Low Sea ‘Remote Viewing’ (Dell’Orso Records)
Billie and Bobby D; better known as Low Sea, are an interesting proposition. Billie spent her early years in Bosnia – fleeing to San Francisco when the war broke out in the Former Yugoslavia. Bobby D grew up in Liverpool, cutting his musical teeth on the likes of A Ha and New Order. The two eventually met in America, releasing a mini album through Lefse Records before relocating to where most of ‘Remote Viewing’ was recorded; a cottage in an isolated fishing village on the Irish coast, overlooking a harbour.
They caught the attention of the legendary Stephen Hague, producer of such luminary electronic acts as the Pet Shop Boys and New Order, who offered to mix some of the tracks on the album, including the title track. Hague’s production lends the record an immaculate pop sheen, just the kind of production that is needed on this kind of record. The band themselves describe their music as “Grey Disco”, and it’s easy to see why; sparse, insistent beats meld seamlessly with minor key, crystal clean guitars and desolate synths, and Billie’s often forlorn vocals to create a gloomy yet compelling sound. The closest comparison would be Ladytron; although Low Sea’s music sounds less like apocalyptic death-disco and more like the chill out room upstairs.
The whole album is something of a paradox in that its shot through from start to finish with a sense of melancholic euphoria – like drinking whiskey and having a cigarette on your own at four o clock in the morning, or looking back at photos of a long-departed ex. Like the best lyrics, there are moments on this album where Billie reaches inside your chest and implants precisely what she was feeling at the time of writing, willing you to share her experience. “I gave you all I had and I was true, but I thought I’d never become just like you” she sings on bitter opener ‘Afflictions Of Love’; “don’t waste your sentiment, don’t waste your emotions on me, now every time I close my eyes it’s you, all I see” hinting at a relationship gone sour, something turned serious that was never meant to be so. ‘Sentimental Games’ is next, the perfect companion piece to ‘Afflictions…’ with a chilling “all run away” refrain and a tale of “sitting at the corner table, watching you pretend”.
Next is the Hague produced title track; intricate synths and breathy vocals abound “your body is open, but your heart is a beat”. ‘When I’m Feeling Down’ is gloriously trippy and would be the ideal auditory accompaniment to a spaced out dream sequence in a film. ‘Starlight’ is fairly pleasing but unfortunately pretty forgettable, ‘Cast A Cold Eye’ is blessed with a brilliant synth melody but unintelligible lyrics and ‘Breathing In Too Fast’ sounds like exactly that. ‘Alex’ begins with a synth borrowed from the soundtrack to goodness knows how many eighties slasher films before morphing into French lyrics and the band wearing their New Order influence on their sleeves.
Optimistically titled ‘Acid Ocean’ is a sprawling six minute drug trip of glassy synths and (again) barely audible vocals that doesn’t seem to quite go anywhere, ‘Last Rain’ has a certain intense quality yet suffers from the same lack of direction as ‘Acid Ocean’; although this time it at least sounds like it’s going somewhere, even though there’s ultimately no payoff. Closer ‘Artificial Light’ fares significantly better, opening with the tolling of a church bell which gives way to thumping dark beats, deliciously crunchy guitars and sparse synths, and – joy of joys – audible lyrics!. Well, sort of – you can only make out snippets unfortunately, a shame, as Billie begins to tell us of “deserts in the night”.
My one criticism of ‘Remote Viewing’ is that on latter tracks the vocals could do with sitting higher in the mix. Billie has a great voice, ethereal yet somewhat maudlin – the perfect accompaniment to the band’s doom disco – but at times it’s a real struggle to hear what she is singing, sometimes to the point where her lyrics become little more than ambient noise. It’s a real shame, because her lyrics – what you can hear, anyway – are beautifully evocative, and ‘Remote Viewing’ is otherwise a good album.
Here’s the video for first single, ‘Remote Viewing’:
Thanks to Ellie Clarke at Prescription PR for providing the album for review.