Sons of Magdalene: Move to Pain (Audraglint)
Joshua Eustis, best known for his work in Telefon Tel Aviv as well as being a part of Puscifier, reveals his first music since the sad passing of his TTA partner Charlie Cooper. I was curious to hear what Josh would do next, since the last TTA album on BPitch Control, Immolate Yourself, was quite good start to finish. And TTA has certainly undergone a significant and wild transformation over the last 10+ years, shifting from the spry instrumental IDM of Fahrenheit Fair Enough to the more song-based R&B crossover of their sophomore album. Immolate Yourself’s hybrid of chillwave, IDM, dance music, and pop songs elaborated on the promise of their second album’s track “My Week Beats Your Year,” but it did so with what felt like slick ease. So now what, in the wake of losing a talented musical partner and friend? It’s fitting that he titled it Move To Pain, encouraging physical movement and dancing to deal with the tragedy of loss. The most noteworthy thing about Josh’s solo music here is that he more fully delves into 80s italo nostalgia, and it’s immediately obvious on the opening bars of the first track, “Hold On Hold Still for a Second.” That opening drum pattern is pure Bobby O bliss as far as I’m concerned, full-on 80s nostalgia without sounding corny or ironic — and I love that. He still sounds a little tentative with his vocals and voice, but it suits the fragile mood of this music. This first song is clear standout, but it continues to be solid from there. “Bitter Soliloquy” plays more like a palate cleanser of an interlude, since it’s instrumental and beatless, but I like it quite a bit. It finds a sister in “Unfortunate Phone Call” in the album’s second half, another beatless excursion that feels like a proper respite from the more song-based tracks that surround it. “The Whip” is more stark, built around a lurching, light halfbeat and a touch of acid, but “Move to Pain” reprises the same Bobby O-tinged melancholic disco of the opening track, and ultimately it is this hybrid of styles and nostalgia that really seems to work the best for me, inspiring a smile on my face, some movement in my feet, and a bit of wistful reflection.
“A Strange Sound” seems to be the most confessional of the tunes — while I’m able to appreciate the more stark vocal and personal lyrics, musically it doesn’t move me in the same way as his more spot-on italo throwbacks. Such is the case with “Can’t Won’t Don’t Want To,” the last of the more overtly italo-influenced songs, second to last on the album. In closer “Crows on the Eaves of My Father’s House,” the music feels more familiar, falling closer to the more sublime moments of TTA’s last effort, a fitting and introspective finale to this short album. I can imagine it took some nerve to present new music on a solo basis, having to make a decision to move forward rather than feel stuck in stasis. In doing so, Eustis looks back to the dance music of the past but with his own knack for crafting and producing infectious tunes that still feel relevant and current. While some songs are better than others, I find myself coming back to this entire release over and over. It goes down smoothly, and it points toward hopefully a brighter future to come for Eustis as a producer and creator on his own terms.