An electro pop record from London is perhaps not what you’d expect to read about on MPT. But Synaesthete has a strong connection to the Scottish scene as it is the latest project from former Come On Gang! singer/drummer/songwriter Sarah Tanat-Jones.
‘Array’ is Synaesthete’s debut album and at first glance it would appear to have little in common with the indie power-pop of Come On Gang!. Whereas COG! were very much guitar driven, Synaesthete are rhythmic electro-pop – but there is one key element which links the two – Sarah’s voice.
Sarah’s voice really helped COG! stand out from your average indie guitar band. Whilst, at times, it almost sounded like it belonged in a different genre, for me it complemented the songs and gave the band a distinctive edge. Yet the voice was still only a part of the band’s overall sound as Michael Morrison’s guitar was just as key.
With ‘Array’ however, the focus is very much on Sarah’s voice, often with several parts going on at the same time with the instrumentation far more in the background.
If that voice was remarkable for an indie band then it’s quite exceptional here. No longer constrained by the boundaries of a guitar band Sarah demonstrates a technique and virtuosity most singers can only dream of.
Valid comparisons that spring to mind are not those you’d normally find in an indie blog but rather established arts such as Kate Bush and Annie Lennox. Although if you’re looking for a more contemporary reference then, perhaps, St Vincent would be valid.
As well as the singing, the songwriting is remarkably varied too. As mentioned a lot of the backing is based around rhythms such as on opener ‘You Only Call Me When You’re Drunk’.
The multi-tracked vocals also often lend songs a tribal air and that is explicit on ‘Fruit’ with its African percussion and chanting. The short ‘Un-Re’ meanwhile features nothing other than voices.
COG! fans may be thinking ‘sounds interesting but maybe not my thing’. Which, being honest, wouldn’t be an unfair way of describing my reaction to my first listen to the record.
But my way in came courtesy of the fact that plenty of these songs could easily be translated into more straightforward pop. The likes of ‘The Beat’ and ‘Pillow Puncher’ would be classic pop songs however presented.
In conclusion, ‘Array’ carves out a distinctive sound for Synaesthete which genuinely sounds like it could, to these ears at least, have a wider commercial appeal.
Get the album here.
Here’s the aforementioned ‘Fruit’ from the album:
After a performance at Lost Map’s Howlin’ Fling in the summer, Sarah makes her mainland Scottish debut as Synaesthete when she appears at Kid Canaveral’s Xmas Baubles V in Portobello Town Hall on Saturday 13th December.
The bill also features Ibibio Sound Machine, Randolph’s Leap, PAWS, the Spook School, Hector Bizerk, and Sweet Baboo & the Pictish Trail as well as the Canaverals themselves.
Tickets, remarkably, are still available here.