This ‘HeCTA’ article was written by Savannah Ramsdale, a GIGsoup contributor
The Diet is one of the more confident and varied debut electronic albums to be released in recent months. Though strong, the first single ‘Til Someone Gets Hurt’ is far from representative of the album’s overall quality, emotional variety and indeed, its ingenuity. The second track released, The Concept, is perhaps stronger and more all-encompassing in these regards (however, the decision to not release it first is understandable in that it doesn’t include the appeal point of Wagner’s distinctive vocals). Instead, the track’s strong, driving bassline underpins samples of comedian Buddy Hackett discussing diet pills and weight-related sexual rejection, which come together to form a comical exploration of modern visage anxiety – one which becomes all the more poignant and even delightfully forboding when the track ends by highlighting the ultimate fruitlessness of such plight: ‘You’ll have the nicest figure in the whole cemetary. They bury you in an envelope.’
‘Like You’re Worth It’ is one of the slower paced tracks, which artfully manages to remain effortlessly positive in tone whilst being lyrically suggestive of grapples with urban aimlessness and worthlessness. Opening with hair pricking orchestral strings that reach into our chests and caress us, we’re then swiftly dropped into an incredibly smooth soundscape, floating by meandering sax and Wagner’s soothingly banal mumblings about typical working life. The transition from the intro’s melancholia feels not unlike the shift to a necessary, prescribed calm one might feel when the elevator doors shut after a lone cigarette break. In ‘Sympathy for the Auto Industry’, an almost Future Islands-esque brand of synthpop confronts modern techno-confoundment with pleas such as ‘Just give me a car I can understand‘, and rebuts illusory obsolescence and subsequent consumer pressure with with ‘You shouldn’t have to change a thing, except your mind‘.
In contrast, we have the likes of ‘Prettyghetto’, an upbeat, fast paced track punctuated by a punchy backline and made addictive through its wielding of wah-wah whirs and coolly muttered country vocals. In the same vein as ‘Give us your names’ and its wonderfully frantic backline, many of the tracks initially feel concerned with evoking movement moreso than emotion – though we are still ushered out by beautifully melancholic strings. We are waved a befitting goodbye by an uplifting outro track entitled ‘We Bitched We Bovvered and We Buildered’ (presumably a modern play on Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey showtune title ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’), in which a soothing array of organs and vocal harmonies repeating something that sounds an awful lot like ‘why?’ are bookended by murky synth swells.
The Diet is an incredibly endearing blend of beats that twitch life into limb, vocals that address modern everyday anxieties and synths/strings that console them. Though elements of disco-house and synthpop are perhaps the most overt nod to any overarching genre detectable in the album, simply branding it such would not nearly encompass its full instrumental and emotional range.
Instead, what we have is a joyously unspecific branch of playful electronic music that bellows ‘Why so serious?’ at the arguably arcane shrouds the genre and its ever-hyphonating-niche-sub-genres seem to have woven for themselves in recent years. That being said, though The Diet can certainly be taken as a call to lighten up (no pun intended), it is not without its moments of emotional poignance and smatterings of social commentary. Fans of general electronic music, particularly that which seamlessly blends grooviness with melancholia, will undoubtedly be as impressed by HeCTA’s debut as they are flabbergasted by the prospect of what could possibly come next.
‘The Diet’ is out on the 18th September via City Slang