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Album Review: Business 80 - Strangers With Me





Album Review: Business 80 - Strangers With Me

From the outset Business 80's debut Strangers With Me quivers with a looming sensation of darkness. It oozes a sadness that lurks in the darkest corners of its sound. A collage of glitching synthesized sounds, live instruments, and ominously sung vocals, Business 80 is the latest project by local songwriter H.A. Eugene (whose previous creation, Burbank International's City of Burbank, put him squarely on the Bay Area's music scene map) and a dramatic turn from the tender folk sounds of his previous work.

A mostly electronic album, Strangers With Me is broken into three movements, each (for reasons not outwardly clear) named after Tenderloin bars (Koko, Hemlock, and Ha-Ra). With driving industrial rhythms and often piercing electronic squelches throughout Strangers With Me, apt comparisons to acts like Nine Inch Nails (or a much harder version of Depeche Mode) certainly jump to mind, peppered with a spirit of IDM from the likes of Plaid, Autechre, or even Squarepusher (maybe a stretch).

Opening amidst a wash of penetrating electronic sounds and almost choked vocal gurgles, the eerie and despondent "Koko" begins the section of the same name. As with most the songs on this album, an intricate depth characterizes the soundscape of this song, with multiple pieces waiting to be found amidst the layers. Trapped in a loop, the album title is repeated endlessly as the synth sounds punctuate the space of the song. The result of this, as the line "strangers with me" is muttered ad nauseum, is an unnerving level of violence to the loneliness evoked throughout "Koko."

"Who Died?" follows, and with it's crescendoing viola line it may well be my favorite track on this album (the track that follows being a close second). Coupled with an ethereal-sounding arppegiated synth-line, and one of the more forceful and driving bass outros I've had the pleasure of hearing, this song really sends chills down the spine.

If "Who Died?'s" outro is an emotional ascension, "Mad at Nothing" is its zenith. Certainly the funkiest track on the album, "Mad at Nothing," if for its title only, really captures the spirit of Strangers With Me. There is a feeling of impudent rage that permeates throughout the narrative of these songs. From the anger and the drive that pushes the vamping repetition of the line "never learned shit, got stupider stupider," to the flailing rage that percolates from Mad at nothing, to the suffocating impotence of "Getting Sick for Real" and "This Place Where We Used to Play," there is an invisible force that torments the character of Strangers With Me.

All things considered, with its tumultuous layers of electronic sounds, Strangers With Me is an alluring and schizophrenic emotional ride. Peppered with rage, terror, loneliness and pure driven anguish Strangers With Me is a fascinatingly complicated album.

 

-Ada Lann

Note: Copies of Strangers With Me can be aquired at Business 80's CD release show, at El Rio on July 1st, or for free by contacting H.A. Eugene here.

Published: June 30, 2010 |

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