If the failure of Owen Brinley’s previous band, Grammatics, to scale the heights could perhaps be attributed to ill-luck and modern indifference to indie guitar bands that surely can’t be an issue with his new outfit, Department M.
Ostensibly a solo project, with musicians drafted in for live work, it draws heavily on the 80s synth pop his father used to play while DJ-ing.
There’s a noticeable fondness for clattering industrial percussion and crunchy programmed bass lines of the type much used by Depeche Mode around the time of Some Great Reward and Black Celebration.
Brinley also likes squiggly noises and big, surging synthesiser chords reminiscent of Vince Clarke’s work with the Mode, Yazoo and Erasure.
His voice is fragile and boyish but all the better to wring pathos out of lines such as “If you can do it with a call to the mind/One last time” and “It’s no use in keeping things secret”.
This collection of limited edition singles and rarities includes the excellent I’ll Fax You an Apology and The Second Prize – both hits in waiting if given a wider release - and the eerie Miscellany, with its hints of Yellow Magic Orchestra.
J-Hop, with its sheets of electronic noise and skronking saxophone, is something of a curio but it only highlights the strength of the rest of the material on this mini-album.
Department M by Department M is available now from www.fiercepanda.co.uk or digitally from iTunes.
Also worthy of mention is the new festive single from Simon ‘Graingerboy’ Grainger and Georgina ‘The State of Georgia’ Jacubiak.
A gorgeous, breathy soundscape with a coo-ing vocal, Patience is a song that twinkles with anticipation yet doesn’t ladle on seasonal sentiment. “I hate tonight, I hate to need/But half of me is missing and the wound just bleeds,” Georgia sighs in a chorus that gets stronger with each listen.
Patience is now available digitally.