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


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.






PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.