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Silicon is the brainchild of Kody Nielson, and is a world away from his previous musical endeavors under the Opossom pseudonym and as the eclectic lead singer of The Mint Chicks—who double as my all-time favourite New Zealand group. Personal Computer is not a world away, however, from the recent work of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the project of Kody’s brother and former Mint Chicks guitarist Ruban Neilson, whose album Multi-Love has been one of the standout releases of the year to date.
Like Multi-Love, Personal Computer follows a simple theme and devoutly references synth-pop and disco influences, which seem like a total 180 from the post-punk the Nielson’s produced in their Mint Chicks days. Personal Computer’s central theme revolves around technology engrossing society and becoming an overbearing presence in everyone’s life. The title track, which opens the album, begins with a computer-generated spoken-word segment—“Never be lonely. Personal computer… someone that’s listening…” The funky instrumental follows and the lyric appropriately supports the computer-based theme.
The more immediate tracks, coincidentally the two singles, are the undisputed highlights of the album. “God Emoji” is a quirky upbeat synth-pop track, which like the aforementioned title track is based around a computer/technological theme. This track is also superbly catchy and makes clever use of dynamics towards the end of a line or a verse, making for a captivating pop song.
My favourite track on Personal Computer, “Burning Sugar”, is funky as hell. This track features a sharp and angular guitar riff coupled with gentle falsetto and a pulsing bassline, before the angularity recedes in favour of a smooth, synthesised chorus. “Burning Sugar” could very easily be an Unknown Mortal Orchestra song, such is the similarities in style—cleverly employed synths, catchy hooks, and even the way the drums sound and where they are in the mix.
Personal Computer is a promising start for Silicon, and, as a debut record, it manages to fit right into the niche falsetto synth-pop market that appears to be the popular sound in the independent world at this point. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Silicon develops and branches out from this style (like Tame Impala did on Currents), and to see if they have the diversity in their sound to stamp their mark on the indie music world—both in New Zealand and abroad.