Decline and Fall – Gloom EP


Decline and Fall is the new project of three Portuguese veterans. The industrial and EBM underground will know Armando Teixeira as the creative force in Ik Mux and Bizarra Locomotiva. Hugo Santos is the author of a Moonspell biography and another book about electronic music. Ricardo S. Amorim is the vocalist and guitarist of sludge metal miserabilists, Process of Guilt. Together, they aim to manifest their love for the darkwave music of the 1980s into a twenty-first century reality. Gloom is their debut EP.

As with creative writing, the hardest thing to do in music is to create something poignant with the minimal number of expressive tools. Many people can create a complex sentence with myriad connotations and excessive adverbs, just as many musicians find it easier to create art that fetishises complexity as its defining feature. Decline and Fall relish the challenge of doing more with less. Opener, ‘Belief’, starts with lingering keyboard drones and a throbbing synth bass to provide the setting for a distorted drum snare. The vocals have a distinctive English enunciation rather than the standard American twang of modern music. Listen how the trio merge the funereal tone of the early records by The Cure with the atmospherics of Christian Death. The clarity of the vocals and minimalist guitars draw from Lycia. It may feel introspective and bare, but it’s a pleasure to analyse the subtle layering of instruments and samples as this song progresses. 

Tracing the influences on Decline and Fall’s music is not too difficult. The opening bassline in ‘Undone’ shares similarities with ‘A Forest’ by The Cure. Joy Division are always in the background. There’s a latent beauty underneath the sorrowful bass notes and ethereal keyboards, which provides abundant room for the vocal lines to express themselves with more freedom. Here, the band explore a wider dynamic range with a forceful distorted guitar breaking through and violins scurrying in the mix towards the end.

The tempo of this music is sensitive and unsure of its capabilities – that’s a definitive feature of darkwave music. Listen how they build the title-track around a five-note keyboard hook imitating a bass guitar with droning effects. A clean guitar navigates through this earnest soundscape at the higher end of the fretboard until they add a layer of noisy amp overdrive at 02:50 without changing the genesis of the song. Clearly, Decline and Fall are confident in the nakedness of their vocal arrangements. Closing track, ‘Europa’, reminds you that darkwave is about making the most of the grey timbres. That leaves repetition of critical vocal lines and guitar fuzz as the two ways to expand beyond the monochrome.

It might have started as a nostalgic urge to capture a sombre period of music in the early 1980s, but Gloom’s minimalist sophistication is worthy of a follow up record – hopefully a full-length album.


Verdict


Release Date: 03/05/2024

Record Label: Bleak Recordings

Standout tracks: Undone, Gloom

Suggested Further Listening: The Cure – Seventeen Seconds (1980), Lycia – Estrella (1998), Gvllow – Twin Flames (2024)