Drab Majesty is the solo project of Deb DeMure, the androgynous alter-ego of L.A.-based musician Andrew Clinco. With its combination of reverb-drenched guitars, synth bass lines, commanding vocals, and rhythmic drum machine beats, this project is a stark departure from Clinco’s previous stints as drummer in Marriages and Black Mare. Dubbed “Tragic Wave” and “Mid-Fi” by DeMure, Drab Majesty eloquently blends classic 80s New Wave and hints of early 4AD with a futuristic originality. Drab Majesty’s first release, a limited-edition cassette of 100 copies titled Unarian Dances, was self-released in 2012 and re-pressed by Lolipop Records shortly thereafter. Drab Majesty then signed with Dais Records and put out the debut LP Careless in 2015. Careless was met with high praise from critics and fans alike, and the original pressing is now a sought-after gem. A year after the initial pressings of Careless sold out, Dais released a compilation titled Completely Careless, featuring Drab Majesty’s entire discography, including two previously unreleased tracks.
A talented multi-instrumentalist, DeMure composes all of the elements of Drab Majesty. However, rather than taking personal credit for the music, DeMure insists that the inspiration for the songs is received from an other-worldly source and that Deb is merely a vessel through which outside ideas flow inward. But Drab Majesty is more than just a musical project — it’s a methodical experiment in the identity of creativity. The character Deb DeMure is an enigma that eludes all expectations of gender and ego. When DeMure’s imposing 6’ 4” figure assumes the stage, Deb’s playful, harlequinesque appearance, tempered by an ominous body language, and clashing with the dreamy, ethereal melodies comes across as a web of contrasts. The result is a perfect balance between seemingly conflicting messages, between the high and the low, the drab and the divine.
Xeno & Oaklander
As a musical act, Xeno & Oaklander (Sean McBride and Liz Wendelbo) conflate a rich love of analog synths, melody, and mythology with eloquent nuance and a nod to the heritage they draw from. While that construct is the duo’s immediate kiss and crush, there’s a deeper importance to their collaboration, which began in 2004. As evidenced in their debut Vigils (2004), McBride and Wendelbo’s artistic dynamic is more than just a mutual love for electronics but a contrast between architectural precision and painterly expression. From the film scores to the traditional albums they’ve recorded in their Brooklyn studio, they’ve both spurred and fostered the global synth wave revival through a commitment to analog-only production and performance as well as a strident respect for the medium.
On their latest album Hypnos and first for the Dais imprint, the duo leveraged the talents of visual artist and live sound engineer Egan Frantz to mix the album. It’s a touch that adds both punch and balance, allowing their inherent conceptual voices to converge into a collage with defined edges and warm, synapses of frequency and beat.
“Musically, Hypnos is a return to polyphony after several years of using strictly monophonic synthesizers,” McBride says about the album’s ethos. “This has brought dense harmonies and a more complex counterpoint to the composition. Staying with the same equipment and processes without the inveterate compulsion to update and refashion allows for a clearly perceivable genealogy with our previous work.”
“I felt the desire to tell mythical stories, I also wanted my voice to sit strongly in the mix,” Wendelbo explains. “I channelled the spirits of 60s French Pop chanteuse Françoise Hardy and 80s New Wave New York icon Tina Weymouth.” Her intentions are best evidenced on the tracks “Angelique,” and “Insomnia,” the former a spry track sung in French, against a springy rhythm. Laden with expanding and contrasting frequency and a penchant for strategic rhythm, Hypnos juxtaposes dance with distance, creating an immersive oeuvre that exudes contrast and control.
Body of Light
Formed in 2012 in the wasted sands of Tempe, Arizona, electronic dance faction Body of Light have proven to be a teeming creative force within the present-day electronic landscape. As the archaic drones and abstract measurements of their earliest collections have evolved into to prodigious cinematic pop ballads and darkwave compositions, it’s clear that the two brothers, Alex and Andrew Jarson, are no strangers to blurring the compositional lines that confine underground music. Having worked together and separately over the years within the folds of the co-founded Ascetic House collective, Alex and Andrew have given life to a variety of projects such as Otro Mundo, Blue Krishna, Somali Extract, and Memorymann, and also have unveiled over a dozen visual, audio, and written works under various other monikers. Body of Light is simply another extension of their exercised method of immediate and natural experimentation.
After previous releases on Chondritic Sound and Ascetic House including Follow The Current, Lustre, Universal Sin, Volantà Di Amore, and Limits of Reason, Body of Light teamed up with Dais Records for their 2016 LP Let Me Go. This release shows the bands evolved sound from embryonic ideas to fully-realized synth-pop anthems and erotic aesthetics. Let Me Go came full circle under the production guidance of engineer Ben Greenberg (Uniform/ The Men), and each song follows the next with lucid moments of catharsis and romanticism that pull from their self-conscious mysticism and lawless spiritual hedonism.
Hesitant to define themselves strictly as a “synth-pop” collaboration, the brothers incorporate a wide variety of components into Body of Light’s sound. They attempt to formulate an unparalleled artistic direction filled with decay, warped tape loops, aging VHS home-movie sound samples from their childhood, primitive waveforms, and processed vocals tinged with harmonic specters. Their aim is to utilize past and present technologies in a way that feels unique, honest and sensible.