Friday, July 07, 2023

Ballad meets synth in Strange Souvenirs’ atmospheric new single ‘Slight Mod’

Berlin duo Strange Souvenirs are known to make music that is a perfect fit for their chosen name: complex, subtly unsettling, and full of unexpected turns. It is an unusual take on the pop structure, starting from the building blocks that are so familiar to many casual listeners and growing from them into something much more refined, full of musical nooks and crannies, capable of evoking entrancing atmospheres. 

All of this is to be found in their newest single, ‘Slight Mod’, a song that is, for all intents and purposes, a ballad: but a ballad seen through the filter of thick synth music, with a clever production that pays attention to the tiniest of details, turning it into so much more than the sum of its parts.

There is something post-apocalyptic, in a Blade Runner kind of way, in the specific brand of synth-pop shrouding the main melody, something that evokes neon and rainy nights. It is a song that could easily be the soundtrack to that specific kind of melancholy sci-fi movie, its broad, layered sound, ushered in by a fully electronic intro before being compounded by a ripple of guitar, reminiscent of The Cure or of classic Depeche Mode - although there is also something in the structure of the song and in the dreamy vocals that brings to mind The Horrors, around the times of ‘Something To Remember Me By’. Mood-wise, if not melody-wise, one might also end up thinking of a riff on Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence’: this track shares the same urban anthem quality, the same quiet, shivery immersion. 

Perhaps the greatest merit to this track is in how it is both immediate in its impact - it is easy to be drawn in, easy to sing along, to pay attention to the reflective, pointed lyrics, and easy to end up humming the main melody once the song is spent - and layered enough that you find yourself returning to it, noticing the way the hum of the synth is woven with the full-bodied vocals, or how an almost acoustic guitar is made to blend seamlessly with the drone of the rhythm section, all the polished little things that elevate it beyond the realm of being simply yet another pop ballad. The lyrics, too, summon vivid imagery which has the same quality, between the melancholy and the disturbing: “A secret temple of shame/ A collection of bruises and stains/ A little black book/ Of lives that you took”.

There is confidence in both the composition and the delivery of this song that shines through in the way it challenges pop tropes and plays with familiar elements to highlight its own unique voice. Most of all, it manages to come across as the snapshot of a mood, something between wistful and gloomy, reflective and compelling.

Chiara Strazzulla


Image: ‘Slight Mod’ Official Single Cover

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