Review Summary: Modern day easy-listening
Depth Affect, a band that you have never heard of, will surprise you. We've all heard laptronica before, and the french quartet of DJs that composed 'Hero Crisis' admittedly did not bring much new to the table, but that does not make this an album undeserving of your ears. The music presented here is inoffensive and tame, but at the same time the songs are really cool. 'Hero Crisis' is like electronic music on ritalin or something; the music is light, there aren't build ups or drops, the music doesn't feel too formulaic and the beats are crisp and refreshing. Those attributes cross out a lot of major complaints with the electronic industry, leaving a guilt-free listening experience for the audience. Depth Affect have created their own brand of laptronica with soft surrounding soundscapes, dark, interesting hooks and crisp drums sans the nn-tss' of their brethren. Depth Affect worked very hard to make this album easy/fun to listen to, which may be frowned upon, but damnit if it didn't work.
Depth Affect rely on varying elements and layers of electronic sounds to create their beats, and use audio samples to maintain interest and tie the tunes together. Songs like "Radish Field" and "Junior Instrumental," two standout tracks, have repeating audio samples and synths taking center stage. Not particularly innovative, but Hero Crisis does not weigh itself down with that thought. On the contrary, the album seems convinced that the 12 tracks on Hero Crisis are all unique, and for the most part they are correct. The DJs constantly change and tweak the sound framework to maintain the song's appeal, and tracks are prone to change to acoustic guitar strums or piano parts for softer sections and build back up to the electronic dance sections. The main songs on Hero Crisis sit in the 3:30-5 minute range, and very rarely feel like they overstay their welcome. The songs have a small bit of trance influence with dark soundscapes lurking behind the music that lulls the listener into the song, and then the electronic backdrop is pulled away and the song reverts to almost acoustic sections. The songs have a natural ebb and flow, and when it works the effect is fantastic.
The album has two songs that feature rappers Subtitle and Awol One, and unfortunately these are examples of songs where the album struggles. The rapping is not interesting, and that says a lot considering the only other vocals on the album are simplistic audio samples. The problem with these songs is the vocal track takes the focus of the song and hides all of the electronic subtleties of the band happening behind the rappers. "Dusty Records" is sluggish and downright out of place here, it just doesn't jive with the album’s head-nodding appeal that Depth Affect worked so hard to perfect. The songs are at best tolerable, which is such a shame with an album that could have been much more consistent had it been just 6 or so of their stronger songs. That is the main problem with the album; while the songs don’t overstay their welcome even when approaching the 5 minute mark, the album as a whole certainly does. It is hard to sit through these 12 songs in one sitting.
When Massive Attack created their landmark 'Blue Lines,' the original goal was to write a record for clubs to play when they wanted to chill out and slow down. Of course that didn't really happen, and trip-hop was fated to be played in basements and dorm rooms. Depth Affect, however, have created an album that is best described by those original intentions of Massive Attack. This isn't music to dance to or take ecstacy to and dry-hump against other people, but it's music that people can't help but nod along to and finds a subtle balance between grabbing attention and relaxing melodies. Depth Affect established a sound of fresh, cool music on Hero Crisis that will not fail to turn heads, and goes out of its way to keep from disappointing the listener, who’s to say that makes for a bad album?