Party like it’s 1982…
It’s good to be reminded of how young you are sometimes. To any more mature readers of this article, I assure you this isn’t meant as a smug gloating session. It’s merely a recognition of the things you occasionally encounter that, by their nature, put time and place into sharp focus. For myself, this is especially pertinent when it comes to all things 1980’s, the decade of my birth.
This is no wistful nostalgia, I honestly can’t remember anything more exciting about it than trying to decide whether I’d rather be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or an aeroplane. The weird thing is, though, that people even younger than myself now seem to wish they were there. Of course, most people feel like they may have missed out on some of the highpoints of the past, but a significant proportion of the current generation now seek to emulate the attributes of a decade that lies just beyond their living memory, but one that their parents would probably tell them was actually pretty dire.
To any more mature readers of this article, I assure you this isn’t meant as a smug gloating session.
This obsession seems to pervade everything, from gravity-defying haircuts and male make-up to no-one having any money except shadowy businessmen and Tories winning elections. Of course, in terms of the wider world, Britain had it easier than most. Eastern Europe, on the other hand, was a festering mire of increasingly desperate and deluded communist dictatorships, oppressing their people more as their grip on power diminished. No fun, basically. You’d think that anyone from, say, the former Yugoslavia, for instance, might want to put all that behind them.
Well, Serbian synth duo Sixth June are more than a little inclined to disagree. Purveyors of flayed, minimal-wave industrial synth pop, former Belgrade, current Berlin denizens Lidija Andonov and Laslo Antal seem to harbour a massive aversion to any sounds that could conceivably have been created after 1985. Mixing a dour gothic edge with strong melodic hooks, they seem to have tapped the supposedly dried up early 80’s electro-dance mainline and are determined to remain stuck in time ad infinitum.
The closing track of their ‘Back For A Day’ 12” EP is even titled ‘82’, which, presumably, refers to the year they regard as the zenith of human existence. They certainly aren’t reticent about their intentions, though, and for the most part, their mechanical pop-noir is executed with enough style and blank, kohl-eyed miserablist mystery to keep it intriguing. Given the inherent limitations of their chosen oeuvre, there’s little opportunity to break new ground, so they choose to invest their energies in delivering their songs with the requisite glacial finesse.
It’s probably the overall stylism of their sound that resonates, rather than the songs themselves. There is a cold, all-pervasive sterility, a kind of maudlin aloofness that implies distance between band and listener. That said, they are no slouches when it comes to nagging synth lines and pulsating rhythms, and the six tracks here give a comprehensive overview of their general ethos. Though not exactly a stellar leap from their previous full length album, ‘Everytime’, the ‘Back For A Day’ EP concertedly ploughs the same furrow with utmost conviction.
her affected despondency unfortunately sounds rather like an android with a sinus infection.
The lead track, ‘Back For A Day', is probably the best example. It rides a throbbing beat and multiple repeated hooks that anchor it in pop territory, coming on like a hybrid between a stripped-down Depeche Mode and, oddly, a downcast Eurythmics. Yes, it gets a bit over-repetitive, but there is a certain elemental power at play here.
The rest of the EP contains no real surprises, mainly comprising of Antal’s minor-key motorik analogue synthesiser tunes and topped with Andonov’s severe vocals. Near-monotonous for the most part, her affected despondency unfortunately sounds rather like an android with a sinus infection.
Only on ‘Come Closer’, one of the stronger cuts here, does Andonov reach beyond her ‘comfort octave’ and dare to sing a few more notes, resulting in a more human sound. Of course, given Sixth June’s general predilection, I doubt aural humanity is high on the agenda, so they only let this happen once. The rest of the song is a swirling, ominous mood piece that evolves into choppy goth-dance, all on the back of what sounds worryingly like a slowed-down version of the bassline from Seal’s ‘Crazy’. Still, for all its glumness, it’s actually rather enjoyable.
Otherwise, it’s much the same. The pumping retro-techno of ‘Today’ starts with an sense of portent, and at least plays around a little with arrangement and tempo (as much as programmed drums will allow), but the overall starkness of tone is indistinguishable from every other track. Similarly, despite the addition of a guitar –merely to accentuate the offbeats- and an evocation of a cataclysmically depressed girl group, ‘Inside’ disappears into the tenebrous murk. The aforementioned ‘82’ lives up to its title, but not necessarily in all the right ways. Riding a tinny keyboard motif headlong into oversized shoulder-pad land, there is a whiff of cheese about it that really starts to get quite pungent as it goes on.
Still, for all its glumness, it’s actually rather enjoyable.
Overall, totalitarian 80’s obsessives and minimalist synth devotees will probably regard Sixth June as manna from heaven. Their analogue-robotic ambience, fastidious attention to detail and undeniable melodic ear will doubtless count in their favour when preaching to the converted, but the cold iron curtain they wilfully operate behind is unlikely to help endear them to less zealous listeners. On the whole, though, they do what they do well, and, as long as they resist descending into parody, should have a bright, bleak future.