In alignment with the definition of their new album’s title (an Italian word for the contrast between light and dark in artwork), Swedish duo I Break Horses have shed some light on the dark shoegazing sound of their debut album, 2011’s Hearts. With the emphasis now shifting to smooth, heady synthpop, it’s the uptempo numbers on Chiaroscuro that grab you on first listen, such as the techno throb of ‘Faith’ and the instantly accessible ‘Denial’.
But repeated listens bring the more reflective, less beat-driven songs to the fore; pulsating, atmospheric ballads like ‘Medicine Brush’ and ‘Disclosure’ are reminiscent of Goldfrapp’s seductive debut, Felt Mountain. Beneath all the buzzing synths and scattershot beats are some deceptively simple and direct songs. It’s the more expansive numbers that simmer along and explore a sense of space without much in the way of chiaroscuro contrasts that resonate the most strongly.
Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck seem to still be exploring and finding their sound, and the mysterious song titles and lyrics on this record do little to lift the veil on the band’s true self.
But there’s little that’s puzzling about the spare, eloquent fusion of electronic music and dreampop, especially when it’s cast in pleasingly subtle shades.
Chiaroscuro is out now on Bella Union.