Moshi Moshi)

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Sean Fitzpatrick

Manchester born noise-enthusiast with a compulsive need to write. I’m Currently stranded on the South-Coast in Brighton, but I return to the motherland whenever possible to bask in MCR’s incredible music scene.