Ablebody – Adult Contemporaries review and interview
Release date October 14
One thing is certain: the Depreciation Guild played a huge part in my rekindled love for shoegaze but before the revival reached its peak (around last year) the band was disbanded (2011) and its band-members went on to do their own thing. Frontman Kurt Feldman started working on different projects like the Icechoir and Roman a Clef, and outstanding guitarist Christoph Hochheim and and twin brother Anton (DG live drummer) went on to form Ablebody. It looks like the touring days with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are now behind them and so their own project Ablebody is getting to more focus: the debut album “Adult Contemporaries” is the result of that. Strangely enough, despite disbanding, the Depreciation Guild ex-members seem to have been inspired by the same sort of music lately: we distinctly see the return of the 80’s Sophistipop genre in all the individual projects mentioned above. Although every project seems to do its own unique take on it: where the Ice Choir is more synth oriented and has definite overtones of Scritti Politti and Roman a Clef a poppy, polished Prefab Sprout, Ablebody seems to hark back to the acts that were playing around a bit more with jazz-chords like Aztec Camera and China Crisis, but also seems to draw from the legendary Prefab Sprout: Paddy McAloon’s heritage is growing beyond expectation.
“Adult Contemporaries” was taken out of the bedroom/demo area into a studio in the garage of producer/engineer Kenny Gilmore’s (Ariel Pink) parents. There, the duo worked on the album for entire days, tracking instruments and vocals, trying meticulously to maintain a sound that was as close as possible to the sound of the demo’s. This was one of the reasons the album took nearly five years to complete, but the result is well worth it: it’s a grown-up pop album with songs that will stand the test of time.
Adult Contemporaries review:
“Backseat Heart,” was the first album single, released in July 2016 with accompanying art-house video that also features Jess Krichelle and Olive Kimoto from Crescendo as flower-children in the video! Die-hard Prefab Sprout fans will probably do a mental double-take at the start of this…. but soon realise that the intro is a slightly altered version of Prefab Sprout’s “Appetite”! The chorus has the same swooning backing vocals, breezy synths and chiming rhythm guitar as “Appetite” but seems to deal with the same issues as “When Love Breaks Down” : “You got me up and down, just say: you got the backseat!” Love breaks down but routine wins….
Video directed and edited by: Megan Cullen
The uptempo “Gaucho” is beyond doubt my favourite track on the album: it’s a perfect pop tune with otherworldly vocals, slightly dissonant psychpop progressions (that remind me a lot of The Death of Pop), a dominant groovy bass line, and some dynamic temporal quirks. Love it! At 3:10, the beloved ghost of The Depreciation Guild reappears on the stage. The Steely Dan title reference is nicely misleading though. In the music video for “Gaucho”, (directed by Lily X. Wahrman) static VHS noise is surrealistically blended with images of an ancient house and statues : a nice metaphor for the music that also seamlessly fuses old and new. The song ending of “Gaucho“, and most other tracks, are momentous!
“The Sun a Small Star” is a cover of a song by indie band The Servants: a classic C-86 tune. Apparently Christoph’s been playing this song for ages already, so I guess it was about time to record it properly. Personally, I think it is not shockingly different from the original: I love both versions, but miss the crisp jangle and the real strings of the original.…vocals here are more suave but the fuzz guitar solo is, of course, superior, as to be expected from Christoph.
Another 80’s Sophistipop band that has influenced Ablebody is China Crisis. Any true fan of that band (like yours truly) will recognise the drumloop sample at the start (wait, what?!) of, and throughout “Marianne” as coming straight from “Wishful Thinking”. Apart from that piece of info, “Marianne” is a gorgeous, fragile but haunting track with warm, autumnal tones and yearnings for things lost and forlorn.
“One Dime a Day“, more than any other track, truly has that slick, laidback sophisti /jazzy sound, clouded in a Prefab Sprout mist with zephyrs of the Blowmonkeys and Donald Fagen and a video with 80’s neon vibes in the office.
Video direction: Jess Krichelle (Crescendo)
Christoph has been a big fan of Canadian singer-songwriter Sean Nicholas Savage who did some guest/backing vocals on “Send me a Letter. I definitely hear some Aztec Camera influence on this song which is the ideal soundtrack to your post-nightclub/ hangover meanderings in the faded glory of some sea-side resort: loosened suit, bare feet in the sand, sunglasses to screen the tubelights.
Video direction: Francis Serra and Nicolas Postiglione
I had a little chat with Christoph Hochheim about the album:
Hi, how are things going? Is the album well received? Any plans of touring yet?
Christoph: “Things are going well! It’s always hard to tell how an album’s doing right after you release it but the response has been good and I think it’s spreading slowly. No plans for touring at the moment but we’ll hopefully get something together soon!”
Bands like Ice choir, Roman a Clef and yourselves all seem to be influenced by 80’s sophisti pop lately. Do you think there’s is more longevity in the better bands of that era than f. i the bands and trends of the 90’s that inspired you before?
Christoph: “I think the 90’s groups that inspired us before were always the ones that put songs at the forefront of their focus. A lot of groups that get bunched together in that scene seem to nail the overall aesthetics and production choices that define that era but I think what I’ve always responded to was their chord voicings and melodies. Many sophisti pop groups seemed to strip away edgy production and let the songs be what they were which really appeals to me. If a song can stand on it’s own without layers of reverb and delay then it’s a strong composition and there’s always gonna be more longevity in that than in style.”
Influences named often associated are Prefab Sprout and Aztec Camera, but “Marianne” notably has a sample of China Crisis’ “Wishful Thinking”? How did that come about? What did you think of the fact that Eddie Lundon of China Crisis himself got to hear it?
Christoph: “I was of course totally honored that Eddie got to hear it! I hope he didn’t think it was in bad taste or anything but it’s such an iconic drum loop and one that I think really defines that era/sound that we thought it’d be fun to sneak it in just for a moment. China Crisis are hands down one of our favorite groups of all time and one that I continually go back to and draw inspiration from on a daily basis…truly one of the greats.”
A lot of older people that used to love the Sophisti Pop bands also seem to dig your stuff. That sort of broadens the game range of your audience doesn’t it?
Christoph: “I hope so! I have never really felt that my taste reflected that of my peers or age group so I don’t see those barriers when it comes to our music, if you like it then you like it!”