Wave Stuff might just be the Platonic ideal of icy, emotionally fraught synth-pop. On his debut release for Origin Peoples, Stockholm-based musician Michel Isorinne puts paragons of this style like Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark in his slipstream. Laced with spoken-word passages from films and television shows, Wave Stuff weaves a loose tale about the nature of time, physics, and mortality that can be summarized by the key phrase, uttered by a woman scientist somewhere throughout the album, “magic is in the molecules...”
Isorinne essentially creates introverted minimalist symphonies in which sprightly synth leads peacefully coexist with melancholy, drone-y undercurrents. Throughout the record, Isorinne's melodies bear a fruitful contrast between the morose and the jubilant. He repeatedly places exceptionally delicate and beautiful tunes amid subliminal waves of pensiveness. It truly is a masterly balancing act. The zenith of this approach is Side A's closing track, in which gorgeous countermelodies intertwine like lovers on a tropical beach while a pistoning rhythm pumps up the libido. It's instant paradisiacal bliss.
Side B contains Wave Stuff's most cheerful, uptempo track yet it never bursts into full-on euphoria. Elsewhere, Isorinne reverts back to more somber moods: an eerie, methodical chiller full of quiet wonderment and subdued sparkle reminiscent of Casino Versus Japan, Plone, and others of their gnomic ilk; a low-key anthem in which '70s Vangelis grandiosity meets the workmanlike bass-synth chug of Ulrich Schnauss; an elegiac piece that conjures an intimate majesty; a bass-heavy dirge festooned with forlorn wisps of melodiousness.
The complex, paradoxical happy/sad pendulum at the heart of Isorinne's music lends Wave Stuff a tingly resonance that will reward repeat listens. Please welcome an extravagantly rich synth-pop classic.