Review in COMA
Only through research did I ascertain that this third full-length album from Belgium’s Cruise [Ctrl] was named for its dominant influence—David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Having never seen the show myself (I know, I know), I could be missing out on some deeper resonance in … Are Not What They Seem. But the danceable industrial ambiance of the album speaks for itself, and I’m confident there’s no need to make the connections to Twin Peaks to fully appreciate the dark atmosphere John C. and Gore strove to create.
Monotony in music usually bothers me, but I find a peaceful solace in Cruise [Ctrl]’s ambient electro noise. Far from being monotonous or boring, Cruise [Ctrl] excels at creating music that balances trance-like sameness with slight tweaks to its layers. It’s musical math for the band as they add and subtract synthlines within songs. The result, often difficult to achieve in electro noise, is an effective structure to each track consisting of a buildup, a peak, a reduction, and a calming plateau.
… Are Not What They Seem provides respite with its very first track, “Letters under nails.” Heavy on time-expanding droning, the track’s (and thus the album’s) reliance on synthetic beats and organic industrial sounds creates a surprising yet fulfilling mesh of polarized components. Case in point: track four, “In the heart of a circle of twelve sycamores,” features a circular saw which adds a whining metallic foundation for an otherwise EBM number. This often-unsettling binary formula creates the album’s overall cohesion.
The second track, “A man’s attitude goes the way his life will be,” showcases Cruise [Ctrl]’s reliance on the beat and is one of the most danceable. The third, “P 2 8 9 14 29,” features a clockwork tick amid fuzzy synths. “Animal kit” and “Last movement of the Yellow Man,” tracks five and six, utilize modern stereo sound by alternating between the left and right audio channels. Though much more subtle in the former, the change between channels is disorienting, almost dizzying, in the latter. While the rest of the album provides the sort of low key background music you can drive, sleep, or, for some, even meditate to, track six’s abrupt and constant shifts jolt the listener. It may be an interesting aural experience for some, but others might be turned off by the six minutes of motion sickness.
No lyrics are necessary here, since the music narrates itself. And yet Cruise [Ctrl] steps out of its vocal-less comfort zone by collaborating with Sigma on “Billy’s problem” and Dirk Ivens on “In hell (everything is fine),” the last two tracks on the album. In “Billy’s problem,” the changeless pitch of staccato chanting is tedious and ultimately unnecessary, though it fits well with Cruise [Ctrl]’s minimalist style. Ivens’ vocals are much more seamlessly paired with the album’s poppiest, and shortest, final track.
The diverse influences behind Cruise [Ctrl]’s music are on display in this new album. There’s so much to pick out of each track that the album virtually begs for repeat listening rather than a dusty spot on the shelf. And since my thoughts are wont to drift among its strange yet pleasing distortions, … Are Not What They Seem is my idea of noisy, electro-industrial easy listening.