Well, it had to come to this, eventually. Berlin’s Private Records, after over six years of reissuing classic space disco and soundtrack releases on vinyl, has put out their first new release. For their debut album, they’ve selected an interesting pairing of the London/Berlin electronic duo, Starcluster, along with Soft Cell vocalist and frontman Marc Almond, titled Silver City Ride. And it almost works.
Starcluster’s half is fantastic. The duo of Kaï Lüdeling and Roland Faber use a plethora of vintage synthesizer equipment to create sounds which are total throwbacks in terms of recording sound, rhythms and tone. Their backing tracks create a sense that the 1980s never ended, and that it’s been a constant stream of dance tracks, paired with mall bangs and stonewashed denim ever since.
Sadly, the vocals just don’t match the instrumentation. Marc Almond’s work in Soft Cell was wonderful, and his vocals here are admirable for their effort, but it just sounds as if they were recorded in another time and place. They’re so cold and impersonal — but in the right context, that can work. It took a couple listens through Silver City Ride, but on the third or fourth spin, I listened to the second side cut, “Pixelated,” and it all clicked.
Silver City Ride sounds like nothing so much as a less-dangerous version of The Faint. Maybe it’s due to the recent release of Capsule — a career retrospective of The Faint by Saddle Creek — but hearing this pair in that context really confirmed this is just too ethereally thin on the vocal side. The music’s got this dark, sinister edge running underneath it all, while Almond’s vocals never really manage to effectively work.
Be it “I Don’t Kiss” or “Avatar,” one really wishes the singer could better convey loneliness or ennui to present an effective contrast, or that he’d just drop down into a lower register and acknowledge the danger inherent in the music by meeting it. Thanks to some vocoder, “Smoke and Mirrors” comes close, but not quite. It’s the perfect summation of Silver City Ride: never quite managing to meet where it needs to, leaving this to be a disjointed listen the whole way through.
Silver City Ride is recorded wonderfully. The instrumentation of Starcluster is an absolute delight on headphones and getting this LP playing through a good set of speakers might result in the neighbors knocking on your door. Despite the fact that Almond’s vocals were obviously recorded far differently than the instrumental tracks, it’s mixed well enough that nothing gets buried.
The limited edition blue vinyl looks great, and the gatefold image makes for an excellent display. It’s a slightly-stiffer grade of cardboard for the jacket, as well, which is a step up from some of the various Private releases. Past albums have felt slightly flimsy.
It comes with a download code, and the inner gatefold lists every single piece of vintage equipment used by Starcluster to make Silver City Ride. Gearheads will lose their minds.
Silver City Ride is available from Private Records.