Went to meet you at the station
I wait for you but you don’t show
All my panic and frustration
Still you can’t see me at all
Vancouver synth-pop act NOUVEAUX is a band full of heart and earnest pathos, and the release of their mesmerizing full-length self-titled debut album (via Sabotage Records in Europe/Castra Records in North America) is a love letter to the synth-driven new wave of the 80s. Their overall sound, which brings to mind The Human League, Berlin, OMD, Peter Godwin, Anything Box, early New Order, and the melancholy choir synths of Pet Shop Boys, is a spellbinding array of nostalgic influences with a decidedly modern twist.
Comprised of Brian Gustavson, Nathan Szilagyi, and Michelle Smolnicki, the earnestness found in Nouveax’s music is a continuation of the heartfelt compositions from the project’s sister band Spectres, a long-running post-punk act that pays homage to the dynamic guitar-driven anthems written by bands such as Sad Lovers and Giants, The Sound, and Flowers for Agatha. Nouveaux is the perfect synth-pop analog to what Spectres have shown themselves to be masters at. Both bands conjure a mood that evokes a dreamlike recreation of the 80s, all the while miraculously evading cliche and pastiche. If you were to mislabel Nouveaux’s LP in an obscure 80s bin at your local record shop, nine times out of ten, the person buying the record would leave the store feeling like they have discovered an unheard treasure that was pressed nearly four decades ago.
The album starts with the shimmering new wave reverie of “Illusions,” a hazy and idyllic interlude that leaves the bedroom embrace behind for the cinematic “Landscapes,” an ardent plea for a new start in life, head towards the horizon, and take new chances.
“First Glance” is another love-struck track, a dreamy meditation on hope and being in the moment, bringing to mind the sound of Altered Images.
“Start Again” ruminates upon the proverbial Tower tarot card: the tearing down of the past to start anew with a powerful vocal from Smolnicki. “Images In Motion” is an enchanting disco track that finds itself at a crossroads of life, the immediate aftermath of ending a relationship. It switches up lead vocals to Gustavson, putting a male in the role of the woeful main character.
“Dust On The Mirror” moves deeper into an existential romance, with melodic minimal synth lament that reflects the snowballing dread of two star-crossed souls.
“Paradise,” a standout track on the album, switches gears into pure dance floor decadence with a sensual boy-girl call and response vocal lead. Gustavson’s croon sounds eerily close to Magnetic Fields’ Stephen Merritt here. “Odesa Steps” is a song of profound sadness and beauty, observing how liberating ideologies can twist and become deadly. The sombre lyrics of the timely and highly emotional track reflect upon the brutal history of the 20th century – and the horror of violent karmic cycles repeating themselves, over and over again.
The album closes with an amazing synth cover of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ 1972 classic “The Night,” which serves as a bittersweet cautionary tale of the perils of falling in love.
Besides Nouveaux, Brian Gustavson and his other band Spectres released a new LP last year, Hindsight. Gustavson also provides guest vocals on Nuovo Testmento’s fantastic full-length debut album New Earth.
Nouveax’s self-titled debut’s artwork was designed by Shannon Hemmet (ACTORS) and was recorded and produced by Jason Corbett (ACTORS) at Jackknife Sound.
Order the vinyl Here