Every once in a while you happen across an album that surprises you. Maybe it doesn’t change your life or blow your mind, but it stops your brain from that constant run of streaming real-world problems. You momentarily just shut the cranial machine down for a half hour or so and allow yourself to enjoy some music. Ashrae Fax’s Never Really Been Into It is one of those shutdown moments for me. For its 40 minute run time I forget about responsibilities, deadlines, school obligations, and what I need to pull out of the freezer to thaw out for dinner. For 40 minutes I can take a load off in my mind palace and listen to Renee Mendoza sing in her Elizabeth Fraser-meets-Siouxie Sioux otherworldly coo. It’s a pretty nice place to be, my mind palace. Yep, there’s a mini-fridge stocked with craft beer and plenty of black lights.
Musically, North Carolina’s Ashrae Fax sound like they hail from Leeds in 1984, not Greensboro in 2014. That’s the beauty of this gothic pop band. The Synsonics-sounding drum beats and ethereal keys give the ears a taste of Cocteau Twins and Siouxie Sioux and the Banshees, with the black fingernails of Robert Smith. Having been immersing myself in the Cocteau Twins recently reissued Blue Bell Knoll, Never Really Been Into It is definitely giving me that vibe, with even a hint of This Mortal Coil. For those who worship at the alter of 4AD(like me), then Ashrae Fax have got your number. Besides Mendoza, the band also consists of Alex Chesney, Mike Soter, and Robert Parker. They all work together to create a dreamy, goth-coated pop melancholy that is made for getting lost into.
“Dreamers Tied To Chairs” is an exquisite piece of goth pop that’ll make you long for 1984 and late night summer breezes as the needle skimmed over Treasure. What’s nice about this album is that it’s not in a hurry. These songs take their time getting to the end, giving you plenty of time to get lost in them. “CHKN” sounds like what would’ve happened if The Motels had been on 4AD. Guitars that chime like primo-era Cure, right before Smith’s hair grew to Redwood heights and he still had some of those pop tendencies in him prior to getting so sad and angry. “The Big Lie” is more tense in its delivery, bringing to mind some contemporaries like The Soft Moon and Cold Cave, with Mendoza showing her fangs a bit. It’s like Kate Bush getting all post-punk on us. “You Make Me Question My Mind(in a thousand words about time)” is a quirky pop song that has the feel of a bizarro-world number one hit, somewhere in the days of ‘Alf’ and “it’s morning in America again”, hidden in the middle of a 120 Minutes broadcast. “Intexus” takes the Elizabeth Fraser likeness to a whole new level. Close your eyes, you’d swear you were listening to some lost b-side to Garlands‘ “Wax And Wane”. Comparisons abound, but only to give the uninitiated a reference point. You can’t go wrong with a single song on Ashrae Fax’s sophomore album. This is catnip for 80s kids and 120 Minutes dwellers.
I really should go pull something out of the freezer for dinner, but I think I’ll just sit on my comfortable couch inside my mind palace for another 40 minutes and spin Never Really Been Into It one more time. Then I’ll get up. Promise.