Background/Info: My first feeling was that this band was the logical new project of Pedro Peñas Robles after the end of Adan & Ilse. The band name clearly appears to be inspired from his previous band he was involved with Usher (Norma Loy). A★I was set up in 2015 by Pedro (vocals) and Philippe Merry aka Phllox (producer). The band claims to be inspired by dark-pop artists and refers to Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Laiback and even Lassigue Bendthaus.
Content: The sound is a bit different from the body-pop minimalism of Adan & Ilse although there clearly is a link in the global sound approach. There indeed is a link with some aforementioned bands –and especially Depeche Mode, but still with Kraftwerk and even Vangelis. This work mixes good-old standards with a unique sound production, which clearly experiments with new ideas.
“Le Chant Du Cygne Noir” sounds vintage-like, but still ambient-like. The production reveals phenomenal, deep resonating bass lines and haunting atmospheres. Cold sequences and sterile vocals reactivate the good-old 80s spirit while the surprising cover version of “Ashes To Ashes” featuring Dan Söderqvist on guitar (known from Twice A Man) has been remarkably transposed into the sonic universe of A★I. I know that Pedro Peñas Robles is a fan of David Bowie so in the end this cover version is not totally surprising, but the way the song has been reworked and adapted is really worthy of examination.
+ + + : You really have to listen a few time to this album to fully seize the judicious mix of influences which will remind you of Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk on one side and the personal sound input on the other. It’s an efficient balance resulting in an open-minded work, which clearly appears the start of a new adventure for Unknown Pleasures Records owner Pedro Peñas Robles.
– – – : This album clearly is not the most accessible electro-pop release. It even makes me think to a reaction against familiar electro-pop standards, which are constantly repeating themselves. So in the end I would say that the main strength of this work also is the main point and reason for classical electro-pop lovers to turn their back on this band.
Conclusion: A★I clearly sounds like a challenge when it comes to convince electro-pop lovers, but it more sounds like a nice addition and alternative to electro-pop for all of those who are bored with endless emulations of Depeche Mode and co.
Best songs: “We Are One Nation”, “Sin Of Sin”, “Goodbye Lady Red”, “A Secret”, “Dark Stars”.