Connection, creation, communication: twines in the golden musical thread made by new duo, Decisive Pink who are Angel Deradoorian (Dirty Projectors alumnus) and Kate NV, Russian experimental pop artist, on their debut album Ticket To Fame.
Ticket to Fame may sound like a grandiloquent title, but its provenance is anything but. The music confirms this: the beautiful electronic pop songs and sensitive instrumentals often point to the fact that life is a puzzle, but you can still get a lot from living it. It’s quicksilver essence is also in keeping with the duo’s decision to name the project after Wassily Kandinsky’s painting, ‘Decisive Pink’.
It seems clear their creative delineations and “a mutual sense of beauty and humour”, are combined with a canny understanding of each other’s character. Angel reflects on a writing process that was “very balanced, writing-wise. Usually we can quickly fall into a writing flow and just jam together. The songs transpire swiftly.” Kate NV acknowledges the pair are “very different”, with strong sides to their characters. Kate NV is the main producer and arranger on the album, with Angel’s input. And Angel is the main lyricist – with Kate’s input.
Recorded at a mutual friend’s studio in Köln, which boasts an extensive collection of analogue synthesisers: “a spaceship,” according to Kate. Angel: “It was very exciting to step into the ‘synth- dome’ as I think of it. I can’t remember all the synths we used, but definitely one of the Prophets, a modular, a Juno, a Jupiter, a Rodeo, a synth with a bee on it and some synth from the 1980s that Kate knew about.” The pair continued working in Angel’s downtown LA rehearsal space with vocals were recorded in an apartment closet; a process which Kate loved, due to its intimacy.
Ticket To Fame presents a number of themes, one is how we communicate in these uncertain times. Some tracks bring to mind solving a crossword puzzle: answering clues, in order to make sense to one another. ‘What Where’ – a wry examination of how we transmit and receive information – is a good example. It immediately creates a sense of mystery; the marimba-esque synth pattern and tinkle of bells suggests we have entered a secret room, maybe to have our fortunes read.
More vocal trickery is served up with ‘Voice Message’ where we hear voices messaging each other, but not a word is used. A simple trick, but doled out with a card shark’s sleight of hand. Then there is ‘Potato Tomato’, a bass-led skank that gently lampoons George and Ira Gershwin’s ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off’. The women revel in the differences of pronunciation, laughing at the absurd fun to be had in everyday words.
If we can’t properly communicate with each other, then should we believe what we hear?
Single ‘Destiny’ picks up on this with its smart take on the nature of belief, built on a question-and-answer format, where Angel plays a role as the seer, and Kate the enquirer. The lyrics are to the point, curt almost. Deradoorian looks to coerce us into choosing our fate. The poppy beat is reminiscent of Talking Heads’ ‘The Great Curve’, from Remain in Light. There again, it could be a sinister take on Will Powers’ ‘Kissing with Confidence’. This mix of burlesque and menace is very affecting, especially in the way it builds up over Deradoorian’s sultry recitation. The downplaying of the instruments’ power throughout the track is a brilliant conceit. The synths sound like the timid affirmation of the initiate akin to the young oysters devoured by the Walrus and the Carpenter.
One of the most direct tracks, ‘Dopamine’ acts as a commentary on excess and consumerist addiction and is a life-lesson, albeit sugar-coated courtesy of an incredibly catchy melody and beat. Both singing the initial melody line, that somehow this gives a slightly malevolent air to the track, is a pithy commentary on the brutal mind-spiralling that occurs when people get caught up in impulsive shopping. The track’s payoff is a glorious telephone conversation between a dominant, slick automated voice, and a hesitant all-too-human customer. It is brilliant and a mnemonic to the similar power struggle heard in ‘Destiny’.
Ticket to Fame is unashamedly romantic in atmosphere and tone. Romance is to be found in the simple pleasures, such as listening to a blackbird on the instrumental ‘Rodeo’, where warm synths, a melancholic guitar pattern and hissing rhythm combine with some vocal snippets to make the perfect contemplation. The single ‘Haffmilch Holiday’ is inspired by the pair ordering their daily hafermilch cappuccinos whilst in Köln and goofing around, dancing, forgetting the cares of the world. A break in their daily routine that becomes, a straightforward plea for space, reflection and some positive energy. ‘Ode to Boy’ is a perfect pop track where a set of initially different, shortened synth patterns build to a glorious affirmation of the power of love. Reworking the famous refrain from Beethoven’s Ninth here may be obvious but it is brilliant; giving the seal of approval to a tale of attraction. There is hope to be found in simple, obvious, positive aspects of life. The soft shuffle of the beat is reminiscent of Kraftwerk. Finally there is the marvellous essay in sultry pop, ‘Cosmic Dancer’. It may share a name with the famous T Rex track, but there most similarities end, apart from a slightly mystic quality in the delivery of the lyrics. It’s a snappy, sunny pop tune that mixes slightly “shimmering” and “detuned” synth patterns and squelchy phrases, bringing to mind Kate NV’s, Binasu.
The record is over all too soon. The patient, melancholy instrumental ‘Dusk’ does a sterling job of reflecting on what went before. Ticket to Fame is a quietly magical record: sharp, funny and prescient and yet ultimately mysterious, it’s “a kiss to all the world.”