Monday, 9 April 2012
Elika - Always the Light (Saint Marie Records)
As I played “Always the Light” for the first time, I was a trifle confused - do I love it or hate it? I wondered what was wrong with me, though to be fair, very few electronica albums have dinted my perception of the overall genre, which I tend to either dislike or avoid, just letting the occasional rare release onto my playlist. I certainly wasn't sure if this duo could weaken my resistance and put a hole in my anti-synth defences. I thought it would be a close run thing, but in the end I was swayed by the pristine, vocals of Evagelia Maravelias, which kick in straight from the off, on "Stay Beside Me", with a slightly desultory synth backing that does, in the end, hold up, in a shoegaze kind of way.
As the album proceeds, her gorgeous voice has to compete with all sorts of squelchy, tip-tappy sounds, as on "Count Your Steps", where the backing adds nothing to the track at all, just being a constant, synthetic irritation. You see, that’s exactly what I find so hard to come to terms with when electronica is to the fore. Give me a swirling Hammond over belching, squelching synthesizer any day of the week. Fortunately, alongside the irritating, we have the rather beautiful. The floating sounds that make "All My Wishes" and "Never Touch The Sky" such buoyant instrumental delights are all due to the electronic sounds made by her, and her musical partner, Brian Wenckebach.
If, like me, you flinch when synths are programmed high in the mix (there’s very little other instrumentation here, by the way), then you need to take your time before deciding whether to go with Elika or not. However, when you’re surrounded by electric waves and washes creating dreamscapes for these superb vocals, as you do on "We Had It All", "No One Gets Lost" and "Trials", it isn't that surprising when you concede that this is quite lovely music, synths and all.