by Eric Evans
In 1989-90, Steve Kilbey—vocalist, bassist, and chief songwriter of Australian spacerock band The Church—recorded two albums with Game Theory lead singer Donnette Thayer under the name Hex, the eponymous debut and its more pop follow-up Vast Halos. Notable for sensitive vocals and a hook-laden sensibility, the records didn’t reach a mainstream audience but have been prized by fans since. In 2002, Guy Sigsworth of Acacia—fresh off working with Björk and Seal—collaborated with vocalist Imogen Heap on Frou Frou, releasing one album that holds up beautifully as a testament to the artists’ skills. Now taking up that mantle of the clean, beautiful electro-pop duo is Young Ejecta. Comprised of Tigercity’s Joel Ford and Neon Indian’s Leanne Macomber, the two seem to have rebooted their collaboration after 2003’s Ejecta LP Dominae, releasing a prequel of sorts in the form of mini-LP The Planet.
The collection is six tracks of sleek, sparse electronics juxtaposed against delicate vocals. The first single “Into Your Heart” recalls Yaz or early Erasure in its insistence, driving beat with a gossamer vocal floating above. Unlike those Vince Clarke projects, the vocals here don’t have the undeniable power and range of Alison Moyet or Andy Bell. Macomber’s voice is by comparison slight, but has a very pretty tone; there’s a vulnerability to it that works beautifully with the confidence of the musical production. That production is so crystalline you can her every gasp, every breath as Macomber imposes herself on the beeps and chirps. It’s a balancing act that shouldn’t work but does, especially on the mid tempo “Recluse” and the title track. “The Planet” is notable for the restraint it shows regarding those vocals: Macomber takes a supporting role here, allowing the music to stand on its own in a way Bell, for example, wouldn’t.
For any fan of electro-pop, The Planet will be tantalizing. Ford’s all-synth instrumentation is a pleasure throughout, straddling the line between underground dance club and radio-friendliness. Macomber looks every inch the lead singer as well, all Debbie Harry cheekbones and unabashed femininity. The delicacy of her vocals is underscored by the band’s album and single artwork, which to a one features the singer nude. Far from being sensationalist or vulgar, it’s part of the Young Ejecta puzzle. This is music which, despite its commercialism, isn’t crass. It could sell a million copies or just find a small, appreciative, Hex-sized audience—none of the choices they’ve made would encourage or exclude either. It feels like two people making music they love.
Release date: January 27, 2015