'electric pillow talk'
Best track: zapp my heart
click album cover to listen
Before I start, I just want to highlight the blurb that ‘Beckett’ has written to give you a sense of the story behind this album, because never has so little described so much and evoked so much fascination within this guy’s loins.
‘The nights are long and too hot to sleep, the want of physical connection and touch are strained over the distance, the voice on the other end of the line captivates and intrigues. In between the line noise and occasional interference, promises and whispers wrapped in pillow talk, make for electric anticipation... and wanting.’ Great right? C’mooon admit it, the juices are flowing…
I personally love a concept album if done right as I prefer a bit of structure to proceedings so I’m very excited to give this baby a review, so let’s see how things pan out with the latest attempt from Beckett titled ‘Electric Pillow Talk’
‘20 years’ starts out with a short-lived dream sequence intro but quickly goes all 80’s montage on our asses. A tempo perfect for a gym workout accompanied with some fresh guitar work from ‘Luca Ricardo’ make this quite a memorable opener with a very uplifting mood the only by product. This is 80s synthpop executed to absolute perfection so you can forget synthwave being any form of influence on this little number!
‘Chromeo’ have always had a sound that remained at the periphery of synthwave yet remained a big influence on many artists within it and you’d be hard pushed to find anyone that wasn’t fully aware of them and their sound. Beckett has made a damn good go at executing a high-end funky groove with those sublime Talkbox vocals that have become synonymous with Chromeo in ‘Show Me What You Want’. Although 'Beckett' has used the Talk Box or even the vocoder before, it must require some real steal to have a crack at forging your own path and setting yourself apart from the kings of this style. I personally think it’s worked, but such as the nature of the game, this will always have that ‘sounds like such 'n' such’ tag. But heck, there aren’t many better out there to sound like huh?
Now what does the word ‘Aerobixxx’ (okay it’s not really a word) conjure up in that mind of yours? Aggressive tempo? Upbeat? Well that’s exactly what this is. Despite it not being particularly imaginative, it does well again to distance itself from that ‘synthwave’ tag. It almost has an 80s gameshow montage feel to it, especially towards the end. I wasn’t entirely sure about the guitar interlude and its placing but that thought was short lived as things go up a notch with a key change that adds an extra aerobic injection to the final moments of the track.
‘Zapp My Heart’ is absolutely oozing in class. It’s unbridled synth funk once more with the Talkbox vocals and having seen the recent announcement that I’ll be seeing Beckett play live in Bristol next year, I am confident that this track is gonna start one hell of a party! Just start with this track and we’ll be putty in your hands Mr Beckett! This is definitely one of the coolest tracks I’ve heard in a while and it stands out even more because this is a sound that I don’t think many artists in the scene could pull off because it requires a certain mind set and understanding. It’s an obvious ode to 80’s funk-lords ‘Zapp’ with their polished frontman ’Roger Troutman’ who knew a thing or two about solid production – hence the title. The use of key changes makes the entirety of the second half of the track feel like one huge progressive flourish that doesn’t want to relinquish its grip on the listener! And that old skool synthesizer solo is magical!
‘It Don’t Get Much Better’ is probably the track I’d associate most with the title of the album. Unfortunately, it falls someway short of the dizzy heights of the previous track. I am a fan of the slap bass in the chorus and there’s no doubting that both sets of vocals fit the bill. I guess I’m a fan of a chorus taking things up a level and I just don’t find myself bopping a long to things as they stand. The choice of sounds does however give this track a very ‘late night’ feel and the guitar solo adds a bit of suaveness to proceedings and it all sounds quite a bit like ‘Alexander O’Neil’ with little hints of new-jack swing
By the time we reach ‘Heist Talk’, it’s pretty obvious that Beckett is a boy with a new toy, opting once more for the Talkbox vocals. Something tells me this has been a dream of his for quite some time. I love that the vocals of ‘Rachael Jones’ are perfectly suited to what is going on in this track. I think the subliminal message in this could’ve been lost if this part hadn’t been done right. ‘Luca Ricardo’ lends his fingers to provide a nice injection of guitar in an attitude-laden song. Very funky and will appear to almost anyone.
‘Hot Sauce’ is the Beckett I’ve come to know and love, and I for one am glad we get treated to some of his best instrumental work from the past. It almost feels like he’s simply having a bit of fun here with a huge plethora of synths on offer throughout. It leaves your innards feeling warm and fuzzy and I’d be very surprised if someone told me they weren’t tapping some sort of surface with a body part whilst listening to this track. I used to have an old synthesizer as a kid and like most it had one of those tunes built in to it where you made attempts to be funny and impress your friends by pretending it was your creation. This is actually very similar to the track that mine had stored in to it! What an awesome and weird blast from the past.
‘Esmeralda Vere’ lends her voice to the choruses in ‘So Much’ and I’m immediately reminded of times that I used to work at Dover Harbour and I’d tune in to the French radio stations RTL2 and RFM to see if I could discover and 80s synthpop bands, I’d get crucified for doing so of course but one band I did come across that I love to this day was ‘Niagara’. And it’s a song like this that makes me want to go back and do a proper look through the past of 80s music from France. There’s a nice blast of a bass being slapped to high heaven and once again I’m reminded that more and more artists are trying to distance themselves from the synthwave tag as it still relies too heavily on ‘that 80s sound’. Beckett can stand tall and say that he’s cut out the middle man and simply gone full-blown 80s synthpop that’ll be enjoyed by anyone who was lucky enough to be around to enjoy the decade proper.
‘Forever’s Never Long Enough’ has a late 80s/early 90s vibe that slows things right down to the point you know things are reaching their climax (no pun intended), such was the intensity of funk and high-tempo throughout. The Talkbox vocals make one last appearance, and despite being doubled up…they’re a little less in your face. Rachael Jones is back to lend her voice and manages to emit a conglomeration of ‘Kylie’ and ‘NINA’ esque tones throughout. I would expect to see these two work together again in the near future such is the way that the collaborations have worked so well here.
Overall, this is a very fresh album that hangs on to some of the magic from ‘Outrun The Skyline’ but creates its own magic with new unexplored sounds that we aren’t treated to very often in this genre. Its super cool, very trendy and I think it’s where the scene is going at the moment. The use of the Talkbox is going to wow plenty of people, the fact it wasn’t used in every song at every possible opportunity is a smart move because it does have the potential to irritate after a while. The whole thing is just a bit unorthodox when placed alongside other releases and this is why it’s going to stand out.
A big nod must go to those that chipped in with vocals and guitar on this compilation, you are all a credit to your trade and you nailed what you were brought in for. I hope there’s room for collaboration with plenty of other artists within the scene and I know they’ll be crying out for your services. I think when we look back at 2020 (in absolute disgust of course) we’ll ask ourselves what the summer anthem was, and I know I’ll be saying with certainty, ‘Electric Pillow Talk’. It’s a shame it wasn’t released earlier in the summer because this is definitive summer BBQ music that the neighbours would be fond of, even at 11:30 on a school night.
However, having since spoken to 'beckett' about the timing of the release, he thinks it's more 'after summer' listening. so i guess this makes it the 'after eight' mint of synthwave records, and i can smash through a box of those in no time at all! 8.5/10 Joe ward
a visual representation of the album:
if you're in to this, you'll also like:
zapp, chromeo, cameo, alexander o'neal and prince