Shuteye is at their best when their feet lift off the ground. While the Chicago synth-pop duo entertains the increasingly familiar marriage of skybound vocals and concrete beats, its debut Hush Hush LP arcs away from well-trodden paths of club-ready electronica when the biological and synthetic components feed off each other.
The Ukrainian-born producer Alena Ratner and vocalist/songwriter Elysia Hang-fu seem poised to make war with the very concept of low-fi. The grit, hiss, and grain embraced to varying degrees by bolder electronic producers this year appear to have been banished from sidling anywhere near Hush Hush. Lacquered keys dance under smooth vocals; even the dirtier analog roars have been sapped of any trace of their natural chaos. The quality of the production itself engages with the songs that distracts from their content — the shine nearly overpowers the form.
Between its readymade synth textures and blocky beats, Hush Hush doesn’t break much structural territory. Even Hang-fu’s competent vocals sound overly laminated inside their lightless vacuum. But at its best points, the record lets itself drift from plastic pop molds into a more playful space. ”Wonderland” floats over crystalline arpeggios that lash the line between melody and rhythm, while ”Pages” lets Hang-fu slough unintelligible syllables over a guttural industrial beat. On album highlight “Died”, we almost begin to believe that accidents can happen.
Shuteye steers through familiar pop channels on Hush Hush, but often it feels as though there’s not enough air to fill the sails. By depriving it of room to play, to flail, even to breathe, Shuteye seals its debut into a space that’s too choked to allow for any growth.
Essential Tracks: “Died”