It must be hard to be an electro act right now. The initial surge in popularity seems to be subsiding, and the scene is undeniably inundated. Everything from the diabolically cheesy mainstream (Owl City) to the trendy Stateside starlets (MGMT) seems to have found a popular niche, and it’s only a matter of time before the ever-morphing music industry swings away again. Sounds Of System Breakdown, though, might just have muscled their way in just on time.
In the main, their style is a slightly ’80s pop one, an almost robotic, shape-throwing take on electro that’s littered with abrupt, bleepy beats and distant yet distinctive vocals. Opening track ‘Vinegar Joe’ and follow up ‘Electrolysis And Mood Enhancers’ explore the band’s -made this one my PC last night’ tendencies: they’re pointedly simple structures, yet driven and instantly compelling. Both stick in the head with a painful level of addictiveness, but from the opening two tracks onwards it’s a case of ever more complex and life-enhancing arrangements. Sounds Of System Breakdown are still better at their more subtle, slowly building the brain-bashing melodies though tracks like ’10 Pack Of Johnny Blue’ and ‘Jaysyehaventacluedoyah’. Later efforts like -Underneath The Floorboards’ have an air of the instant classic to them, adopting heavily layered sounds that sweep away the brasher early offerings and drift into clever, bass-ridden electro-pop territory.
Sounds of System Breakdown seem to have the charms of marketing down, too. This particular offering was delivered to State in the form of a hand-made promo, the cover spattered with suitably mechanical modern art. In truth, though, it’s not the playful cover or brain-assaulting electro that make these Dubliners ones to watch, but their ability to contrast those sounds with the odd far more delicate acoustic track. State were surprised to learn that the three-piece occasionally perform entirely unplugged sets (there’s little here to give us any clue how they would expand that beyond perhaps two tracks), but on their one laid-bare effort here – ‘Love’s Only Chemicals’ – they truly excel.
The second-to-last track is an out of place yet outstanding acoustic effort, a downbeat and hair-raising exploration of love that seems to expand to fill a room during the chorus, edging into tearjerker territory. It’s simplistic to the point of naÃ¯ve, but that only adds to the all-round appeal of one of the best -unsigned’ albums State’s ever been lucky enough to hear. It’s hard not to get overexcited about such an enticing prospect flitting around our own backyard: if the record’s anything to go by, Sounds Of System Breakdown are potential stars.