Review Summary: Give in to this eternal night.
The room is bathed in intrusive red light. It's mostly the reflection of some street signs close-by but it's intense enough to keep me awake. I'm dead set on making my way through this sleepless night one way or another. As my weary eyes scan the surroundings for an alternative, I accidentally glance at the cover of First Body
. It somehow strikes me. I've heard it before. It played in the background some days ago while doing home chores, but at this time... It might be the missing piece of the puzzle. I tell myself: "If it doesn't help me sleep, at least I hope it helps me dream."
As the record spins, the shadows start to dance on the ceiling. Soon the dread goes away. It's a good feeling, hearing the raindrops splash and race down the window glass as the flickering neon outside seems to be the only thing trying to communicate something tangible tonight, like a visual Morse code informing of what's happening out there. A lonesome sax cries in the distance and slowly makes way for Phoebe Lou's velvet voice, which gently crawls and becomes the epicentre of my thoughts. Her calm and grave tone makes me want to sink in my bed but the pulsating beat of "I'm Tied, to You" keeps me afloat with a whole array of snares and ethereal grooves. Contrary to what I thought, this is going to be a very long night.
Once lovers and now musical partners, Phoebe Lou and Joey Clough have crafted an astonishing album, nine songs of loss and grief that channel the gloom of trip hop while raving with dark deep house, as the defying opening track so firmly declares. The wicked tune drags you to their cinematic world with captivating patience, until you inevitably succumb. As the synthetic beat vanishes and Lou's voice drowns in static, one can only stand ready for the rapturous drive that lies ahead.
The duo from Melbourne are not afraid to start this, their debut as Two People, with a seven minute serenade. The track, recorded by themselves and produced by Rodaidh McDonald (Sampha, The XX) inaugurates First Body
with a clean cut, letting the rest of the album bleed through the cracks of its fragile body. This is an album of nocturnal melancholy, and once you step in, the only way out lies at the end of it all. Two People's music could be labelled as IDM, or Trip Hop, or any other superficial tag. But for now, let's just say this is electronic pop created with equal doses of love and pain, where the spellbinding voice of Phoebe Lou acts as a guide through the dazzling streetlights, drenched in reverb, exposing her vulnerable soul as the duo carry you through a noir comic strip.
As we move on, the slow neo-jazz vibes of single "In The Garden" explode with an abrasive chorus while "Look at Each Other" throbs with a dance beat, just like a city pumping its blood under the pouring rain. "Something to Talk About" is the next stop, a track where ghostly voices dwell the memory of a surfing spot called Point Leo, a place where the sun seems to have drowned forever behind a waning moon, like Phoebe dramatically recalls: "Not that I could surf anyway / It was just something to talk about".
As the album unfolds, the dark mood prevails, first with the ballad "Phone Call", where Phoebe's singing carries an aching authenticity in words like "When you're done with her, just come pick me up / And I'll be the same, but I'll be ashamed". Her voice sounds like someone who has been drained out of tears in exchange for some shallow sleep. And then with "Fading", a swaying pop tune driven by an unforgiving bass wave that has rightfully become the opening number for their increasing live schedule.
As the deep cuts kick in, the album has little else to show or prove: "Give Me Order" and "It's Late" share a love for moody textures and mid-tempos, with Lou's vocals being constantly upfront while Clough floods the canvas with pads, synths and guitars. A rework of an old classic called "If We Have Time" sends off First Body
with the same somber feel, and as its last notes vanish, I realize I'm still staring at the ceiling, as if I had only blinked twice. The red neon lights have been repealed by overwhelming sunlight, and Monday morning has made its way into my room, uninvited, of course. My promise of sleep has died with the album but for all that's been, I would say it was worth it.