There were certain things that deserved to remain in the ’80s. Things like disco, glam metal, big hair, and ignorance towards diseases like AIDS – the list is a lot longer than this, but I’d have to write an entirely separate article about that topic. The ’80s have a terrible reputation, but it is not without its gems. It was in the ’80s that synthpop flourished as more artists took to using synthesizers in their music. Artists like Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, and Pet Shop Boys all flourished in this era, but towards the end of the ’80s – the genre was largely abandoned. In recent years, artists like La Roux and Lady Gaga have adopted elements of synthpop into their music, but never truly whole-heartedly embraced it.
However, there is one musician who is absolutely besotted with ’80s-styled synthpop and has truly embraced every nuance of it, while giving it his own modern twist. Hailing from the laid-back streets and beach-fronts of Cape Town, comes a man who goes by the pseudonym of Hello Beautiful. His full name is a mouthful, Matthieu Auriacombe, which may explain the pseudonym. To most South African music fans, he would be familiar as he plays bass in both Beach House and Kidofdoom – two bands that are known for their eclectic and psychedelic sounds. Hello Beautiful brings these psychedelic sounds into their music.
His debut self-titled album sounds like it tumbled straight out of the ’80s and into my iTunes playlist without any care at all. It is a delicate construction of rich synth melodies, intricate bass tones, and psychedelic drum sequences that transport you on an introspective journey of self-discovery. See, it is so inspired by the ’80s that is has me spewing a similar rhetoric that was adopted by the hippies of the time. While most of the songs on the album are fully instrumental, there are three songs that see various vocal collaborations. The first comes from Harmony Boucher, of Vuvuvultures, on the song “Hello Beautiful”. Boucher’s vocals gives the song a dreamy quality while Hello Beautiful gives the synthpop sound of the song a modern indie-pop twist.
Another collaboration comes from Andrew Davenport, of aKING and Thieve. His familiar husky vocals, that are usually heard in the background of aKING songs, come to the forefront in the most upbeat song on the album. A steady kick-drum pounds in the background of “Us”, while snare drums and the upbeat synth tones give the song a bouncy feeling as it progresses from ethereal ’80s synthpop to indie-pop in a heartbeat. Nicolas Preen, of Al Bairre, features on “I’ll Be The Boy”. A song that sounds like The Police clashed with Pet Shop Boys and gave birth to a flamboyant mixture of upbeat synthpop and dreary melancholic pop rock. Closing off the EP is possibly the greatest thing a “Star Wars” fan shall hear short of the original theme song. “The Empire Strikes Back” is partial synthpop take on the theme song, and truly reinforces how much Hello Beautiful was influenced by music from the ’80s.
Hello Beautiful is nothing short of a piece of art. It is an album that should be taken seriously, and listened to several times over before coming to terms with what the album actual means. It is one of those albums that demands that you take an hour out of your life to sit down and contemplate the meaning of the album.