Lasertom is the solo moniker of Simon Cullen. The Dubliner, who is also a member of Ships, is the latest to add his name to the list of musicians trying to bring about another 80s revival. His first album ‘Drift’ is rooted in disco and funk music but with a distinctly 80s vibe to the production. The polished synths and computerized beats on this album could fit snugly alongside Kavinsky on the Drive soundtrack. Images of Ryan Gosling’s scowling face are sure to float around your mind while listening.
One particular artist, who has endured a bit of a revival himself this year, looms large over the album. The ghost of Giorgio Moroder makes his presence known throughout (I say “ghost” metaphorically, he’s not actually dead). The tracks are shot through with a comparable German efficiency. Moroder’s robotic disco is the clearest ancestor to Lasertom and the rhythms here are similarly motorised and perfectly synchronized. The melodies and grooves throughout are rigidly constructed. That isn’t to say that the album is no fun, it’s just well-organised fun.
As a result of this precision, one of the most impressive things about the album is its production. It’s probably fair to say Lasertom weren’t working with the most expensive or state-of-the-art equipment available but it doesn’t show. Everything here is intensely detailed and layered. Every synth part is lushly assembled. Every bassline is woven intricately into the song. Every drum beat hits and sparkles just right. Even if you are not feeling the songs, you have to admire the skill involved in putting them together.
The most obvious sticking point on these songs – one thing might prevent people from appreciating them – is their length. Most of them meander on for close to seven minutes. While this allows for a lot of variation within the tracks, a bit more editing would not have gone amiss. If you’re willing to stick around for the duration however, there is plenty of good stuff to sink your teeth into.
Call is the first single and it’s suitably catchy to live up to the billing. After a synth-laden intro, the song kicks in proper with a funky bassline. The instrumentation builds as a female voice stutters over the top and reaches a thrilling crescendo towards the end. The song is buried near the end of the album but is one of the stronger tracks. The title track that opens the album is one of the more funk-inflected numbers and contains some nice guitar interplay throughout. Oddly the song No Play seems to be based around the exact same bassline.
All the Time is similar to Call in that it utilises a female vocal to give it more of a pop feel and as a consequence is also one of the catchier songs on here. Surprise is one of the shortest of the nine songs but is one of the few that you would also wish was longer. When the song kicks into a gleeful synth riff towards the end, it fades out all too soon.
Although this album is an excellent slice of retro-futurism, there is also a slight feeling of missed opportunity. If the songs were tightened up and given more of a pop slant, we could be dealing with a Daft Punk-style crossover record. As it is though, we have a collection of immaculately-produced, funky, disco-revival songs. Asking for anything more is just being greedy really.