Written by Daniel Boyer, posted by blog admin
The ten track, nearly forty minute full length release Sharp Divide from Minneapolis’ Astronomique is as rich and varied of a studio album as you can hope for in 2018. This isn’t slight; the depth on display from this four piece band is completely modern while still recalling iconic acts and halcyon eras in music history. Logan Andra Fongemie’s vocals and synthesizer playing are keys to the success of this collection, but her main musical partner guitarist and backing vocalist Sean Hogan contributes much to the band’s vivid tapestry of sound. Their music has been labeled as space-age electro psych-pop and it’s as good of a description as you’ll find for what is, essentially, a potpourri of musical creativity. Sharp Divide gains a lot, as well, from the contributions of bassist/backing singer Preston Saari and drummer Mitch Billings. Their fluid, slightly funky spice added to the band’s mix gives these songs an added idiosyncratic quality that makes them stand out from the pack.
Much of Sharp Divide is distinguished by the rhythm section performance without Billings and Saari obscuring the other musical elements. Their contributions to album opener “Forefathers” helps give this track the sort of necessary ballast that a first song deserves. It’s impressive how artfully Fongemie and Hogan integrate vocals, synths, and guitar over the firm rhythm section work – their touch is light, but unmistakably stamped with energy and great timing. Sharp Divide’s third track, “We Disappear”, is one of the best expressions of a dominant theme on the album and has a steady mid-tempo push that rarely relents. The upper register synthesizer contributions to the track bring a little extra flair to the performance and the lyrical material is among the finest heard on Sharp Divide.
“Losing Our Control” is another album highlighted by a tight, lively melody line and enormously sympathetic performances from each of the band’s four musicians. One of the most impressive factors making Sharp Divide such a success is the consistent unity of the band’s performances and rarely do they sound so completely on the same page as they do with this track. Hogan’s guitar work, in lesser hands, would serve an ornamental purpose, but his additions to “Losing Our Control” are colorful and nuanced, never overwrought. The title song has similar merits to recommend it. “Sharp Divide” is the strong musical statement we’d expect from an album title track and elicits one of Fongemie’s best vocals. The lyric, as well, expands the band’s established range with some particularly evocative imagery that always remains accessible to listeners.
“Smoke” is cut from a slightly different cloth than other songs on Sharp Divide. The band clearly focuses more on invoking a mood with this number without ever sacrificing their approach to crafting durable, coherent songs. The same penchant for evocative imagery explored in the title song recurs here with similarly strong results. “Bleed Me” definitely has a dark tone, but the musical mood never bogs listeners down in despair and, instead, tempers the mood. The melancholy atmosphere of this song embodies the album as a whole and stands among its strongest tracks. Sharp Divide is a work of vital musical creativity that Astronomique will work hard to surpass.