Sublimation – Mattias Andersson

Mattias Andersson(7 out of 10)

The debut album from the American synth-pop duo Null Device is to my surprise pretty exciting to listen to, but I have to admit; it took a while for me to understand that fact. When I first started to listen to the album I found it plain and rather boring. It felt like nothing happened and I imagined myself falling asleep if I would have attended one of their live shows. Sure, I heard some pretty good melodies, and the singer, Eric Oehler has an outstanding voice, but that was pretty much it.

When I a couple of days later was going to give the band a second chance, the feeling I got was completely different. A couple of minutes into the first track, “Footfalls” I got that where-have-I-heard-this-great-track-before feeling. Of course the only time prior to this one was the first time I heard it. I guess the song had placed itself somewhere way back in my rather complex mind, just to be discovered in the future. And I actually think the song is great! It's not the best one on the album, but it's a great track to open with. The kind of music that hit the listeners ears is extremely well produced synth-pop in the vein of Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys. Sometimes during the album I get the feeling that this is too well produced and at times it feels too clinical. I want the feeling I got when I first heard Depeche's “Ultra” album, where the music felt more alive…

There are a lot of tracks that have great hit potential I think, like the excellent pop tune “The Sad Truth” and “Blindsighted”, where the latter is probably one of the best tracks I've heard in this genre in a while. There are, though, a few tracks that just floats by without leaving any trace, like for instance “How” and “Fly Skyward”. Personally I don't listen to this kind of music that much anymore and that has much to do with that I don't think there are that many interesting bands around. But Null Device feels fresh, and although there are a lot of the 80's in their sound it feels new and at times pretty exciting. The biggest surprise is in the track “Sacre Coeur” where Oehler mix his ordinary vocal style with something that sounds like old Gregorian chants in the vein of Enigma and Enya. The two styles mixed together in the same track is very tasteful.

Unfortunately the best track on “Sublimation” is a cover of The Smiths' “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”. And why is that unfortunate you might wonder? Well, it's pretty obvious isn't it? “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is, as you probably know, an excellent track, and this version is very close to the original, where the singer sounds almost more Morrissey than the man himself. I think this is pretty unfortunate because I would have wanted an original Null Device song to become my favourite, and not a track that they can count on that 99% of the listeners will love.

Well, it's not such a big deal I guess, it's only one track out of fourteen… but still. “Sublimation” is a surprisingly well put together debut album. And I urge you to give it a chance if you are tired of listening to the same boring synth-pop acts over and over…