Album Review: Drab Majesty – Modern Mirror

Monday, July 22, 2019
Photo by Nedda Afsari

Mysterious, and often mystifying, LA-based darkwave duo Drab Majesty turns the mirror on modern society with a postmodern critique on their new album Modern Mirror — exploring the ways self-obsession, technology, imitation and distorted worldviews have stained humankind.

The album is a follow-up to their previous release The Demonstration, with their new album proving to be their most solid body of work yet. Modern Mirror may be shorter than their previous album, but it's tightly curated and the songs have a more distinct flavour, instead of merging into one drifted sequence. Spanning eight tracks and approximately 42 minutes, the duo presents a unique retelling of Ovid's tale of Narcissus and his obsession with his own reflection.

Modern Mirror opens with the bleak sounds of 'A Dialogue', which is a heartstopping and cathartic introduction to the album. Just like the songs that follow it, Drab Majesty find themselves in a space of time that's entirely their own place — somewhere that is reminiscent of the mid-80s, but also a futuristic world that's 100 years away from 2019. The words on 'A Dialogue' appear as a fragmented echo that only escalates and becomes multi-layered as the song progresses, with the words becoming increasingly distorted. The album's illustrious opening ends fittingly with abrasive white noise, leaving the listener unsettled, but equally as intrigued.

'The Other Side' has a dizzying yet intricate rhythm, as well as one of the catchiest choruses on the album. Especially evident across the album is the repetition of lyrics, which only adds to the feverish emotions behind them. On 'Ellipsis', it's the piercing words, "And I watch you write / you're still saying nothing," that we hear before the song ends. The magnetic track reflects on the act of courtship aided by technology in a world that doesn't understand how to do this effectively.

The mid-point of Modern Mirror is met by the album's darkest track 'Noise of the Void', and the bleakness is only amplified by the dismal words, "It's the emptiness, the emptiness." The haunting echo of the phrase is all-consuming and possesses the power to dominate your entire mind. 'Dolls in the Dark' provides a club-friendly moment on the release. As referenced a few times on Modern Mirror, Drab Majesty refer to the concept of 'modern eyes'. The track's most stirring lyric is the uttering of, "And I laid there with walls around me / Dead and dreaming on my telephone." With a title inspired by the hormone of love, 'Oxytocin' explores quick love or infatuation, and how the blinding of such powerful experiences can be cheap or shallow. On the track, they mix things up with Mona D taking over vocal duties from Deb.

As the album reaches it's concluding moments, listeners are treated to the grand sounds of 'Long Division' — a track about long-distance love and two people who have become so invested in their relationship that they have lost grip of their separate identities. The track features guest vocal-accompaniment and harmonisation by Jasamine White-Gluz of No Joy. The album ends on a mighty note with the infectious and futuristic track 'Out of Sequence' — appearing as a reflection of existential longing and feeling out of sync in an image-driven society. The words "Does anybody understand this mind? Am I out of sequence / or in the times / the day I cried," capturing the unnerving feeling that they present.

Modern Mirror is Drab Majesty's most complete and refined release yet. Never do they find themselves falling into the trap of being an imitation of an 80s synth band, instead, they've produced a body of work that's entirely and distinctively their own.

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)

Listen to Modern Mirror by Drab Majesty:

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