The music industry has long thrived on the collaboration of talented songwriters and musicians, and one of the most successful collaborations I know of is the one between Norwegian coldwave/post-punk project Antipole and British electronic music artist Paris Alexander. Antipole is the music moniker of guitarist and composer Karl Morten Dahl, who’s based in Trondheim, Norway, whereas singer-songwriter, composer and producer Paris Alexander is based in Brighton, England.
While each has released music as solo artists, the majority of their output consists of albums they’ve recorded together or with other musicians and vocalists. I’ve followed them both for quite a while, and have written about some of their previous works – in 2017, I reviewed their collaborative album Northern Flux, and in 2021, I reviewed Alexander’s album Renaissance, featuring his partner Eirene. On May 12, they dropped their latest album Crystalline, featuring eight outstanding tracks.
The music was co-written by Antipole and Alexander, and lyrics written mostly by Alexander, with the exception of the songs “Marble” and “Infractions”, which were written by Eirene. Antipole’s guitar parts were recorded at AGV63 studio in Trondheim, while Alexander’s programmed synths and vocals were recorded at his Blue Door Studio in Brighton. Eirene sang additional vocals on “Marble”. Alexander also produced, mixed and mastered the album. The beautiful artwork for the album cover was created by Anne-Christel Gullikstad.
Listening to Crystalline, I hear strong influences by iconic darkwave and synthwave acts like Joy Division, New Order and The Cure, with a bit of Depeche Mode for good measure. Antipole’s jangly and shimmery guitar work is pretty spectacular throughout, and together with Alexander’s hypnotic beats and dreamy cinematic synths, create darkly beautiful and mesmerizing soundscapes. I also love Alexander’s rich baritone vocals, which have a haunting yet sensual quality, reminding me at times of David Bowie, most notably on “Midnight Shadows” and “Marble”.
Most of the songs have a somewhat similar sound and feel, certainly not a bad thing, as they’re all quite arresting and beautifully-arranged. At 30 minutes and 45 seconds in length, the album seems to pass by quickly, always a sign of a quality work in my book. I like every track a lot, but will touch on some of my favorites. Opening track “Perceptions“, features a strong pulsating groove, overlain with lush industrial synths and Antipole’s intricate jangly guitars. Alexander’s breathy vocals are wonderful, both mysterious and sensual. The video, filmed in black and white and at night, shows Antipole making magic on his guitar outdoors on a cold night in front of a church in Trondheim, while Alexander walks through the abandoned streets of Bath, England.
Perhaps the darkest song on the album is “Bleached“, a beautiful but brooding track for which the guys have also fortunately created a video showing them performing the song, superimposed over rather bleak footage of a large English industrial city filmed along a railroad line. The lyrics speak of a desperate existence in an urban wasteland, which Alexander sings in ominous whispered tones: “Take me. Houses full of lost dreams. Structures gripping the sky. Roads leads to hope, but walking is tiring. Reality is the end. Dead end streets and turnarounds. Windows gaze down upon me. Wandering these city streets, struggling for breath to nourish the blood. Stuck on an island, gotta get off. Get me off my phone, get me off my phone…“
“Marble” is an especially lovely and melodic track, with a rapid, pulsating beat, sharp percussive synths, and marvelous jangly guitar notes. Alexander’s comforting vocals are nicely backed by Eirene’s ethereal harmonies. “Infractions” has a wonderful psychedelic vibe, thanks to a greater use of spacey synths, while “Sentiments” is a gorgeous four-minute-long tour de force of hypnotic beats, dreamy atmospheric synths and jangly guitars, accompanied by Alexander’s brooding but hopeful breathy vocals.
With Crystalline, Antipole and Paris Alexander have gifted us another stellar collection of exquisite darkwave songs. I continue to be impressed by the consistently high quality of their output.
Crystalline is also available on vinyl and CD through Young & Cold Records
Connect with Antipole: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Find his music on Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube
Connect with Paris: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Find his music on Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music