Next Level Re-Mastery with no:carrier
It’s not very often than an entire EP is simply mixes of other songs, but that is the case for no:carrier’s latest album Ghosts of the West Coast. The primary songwriter and producer of the duo is Chris Wirswig, who interestingly, is based in San Francisco. The other half of no:carrier is halfway around the world – lead singer Cynthia Wechselberger resides in Germany! But distance aside, the duo has experienced a ton of success since the release of their critically acclaimed third album Wisdom & Failure.
They describe themselves as “Electro Noir Pop”, an attention-grabbing musical genre to say the least. A quote from Wirswig explains the reasoning behind their decision to use said genre: “We can’t be compared easily. We have our very own sound that includes elements from several styles – from Dark Wave to Synthpop, from Acoustic to Electro. We’re not going on the trodden paths, we stay true to our ideals and write and record exactly the songs we want.” Unfortunately, there are numerous other indie artists who are “true to [their] ideals” and “record exactly the songs [they] want”, so it would be a pleasant surprise if no:carrier could actually deliver what other synth pop duos cannot.
The first track on their album is “The Boys of Summer”, a remake of Don Henley’s uber-catchy pop summer anthem. Honestly, the soundscape in the song is fantastic, and probably would have worked with any other vocalist besides Kalib DuArte. His voice never seems to add anything to the track, and in fact, actually seems to take away from the stellar melancholic instrumental fashioned by Wirswig. However, the blame only partially lies with the singer of “The Boys of Summer”, as the original song itself (one of my favourite oldies in fact) had a completely different vibe than what no:carrier’s remake ends up trying to relay. The result is an uninspiring mix of cheerful and gloomy, positive lyrics which just do not mesh with the chilly instrumental.
The next track is a remake of Belinda Carlisle’s “California”. In this song, the talented Melissa Harding finds a way to make it work. The remix is ruled by an eerie vibe, summoned up by an instrumental with some very pronounced bass strings and percussion which refuse to let you relax. This, topped off with the wonderfully chilling voice of Harding’s creates a fantastic sound that paints the Golden State in a creepier, less glamorous colour than we know. This is followed by no:carrier’s rendition of Toney Carey’s “Room with a View”. Again, what we are given is an astonishing remake with an equally astonishing singer in Lauralee Brown who adds a similar “chill” to the song as Harding did to “California”. The vibe of the song is definitely very different from the original, but that doesn’t mean it’s better or worse, simply great in its own way.
Overall, Ghosts of the West Coast is hit-or-miss, with many things going both wrong and right in the EP. There are four tracks on the album (the one not mentioned in this review being “She Moved Through The Fair”, and not a single one gave me a solid sense that the no:carrier was that much different from what populates our airwaves today. The production value and overall atmosphere of their songs is certainly pristine, but not really the groundbreaking sound they may be looking for (or rather, advertised). That may not matter much in the long run however, since it certainly may be the sound that we are looking for.