Like so many shards of suspended crystal, twisting white light through mystery prisms into a refracted spectrum of shimmering color, New York-based Alice Cohen’s latest full length Pink Keys (off the resurrected Olde English Spelling Bee) is a vibrant testament to the enduring value of a well crafted synth-pop album. Innumerable layers of electric sweetness tickle the frontal cortex with deep, resounding bass and uplifting keys, carrying the listener to ebullient heights. Like ancient Greco-roman statues, these tracks are exquisitely formed yet carry a noble firmness and seductive presence that is impossible to ignore. It is the vocals, however, that breathe pulsating life into this imposing temple, as Cohen consistently delivers songs laden with surreal images and catchy refrains in a voice both angelically otherworldly and gritty raw. In fact, it is this seeming contradiction, this internal tension between crystalline precision and formal beauty of the synth arrangements and the unsettling, somewhat dark emotional honesty of the vocals that drives these songs and imbues them with a power and depth rare for pop music these days. This talented lady has been doing this for a while, playing music since the late 70’s and her musical prowess shines through her playful borrowing from various genres, peppering her silky soft tunes with touches of funky disco, Neu!-style optimistic forward propulsion, new wave attitude and smooth 90’s R’n’B. With so much electronic music these days veering either towards overwrought rave-house anthems or cerebral, experimental obscurity, its quite refreshing to encounter a contemporary artist that explores new sonic terrain with vintage analog synths and classic pop structures, keeping us dancing along to the groove all the same.
ALICE COHEN “CASCADING KEYS” from OLDE ENGLISH SPELLING BEE on Vimeo.