There’s an undeniable chill created when an album begins with clashing drums and electronic bass swells being undercut a deep breath and a soft voice cooing “Pity sex / I blame the Internet.” Seattle electronic act Crater establishes a grim dance grind feel from the get-go on its first LP, Talk to Me So I Can Fall Asleep. Over the course of eleven tracks duo of Ceci Gomez and Kessiah Gordon mesh music that keeps a listener at arms length with a welcoming tunefulness in a deliciously modern manner. It’s industrial pop for the Internet age. It’s music to listen to while watching people stare at their phone screens.
The core of Crater’s sound comes from the sleek synthetic electronic sounds that cut at sharp angles and the cold distance Gordon’s manual and digitally sampled drums evoke. Talk to Me So I Can Fall Asleep pulsates with an industrial music edge, with just enough glitchy goth dissonance to keep things discomforting. But Gordon and Gomez don’t confine themselves to strict sonic parameters. With plenty of foreboding, mood-setting guitar parts (see: “Gross Relations”) thrown into the mix, the band grounds itself in rock music much more than other dark electronic acts like Crystal Castles. More importantly, the duo has a clear ear for pop. The melodicism displayed throughout the album harkens more toward a Taylor Swift mindset than that of industrial trailblazers like Throbbing Gristle. All the moving pieces and chaotic contrasting elements wouldn’t work if not for some beautifully layered mixing by the band (and Trevor Spencer on a few tracks) that makes tunes like “Badlands” seem like tonally balanced worlds unto themselves.
As the Crater’s primary singer, Gomez’s vocals brood enough to give the needed feeling of inhuman industrial detachment, but still remain sweet enough to soothe the violence of the surrounding music. It often seems like Gomez is struggling to make sense of a planet betraying her at every turn. She makes the listener want to reach out to her though the darkness as she coolly delivers lines of desolation on “Sick Sad World” (What is left now? / Other than dust and debris”) and helplessness on “Hardly at All” (“I was told that I’d be better off if I got through this”).
Crater is the musical equivalent of Rachel the replicant from Blade Runner: mechanical but struggling with human emotion, seeming to fight against its own programming to survive, wanting to hold on to a glimmer of hope while deeply pessimistic, captivating with a noir sophistication. A traditional happy ending doesn’t seem to be in the cards, but at least each step along the path to Talk to Me So I Can Fall Asleep’s denouement is a gorgeous one.