Happiness Machines, the debut album by Moscow Youth Cult, was inspired by the title of an Adam Curtis documentary which examined the Freud and rise of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion.
It makes sense in a lot of ways. Jon Dix & Daniel O’Donnell-Smith, the two men who are Moscow Youth Cult, seemingly bonded over a shared interest in video games, vintage horror and electronic music – and it oozes out of every orifice on this album. This is a record that’s steeped in ideas of pop culture and welcomingly familiar (though still nicely obscure) art house touch points.
Happiness Machines is a kaleidoscopic cocktail of electronica, sci-fi-like space age tunes and ‘80s synths. The idea that overwhelmed me as I listened to it was a sense of movement through the whole thing. It sounds banal to focus on the idea of a journey; but each song feels like a place you’re moving through, a soundtrack to a supernatural train ride.
‘Move Truck with Bitten Leg’ has jazzy, electronic shapes that morph into about 10 songs in one ever-shifting, ever-captivating track – and wonderfully evokes memories of Cornelius. ‘Modern Easy’ is stuttering ‘80s Depeche Mode-inspired anthem, and is just fantastic.
This is the light and darkness of electronic pop; at times shimmering sunshine, at times dark dancefloors. ‘Above Empty Seas’ is a pop hit – a running song for a virtual character in a video game, featuring a pulsating beat and whirling vocals. ‘Survivasm’ is blissed out space age electronica, should have its own planet in orbit. Then there’s the squelching shimmering sensuality of the title track.
They take and they invent with such skill that it’s hard to find exact reference points. Yes, ‘Iris’ sounds slightly like NZCA/Lines and ‘Above Empty Seas’ sounds, to these ears at least, like Clor. And the whole thing comes across as a Boards of Canada-style cosmos. But mostly simply, this is Moscow Youth Cult. And they’re very, very good.
-Danny Wright (@dethink2survive)