Pop Duo – Pop Duo (self-titled)

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Label: Self-released

It may only be just shy of six minutes long, but this little three track release is something pretty special. Pop Duo are one of several projects involving Matt Finney (also of It Only Gets Worse and Secret Admirer), and here he teams up with Brandon Duncan, to produce something that can adequately be described as the soundtrack to “2am drives to nowhere”, as Matt states on the duo’s bandcamp page. Whereas other projects involving Matt have tended towards the bleak and depressed – something there’s strong elements of here – Pop Duo are notable for the almost desperate sexual tension in their music. Recalling a whole host of diverse acts – from Sisters Of Mercy to Drake to Skinny Puppy to an army of forgotten trip-hop artists – it’s an uncomfortable listen, but one that is incredibly addictive and impressive in its portrayal of such desperate, physical humanity.

Unsettling, glitch-esque rhythms abound, laying down the core on which these songs are built; it may sound difficult at first, but repeat listens reveal the fragmented structure and skeleton on which all the other elements hang. Subtle drones and washes of synth fade in and out, adding to the unsettling character of the music, which is topped off with Matt’s spoken work poetry, so uncomfortable and relatable in its honesty. “Call me up late when you need me,” he states on “2 Lonely.” “Just say you need me”; an understated, yet all too understandable proclamation, which takes on all sorts of different meanings given the throbbing, almost physical pulse beneath it. “The light will finally make its way in through the blinds / It’ll pour over you,” he states on closer “Woke Up”, which is accompanied by industrial percussion and noise, turning what could otherwise be a romantic scene in to something far darker.

It’s this way the record walks the line between romance, love, sex, and utter fucking darkness that makes it so good. It twists and turns, unearthing the malice and danger in what could otherwise be benign scenes, reveling in the danger and humanity it finds. In that sense, it reminds me a lot of The Weeknd’s House Of Balloons (not a comparison I ever expected to make when I started this blog!), where any potential light is twisted, turned inside out, and utterly despoiled. And like that record, these songs by Pop Duo may be about love and sex, but they’re certainly not love songs in the traditional sense, and you sure won’t be putting them on as background sex music. Or you might, I dunno what you’re in to.

Before anyone gets the wrong impression, let me make it clear that the music on here is ever bit as dark and insidious as you’d hope for from an industrial-glitch-trip-hop combination. As the bandcamp description states, this is 2am music, for nights of unreturned text messages and cold beds. It’s dark, it’s bleak, and it’s all so very human. I fucking love it.

Pop Duo can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp.

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