Somewhere, amongst abstract romantic lyricism and pointilized synthesizer pastiche, the ICE CHOIR proposes to you, a most unfavorable “pop” experience: imaginative songcraft minus the cool factor. Leaning heavily on the crumbling pillars of 1980’s technopop production aesthetic, this is music that is both distinctly modern in composition and cripplingly esoteric. Waylaying melodies to mislead and seduce. Sentiments both saccharine and surreal. Formless constructs playing you out of THAT weird dream and into your cold reality.
Ice Choir is the solo project of Kurt Feldman, a dude already known amongst bookish indie circles as the drummer for top tier C-86 revivialists The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, as well as a member of now defunked shoegazers The Depreciation Guild. Considering both those bands operated under the assumption that time stopped in 1989, it's not so surprising that Feldman's solo project is equally retro. While Feldman and his bandmates resurrect Britain's much loved 80s rock underground, Ice Choir is all about the late 80s, but this time it's the pop charts. More specifically, the crisp, bouncing, utterly catchy synth pop that the Brits pumped out throughout the 80s. Tons of bands have tapped into the Depeche Mode, New Order, Human League triumverate of icy synth pop over the last decade, and you may be getting sick of it by now, but Ice Choir's debut album Afar is just so much fun, and so skillfully produced that the fact that he's kind of late to the party feels completely irrelevant. And like those titans of late 80s dance the Pet Shop Boys, Feldman is less concerned with the counterculture angstiness present in a lot of 80s synth pop, and more concerned with being unabashadly fun, endearingly cheesy and danceable.
Pretty much every track on Afar is a little nugget of pop goodness, concisely packed with tight vocal and synth hooks. Like pastiche-y 80s revivalists Ford & Lopatin (check 'em out in the similar bands section), Feldman has a wide eyed fascination with the synth tones and cliches of this style, and his reproduction of it is contagiously loving. Beginning with big reverbed out drums, sweet pads and suitably cliche chiming bells, "Teletrips" is a pretty wonderful pop song. Adding a touch of sleek effects to his voice, it sounds like Feldman's vocals are gliding through the pink sky of the album's cover when he sings linkes like "some harmless trysts/no lesson gleaned." The chorus is the clear highlight, as it should be, when Feldman busts out a euphoric vocal hook that richochets among the bounding synth bass, and fluffy clouds of guitar and synth chords. "I Want You Now And Always" sounds like something your dentist's office would have been playing in the waiting room in the 90s … in an awesome way. Its ultra smooth synth-pop is extremely approachable, but not at the expense of being interesting as the expertly composed parts flow seamlessly together.
Ice Choir is nothing revolutionary, but if you ever had even an inkling of interest in the style Feldman champions, this shouldn't be overlooked.