The cover art for this EP, Distance by The Diaphone, caught my eye before I even listened to the music. I spent a good few minutes analyzing the cartoonish picture of what appears to be a space alien with light bulb tentacles in a sweater, attempting to figure out if the sharp lines were a tooth filled mouth or the decorations of a sweater. (The jury is still out on that one.)
The Diaphone tags themselves as an “indie-synth-pop trio,” a description that is both fundamentally correct and misleading at the same time. I was expecting songs that were overloaded with wonky special effects and laser shots, with the bubblegum pop we hear so often on the radio. The first moments of “Tornado” completely blew away everything I thought, and pleasantly surprised me. The guitar work screamed underground rock done with an electric flair, evolving into the 80s pop style of singing and lyric writing that, combined, created a fresh sound I’ve not heard much of before.
“Run Away” is a powerful song for a number of reasons – the bass is played on a Casio CZ-1 synth, and the drums were done on a computer following the departure of the band’s drummer to South America. The opening seconds feature an unexpectedly varied drum pattern that falls into the groovy bass. Even more punctuated are Melissa Marie’s strong and sultry vocals that melt like butter over the rest of the song.
“A Good Sign” gives the EP an alternative rock break; with hints of those 80s pop effects carefully added at peak points. “The Sounds” is the most futuristic sounding piece, I imagined it might be the theme song for the cover art alien creature as it travels through space but is actually taken from another song they made a video for. The vocals here have an echo similar to the Cyndi Lauper style, but toned down slightly. Closer “This Is What They Left Us” can best be described as Tears For Fears meets Minus the Bear and decides to start a revolution. A clear culmination of the rest of the album, this is a highly emotive and groovy piece that incorporates a bit of everything featured prior to it. Each effect is subtly used, staying careful to avoid overuse or overpowering any other sound.
Distance is a thoroughly enjoyable EP from beginning to end. Rather than the overt and showy sound I was expecting, I was greeted with a well-balanced, artful interpretation of a synth-produced alternative rock with 80s influences. It’s groovy, upbeat, futuristic and classic all at the same time, and really has made for an impressive album.
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