Released 17 August 2016 (self-released)
Electro-pop: there’s a lot of it. And it’s been drifting in and out of fashion for over thirty years. The good news for Empathy Test is that it’s really in right now. Bands such as CHVRCHES and Purity Ring are cemented as mainstream radio staples, but there are hundreds of bands out there riding on their multi-coloured, glittery coattails.
With so many bands out there armed with a synthesiser, a vocoder and a plethora of three-way adapters, is Empathy Test good enough to rise above the tide?
There’s enough in this double A-side to suggest that maybe it is – and Demons is a radio-friendly slice of dark electro-pop. When you realise that the band’s name comes from ’80s sci-fi cult classic Blade Runner, it’s no surprise that this track sounds like it has come straight from the big screen. It does a superb job of merging the old and now; splicing the atmospherics of Japan with the big choruses of CHVRCHES.
Seeing Stars clucks and clicks, although it feels a little more clichéd than Demons. Lyrically it’s more naïve and the track leans towards disposable darkwave rather than offering anything drastically different to the mainstream. That said, there’s enough going on here to suggest that the duo of Isaac Howlett and Adam Relf know their way around a tune.
It’s the smaller influences, the ’80s sci-fi and cinematic suggestions, that could set them apart from the rest.
Artist: Empathy Test
Label: Self release
Dark wave? Future pop? Call it what you like, but Empathy Test find a balance between the sound of the screen and pop sensibilities to conjure up a twist on the present.