Mike Simonetti perhaps decided Italians don’t do it as well as he thought before leaving his previous record label (Italians Do It Better), picking his favourite shade of blue and creating an album arguably completely different from anything this electro god has attempted before.
If you’re old school enough to pick up a physical copy of Pale Blue’s debut album you’ll notice the album art is a table (baguette and all) that firstly seems fairly relaxing and tidy, that is until you look at it for long enough and realise it could actually do with a bit of a tidy up. The same can be said for the musical content of the album.
Recently, Simonetti decided to split from Italians Do It Better to focus on this new project, Pale Blue, as well as the label 2MR (Two Mikes Records). Simonetti’s work with Johnny Jewel (Italians Do It Better), was a massive success. Synth pop After Dark, was something that had arguably never been done before and credited with beginning a new wave of the Italo-disco sound. But if you’re hoping for an Indeep “Last Night a DJ Saved my Life” don’t hold your breath. Pale Blue is as its name suggests, a bit of a cool down. It’s a new project and there is always respect for an artist who tries a new direction, but as fans hang up their dancing shoes many might miss the funky days of Glass Candy. Similar female breathy Chromatic style vocals may not be enough to satisfy the synth pop cravings.
The Past We Leave Behind feels like an experiment, which arguably is what it is. The tracks begin with beautiful vocals as you drift in but as the album progresses the use of lots of techniques and styles starts to feel a bit erratic and by track ten listeners may feel a bit travel sick. For an album that on the surface seems to be a chilled out record, the key and tempo of some songs almost make it more stressful than relaxing. Yet somehow on top of this strange effect the songs also sound very similar to each other. Each songs displays years of skill and talent, but as a whole the album shows that even the greats might need a few practice runs before they get it spot on.
Eerie layers of vocals immediately build up a dreamlike atmosphere as the tracks begin and fills every inch of you until you’re pretty sure that your veins are flowing pure melodic electro. The force and skill of plunging listeners straight into such a thick spectral aura is impressive and perhaps fills listeners with excitement for where the album will go next. The switching between more forceful vocals and those of a gentle nature creates a beautiful sound and it must be noted that Liz Wight is an asset to the album in every way.
The first track drifts straight into second with the same music finishing “The Past We Leave Behind” and beginning “scars”, and if just over four minutes of this song isn’t enough we get a “Scars” reprise at the end as well, albeit with a more mournful sound.
Mournful is also how “We Lost Some of Our Love” may initially be described; however, there is a disco undertone as a beat begins. This gives rhythm, stability and pace to a somewhat unstructured mesh of sound, you can’t help but get tangled in. “Dusk” also begins with a funky beat but we’re soon straight back into eerie mystic moans. Chilling, stunning vocals again pierce through this tracks but begin to become slightly repetitive.
“The math” shows greater promise and finally allows you to, ‘get yo groove on’ as it ups the funk. Uptempo and shamelessly moonwalking over the border towards dance music territory this track is definitely the standout piece of the album, bringing back the nagging feeling that change is good, but maybe Simonetti should stick with what he does best. With twangs of string instruments, up tempo beats and something that sounds a lot like a cymbal, this electro-pop energy injects life into an album that was starting to lag.
Pale Blue does notably add a certain warmth to electro with synthy, sonic and techno elements, even Connan Mockasin-style psychedelic pop creeps in to make an occasional appearance. It is clear that Simonetti knows his electro and the album is one to be proud of. However, compared to albums of similar bands such as LIGHTS OUT ASIA, Mogwai, and Orbital, Pale Blue does not even compete. Also in comparison to his success in other areas of the music industry, Simonetti’s project falls slightly flat.
With a beautifully emotive and retrospective album, Pale Blue has been a successful experiment for Simonetti, but compared to his previous work maybe he shouldn’t have been in such a rush to leave the past behind.