Neo-synth is mostly a bloody nuisance. What is the point of sounding exactly like something from 1984? Most bands actually sound much worse than the poor artists of the eighties, but somehow their musical failures are excused in the name of kitsch. But what if it is an artistic interpretation or appropriation of the new romantic scene? Does that raise the value of the neo-synth record? Hardly.
Still, Tobias Bernstrup is an artist, and he seems to have picked up the synthpop expression to deal with the aesthetics and sexual ambiguity associated with the early synth scene. Using a world of sounds utterly familiar to anyone who has some kind of relationship to the early days of synthpop, he conjures the ultimate queer fantasy: Hair sprayed boys decked out in black are flirting with transsexuals or making out with their custom-programmed perfect virtual lovers in a boundless world of fetish clubs and interactive computer games.
Paradoxically there is a great loneliness, an almost masturbatory desperation in the endless hedonism of this dream. The experience of sex and intimacy has to be filtered to be bearable; identity must be vanquished. There is always a computer screen, a mask, or a latex armour separating the lovers as protection against real closeness. Maybe the obviously artificial sounds associated with the robotic imagery and heavily made up faces of synthpop imagery are used here to articulate this fear of exposing the self to another.
Whatever function the sounds may have, experienced producer Johan Vävare seems to have had a hell of a time at the mixing desk. Bernstrup has quite simply pillaged the synth music history for nice little melodies, and picking out the sound loans of this record would take a long time. Not because their hard to find, but because they are so numerous.
The melodies are pretty catchy, and Bernstrup’s vocals are OK, though he sounds much better when he undergoes vocoder treatment. Frankly, “Re-animate Me” must be a gold mine for the new new romantic, but I don’t really find that gold worth digging for. Nostalgia wells up, but little else.