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When Casio first introduced their line of keyboards and samplers in the early ‘80s, they were intended mostly as a toy—especially when compared to their professional studio counterparts. Thirty years later, one room urban recording studios have sprung up like flowers in bloom and those old lo-fi micros synths have become somewhat of a staple piece of hardware. Clearly, it’s not what you use but how you use it. Brooklyn’s Small Black successfully converts the lo-fi fuzz to create a contagious, dreamy, heavily textured pop sound enveloped by a fog of ambient chill. Somewhere in amongst the tumble of noise and reverb, danceable moments and catchy melodies keep New Chain moving forward while the ‘80s electronic stew demonstrates respect for its vintage underpinnings.
At times, the musical layers of sound and noise make it difficult to discern Josh Kolenik’s lyrics thereby making it nearly impossible to sing along using the correct words, but it hardly matters as the seamless integration between the ‘80s dance rhythms and melting synth patterns will encourage a sing-out-loud response and have you using nonsensical words to fill in the blanks. While this action may appear a little odd during those uninhibited moments in public, anyone sharing the experience will understand that there are just too many catchy bits and memorable tunes to resist the urge.
Small Black’s first full length is a complete and satisfying spin. While never derailing from their mushy nebulous of sound, each track has a distinct feel accomplished by a general refrain from repeating elements or motifs. It is not clear whether Small Black search for that perfect sound, or if the perfect sounds just happens fortuitously as a result of tinkering with their gear, but it is evident that the careful arrangement of layers upon layers and bits upon bits form a pleasing listening experience from start to finish.