Feel like goth-dancing better than a peanuts character? Feel like whipping out the ol’ nose ring to ear chain from your 1987 time capsule? Whether you want to or not, you will after listening to Noir’s Darkly Near. Formerly known for his work with Black Tape for a Blue girl and Spahn Ranch, Athan Maroulis created Noir to musically bridge together his Industrial and Gothic past. Darkly Near pushes to recreate a new standard for vintage Darkwave.
Somehow after all the musical experience Maroulis has had with his former acts, Noir suffers no perfection or overproduction. Darkly Near captures that dated, and almost ameteuristic charm without sounding too minimalist.
Opening up with a track titled “My Dear”, I was pleased to hear poetic broodings over the rhythmic chiming of some analogue synth Maroulis likely found at a garage sale. Serving as the perfect beginning to the album, “My Dear” introduces an aural darkness with pulsating beats and gritty vocals. The next track, “The Bells”, provides an even more moody, brooding progression. It’s a wonderful mix of wintery, dream-like synths with more of that funky 1980s bass thump.
I didn’t care so much for the third track “The Grifter”. Although lyrically brilliant, the song is repetitive, fatiguing, and underwhelming due to lack of variation. No matter where I jumped to within the track, it sounded like a spacey bridge- It might be appealing for those religious Black Tape fans, however. In my eyes (and by eyes, I mean ears) I find this track to be sort of an awkward hiccup interrupting an otherwise entertaining album.
“The Voyeurs” is an interesting drone of a song, and I mean that in a good way. Without a discernible beat, this song is as close to “unplugged” as a Darkwave song will get. It’s slow, oddly melodic, and completely suicidey. Completely different from the rest of Darkly Near, this track still very much belongs in the mix.
After discovering that there is life after “The Voyeurs”, I was tricked with a song called “Timephase”. A better name for this album (in my opinion), this song doesn’t actually begin until about thirty seconds in. After a build of slightly off-key mono synths, the track becomes a progressive, more contemporary track. Reminiscent of Depeche Mode, this track contrasts with the beginning of the album, but in an excellent way. The last few tracks follow in a similar manner, with more futuristic elements and cleaner vocal effects. It all ends with a gothic ballad titled “In Every Dream Home a Heart Ache”, a beautiful beat-less song made of low-pitched whispering and broken dreams. It’s the perfect death for Darkly Near.
[Editor’s Side Note]
“In Every Dream Home a Heart Ache” is in fact a cover of Roxy Music’s tune. While not quite as on point as the original, Noir’s version does somehow manage to have more despair in it’s tone. Unlike Roxy’s version, this one never lets go of the despair. Noir also do an interesting cover of The Cure’s “A Forest“.