Three years ago, brother and sister team Voltaire Twins caused a stir with their Apollo EP. Electro charmer ‘Animalia’ received some serious radio love and cemented the duo as one to watch. Fast forward to today and they’re back at it with synths soaring above pop beats for Milky Waves, the pair’s shiny full-length debut.
Tegan and Jaymes Voltaire quit their day jobs and moved to Melbourne to work on the record, joining producer Anna Laverty (Cut Copy, New Gods). Steven Schram (San Cisco, Little Red) left his mark on mixing, and it shows – tracks are playful and dynamic, like San Cisco but covered in glitter and ready for the dancefloor.
Milky Waves starts with a bang. Opening track ‘I’m Awake’ booms with big 80s synths and tighter, funk inspired melodies. Tegan shows off her soft tone in the verses before things flare up in the chorus. In ‘Goodnight, Spirit’, the duo’s lyricism compliments a reverb-heavy bassline. “River water / River come back to me / Lonely daughter / Heavy stone / Roll over me”, Tegan murmurs, keeping her cards close to her chest. The meanings of songs aren’t always obvious, but Jaymes suggests they’re as “autobiographical as possible”. It’s refreshing, really. In amongst the synth swells and pop hooks there’s something a little deeper, if you search for it.
However, the meaning of ‘This Is The Place’ is bit clearer. Effortlessly fun, bubblegum pop riffs carry lyrics about the Voltaire Twins’ hometown. It’s a weird pairing, mixing squeaky-clean beats with ideas about getting older and coming home, but this contrast – and the crazy catchiness of the track – really draw you in.
Loose bass nods to the 80s on highlight ‘Black Beach’, with Voltaire Twins mixing influences from the last thirty years – from 90s rhythms to swooping disco melodies on ‘Slow Down’ – without it becoming too much. A modern edge is the album’s saving grace and if left alone, the vintage flavors could overwhelm the sound, but things are contemporary and paired back enough to work.
‘You Are The End’ provides a needed slump in record’s energy. A single, sweet melody accompanies both Tegan and Jaymes’ vocals. But they couldn’t neglect the bass drums for long, and a beat ruptures the quiet before the chorus. These subtle moments are really strong, and it would be nice to see how they develop without something heavier. But then again, that’s not really what the duo are about, and thank God for that.
Voltaire Twins are vibrant on their debut LP. They’ve done what they do best, with Milky Waves showcasing a synth fueled rush of upbeat energy. It’s perky and fun – and that’s its appeal. The duo knows their sound and their strengths and they don’t look back.
Milky Waves is out August 14 via MGM, and Voltaire Twins will take it on the road in August and September.