Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Do You Like Keytars? I Do!: Glasgow's iamchemist

I would like to begin by saying that I'm a fan of the keytar - there's something brazen about subverting the traditional electric guitar by strapping on a keyboard in its place. Others may mock the keytar as being a cheesy vestige of the '80's that should only be used ironically - that only makes me like it more. iamchemist, a one-man electro project from Glasgow, uses a keytar, and there is an unabashed, unapologetic bliss to his music. He has already supported the likes of Imogen Heap and The Hours and gained airplay on XFM Scotland and BBC Radio One, and this is all without an official release of material. I've been waiting for electro music that would make me feel the elation I felt as a thirteen-year-old listening to New Order's Bizarre Love Triangle for the first time - iamchemist has had that effect.

Citing influences ranging from electro acts (White Rose Movement, Ladytron, New Order, Salon Boris) to intelligent, tongue-in-cheek art rock (Pulp, The Futureheads, The Rakes), iamchemist produces melodic synthpop songs with plenty of vocoder, and provides a welcome alternative to the latest trends in grittier guitar-driven electro, electropunk, and sleazy disco. In a way, iamchemist cleanses the electro palate with a wash of breezy synths. While iamchemist began by exclusively doing cover versions, including a stunning re-working of Pulp's Babies, he has now moved on to brilliant original material, including A Sense of Purpose, Four Mistakes, and Closure. The intro to A Sense of Purpose recalls The Rakes' Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep), but than floats off into a different airy direction like a cloud of electro cotton candy. Its lyrics describe the monotony of civil service, but adds that "there's still time, there's still time/If we change, we can find/a sense of purpose" - forgive me for another New Order comparison, but this optimism achieves the same euphoric, but non-cheesy, effect as New Order's Krafty does. Four Mistakes once again fuses light New Wave synths with a more choppy lyric style reminiscent of bands like The Futureheads and The Rakes. Closure features a Hungry Like the Wolf-type female giggle in it and pumps along with a harder drumbeat and a shimmery melody line. Spirals, which was first released to the public as a demo this past Christmas, is the latest iamchemist creation, and it spins about in an excellent, dizzying imitation of its title.

There are rumours of an iamchemist EP for this summer, but as of yet, no official announcements. For now, enjoy the sample MP3s (including a cover of The Rakes' We Are All Animals) and visit iamchemist's MySpace page to hear more. Also, if you live in Scotland, go to see iamchemist perform live at his upcoming dates (he plays with one of my favourite bands, Stroszek, on March 29 in Edinburgh). Considering the inclusion of "bad dancing" alongside vocals, synths, and programming in the MySpace band members section, I would expect that iamchemist is a fun act to see live. Bring on keytars and vocoders, and long live iamchemist.

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