UK producer Stumbleine — aka Peter Cooper — deservedly-earned a reputation as a skillful and even innovative electronic artist during the past few years with intoxicating releases such as his 2012 solo debut, Spiderwebbed, and 2013’s Things Don’t Sparkle Like They Used To. But there was one thing that prevented some listeners from becoming fully absorbed in his music and that was the lack of vocals on most of his tracks. Fortunately, he collaborated with Welsh singer/songwriter Violet Skies on last year’s Chasing Honeybees EP and the combination of his rich electronic soundscapes and her dreamy vocals was magic. So, it only makes sense that they’ve gone and collaborated again on a full-length album, which comes to us in the form of Dissolver.
“You stole my heart / And my self-control,” Violet sings during the opening track, a gorgeous ballad entitled “Thunderdome,” which finds her vocals swirling around Stumbleine’s hypnotic post pop soundscapes. It’s like someone took an unknown ’80’s song and added layers of ’90’s electronica and then Stumbleine discovered it more recently and decided to cover it. Other tracks, like “Sunset Boulevard” and “One Step Closer” add shoegaze guitars and moodiness to the mix, calling to mind artists like SPC ECO and Mazzy Star.
During the trippy M83 meets Massive Attack “We’re Shadows,” bright hues mesh with haunting R&B beats and the result is nothing short of breath-taking. “Eyes wide open / But I will not see,” Violet sings, her vocals if only slightly recalling Madonna’s “Crazy For You.” Speaking of ’80’s hits, “Her Touch” would not have sounded out of place on the radio circa 1986. It’s like Berlin meets ’90’s outfit Olive.
Stumbleine and Violet continue to dabble in retro sounds on “Heroine,” a moody tune that’s like a cross between ’60’s girl groups and contemporaries such as The Raveonettes and Dum Dum Girls.
Some of Dissolver’s best songs come late in the album, such as the trip-hop-flavored “Baby Don’t Go” and the hazy “XYZ.” Stumbleine recently spent four years in Bristol and it’s not surprising when you hear tracks like this, which seem to take cues from Portishead and Tricky.
Ultimately, it appears as though Stumbleine and Violet set out to make an album that meshes the best qualities of just about every pop-related genre to surface during the past 40 years. That they’re able to pull this off and still have an album that feels coherent is quite the achievement. It’s an album that certainly leaves listeners wanting more from the two, so one hopes that the pairing continues to regularly craft albums together.