24 September 2020 (released)
09 October 2020
Airy dream sequence pads and high-pitched synth leads that etch in your mind are the name of the game on The Wall, the latest EP from Philadelphia electro-pop artist David Thompson. The record transports the listener back to the days when music had a lighter touch. The warm entrancing vibe of pop music in the 1980s. Though Thompson's tracks have some very danceable beats, they are without that desperate battle to pummel the subwoofer more than the next guy. This is the antidote to the trap-infested pop charts of the current zeitgeist. Round and rosy, pastels and puffy shirts. Vaseline on the lens rather than the cracking face of ultra hi-def. Thompson's robotic drum machine stylings go as far as to bridge into Kraftwerk territory before finding a comfortable space somewhere around The Human League.
The image on the cover of a face-masked Thompson is a cornerstone symbol of the year in which we are all currently toiling. However, 'Time', the album opener that so aptly describes the additional time that we were all unexpectedly given by this lockdown was written before the virus shut everything down. The track is an ode to allowing “time for the full development of the individual. Idle time, time for social activity, time for higher pursuits, for discipline, experimental practice, materially creative science, for hanging out and playing”. A gift that all of us took for granted before we were mandated to do nothing. What trivial little thing were you obsessively devoting your time to before the shutdown? Now, it's off your radar and it doesn't matter. You are richer for it. Thompson lays this out in a snappy synth-filled mantra that hangs on a digitally distorted bird call hook. Arpeggiators and sailing high strings abound.
The title track is pure 80s coming of age rom-com. The dancing bell-like synths bring wave after wave of nostalgia. The glowing reverb terminates abruptly in the choruses sucking us in to hear what he has to say, like pulling you in near to tell a secret. 'This Goon Can't' brings to mind a slow-motion sepia drive down a sunset-lit California highway. 'Clair' is the album's one major departure trading the synths for guitars on this sun-soaked hippie acoustic number. The organic 60s vibe somehow blends in seamlessly amongst the other machine-driven tracks. Perhaps it's the radiant feel that carries it through. To close out the EP 'Obsession' brings us back to circuit boards and neon coloured jams. Thompson tickles the stratosphere with his falsetto as the busy machinations do their work on the earth below.
80s throwback is no longer a quaint curiosity or an occasional dalliance, it's now a full-on genre of its own. A whole generation grew up on these sounds and that is how they feel they can express themselves authentically even though the technology, sonics, and aesthetics have long since moved on. In many ways, it makes you long for the days when this airy disposition ruled the airwaves. David Thompson's The Wall very successfully revels in this time of the round and rosy, pastels and puffy shirts.