On their debut EP, Relations deliver four tracks that could come across as hipster synth-pop nostalgia, but the earnestness and catchiness of the songs make that a non-issue, resulting in a set of tracks that sound familiar, yet new to anyone who grew up with the music of the early 1980s.
The duo of Terence Murren and Michael Sanders go the extra mile to develop an "authentic" sound: while the drums are programmed, the synths are live, bringing back the slightly imperfect, but memorable days of pre-MIDI electronic pop. The repetitive melodies and rhythms of "Take No Sides" more then recall a bit of Suicide, with slightly more polish and actual guitars, while keeping that occasional punky sloppiness.
"A Savage Way To Live" begins with a lo-fi synth bass line that is initially a bit too dull, but after pulling off in different directions comes together nicely into a catchy stomp that keeps the pop hooks even amid noisy, raw outbursts. On "Careless Days," the mix is scaled back for a more rudimentary structure, with some noisy and therefore great guitar coming in later on.
Considering this is a debut EP, the biggest shortcoming is understandable and easier to swallow. The vocals on all four tracks have the detached, monotone sound that so many post punk and new wave artists traded in, but sound a bit too similar track to track. With more time and recordings, I would not see this to be an enduring problem.
With that out of the way, Relations' debut EP reminds me of a less goth Cold Cave in the sense of they create music aesthetically rooted in the early 1980s, but come across not as a nostalgia act or hipsters riding a trend, but earnest artists working within a genre that they truly love. These four tracks get that precarious balance of pop hooks, odd electronic sounds, and dissonant outbursts right to create memorable "songs," which is too often ignored for the sake of texture and noise.