Released by Dead Tank Records and Popnihil.
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This split cassette brings together two staples of the FL darkwave underground, Ars Phoenix (Vero Beach) and Burnt Hair (Jacksonville). With names that conjure images of fire and destruction, both bands share a white-hot intensity kept in check by a penchant for understatement. Balancing synth-driven noise and melody over hypnotically mechanical rhythms, Ars Phoenix and Burnt Hair stand but a few paces from the brink: the sound of chaos tempered by melancholy and quiet yearning.
The more dance-oriented of the two acts, Ars Phoenix builds on 2014’s vinyl release on Etxe Records (Violent Rain) to deliver four tracks of cagey-but-hook-laden post-punk/synth pop. Their layers of analog and digital synths, drum machines, and reserved vocals often draw comparisons to the usual suspects of late-70s/early-80s darkwave, but the addition of heavily overdriven and delayed guitar, male/female vocal harmonies, and a tendency toward post rock-esque crescendos put Ars Phoenix firmly outside the retro camp. Thematically purgatorial and ambiguous, glimpses of redemption occasionally pierce through the haze.
Which brings us to Burnt Hair, the gloomier and doomier of the two acts. Recorded straight to 2” tape, Burnt Hair’s tracks have an appropriately murky and elegiac quality. A funeral march that plods and murmurs, haunted by stained-glass cathedral windows in the distance. A sense of exhaustion and loss informs the themes and aesthetic of Burnt Hair, making their approach to synthesizers, drum machines, and reverb-drenched vocals mournful and meditative.
When escapism is no longer possible, is it better to obsessively remember or to let the memories fade into vagueness?