Rose Elinor Dougall is perhaps still best known as a former lead vocalist of The Pipettes. But she has kept rather busy as a solo artist since leaving the popular girl group in 2008, releasing some very well-reviewed singles, such as “Start/Stop/Synchro” and “I Know We’ll Never,” as well as a much-beloved album, Without Why. Last year’s EP, The Distractions, found her straying slightly from the ’60’s-style, Phil Spector-influenced sound of Without Why, venturing into synth pop territory with brilliant results, especially on the EP’s opening track, “The Night.” Her new EP, Future Vanishes, finds her fully-immersed in synthy waters and certainly makes one thirst for her upcoming second album, which one assumes this EP is to get us excited about.
The EP opens with the title track, “Future Vanishes,” which lays down some bright and shiny synth before Rose even begins singing. With just a few notes, it’s already clear that it’s going to be a synth lover’s delight. “Don’t lose your fearlessness,” she sings dreamily during the second verse of the song, which would seem to be about escaping the future. While it’s a wholly intoxicating pop number, there’s also a tinge of melancholy wrapped up in her vocals, which keeps things from getting obnoxiously upbeat.
The mid-tempo “Poison Ivy” is even more melancholic with considerably darker synth directing the song, which, like “Future Vanishes,” also features electric guitar, bass and drums. In fact, the bassline here is especially seductive, as are Rose’s haunting vocals. “Like poison ivy twists and binds me / through cracks and fissures to destroy this silently,” goes the eerie chorus. Although the song sounds modern, it also has a ripe ’80’s vibe to it, calling to mind Tears For Fears and Depeche Mode.
“Strange Warnings” is, well, a bit strange. Here, what sounds like a jangly guitar loop dominates the song, which I would definitely have to call experimental pop. There’s synth, too, but it’s fairly subtle and it comes in flourishes and sometimes vanishes for parts of the song. When Rose is singing, it feels like a proper song with interesting enough verses and an infectious chorus, but when she’s not singing it almost veers off into prog rock territory.
If “Strange Warnings” is too bizarre for you, then you’ll really be perplexed by “Sink Back In To Blue.” Musically, it has moments where it feels like old school, late ’90’s electronica, but at times it simply sounds like 16 bit music you would have heard in an Atari videogame twenty five years ago. But what’s especially different about this track is that Rose does no singing to speak of, delivering poetic spoken word instead. When you can understand her, it sounds like she’s telling an interesting sci-fi story about a girl, but, sadly, the music overpowers her voice during much of it.
The EP concludes with two remixes of “Strange Warnings.”
The first, the Toy Remix, starts off with the guitar swirling about as it does during the normal version of the song. Soon, the percussion from the normal version joins the mix as well. As it progresses, we hear some of Rose’s vocals, albeit faintly, off in the background. There are parts where we hear the synth, also, but it’s very low in the mix, which becomes dominated by the percussion, especially during the parts where the remixer speeds up the beats, graduating it from a mid-tempo tune to an up-tempo number. Still, this is not a club remix — not even close — but an alternate, rather obscure version of the song.
The more interesting Fiction Remix follows. Here, the basic structure of the song is fairly intact, including Rose’s vocals, but layers of jittery electro-tinkering have been added. The first time one hears it, it’s sure to be somewhat mind-boggling, difficult to wrap one’s head around, but after a few listens it really grows on you. It isn’t superior to the original version of the song, but it’s a pleasant if more complex take on it.