Thursday, November 1, 2018

Album Review: Antipole - Northern Flux (2017)

If there’s one thing I enjoy almost as much as I enjoy post-punk of a distinctly 1980s flavour, it’s post-punk of a distinctly 1980s flavour being performed by current day artists. Modern-day takes on a genre that simply refuses to go away quietly. The late 2017 Antipole album, Northern Flux, is just one recent example to capture my attention (and my affections).

I really don’t know very much about Antipole. Other than the fact that it’s the handle used by Norwegian Karl Morten Dahl (and friends) to spread the gospel according to the genre we call darkwave. Or goth, as it might once have been known. Even that feels like a rather cheap throwaway label to apply to Antipole’s art, but in truth, all of the album’s most obvious reference points stem directly from the dark post-punk minimalism of a bygone era. 

Northern Flux was on high rotation on my pod throughout the first half of 2018, after I stumbled across it on Bandcamp earlier this year. Each time I listened to it, I heard something new, yet also something from the past, and it really is a terrific example of an artist - or band, if you account for Dahl’s accomplices Paris Alexander and Eirene - successfully mining a formula from yester-year before adding a shiny new sheen. 

It’s a fairly simple formula. Well-worn and tested. Melodic guitar pop blended with icy synths to create music infused with atmosphere, texture, and layers of tension. See Joy Division and early Cure for the most obvious examples. But applying a formula, and doing it this well, are not always the same thing. 

There’s always the danger that any sequence of tunes which rely so heavily on the use of repetition - in this case, chord structure and a similarly hypnotic rhythm throughout - will ultimately result in an album which winds up being somewhat less than the full sum of its parts. There’s a risk that tracks tend to blend together as one, each fresh track being indecipherable from the previous one, and whilst Northern Flux occasionally skirts around the periphery of such peril, it is, for the most part, a hugely intoxicating and thoroughly absorbing listening experience. 

Highlights: ‘October Novel’, ‘Shadow Lover’, ‘All Alone’, ‘Narcissus’ (clip below), and the Joy Division cover ‘Insight’, which closes the album. 

Released on the Franco-Spanish Unknown Pleasures Records label, with 14 tracks clocking in at 64 minutes, Northern Flux is recommended for anyone who enjoys retro-styled pop music at the darker end of the spectrum. And without looking at anyone in particular (*hides mirror*), miserable but dedicated old post-punkers hell-bent on not letting go any of their long-since-departed youth. 

Postscript: This month (November) sees the release of an Antipole/Northern Flux remix project called Perspectives, which features work from the contemporary likes of Ash Code, Delphine Coma, Agent Side Grinder, Kill Shelter, Warsaw Pact, and others. You can grab a copy of that release from Antipole's Bandcamp page here.

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