By Erik Myers
The self-titled debut from Force Publique is filled with the dark stuff that we heard from an earlier generation of post-punk (Bauhaus, Joy Division), with a few reference points to electroclash from the previous decade. But there are enough of the Denver duo’s own peculiarities at work to keep them from crossing into familiar treads, and they’re enjoyable in their own right.
A foremost example would be Cassie McNeil’s precarious moaning, which drifts over the tracks with the slightest regard for tempo. Even before “Still Falls Apart” shifts into its laser light chorus, its stark drumbeat and jogging bass line practically demand for a more forceful vocal delivery. But McNeil’s words unfurl at their own deliberate pace.
That’s not suggesting McNeil doesn’t fit into the digital framework set out in front of her. In fact, it almost seems easy considering the precision layering in each track by James Wayne. He’s a great producer, good with timing and making his beats stick, even if they occasionally seem a little grounded. The battle between glitchy and ghostly has burnt on for about three decades by now (“The Open Cold” is an unabashed Nine Inch Nails throwback) but Wayne is at least a forward-moving participant.
He and McNeil are a strong match. Their talents just snap together. His squealing synth progression on “Kinetic” is intensified by her aggressiveness, while her processed bellowing on “Distorted + Thin” overcomes his rave throbs with ease. There’s no question that the two operate on the same frequency, set at the far end of the dial.