Review Summary: Do you like Crystal Castles or Lady Gaga, perhaps Depeche Mode? Turn Key’s debut takes equal parts catchy & inventive and throws a dark undercurrent into the mix and makes it work….
After hearing a single track, ‘Dreams Come to Life’, I fully expected another ‘bad girl’ outfit with the applicable synth heavy dance music backdrop. I am a sucker for good electronic music though, and after giving the entire album a spin, not only was I wrong, I was speechless. This band has the potential to be what Depeche Mode was to 80’s synth-pop. While I dare not compare the significance of their music to Depeche Mode they capture the hallmark traits. While using the same big beats, big synths, and catchy melodies as their peers, the attitude of their music is a stark contrast to the current mainstream. There is a constant under-current of a dark, almost industrial, edge below the surface of their sound. There is a sense of experimentation and exploration of various styles from song to song that keeps their music constantly engaging. Turn Key is a duo that pulls off a much larger sound than just the sum of their parts.
The opening track, ‘Sandstone’, kicks off with a bang, with a deceptive flute opening the track before kicks in hard with a hypnotic sitar sample playing over a massive drum beat. The vocalist has a dark sultry voice that simmers beneath the chaos of the music. The 2nd track ‘Dreams Come To Life’ is probably the most commercial track on the album. It has a dark, repetitive synth over a relatively simple beat. The vocals are what shine on this track. The verse has a melancholy feel while building up to a beautiful soaring chorus. It is obvious why this was the single off of the album. The 3rd track, ‘If Only’ is actually sung solely by the male vocalist. It is a powerful number with bubbling synths over spoken word/rapped verse then erupting into an almost ‘industrial-pop’ chorus with massive keyboards and impassioned/aggressive vocals. The 4th track is where the band truly gets into a groove with their two-prong vocal attack. It has an almost hip-hop style beat mixed with blaring synths, and again, with sultry female vocals carrying the verse before exploding into all out rap style chorus with the male vocals. They pull this off very well, especially considering, most bands achieve songs like this with the implementation of ‘guest-vocalists’ while Turn Key does this effortlessly utilizing the different strengths of both their singers.
There are a total of fourteen tracks on this album and variety plays a decisive factor in the quality of the music. The songs have a life to them that plays into the many different facets of modern electronic music. Rather than do a track by track review of every song it would suffice to hit the high notes on the remainder of the album. ‘Days of Winter’ dials in with an almost oriental vibe on the verse before becoming a highly orchestrated epic chorus before breaking into unexpected almost dub-step bridge. This very unusual approach would sound almost conceited in approach but is done so efficiently it is what makes this album so engaging and diverse.
‘Do the Children Know’ is the most ‘dance’ oriented number with an extremely hard driving beat and a reliance on the music more so than the vocals on it. We get treated to another track of their male/female vocal attack on ‘At What Cost’. Where the album truly goes off the beaten path is the final two songs. ‘Transhallucination’ would sound as at home on a Radiohead album as it does on an electronic pop album. The music is subdued with an eerie quality that is both beautiful and unnerving with the male vocals going into Sigur Ros territory; drenched in reverb and conveying more emotion through the way they are sung than what is actually being said. Then the closing song ‘Metropolis’ is slow and methodical, with pianos and synths slowly building until the final chorus where the song closes out with an entirely organic sounding orchestra playing music that is uplifting and cinematic in scope.
I discover new artists routinely and have regrettably become so immune that most of the indie bands I hear either remind of someone else or are so far out there that they are a novelty act. It is not often that I hear a band forge a sound that is accessible without becoming generic. I will be very interested to see what this band has in store in the future because after listening to this album it appears as though they could take their sound anywhere and make it work to their advantage.
They have four songs streaming in full here: http://www.turnkeyofficial.com/