Crypts and Codes Review
Psyche Corporation unleashes a sensual, sinister new album.
Veering away from steampunk music's tendency towards the acoustic folk / cabaret / carnival / shanty sounds, Psyche Corporation takes us into an electronic realm on their latest release, Crypts and Codes. Crafted by vocalist / programmer Psyche Chimera, the album is an amalgamum of different styles: trip hop, darkwave, symphonic, even ragtime. She takes us into a florid world of nightmares, revenge, and personal strength.
Psyche's vocal delivery swings from delicate to threatening, recorded in multiple layers to impressive effect. Different textures arise via destructive effects such as distortion and occasional stutter edits. Her lyrics are plentiful, but her delivery is never cumbersome, always flowing fast and furious, laced with an undercurrent of darkness and sensuality, painted with a vivid vocabulary.
"My hand inside you curls into a fist / And you scream but I like how you pull at my wrist."
While Psyche's vocals at times bear comparison to Tori Amos, the record as a whole package is a completely different animal. Her compositions veer away from a standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus format, each song structured to suit its intent. The electronic production is atmospheric, gritty, and very dynamic, reminiscent of KidneyThieves, but interwoven with piano and lush synths that grant it an orchestral quality. While the album certainly has an overall sound to it, each song had its own distinct personality.
The piano work on the album is a highlight. "Lock" and "The Whirling of the World" were standouts, and I enjoyed the upright piano tone on "Jewels". I'm a sucker for "visual" lyrics, and found them in "Lock": "The copper in your blood could empty our skies of angels". At times, her lyrics veer into French, such as on "Nightmares" where she calls out for darkness instead of light. "Pound of Flesh" showcases Psyche's vocal range. "Strange Machine" is a slow burn, intense and haunting.
The strongest track on the album is "Oh", a virulent, vigilante vengeance tale. Pardon my French, but this song is fucking amazing. It would make a perfect soundtrack for Dexter. The video features Noam Berg (aka Painless Parker).
There were a couple of issues I had with the recording itself, not the composition. The pops and "sticky" artifacts on the vocals in "Lost my Love" and "Lock" were distracting, which seemed strange given how much processing all of the album's vocals received as a whole. Also, the sampled acoustic drums on "Nightmares" and "Jewels" seemed flat and very out of place amongst the other sounds. They sounded like stock sounds out of Reason or a General MIDI module. Replacing them with a real drum set, more natural dynamic samples, or forgoing them entirely for more electronic sounds would have had a better result, I feel.
But that's all pennies in a bank vault. This is a strong, distinct vibrant album. Within the steampunk community, Psyche Corporation's Crypts and Codes would appeal to fans of Unwoman and Valentine Wolfe.