It is a truth universally acknowledged: life is about balance. The duality of light and shade; the interior and the exterior; the social and the personal. Thesis, anthesis and, perhaps, eventual synthesis.
For twin brothers and creative foils Zak and Kel Pinchin, the understanding of that polarity is a lifetime in the making, on their band Modern Error’s debut album ‘Victim Of A Modern Age’ it is both a powerful provocation and the heart of a central question about the way in which we live our lives.
“We’ve always had this idea about Modern Error, this desire to make a statement through the band about how we view the state of the world,” offers vocalist Zak.
To that end ‘… Modern Age’ is a profoundly conceptual record, one divided into mirroring halves; each executed with an ambition and precision that so often eludes bands many albums deep into their careers, let alone those self-producing their first significant body of work.
The 14 track LP is almost dizzying in scope. In its first act, or ‘Oeuvre I’, the soaring choruses of songs like ‘Error Of The World’ and ‘A Vital Sign’ vibrate with lush, widescreen power – though never at the expense of intriguingly picked melodic choices or bone-rattling guitar breaks. These are songs unabashedly designed to fill the biggest rooms one could possibly imagine.
“It’s very emotionally led in the first half,” explains Zak. But for the protagonist at the heart of Modern Error’s story these shimmering opening stanzas reflect life within the gilded cage of an everything-on-demand, Web 2.0 existence: social media that ostensibly draws us closer together while forcing us further apart, bombs dropped on foreign lands at the push of a flashing red button and relayed by 24-hour news. An existential dilemma of our age and one which the band were keen to put at the centre of their work.
“Why do we live the way we do?” questions Kel. “We are using the work to reflect on this bigger picture thinking”
And so, if the first half of ‘…Modern Age’ represents a bold Icarian flight into the tempting light of the digital life which we now all live, then its second chapter marks the inevitable crash into the sea. Our narrators’ meditation on the essential hollowness many of us suffer under in our current cultural and social set ups.
“The second half of the record is about being in a space that doesn’t feel quite like reality, about questioning what reality means to you and what you live for,” notes Zak. “It’s almost a between life and death existence, like a biblical reincarnation, a state of evolution.”
Indeed, as the perspective sharply changes (our heroes soul rises skyward from his body and into purgatory during vo-codered bookend track, ‘Lull’), so do the tones and textures unfolding before us. ‘Oeuvre II’ is the sound of decay; guitars giving way to a kaleidoscope of synthesisers, industrial drums and distorted vocals – richly layered and delving into influences that range from Depeche Mode to Boy Harsher and Drab Majesty. The band’s cinematic lens now peering into a vortex of blue light.
“It’s so easy to fall into a formulaic trap with music,” explains Kel. “A lot of musicians fall into that trap, without any question. There is a whole world of sound and noise out there to harness, why would you restrict yourself? Why would you not experiment? There is no statement in following suit; we want to start heading our way into making our mark and doing something for music.’
A track like ‘The Truest Blue’ captures the spirit of that intention in earnest. All throbbing low end and maniacal yet lustful intensity, it is demonstrative of a band not just paying lip service to the notion of a broad palette – but mastering such breadth effortlessly. .
“We want you to have to listen to the record all the way through,” nods Kel in summary. “That’s getting lost in a single-based age, but I love listening to albums as bodies of work and if we can have some hand in bringing that back then fuck it, why not. It’s a debut record. You only get that one chance to make that first impression.”
And with ‘… Modern Age’ an impression is certainly what they have made. After all, theirs is a narrative that self-evidently and unashamedly draws from a rich vein of bigger-picture thinkers: encompassing the cinematic work of Kubrick and Aaronofsky, the philosophical cut and thrust of Nietzsche and beyond. An all-to-rare commitment to the idea that art can stand for something bigger than itself. Combine that with a superlative blend of stadium-bothering rock and post-punk abrasiveness and it is clear that Modern Error are, in almost every conceivable way, a band tailor made for our times.