But Listen: 131: Informatik – Playing With Fire

I've found Informatik one of those bands I can't quite work out for a while now. They've been around in one form or another for some time, nowadays as Da5id Din [din fiv] and Tyler Newman [Battery Cage], and their synthpop/futurepop days are long gone, replaced with a electronic/rock-influenced direction that at points is really quite affecting. I was quite a fan of album Beyond – their first in this direction – and I've realised now that I have totally missed album Arena since.


Playing With Fire
Label: Metropolis
Catalog#: MET825

Listen on Spotify

The thing about them – and it is something that will really divide listeners, I suspect, is Da5id's voice – a deep, gravelly baritone. It is certainly distinctive, but some may find that it jars a lot with the music. At points I think it works, while at others it doesn't at all. But one thing, at least, is that it makes this band utterly unique.

Opener No Sympathy takes a little while to get going, a mid-paced, melodic track with a great chorus that I found myself singing along with pretty quickly, but the killer moment in it is the step-change into a gritty electronic breakdown, before discarding it and returning to the melodics of before. And as good as this – and the following, downbeat Something To Believe In – is, it isn't any great advance on what Informatik were doing on Beyond, a good few years back.

Things get better, much better with How Long. It starts with a beat pattern that sounds similar to a Depeche Mode song of yore, but by god, it becomes something else entirely with a sweeping, multitracked chorus vocal that is a work of true beauty. This trick with a chorus, actually, is something that the band use on a few occasions, and frankly the best songs here are those that make best use of them. Stay is the next one, a song of pleading need to a recalcitrant lover, and it has a warmth unusual in this style of music (Da5id's deep vocals are the perfect fit here), with a lovely, poppy chorus that could be drifting into the charts in more enlighted times.

The final killer track is Juliet. One of those moments where Da5id pushes his vocals beyond his usual range, it has a yearning, soaring chorus that is brilliant not just for how glorious a ray of sunshine (on an otherwise relatively dark in tone album it is), but also for the clever use of Shakesperean metaphor in the lyrics in a tale of, yes, forbidden love.

One of the strangest tracks here is No One, which combines the usual mid-paced industrial electronics with spaghetti western thematics and a stadium rock – complete with appropriate synth backings to the guitar riffs – breakdown that really doesn't quite feel right in what are otherwise relatively restrained surroundings. Interestingly, though, they are hardly the only electronic band like this adding "stadium" elements – Tenek of course have been doing this for sometime with brilliant results.

By track nine, Just For Nothing finally picks up from the mid-pace of most of the album, for an uptempo, electro-rock track with the emphasis on rock, and while the change of pace is welcome, Da5id's voice really works better with the slower paced tracks, and the track itself sounds like a late-period Apop offcut, which I'm not sure any of us need in our lives. And the final track, World of Wonder, manages to out-Depeche Mode the band themselves, pretty much every element of it referring back to DM in some way. I mean, it's not bad – and certainly better than a fair bit of the new DM album, actually – but I'm always a little uneasy about such hero worship or whatever you want to call it.

Aside from that, though, this a solid album. It has enough hooks to make me want to return to it, at least a few brilliant tracks that make the album worth a purchase alone, and while it has moments that aren't so great, by and large they are outweighed by what is good. Ok, so as I noted earlier, you will either love or hate Da5id's vocals, but give this a go if you like melodic, hard-edged (industrial) synth/rock.

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