Music

Model Man Taps Directly Into the Soul on 'City Songs Pt.1'

Photo: Practisemusic

Model Man create intricate, atmospheric electronic tracks that succeed in burrowing into the core of the human experience on City Songs Pt.1.

City Songs Pt.1
Model Man

Mahogany

24 April 2019

Every so often, electronic music can surprise you by seemingly tapping directly into the soul. Although it's origins are artificial, it can echo genuine emotional experiences - often by combining the organic and the synthetic. In the case of Model Man (aka brothers Rob and Mark Brandon), their heartfelt, often profoundly beautiful electronic music, features the piano as its beating heart with all the arterial electronics and ventricular beats coursing from it.

The reassuringly familiar crackle and hiss that accompanies the echoing piano notes on the opener "Don't Be a Burden" give it an immediate warmth - like playing long-forgotten vinyl. That is swiftly contrasted by the shuffling beat and percussive samples that quickly usher it into the present. It's a subtle trick the pair manage to pull off throughout the album, like adroitly flicking from analogue to digital. In turn, they divorce the songs from any sense of time as it existing as much in the past as the present. Soon a simple keyboard figure, doubled by reverberating steel drums, illuminate the song whenever it needs to edge out of the shadows.

"Running" evokes mid-'90s classic house with gleaming piano notes and snippets of vocal samples all supported by a synth riff that binds the whole thing together, giving it a taut, rhythmic pulse. With each piano note acting as a breath of fresh, cool wind, slowly but surely pushing the clouds away, the sun soon breaks through as the track sails away on a wave of euphoric synths and strutting beats.

The rich, house feel continues on "Without You" with the piano joined by the quick snap of percussion. Throughout, the pair warp and stretch the vocal samples, stitching them into the fabric of the song and, in turn, giving them an almost percussive edge. It's the kind of layered, infectious track that you can easily see keeping people on their feet as dawn approaches.

"Ketones" builds slowly with deep, synths gracefully rising before breaking, propelled by crisp hi-hat and danceable rhythms. It's a cleverly layered piece with percussive clashes and collisions cushioned by smooth synths. As with the other tracks on the EP, the component parts are familiar, but when used in such fresh and exciting new ways, the results are nothing short of majestic.

The closer, "Alone", is a song that seems to exist in the darkness of early morning. Beautifully crafted from elegant piano notes that puncture the thick post-dubstep beats like clusters of stars in the night sky. The pair match intricate layers of emotive piano, dark vocal loops and shadowy, trembling beats to create an atmospheric, otherworldly soundscape.

City Songs Part 1 is an EP filled with subtleties. Each component is skillfully stratified to create something with a distinct emotional pull. At its heart, the piano imbues the songs with a wavering sense of melancholy but also manage to simultaneously suggest a range of contrasting emotions including joy, hope, and possibility. These are intricate, atmospheric tracks that succeed in burrowing into the core of the human experience.

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