With Brooklyn’s lovely dream poppers Au Revoir Simone currently on an extended break due to family commitments, there’s a gap in the market for someone to make matter-of-fact, yet still touching, songs about breakups and supply David Lynch his wish-fulfilment for the stars of his next film and soundtrack. However they’re going to have to be quick off the mark to beat the band’s singer and keyboardist Erika Forster who, after a decade as part of the trio, is using band downtime to forge a solo career under the name Erika Spring. Her self-titled EP, Erika Spring, released by the excellent Cascine label, finds her in similarly dreamy mode, yet there’s a hardness present that sets it apart from the work of Au Revoir Simone.
Forster has spoken of her love of electronic music as made by the likes of Broadcast, and wanting to create “big dance” and pop music, so it’s the introduction of bigger beats and percussion (courtesy of Violens’ Jorge Elbrecht, who also produces) that pushes the music on Erika Spring away from the bliss-out of her day band into something that’s not really like Broadcast, but perhaps closer to the pop drive of Niki and the Dove. It’s on lead single ‘Hidden’ that you can hear this difference immediately; the combination of sharp synths, snares, reverberating drums adds a vibrancy that you don’t always find in Au Revoir Simone’s music, and it transports the song away from bedroom pop to something approaching the verges of commerciality, but not quite crossing over. At any rate, it’s a bolder sound and Spring should be commended for not drifting on autopilot.
Spring’s cooing vocals are present and correct throughout and work surprisingly well in the upbeat moments; on the surging ‘Like A Fire’, which sounds lifted straight from the pay-off moment in a John Hughes film, they provide a counterpoint to the sparkling layers of synths and propulsive beats and on ‘When Tomorrow Comes’, a slo-mo cover of the Eurythmics classic, her gossamer-light voice matches the downbeat atmosphere perfectly. The organ drone of opening track ‘Happy At Your Gate’ is equally as gloomy, with an icily-cool ’80s chorus showing that Spring does have the pop chops if she really wants to cut it in the commercial market. It’s only on closing track ‘6 More Weeks’ that attention wanes and that’s because it’s the only song that lacks a big pop hook, despite a fizzing outtro that you’d really like to replace the song completely. This is the only point where you feel a bit let down by the EP, yet that’s probably because of the quality of what has come before.
Given the standard of this handful of songs on Erika Spring, there’s more than enough justification for a full album of Forster solo work. I hope the other members of Au Revior Simone aren’t worrying that success and critical acclaim for Erika Spring spells the end of their band – I’d rather we continue to be spoiled by work from Forster on her own and with her old pals.