[29 July 2013]
Quadron see no conflict in their music between raw emotion and soft sound, complex construction and direct communication. In their world, precision, calm, and delicacy are not frowned upon; why should easy listening be seen as a bad thing? Slogging through an album doesn’t necessarily make it more rewarding. Quadron share the aesthetic of a new cohort of artists flocking to the sounds of quiet storm and post-disco soul: Jessie Ware, inc., even Daft Punk (though French pop has been interested in this sound for some time now).
Quadron features Coco and Robin, both from Denmark; Avalanche, Quadron’s second full-length album, is not the duo’s first foray into this sound. The two have been working in a similar vein for a few years, collaborating with ‘70s musical masseur Leon Ware for an EP and covering Michael Jackson’s “Baby Be Mine”. Robin also forms one half of Rhye, which longs (gently, of course) for the days of Sade and George Benson.
Avalanche tends to ebb and flow, seep and wash. Some of its songs cruise in double-time as keyboard disco (“Hey Love” and “It’s Gonna Get You”), but these songs don’t build to climax and escape, and they’re quickly defused by the tracks that follow them (“Crush” and “Better Off”), which work more plodding tempos. The sound is full, with fat synths, string instruments, and horns. But the strings don’t sweep and swirl, they sigh and deflate; the horns thicken but do not punch.
Coco can evoke an English singer like Amy Winehouse or more recently, Lianne La Havas, but Avalanche isn’t about power (though Coco seems to have plenty). She sings mostly about romance and the insecurity that accompanies it, delivering pithy statements like “crushes don’t come with warnings”, or worrying questions, like “maybe if you got to know me, would you change your mind?” One of her best tricks is to end a line by drifting down the scale, and she generally works in a more fragile, higher register. Wordless hums and a chorus provide the details that the music requires—the vocals cannot appear bare next to the depth of the arrangements. “Better Off” is a lullaby, a chorus repeatedly cooing “better off without you” as if wishing would make it so. In this music, no instrument or singer suffers the pain of working alone.
“Sea Salt” distills Quadron to its purest form. A thin, high, almost-slide guitar starts the song, signifying melancholy from the get-go; there’s clicking, latin-leaning percussion and the album’s grooviest bassline, roaming free. It channels Smokey Robinson, circa 1978. “I’m not trying to resolve/and I’m not trying to put you at fault”, sings Coco. Stuck in limbo, not entirely happy but not sure if she should leave, she focuses on making things as easy as possible—for herself, and for the listener.