BY JENNIFER KELLY
Duplekita splices extravagantly arranged indie pop to electronic dance, its large ensemble building intricate meshes of synthesized and organic sounds. Several of the songs start in a primal soup of undifferentiated sounds, then gain traction in a programmed beat. It is as if they need the thump of dance music to give them structure.
The group is headed by Tim Batke, best known for his dreamy electronic pop band, Faunts. There are 13 other people in the band, and on a video released for “Rideau Park” you can see some of them working together, wandering between banks of synthesizers, mostly listening, but occasionally interjecting a sound. It looks like a very contemplative process, where tracks bu8ild slowly out of widely spaced, disparate elements. There are guitars and drums and a saxophone in evidence, but you get the sense that, even with live instruments, the note is just a starting point that will be shaped and altered until it fits.
These tracks start in delicate ways and build to crescendos, in a way that reminds me of certain large scale Scandinavian bands – I’m From Barcelona, Loney Dear and Architecture in Helsinki for starters. “Holiday,” the opener, emerges from scattershot harp runs and fluttering flute, moving forward only when it picks up keyboard and altered handclap rhythms. A high dreamy voice threads through the dance rhythms, dim and altered enough that it’s hard to pick out the words. There’s a melancholy early on, and hard to say how it happens, but it turns with volume and density to joy by the end.
A few of the songs lean too heavily on synthetic R&B elements. The singer uses Autotune freely — evidently not because he can’t sing but because he likes the sound. I don’t. “Everywhere For You” and “Sons & Daughters” are both distanced, chilled and made less convincing by the way the vocals are altered.
And yet where the balance shifts modestly towards organic sound, Duplekita intoxicates, as in lovely, guitar-jangling “Roots of a Mountain” and, especially, in the album’s final title track. “The Sound of My Name” describes a mystical experience, in which the singer hears his name three times, then goes out chasing through the world to look for it. The song itself melds shimmering synth atmospheres to a wonderful syncopated beat. It is one instance where Duplekita’s lovely, not-quite-real sound seems to fit perfectly with a narrative of awe and wonder, and it ranks among my favorite pop songs of 2014.
DOWNLOAD: “The Sound of My Name”