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Album Review: Drab Majesty's ‘Modern Mirror’


When merely engaging a simple glance at Drab Majesty’s mannequin-like image, it's easy to wonder and even be convinced that the Los Angeles-based darkwave duo—comprised of Deb Demure and Mona D.—are two musical A.I’s or extraterrestrial beings sent to seduce listeners with their gothic mystique. Topped with silvery blonde wigs and large sunglasses that obscure any semblance of identity, the two androgynous figures are blanketed with a snow-like glow that only adds to a sound that is as intimate and alluring as it is large and brooding. In consideration of their ritualistic garb, appropriately seance-like live performances, and of course, the duo’s irresistibly gloomy sound, it’s easy to see why Drab Majesty has amassed such a large following since releasing its underappreciated sophomore project The Demonstration back in 2017.

Out to prove their last project was no fluke, the ghostly combination of Mona D. and Demure have returned to their spell-casting ways with Modern Mirror—a record that swims fiendishly in an etheric ocean of synth music from yesteryear, but seemingly more modern and intuned with a wider audience than before.

The dismal romanticism of Drab Majesty is something to behold, and though it only revealed itself on The Demonstration in spades, Modern Mirror sees the two alter egos of Andrew Clinco (Deb) and Alex Nicolaou (Mona D.) embracingly confront the perils of lust and romance in the age of Tinder, resulting in a message and sound more intimate or seemingly more vibrant than before. With warmer textures and leanings into new wave, Drab Majesty is helping bring goth back into the mainstream one hyper-critical dark wave banger at a time.

Overflowing with ethereal synth leads, gated snares, throbbing basslines, and an eerie milieu to boot, Modern Mirror is an unabashed homage to all of your favorite goth and darkwave bands of the past, ie. Clan of Xymox, The Danse Society and current contemporaries like SRSQ, Chasms, and Boy Harsher. Though the latter are mixing it more modern, there is something about Drab Majesty’s antiquated style that feels oddly charming.

Relishing in a musical style nearly four decades strong, Mona’s wash of guitar reverb lends their latest album a divinely spiritual quality, while DeMure’s rich, baritone voice conveys well-worn sentiments of superficial love and lust fulfillment throughout each track. This makes Modern Mirror a musically and thematically cavernous world that drives home the duo’s direct reference to the myth of Ovid’s “Narcissus” by adapting its cautionary tale of—you guessed it—narcissism for the sake of recontextualization.

Dissimilar to the empty expressions of romance that defined ‘80s synth-pop naivete, each song on this record is an irreplaceable chapter to an entire narrative told through thorough self-reflection and timely references to the technology that renders us cold and robotic when the very feeling of “love” violates our own—generational—vanity. On the infectiously driving ‘Oxytocin’ (a hormone that influences social interaction and sexual reproduction), Demure sings / And so very long / it's true All the games I played to reach you / I don't care at all, I don't care at all / Throw it all away, away / There'll be time to laugh / Time to laugh, someday.” With a thirst to fulfill this inevitably fleeting desire of love, sex, or whatever it may be from a distance, the hideousness of self-seeking becomes distinguished as the linchpin of which every other moment and moral morsel on Modern Mirror, connect. That being said, very few acts experimenting within the same realm of music as Drab Majesty, can express the pains of narcism in the digital age through a coherent and connective lens— at least, not as clear and pointed as this obscure duo.

Though there is a cold desire (or lust) to connect across virtual borders throughout Modern Mirror, Drab Majesty’s warm brushstrokes of amorphous sound more than compensate, offering a modicum of hope—not because there is resolution to the petty games played in today’s dating culture, but because of the sobering opportunity to look in the mirror—to self-examine and realize through reflection.

Once you've pondered the musings of Modern Mirror, falling for Drab Majesty’s ravishing musical talents will soon follow. Sure, their sound feels a bit derivative at times, but it’s near impossible to not fall in love with their ‘80s goth-alien aesthetic that they’ve naturally (but unintentionally) developed both visually and musically. They’ve reimagined the heydays of 4AD mainstays from the label’s early days with impeccable sound-engineering and production that makes their last record comparably brooding and chilling. Add in the duo’s pressing commentary about narcissism and digital romance, both of which bear heavy relevance today, Modern Mirror is goth aestheticism for the now and just maybe—the decade to come.

THE 405 RATING: 7.5/10


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