As Assemblage 23, Tom Shear has made some of the most spellbinding electronic music of his generation. But he’s also a master producer and collaborator – and with A23 silent since 2016, front and center is his newest project Helix, with captivating vocalist Mari Kattman.
The spontaneous synth-pop duo have been busy recording in 2018, combining elements of trip-hop, industrial, dub and enigmatic etherea into an astonishing debut album, Twin, which is sure to be the soundtrack to many a wistful autumn evening. Our favorite tracks are the pretty but haunted “Bird of Prey” – distinctly recalling synth legends Propaganda – and the anxious but exhilarating “Expensive Things” (which BlackBook premieres here), with its galloping rhythm, evocative atmospherics, and Kattman’s impassioned vocal delivery. Think: speeded up Depeche Mode.
“Don’t you know / That intentions are expensive things,” she poignantly elucidates, not necessarily looking for any further enlightenment.
“It tells the all too familiar tale of our need to be validated by others to find our worth,” she explains, “and talks about energy and time as currency, because they are. It’s about having nothing, but still being taken for the little you have left; because there is always something to give, and there is always someone to take it.”
The music, it must be said, perfectly sonically captures that very same anxiety and cynicism – though it’s very much styled to assist you in dancing away all the disquietude.
“It was originally almost a Timbaland style track,” says Shear, “but as it developed, it kept edging towards a more dance-oriented style. Sometimes songs kind of take on a life of their own, and you just have to let them go where they want to go.”
Twin is released today by Metropolis.