The 11th Hour
~reviewed by Matthew J.
Over the past twenty years, Psyche’s Darrin Huss and his ever-evolving band of collaborators have accrued a cult following with their brand of moody but danceable synthpop. On his latest CD, Huss takes things down a notch from the high-energy, techno-influenced club tracks of recent albums, releasing a collection of songs that brood more often than they bounce.
The 11th Hour starts off with the ominously titled “Bloodcurse,” a tense but quiet journey into echoing vocals and atmospheric pianos. Pianos are in fact a recurring element throughout this album. On “Yearning,” they add a perfect sense of…well…yearning to the cinematic string layers, while the wonderful harmonies of “Defenseless” begin with a piano composition with all the classical grace and melancholy of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”
On other tracks, Huss and programmer Per-Anders Kurenbach use more modern effects to generate their sorrowful sound. On “Buried Alive” Huss drawls languidly over a relentless plodding trip-hop beat, while title track “11th Hour” sucks you into a more intimate tension with a sort of Beatnik-flavored clicking effect. “Justice and Damnation,” perhaps the album’s most memorable song, makes Huss’s voice the primary instrument, but broadens his wispy tenor by recording multiple vocal tracks so he can solo over his own refrained chorus.
All that said, there are a few big club tracks here. The big beat techno styling of “The Belonging Kind” is full of dance floor enthusiasm, and “Defenseless,” for all its delicate vocal euphony, is driven along by a high-BPM trance rhythm. By and large, though, these are torch songs for the electronic set, dripping with dark textures and lyrical gloom. Unlike so many synthpop albums, you don’t have to be in a clubbing mood to be taken in by The 11th Hour’s mournful melodies.