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Music Review: IAMX – The Alternative

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IAMX is the solo project from Sneaker Pimps’ cofounder Chris Corner. It’s an album full of synth driven, midnight black electropop songs that simultaneously throws back to 80s genre pioneers and sounds very fresh. It’s a moody, haunting album that goes beyond what he did as part of the Sneaker Pimps.

The obvious touchstone for the album is bands like Depeche Mode and New Order, who helped to establish and popularize a sound that used synths as the basis for moody songs. While a lot of 80s work sounds horribly dated today, those two bands hold up remarkably well, largely because they embraced the electronic nature of the music and used the unique qualities of the synth to create a singular mood.

IAMX has a more rounded synth sound, taking advantage of advances in technology, but the basic appeal is the same as what they were doing back then. These are dark pop songs that contrast a mechanical electronic backing with an emotional human vocal. One of the things I love about the album is the way it manages to incorporate the best of rock and electro. You could play a lot of these songs in a club, but they’d work equally well at a rock show.

“The Alternative” is an early highlight, with a backing beat that sounds like one of Goldfrapp’s darker pop songs. It’s got such a catchy bass line, someone could easily fashion an amazing ten minute extended remix. “The Nightlife” is pretty much already at a remix level of club power, I would love to hear this song dropped in the middle of a DJ set, to hear that relentless bass line on powerful club speakers.

“Lulled by Numbers” is an interesting track, starting subdued, then building with the entrance of the bass and a quasi Middle Eastern vocal. The best of the slower songs is the haunting closing track, “This Will Make You Love Again,” the perfect synthesis of emotion and technology.

“Song of Imaginary Beings” also echoes Goldfrapp with its jaunty drum beat and screams in the background. IAMX never goes as overtly pop as Goldfrapp did on Supernature, they sound more like Black Cherry, an alluring mix of dark pop rhythms. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric album, dark without being abrasive, and the whole thing builds and ebbs like a good DJ set. This is a catchy, addictive slice of electropop.

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