The Erised - Room 414 (Med School)

The Erised – Room 414 (Med School)

An electro-pop band from Ukraine, The Erised’s members include establish drum and bass producers Hidden Element and Detail. They’re signed to Med School, an off-shoot of acclaimed drum and bass label Hospital Records, but the group actually deal in the kind of hushed r&b-influenced minimalism of FKA Twigs and Jack Garrett. Although their brand of stark pop seems at odd with the maximalist energy of drum and bass, the production is innovative and intricate enough to align with the cutting edge of dance music.

Like a lot of pop from the hipper end of the spectrum, The Erised draw on a post-trip-hop, post-dubstep soundscape. There’s lots of thick foggy basslines, pinging synth effects and gaudy electro chords, and the tempo never gets beyond a slow, measured stutter. There’s some outlier moments, such as the finger-picked guitar melody underpinning ‘Pray’ and the jazz leanings of ‘Velvet’, but as a whole Room 414 sticks to its one tone. It’s glacial pace can feel sluggish over the course of the album, but at the same time it’s such a consistent, moody atmosphere. Unsurprisingly, the care of detail paid to the drums is one of the more striking features here: different timbres and grooves lend even the most inert moments a sense of elasticity. But the synths don’t have the same care taken of them – there’s a jarring brashness that feels disruptive on tracks like ‘Take Me’.

Sonya Sukhorukova, the voice of the band, has a keenly expressive voice that at times sounds reminiscent of Katy B. But there’s a sense of affectation in her performance, her delivery forced and pinched at times, like those earnest tropical house covers that seem to do well in the charts in 2016. There’s more than a hint of the Live Lounge studio. Her voice sounds better when she loosens up, such as the affair admission of ‘In My Car’. She wrings a lot of emotion from an album that, lyrically, doesn’t offer up anything revelatory, and the way she flits around the beats is as strong as any r&b popstar, but there’s just a little too much refinement to really animate these songs.

It’s the overall lack of personality that makes Room 414 feel a little lacklustre. It’s easy to imagine them having a hit single with the power-ballad-in-diguise ‘Liar’ or the shivering funk of ‘Take Me’ – their sound is so archetypal of 2016 music trends it almost feels unnatural. But it’s exactly that reason that it feels so safe. Drum and bass is obnoxious, maximalist and excessive, and on Room 414 you can hear them trying to escape that – maybe they’ve done too good a job doing so.

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