Review Summary: Erica Dunham is moving on but not before leaving fans with one final dose of electronic aggression - this time with a twist.
Unter Null is the vision of Erica Dunham – a classically trained pianist that happens to also have a penchant for the harsher side of music. More specifically, she seems to have an affinity for dissonant electronic music that melds harsh effects, pulsating synths, pounding beats, and distorted vocals – a combination that she has consistently delivered for almost a decade through Unter Null. Considering her musical background, though, it was inevitable that she was eventually going to tire of delivering music with such a limited scope, and that is what finally happened. A few years back she announced that Unter Null had one album left before being officially retired, but a fire destroyed the master recordings before they ever saw the light of day. At that point she could have been forgiven for simply giving up on a project that she had already outgrown, but she persisted and the result is the aptly titled Moving On
is a typical Unter Null album at heart, but it’s something more than that as well. It’s a varied and dynamic album that takes the band’s core elements and melds them with a prominent use of melody, catchier songwriting and a fuller sound overall. This expanded musical pallet has helped to create a very diverse album that manages to break from the occasionally uniform nature of her previous releases. It has also given Erica the vessel necessary to express more than anger through her music. So, while there are tracks such as the gabber/black metal hybrid of “Visceral, Venom of My Being” there are also songs such as “Godless” to contrast with that. In fact, the tracks that do more than simply bludgeon the listener are easily in the majority on this album. These songs may feature elements from previous albums such as distorted vocals or pounding club beats, but they’re going to be augmented by lush melodies, clean singing, and dynamic shifts in tempo and volume.
Quite simply, buried beneath the electronics and distorted vocals of each track lies the soul of a pop song, and I mean that in the best way possible. It means that despite the harsh vocals and cold atmosphere of a track such as “Moving On”, there is still a palpable emotional connection created, as well as memorable hooks that will stick with you. This pop undercurrent even manages to bleed into the more dissonant tracks such as “Broken Heart Cliché” with its memorable chorus and subtle melodic nuances. The result is an album that should still contain enough visceral anger to appease old fans, but is also a significant step forward musically. Moving On
is the culmination of everything that Unter Null could be without losing its original identity. It’s the rhythmic beats, focused anger and cold electronics that they’ve always been known for – no doubt about it – but it’s also strong hooks, lush melodies, and a wider array of moods than ever before.
Erica Dunham has really accomplished two significant things with this album. The first, and most important, is that she has released an album that she can be proud of and that leaves the Unter Null legacy firmly in tact. The second, probably unintended, accomplishment is that she has proven that it really was time for her to move on in order to fully realize her musical vision without any genre limitations. Until she does move into the next phase of her musical career, though, we’re left with this final Unter Null album. An album that keeps the core elements in tact, but also does so much more by allowing the songs to become a little soft around the edges; to display that there is more than anger and aggression under those cold electronics and mechanical beats.