So here’s an album that we’ve been meaning to write about for a while now. Coming up to X-mas we’ve had less time to devote to writing but we have been determined to post a little noise about this record before the end of the year; so here we are.
Brooklyn based Danielle ‘Danz’ Johnson has been firmly on our radar since around 2010 with a host of self released EPs. We were immediately taken with her introspective DIY take on SynthPop, kinda’ filling the hole in our hearts left by a lack of Ladytron. Loaded with vintage synths and simple, yet blissfully effective hooks the music felt raw and heartfelt, and when paired with Danz’s reflective vocals and Sci-Fi tinged lyrics the combination is easy to get lost in.
Following the self released EPs Computer Magic came a handful of EPs on the likes of Kitsuné Music and White Iris and three full length albums in Japan that compiled tracks from various sources. Davos, however, is Computer Magic’s first proper full-length studio album; and one we had been looking forward to for a long long time. It does not disappoint.
Computer Magic’s work on Davos transcends SynthPop or ElectroPop, or even Indie-Electro. Whilst the instrumentation is that of a Lo-Fi SynthPop album, the arrangement, songwriting and the actual mood of some of these songs spans numerous genres. We’re hearing synth based Shoegaze, synth based Punk, synth based Indie as Danz throws the rulebook out of the window on this ambitious twelve track record.
Davos exemplifies this with it’s opening salvo. Fuzz, if synths were swapped for guitars, could quite easily be an underground British Indie hit. That kind of songwriting, but chock full of analog synths rather than dirty guitars make Computer Magic something special. Fuzz is a sweet and playful track that contrasts a distorted riff with Danny’s sweet vocals and is about as anthemic as Computer Magic gets. That Ladytron (well, early Ladytron) comparison comes to light on When You See Me which plays with a similar live, garage ElectroPop feel that Ladytron’s first recordings had. Slightly haunting and otherworldly without being alienating Computer Magic, in just two tracks, can completely suck you into her futuristic, yet intimately personal, world. Secret, again, is written like a 90s Indie smash. With it’s subby verses Danny weaves a mysterious atmosphere before reeling you in with a chorus of subtle Pop brilliance.
Sorry if we keep saying that there are catchy Indie tunes made with synths, but Be Fair, c’mon, it’s a catchy Indie smash made with synths; complete with “do do dos”. Give Me Just A Minute brings out Computer Magic’s more robotic side with it’s Kraftwerkian rhythms and Casiotone-esque leads leading to spacious Numaniod pads. The vintage electronic notes continue with the Tangerine Dream keys on Hudson (probably the album’s closest track to traditional Indie).
The second half of Davos is led by the RoboPop of Save Your Life, a track which harkens back to those quirky Indie-SynthPop bands coming out of America in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. This kind of slightly Folky, quaint bands like Venus Hum, with Danny’s own galactic twist.
Then comes All Day, one of our favourite tracks on that album and something of a departure from it’s fellows. Playing with 80s Pop, and a hint of Snyth Funk, Danz turns in the albums grooviest tune. All Day is a buoyant and rich slice of exhilarating ElectroPop that you could easily slip into a best of the 80s compilation. The use of digital bass really makes the tune stand out on Davos.
Bionic Man is also an album highlight. A space age epic rocking the kind of live drums, piercing synths and anthemic vocoding that make up the finest Progressive SynthPop. The rest of the album brings the mood back to that of Danny’s imitate beginnings. Chances is a chirpy and stripped back track full of synthetic optimism while Zuma feels like the emotional outro for Davos. A hazy ballad that, in keeping with the Davos’ second half, has a slightly proggy feel. Spaces, fittingly for a Computer Magic album, closes the record. An six minute opus that sends off Danielle’s science fiction soundtrack in true cosmic style.
If you’re looking for something a little unique, and love synths, Sci-Fi and things of quite brilliance then Computer Magic’s début album, Davos, comes recommended.
♫ Computer Magic – All Day
♫ Computer Magic – Fuzz
♫ Computer Magic – Bionic Man
♫ Computer Magic – Secret
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