At a time when musical traits of the 'eighties are undergoing something of a rejuvenated renaissance, Carlisle based synth-obsessives Burn The Negative return, fingers right on the pulse, with their second album, How To Weigh The Human Soul. The album is an outstanding collection consisting of well-formed tracks of synth-ridden electro punk fusion in the vein of the New Romantics (Japan, Visage et al.). Drawing together the synth-led danceable indie-pop of The Killers with whopping hints of big names from the late '70's into the '80's, and elements of developing punk and rock genres that have grown alongside the evolution of electro pop, Burn The Negative have moulded a balanced blend and return with this release at a time when eighties-a-likes and electro-pop are favoured by many in current popular music trends.
Burn The Negative's moody electro-pop style is established right from the word go with their opening dirty synth riffs which evolve into a very whole and balanced full band sound. Rather than falling into the same tinny, treble-heavy production trap as many of their synth-loving contemporaries have, this quartet have blended a guitar band line up into their multilayered synthesiser compositions thus padding out their sound to create a rich, full-bodied musical palette. References to the eighties are also immediately apparent from the opening track, 'Always The Way', reminiscent of Kajagoogoo's famous hit 'Too Shy' in its' repeated line chorus and echoing vocals. Capturing the moody attitude of the New Romantics, towards its' close, the track rolls to a drum and bass break over which vocalist Mark Baker dramatically places breathy utterances.
'Smash And Grab', amongst other tracks, also draws in influences from punk and indi, opening with a distorted electric guitar riff before kicking in to a Human League-like disco groove. The pre-chorus and chorus of 'Smash And Grab' contain vocal harmonies which are very much reminiscent of New Romantics Japan, together with the snappy utterance of short phrases to construct verses. The influence of Japan and particularly of the distinctive pitching and tone of Sylvian's vocals is undeniable and extensive throughout 'How To Weigh The Human Soul'; 'She Sits In The Corner', for example, sings blatant resemblance in its' echoing piano and synthesised strings, together with Sylvian-like vocals, particularly in the lower range and in the gentle slides into notes. Concluding track 'Wansapanamaera Girl' also seems something of a homage to Japan's influential Tin Drum album, in particular their track 'Canton'; following a big chordal synth opening, this instrumental track gradually builds layer upon layer by the repetition of small motives and the inclusion of more and more sounds, accompanied by the rhythm of echoing, thundering drums before dropping out one by one to fade out.
The other of this efforts' instrumentals, however, evolves almost in the manner of Steve Reich's minimalism; starting with sweeping choir-like synth pads and a layer of top line chords wandering over the top, the track builds layer up on layer of motivic synthesiser and guitar gestures just like the construction of a minimalist piece. Bringing variety to the aforementioned, 'Bleeding Out', in the same vein Pigeon Detectives or Franz Ferdinand, starts with a clean guitar line then passed to a punk-inspired distorted electric guitar. There's something about Mark Barker's voice and singing technique together with the dominance of Burn The Negatives' strong and pulsing basslines that brings to mind Doves' Jimi Goodwin.
Although it seems as though Burn The Negative have simply drawn in a whole load of influences and regurgitated them, the difference is that they've done it well and offer an uptodate take on the hugely influencial New Romantics blended with the best elements of today's scene. A superb comeback album and, perhaps crucially, well timed release.
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