For those who think electronic dance music is all hands in the air hedonism and good times, Curses is here to truly spoil that particular party.
Hailing from New York, Romantic Fiction is a love letter to the Anglophilic sounds that influenced Curses in the eighties, and although these are well and truly present in the music, his prowess as a dance producer brings to mind a Simian Mobile Disco collaboration with Trent Reznor.
"Surrender"'s propulsive offbeat and crunching 4/4 may indicate a propensity for losing one’s shit on the dancefloor of a Berlin club, but the heavily reverbed vocal is pure post-punk, the dark synth work evoking mid-eighties Depeche Mode. "Harbinger of the Light" is a gloriously dirgy workout, even down to the dystopian speech samples and a deceptively rudimentary drum pattern.
Romantic Fiction really comes into its own when the gothic bluster is turned up, "Crucify" (yes, really!) repeats its title phrase over doom-laden liquid basslines, as minimal splashes of angular guitar and cold synths envelope the beat. "Gold and Silber", featuring DFA artist Perel, is campish, nagging Italo, with Perel's lyrics delivered in her native German with operatic drama.
"Silence in the Dark" is even better, a collaboration with underground techno heavyweight Jennifer Cardini (Correspondent Recordings) which steals and twists the opening line of U2's "One": "Do you feel better / or do you feel the same?" before tentatively enquiring “Do you feel different / or do you feel queer / remember… here... everyone is queer”. The doom bass, vocal disengagement, Joy Division-esque guitar slashes and crystalline synths make for a thrilling piece of coldwave which manages to feel as classic as it does fresh.
The instrumental tracks are naturally more anonymous and geared toward the dancefloor, especially "Hex Alium", which perfectly fuses Giorgio Moroder arpeggios with Banshees basslines. Despite the excellence of these tracks, they are overshadowed by the sheer strength of the vocal tracks which makes you makes you think Romantic Fiction would be even better if it utilised a little more lyrical angst. Nevertheless, this is a dark triumph.