Twins Natalia :: The Destiny Room (Anna Logue)

Twins Natalia‘s debut album The Destiny Room delivers an astonishing collection of authentic and truly nostalgic eighties electro pop.

To say that there has been a huge eighties revival in the last few years might be something of an overstatement, but there has definitely been a surge of interest in and reappraisal of that period. There have been a plethora of eighties classics reissued in newly remastered editions to replace the hideous sounding original CD releases that flooded the market when it was the next big thing. A vast array of new bands have sprung up, applying a modern twist to the retro eighties sound, image and technology, but keeping the essential spirit alive.

And then, of course, we’ve seen the reformation of a number of bigger names from the eighties pop scene, with bands like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, The Human League and Visage all reformed and releasing new material. There’s even a recently launched UK magazine entitled Classic Pop dedicated to all things eighties, a product made especially meta by the fact that it’s available primarily in printed form.

Marc Schaeffer’s Anna Logue Records label, on the other hand, has long been associated with the unearthing of lost, forgotten and often previously unreleased gems from the eighties, together with some particularly fine new material by the likes of The Silicon Scientist. Of these contemporary projects there is one in particular that has, until now, remained conspicuous by its absence: Twins Natalia.

Almost a super-group of sorts, Twins Natalia consists of three of the four members of Poeme Electronique, a group formed in 1980 and whose sole album The Echoes Fade wasn’t released until 2009 by Anna Logue. You have Dave Hewson at the helm composing, producing, mixing, mastering and throwing in the odd vocal here and there, the unforgettable Sharon Abbott writing the lyrics and on lead vocals, while Julie Ruler provides a multitude of multi-tracked backing vocals. Now add Marc Schaffer himself to the list on composing and vocal/vocoder duties alongside Steve Lippert providing lyrics and art direction together with Jochen Lange (uncredited) and you have an impressive lineup that expertly fuses past and present.

Even among the big eighties names making a comeback at the moment, only The Human League with their tongue-in-cheek lyrics—”Leave your cornflakes in your freezers, leave your chocolate and your cheeses, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, give your soul what e’er it pleases”… seriously?— and deadpan delivery come anywhere close to achieving the kind of believable, authentic and truly nostalgic success that Twins Natalia’s debut album The Destiny Room exudes in spades.

If there’s one particular contributing ingredient in the Twins Natalia recipe that cements The Destiny Room place in the pantheon of great, new eighties pop, it’s the vocals. Julie Ruler’s backing vocals are uniformly splendid but Sharon Abbott… That voice! Not only are her vocals consistently on point without a hint of auto-tune, but her cadence and delivery have a period authenticity that you simply won’t hear elsewhere. In fairness, Hewitt and Schaffer (on vocoder) are also adept at eighties enunciation, as their similarly nostalgic vocal contributions attest, but Abbott’s timeless combination of electro-pop, new wave and punk is the glue that holds everything else together.

There’s also an exceptional talent for the infectious song-writing evident on The Destiny Room, delivered with such confidence by everyone that Abbott is able to effortlessly riff on the melodies to create unique versions of both verse and chorus, amusingly but never clumsily cram an overabundance of syllables into spaces that would otherwise be too tight for them, and slip into spoken word at seemingly improvised moments.

You want glossy, continental electro-pop? You got glossy, continental electro-pop in the sultry simmer of “Don’t Fade Away,” the bright arpeggio workouts of “Destiny” and the sun-dappled shimmer of “Freedom In Your Hand,” each one featuring an unforgettable chorus. Classic British pop delivery? It’s all here in the combined male/female vocals of “Into My Arms Again”—the attention to detail on the pronunciation of “again” in the chorus makes this track—or the robotic, locomotive machine music of “Scary Monster.”

You want classic middle-eights? You got classic middle eights, including an award-worthy sequence in “Don’t Fade Away,” or Hewson responding to Abbott in the flashy, Ultravox stylings of “Into My Arms Again.” What about some Hi-NRG? Well, there’s “I Avoid Strangers” (plus a bonus extended mix on the CD) delivering an assault of arpeggio and blokey eighties vocals from Hewson, and the breathtaking, energetic highs of “Bear Me Up” with its clattering syncopation and Ruler’s euphoric, multi-tracked vocals.

You want keyboard solos? You got keyboard solos, some so gleefully over-the-top they’ll make you go cross-eyed. Hewson skillfully manipulates his Roland Jupiter 6 in solo mode on almost every single track here, and how the pitch-bend control survived “Set Love Free” undamaged is a mystery. He spirals and cascades on “C’est le Weekend,” soars on “I Avoid Strangers” and perfectly complements the backing track on “Destiny”.

And you want a strong album closer? Yes, you guessed it, you got one. In these fickle, attention-span shortening days of digital streaming and full-length previews, making a lasting impression with an album’s finale can make or break a sale, or its ability to pull a listener back in again and again. No surprise, then, that The Destiny Room ends with the monumental, six-and-a-half minute “Set Love Free,” a truly staggering, New Year’s Eve fireworks display of a swansong. The entire second half revolves around the building final refrain, layering more and more backing vocals from Ruler onto the resplendent synths, all concluding with Abbott’s exultant declarations, orchestral flourish, kettle-drums and rapturous horn solo.

A few words really need to be said about the presentation of The Destiny Room. Anna Logue has always created products that feel exceptionally deluxe, but they’ve really gone the extra mile with the Twins Natalia releases. Available digitally as well as on CD and LP, there is a deluxe box set available that – it has to be said – puts similar, yet more expensive, sets by major commercial artists to shame. I’m looking at you, Goldfrapp.

Housed in a UV spot varnished white box with lift off lid, the set also includes a wonderfully retro Twins Natalia slip-mat with a unique version of the cover art, an A3 poster, a 12″ picture disc containing demo versions of all of the tracks on the album, a black Twins Natalia t-shirt, UV spot-varnished postcard, 1″ pin-badge, the six-panel digipack CD edition of the album and the LP, which is housed in a gorgeous, 100% UV laminated outer and inner lyrics sleeve. Stunning.

The Destiny Room has apparently taken five years to make, time well spent as it is as close to being as perfect a pop record as you can get. Anyone with an interest in synth or electro pop past or present should have this in their collection. No excuses.

The Destiny Room is available on Anna Logue.

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