B•R•A•U•N strikes lush, dreamy synthpop gold on new LP, ‘Silent Science’

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After spending the last decade spinning synthpop classics as part of Mackintosh Braun, producer Ben Braun has arrived with his debut solo release Silent Science. The gorgeous new LP is out now via Diving Bell Recording Company and sees Braun continue to elvolve—stretching the eighties, synth-heavy influences that have become his signature sound into a lush new conceptual space.

While Silent Science still evokes the broad, airy sounds of retro productions, the songs are invigorated with the minimalist approach taken by their creator. Perhaps it’s no surprise the LP was born of a period of introspection in which Braun found himself longing for a simpler life. That yearning and the implicit tension permeate the album in the space between the producer’s taut kick drums and his yawning, glittering synth harmonies. It’s a heady mix of atmospheric ambiance and infectiously potent melody.

From the acute ache of loss on tracks like “Gardens” to the blissed out soundscapes of “Strange Arrange,” Silent Science sees Braun tapping in to a deep well of intimate, personal experience. In fact, the producer seems to luxuriate in it, presenting memories with arresting detail and yet holding listeners at arm’s length with a cool, unaffected falsetto.

Where other synthpop acts seem content mocking a retro atmosphere, Braun’s productions immerse listeners into a world that’s all his own. It’s an astounding effort from a remarkable producer that proves the limits of his talent are still being teased out.

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Klangstof make indie synth pop sound new with charming debut LP

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Klangstof’s debut album Close Eyes To Exit, released on LA’s Mind Of A Genius imprint, is an interesting testament to the upsides and downsides of an artist trying to define a signature sound. The album, as anyone who’s listened to the steady stream of singles that’ve been released in recent months may have guessed, is a sweet and soothing exercise in synthpop-meets-indie-rock exuberance, full of catchy melodic hooks and spacey drum beats.

Klangstof has an indisputable command of melody writing, and nearly every song on Close Eyes To Exit has ear worm synth lines and guitar parts that are bound to be stuck in the listener’s head for days. There are scores of small details littered throughout the 11-track LP, from the enthralling crescendo of curtain-raiser “Doolhof” to the nimble interplay of voice and guitar on “Seasons,” that show Klangstof are more than capable songwriters, producers, and sound designers, but a cohesive group that crafts songs with intention, vision and purpose. It is these little sonic treats that make up for the occasional silliness and cheesiness of the lyrics and vocal performance.

But if the album is plagued by one thing, it’s an at-times vexing sense of sameness. Klangstof definitely has a formula that they’re comfortable working from, and much of the album follows a similar pattern of sparse intros that build layer upon layer, leading into echoing choruses of layered vocals and half time drums. This also leads to a deficit of energy; it’s not until “Seasons,” the fifth song on the album, that we get something remotely groovy or beat-driven. And even when Klangstof attempts to deviate from this formula, with the waltz-rhythm of “Telephone,” the spaced-out synth whirls of “Hostage,” or The XX-inspired sobriety of “The Butcher,” they seem to be restrained by their commitment to their own aesthetic, and one is often left wondering how fascinating these songs might have been if they had taken their deviations and ran with them.

This is not to suggest that Close Eyes To Exit is a bad album in any way. On the contrary, it is perhaps made even more endearing for all of its flaws. It is an album that has unmistakable personality, a presence and a humanity that make it far greater as a whole than the sum of its parts. The album is, in a sense, like the deliciously detuned guitars of its stand out and title track — a well-orchestrated debut made all the more tangible through its imperfections.

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