I was specifically asked to review this album. I’m not sure why me, but I’m going to guess it’s because I have a general lean towards the electronic and that I am undaunted by the look of things.
The blurb on the cover sticker (a thing record labels do to give folks a quick overview of sound style, etc) was punctuated with grammatical errors and run on sentences. The cover and interior art booklet are so cheap and strange as to beg the question if they are homage to an outsider art style or just bad. The name of the band is Ssion (which, according to the press material should be pronounced “Shun”). All the songs are spelled badly, even for the texting generation. This combination of cover art so cheap/bad, coupled with a name sure to be mispronounced makes me wonder if the band is trying to be ignored.
If they are it’s a crying shame because this band “from Kansas City’s unexpected art scene”* has put together a very solid 16 track, 70 minute album with Bent.
Moving between a dark 80s dance grooves and frenetic, bouncy, fun, easy to get into club oriented tracks, Ssion has made a very danceable and fun album perhaps even deceptively so given that they use the same type of pop culture commentary that makes KMFDM fun to listen to. Some of the album reminds me of a ramped up Gayngs or even a little Channel Z era B-52s. There are plenty of 80’s pop sound references laced through the cuts so you can make your own associations.
Let’s take a jaunt through some of the highlight cuts:
“Blonde With U” reminds me of an early 90s jam that would have nicked the Top 40. While taking a shot at blondes is passé, the tune itself is a lot of fun. Included in the fun are parenthetical background comments. “Groove is in the heart” is mentioned at least once.
“Psy-Chic” has a really good driving synth beat, upbeat pop relationship song. I’m pretty sure the line “I want to give you head” is in there, which is a prime example of the sly sexuality pulsing through the album.
“Luvvbazaar” reminds me of a pop heavy re-imagining of “Strange Relationship” by Prince that is oddly positive. Very catchy with a free love under tone. It could easily be a 12” remix of something from 1989.
“Earthquake” has notes of “Blue Monday” in it, but also the effectively retro pizzicato orchestra back there. The lyric I like the most here is “Why don’t you love me baby like there’s no one around?”.
“High” is exactly what you think it is about. The end has a strange sort of robo-rap part. I think that could split the crowd. The rap is done over a pretty solid funk groove and that covers the sin for me.
“Growin” has a fantastic syncopated beat, clapping, and a deceptively simple chorus.
“My Love Grows in The Dark” is a love song by someone who doesn’t understand they are creepy.
“Nothing Happens at Nite” is a song I’m sure was an 8 minute new wave funk synth jam session that made the cut. With the repeated lyric “Night time is the right time, say la vie is the melody” it is a pretty loose and free cut. There is some vocodor work in there too.
Overall, I like this album quite a bit. I’ve already played a couple of the tracks on my weekly KUST show so I can put my money where the music is. A note on listening environment: You can’t do it justice on a laptop. It cries for a big dark dance floor and some thumping speakers.
The album includes 4 remixes at the end: Two for Psy-Chic, one of Weird Yearz, and one of My Love Grows In The Dark. The remix material is fine and adds some interesting perspective but consider it bonus not canon.
Find the band here for a listen and view of the cover: http://www.myspace.com/ssion
*From the cover blurb. I know folks from Kansas City who are plenty artsy.