The Upshot: Wallowing in so much buttercream icing that you can hardly find the cake; the production has gotten bigger, slicker and more surgically clean, but the tunes haven’t.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Jannis Noya Makrigiannis originally intended the material on this R&B flavored, electro pop album as a departure from Choir of Young Believers. Its title, Grasque, was supposed to be the band name. And yet it’s not much of a departure from 2012’s Rhine Gold, in its sleek roboticized dramatizations of small songs, its early MTV synthetic romance redolent of Wham and Spandau Ballet. It is a long way from 2009’s This Is for the White in Your Eyes, the last time, to these ears, that Makrigiannis successfully grafted grandiose arrangements to vulnerable melodic snippets. The production has gotten bigger, slicker and more surgically clean, but the tunes haven’t.
Take “Serious Lover,” the first single, whose rhythmic background is overwrought and dramatic, with denatured vocals, synth drums and strangled keyboard riffs coalescing in a rococo beat. Makrigriannis’s voice, here idealized with reverb and maybe auto-tune, weaves engagingly through the first but whites out entirely in the chorus, so pop that it hardly sounds human. And yet all that production is like mountains of whipped cream on…well, god knows what? There’s no bottom to the song, just endless ornamentation.
“Face Melting” slants towards a more organic variety of commercial R&B, framed by chords from what you have to imagine as an immaculate white grand piano. “Come on,” urges a disembodied, vaguely lustful black voice, like Luther Vandross from the afterworld. And then, not much happens. The song continues. Harmonies billow and synths wheeze. Gate reverbed drums punch, Phil Collins style, through the grandeur. But there’s nothing to grab onto, only a slow motion, cough-syrup-fuzzed romance.
Even as far back as This Is for the White In Your Eyes, it seemed obvious to me that Makrigiannis’ songs could easily tip over into excess. Now, eight years later, they’re wallowing in so much buttercream icing that you can hardly find the cake, and maybe there isn’t any.
DOWNLOAD: “Serious Lover”