It’s good to have forward-looking music, full of synthesizers (hi tech!) and minimalism (dramatic!) as we cross boldly over the threshold into this new year of our lord, 1984. Right. You are Here, the second album from +/- (pronounced plus minus), comes off as a partially-successful patchwork collection of electro-pop, guitar-driven sulk-rock, Ben Folds, and Tron (not so much, but I couldn’t resist).
Ben Folds? Consider the vocals and piano on “Summer Dress 1.”
On the first track, “Ventriloquist,” Chris Deaner and his drum machine arrive in 4/4 time, James Baluyut’s (Versus) guitar-picking commences, synthesized “squiggles” are released and vocalist/guitarist Patrick Ramos (Versus) proclaims: “I’m riding in a car / Please don’t take me back there.” Seriously. Please don’t take me back there. Gary Numan already covered that ground.
The bleak “Surprise” continues to explore multi-track possibilities with sparse guitars, “Ohhh-ohhh” backing vocals, and a reverb-laden monologue (think of the Buggles’ intro to “Video Killed the Radio Star”). The Radiohead influence is clearly noticeable in the swelling electronic atmospheres and programmable pulses of these tracks.
“Trapped Under Ice Floes (Redux)” contains Interpol — which is to say Joy Division — rhythms and choppy, urgent guitar solos. It’s a good formula, and works for +/- as well.
You are Here is at its best when +/- loses the rather pretentious heavy bass, low voice-over routine (“Surprise,” “No One Sees You Like I Do”) and creates atmospheres from its whirling guitars, unexpected cadences and emotional ballads (“Trapped …”, “Cutting Out,” “Megalomaniac”).