Chris Crysand (vocals, guitar, bass guitar, synth guitar, bass, synths and keys) and John Hulse (drums, percussion, drum machine and programming), make up the post and progressive, electronic rock Manchester-based duo, Room 1985. Both experienced musicians with a long and varied history in the rock, progressive metal and electronic music genres; Chris has toured all over Europe with his previous project Crysand and the band boasts collaborations with prestigious artists ranging from Van der Graaf Generator, Brandi Winny of Ozric Tentacles and Rofoldo Maltese through to DJ Antoine Becks and Lel Brothas and Nero. The duo’s self-titled album, out via Manchester-based independent label AnalogueTrash, is in essence a concept album.
Chris Crysand describes the album’s inspiration and concept: “Room 1985 is a concept album that discusses the philosophical and physical relationships between religion, modern society, love and an ultimately unfulfilled life. The album is a cautionary tale in two parts; the first half describes living a life that goes unfulfilled both with love and faith while the second half of the album consists of individual songs about different ideas and concepts that are detrimental to society and can lead to madness; but also to simultaneous happiness and sadness.”
Are Room 1985 the next big breakout in rock or something far more heady in a world advancing so rapidly with technology that they’re able to blend vintage legacies with the future evolution of music as a whole? Either way, it’s pretty evident that the duo are carving their own path in both music and message, steering clear of some familiar tropes that their peers or contemporaries in the music scene seem to use to great extent. The human connection and condition is on full display here, as Chris Crysand and John Hulse find a way to infuse their message with melodic atmospherics and pulse pounding power.
Right from the thumping opening track, “This is the Way”, it is clear that Room 1985 set out to create an immersive experience, with a powerful backstory to accompany the cinematic, electronic rock on the album. The record shows the band’s aspirations are grand, and it has enough cohesion to make a deep impact. By the time the fiery guitar solo slides in at about the two and a half minute mark, you will be utterly captivated by the songwriting, and especially the arranging qualities, on display here. That impression is enhanced as the epic electronic pulse of the bass-driven “Day After Day” sets in.
When you hit play on the ominous titular track “Room 1985”, with its melodic vocals and incessant bassline, the fact that just about every track on this album feels necessary, more than simply welcoming, hits home. What is most impressive (aside from the rock concept being constantly compelling) is how Room 1985 tweak their sound just enough to make it feel unique vintage and that much more futuristic. Listen to the vintage Pink Floyd-ish elements in “Future Rain”, and then pick up the distinctly prominent sounds of the Muse in the same song.
Running through this album you’ll run into hints and traces of The Pineapple Thief, Spock’s Beard, and even The Mute Gods, but yet you’ll never find anything directly derivative of any of the above. And even if for some obscure reason you’re not into the duo’s narrative, Room 1985 do a fantastic job of still connecting to the occasional listener with some clever and well thought out song writing by using incredibly smart musical performances. For instance on the hard hitting instrumental “He Paints a Picture”, which is as hauntingly beautiful, as it is energetically powerful.
“Ecstasy” emerges from the blue, immediately showing off more elements of Room 1985’s aural arsenal, including the soaring vocals by Chacka, which ultimately enhance the experience. “Something” shows yet another side to this album with an extremely enveloping groove that kicks in with guitars and emotional electro-symphonics.
Starting off slowly, you think “For You” is going to be another one of those laid-back songs until the arrangement kicks in pushing the various vocal and spoken word interludes. It’s a very well balanced song which uses the vocal effects again in a tasteful manner that makes sense. The ever-changing rhythm and tones, are not to be underestimated. The album closer, “Quote”, delivers with a driving electro-beat and a thumping bassline. Played loudly, the bass on this emotional powerhouse will bust your woofers.
With all that thrown into this sonic stew of an album, a flair for the anthemic and dramatic is to be expected, but, impressively, Room 1985 never feels tacky. There’s a sincerity here that transforms everything included, into worthy additions. The cinematic, electronic, and progressive touches, are savory flavoring agents. Room 1985 is likely to go down as a contender for the best electronic rock album of the year, regardless of caveats!