Astronomique: “Sharp Divide” – evoking emotion and dreamy nostalgia

Astronomique arose by merging Andra Fongemie’s (lead vocals, keys, lyrics) love of ‘60s psychedelia and Sean Hogan’s (guitar, vocals) passion for late ‘70s B-Grade sci-fi films with both members’ equal adoration...

Astronomique arose by merging Andra Fongemie’s (lead vocals, keys, lyrics) love of ‘60s psychedelia and Sean Hogan’s (guitar, vocals) passion for late ‘70s B-Grade sci-fi films with both members’ equal adoration for early ‘80s post punk and dark romanticism. It’s no surprise that these elements naturally progressed to what the band half-jokingly calls “Space Wave.” With a name borrowed from a French picture book out of Fongemie’s childhood, Lunette Astronomique, their influences are fondly conveyed. The addition of Mitch Billings on drums and Preston Saari on bass brings an organic, funky element to the band’s unique brand of space-age electro psych-pop.

The Minneapolis band, Astronomique, has released their latest 10 track album, “Sharp Divide”. As a musician and a music producer firstly, and then a music reviewer, I think I have a pretty solid grasp of what makes music good. Though all good music does not always play too everyone’s taste, there is no denying that this is an incredibly good album.

Great songwriting, incredible musicianship, and impeccable production quality. This album has great 80s overtones and a really truly rich sound. “Sharp Divide” is the type of album, anyone of any musical taste would find a hard time disliking.

Once in a while you come across music that you feel relates to you, and your situation in life and is kind of like a soundtrack for its various phases. Astronomique is good at both, evoking emotion, and a dreamy nostalgia through their music. They blend synth and guitar based soundscapes seamlessly with sultry melodies and easily danceable rhythms.

In truth, though musically different, on the odd occasion, Astronomique remind me of an evolved version of one of the most elegant music groups of our time – Roxy Music. For those who don’t know the band, or what I’m talking about, please check out their 1982 groundbreaking album “Avalon”.

Astronomique has the same magical formula for mixing rhythm and melody in a way that is both energizing and dreamily smooth at the same time. You’re always torn between listening to their music in a late-night club with an itch to dance, or experience it intimately with a set of top-tier headphones.

In fact the minute “Forefathers” kicked in, I began to savor the band’s understated power and total lushness, between instrumentation and vocals.  Massive, epic, ridiculous in so many good ways. At times I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, kept having to get up and check what band I was listening to. “Shape of Your Mind” delivers a funky and groovy retro vibe for 3 minutes of pure listening or dancing pleasure.

The music has an energy that quietly builds throughout each song. The overarching feeling is an air of optimism and hope, as well as a longing for something unknown. “We Disappear” launches straight into the eighties with a resonant melodic synth and a crunchy over-driven guitar giving the song it’s momentum.

“Losing Our Control” showcases a jangling guitar strum that beautifully dominates the track as Fongemie weaves her dream pop vocal through the nooks and crannies of the arrangement. There are not many artists that truly focus on their sound as meticulously as this band.

 Astronomique really does, and it’s profound on the title track, “Sharp Divide”, as the instrumental interplay delivers a song that is richly layered yet well separated stem-wise. Some bands just know how to reach perfection, which is what Astronomique do on “Smoke”. Each time you listen to it you hear something you missed before.

“Unspoken” into an upbeat reverb-filled cut which will probably drive you to the dance-floor. “Bleed Me” sticks to the same upbeat retro tropes. “Hardly Deliberate” is motorized by a thumping set of drums and a whirling synth solo, while “Heading Nowhere” has a mesmeric cadence and emotionalism that’s capable of sending the listener into a trance.

“Sharp Divide”, is almost like a fantastic retrospection of music that reaches back a few eras. Yet there is nothing archaic or out-of-date here. On the contrary, it is fresh and modern. It’s as if a music formula is being unearthed from the past, and somehow repackaged and taken in new directions with the help of today’s technology. And it’s such a tightly woven production that you will have it on replay for weeks on end.

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