Detecting influences in music is like detecting notes in wine: not everyone hears or tastes the same thing. While other reviewers have identified hints of Daft Punk and 65daysofstatic, I’m picking up strong signals of New Order; and while Nova Robotics places itself in the post-rock realm, this is dance music through and through. Popola is an excellent EP in the midst of an identify crisis; it’s currently available only as four separate downloads on Soundcloud, and it doesn’t even seem to have a cover. It’s possible that the Bristol duo doesn’t even know how good it is. Popola deserves the 12″ treatment, along with remixes; with the right marketing, all four of these tracks could be massive.
“Blue Monday” (New Order’s flagship single, allegedly the best-selling 12″ of all time) is the EP’s distant cousin, although many of the band’s instrumental b-sides (as well as those of Electronic and Revenge) are closely related. The rapid-paced programmed drumming, electronic bass and melodic, upbeat guitar are hallmarks of a positive yet powerful style, marked by internal propulsion and intentional development. When multiple sound sources converge (for example, at the end of “Overproof”), the effect is euphoric – a word used often in the eighties but clearly applicable today.
To the EP’s benefit, while it is reminiscent of the eighties, it does not sound like the eighties. The wah-wah synth of “Devola” comes from a slightly later period (okay, Daft Punk), while the drive shaft of “SupaNova” – a hard, wet synth followed by an alarm – is decidedly contemporary. It’s as if Nova Robotics were picking up discarded motifs from an earlier era (“What? You really don’t want these anymore?”) and welding them to a modern framework. The graft holds surprisingly well; now it’s time to commit it to wax. (Richard Allen)