Following on from debut ‘Fever Daydream’‘s industrial fuelled synthwave, The Black Queen have produced follow-up ‘Infinite Games’, an unforgiving record that demands you to be engulfed in its experience.
Expectations of what the group are going to deliver are shattered within seconds with ‘Even Still I Want To’. Opening with shifting ambient keys, intimate vocals force the listener to lean in, the delicacy of each note waiting to be found under slow burning synth pads before a jarring chord rips through the melancholy.
‘Thrown Into The Dark’ continues the journey, allowing delay soaked synth lines to drift amongst angular percussion. Throughout subtle changes occur, ranging from finger picked guitars to rising intervals on lead lines, and these nuances create a minimalist approach that compliments the track.
Trading intensity for intimacy, Greg Puciato focuses on softer intonations and gentle harmonies to display the message of each song. This is highlighted on ‘No Accusations’; as the track decays from its chorus, Puciato whispers, “There is nothing I want more than to die with you right next to me.”
The consideration of placement and shifting dynamics is on full display, with Joshua Eustis and Steve Alexander crafting peaks and valleys to devastating effect.
‘Impossible Condition’ shows the strength in this approach with synth lines melding into vocal takes alongside bass ostinatos getting brighter as vocal melodies become lower. The last act of the track takes a nosedive into unflinching dissonance, using reverse samples to transfix and discern.
Minimalism plays an important role within the album, as shown on ‘Porcelain Veins’ – a track comprised of clean guitars and a delay heavy piano. The simple melody weaves through a passionate vocal performance, hypnotising and leaving us wanting more by the time the final note has decayed.
Closer ‘One Edge Of Two’ showcases the group’s intuition for pop melody, with a funk driven undercurrent complimenting a soulful vocal performance. Shimmering guitar chords wash over sliding synths and stuttering samples, building to its climatic finish.
Juggling between abrasive and fragile, The Black Queen has delivered a listening experience that will divide some and enthral others. Relentless in raw emotion, the stripped back production brings a sense of beauty to its coldness and, whilst many will attempt to emulate what the group have forged, few will achieve the lasting impression that ‘Infinite Games’ leaves.