When it comes to Sound Kapital, the newest release from Montreal synth-punk duo Handsome Furs, the husband and wife team can’t seem to escape the term “’80s.” Furs’ swirling analog synth (a staple of its sound) and newfound dancey approach to beats makes drawing quick comparisons between Furs and bands such as New Order and Tears for Fears easy, but this isn’t a retro record. Instead, Kapital is the natural next step for an indie-rock band that has fallen in love with techno and wants to subtly slide elements of that infatuation into its old style. Guitarist/vocalist Dan Boeckner (better known for indie-rock giant Wolf Parade) and keyboardist/drum machinist (that’s a thing, right?) Alexei Perry have created an invigorating mashup. Boeckner’s vocals are dreamy as ever, and Perry’s beat work radiates a sense of sophistication.
Kapital’s idiosyncratic sound stems from the couple’s willingness to perform where most bands fear to tread. It’s been well-publicized that Kapital was put together while the band was traveling through Southeast Asia. Amusingly, the album ended up heavily influenced by Eastern European techno.
"It's actually a mandate for the band that we travel to as many off-the-beaten-path places as possible," Perry says. "In a lot of these places, they don't get good bands very often, so when these bands do wind up coming, it's that much more exciting, and there is that much more energy."
Boeckner agrees. "I hear about agents asking for more money [for bands to perform] in China than in the US, and that's fucking disgusting," he says, noting that, if agents would demand less compensation abroad, musicians would see more of the world—and more of the world would get to hear good music.
Past Furs efforts saw Boeckner providing “chug-a-chug-chug” guitar movements with electronic sounds added as an apparent afterthought. For Kapital, guitars were left out of the writing process altogether, resulting in a double-keyboard aspect that takes Furs into legitimate dance party territory. The band’s 2009 record Face Control is dark and bleak, but Kapital approaches full-on synth-pop. The final product is techno for those who aren’t quite ready to dive in headfirst. Even though the record was composed without the ol’ six-string, Boeckner’s guitar still finds its way onto the album, as does the band’s rock ’n’ roll background.
Kapital is a mature stab at directing Furs toward the world’s DJ-obsessed youth, moving from “When I Get Back,” a high-energy story of personal growth through cultural immersion, to the downright infectious beat of “Repatriated” and the seven-minute guitar-fuzz opus of a closer, “No Feeling.” While the album does have built-in appeal across the globe, it feels more like a half step than a fully realized work. Boeckner and Perry have proven that world travel and a collective open mind grant new perspective to making music, but Kapital never quite sticks with a style long enough to reach true greatness.
Even if Kapital’s sonic hodgepodge doesn’t change music forever, it’s still a solid outing from an interesting band. You’ll get your chance to judge Furs’ latest material for yourself when the duo returns to Santa Fe for a show at Sol Santa Fe Stage & Grill with fellow Canadian act Suuns. Word is, Suuns boasts an amazing prog-rock sound and an even better show.
Handsome Furs with Suuns
Tuesday, Aug. 30
Sol Santa Fe Stage & Grill
37 Fire Place
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