On most albums, there’s a single moment in which one leans into the album or leans away. On Imaginary Boys, the moment arrives early, at 2:02 of the opening track. The Middle Eastern groove of “Flaming Flamingo” has already been established with bass and breath, when suddenly the timbre shifts to modern composition with field recordings. Only 22 seconds later, it shifts again to the tone of a suspense film in a darkened cinema. But the track ends with the dominant presence of Theresa Stroetges’ wordless voice, flying speaker to speaker over a series of boings and light percussion. This type of music is worth one’s full attention.
As Golden Diskó Ship, Stroetges has been making creative music for years, at first drawing comparisons to other artists, but now coming into her own. She’s one of a group of inventive artists who subvert the ideas of radio-friendly music without dismantling them. One can hear the construction of Top 40 hits in these grooves, but only momentarily ~ never through the entire course of a song. “Pacific Trash Vortex” comes close, which is likely why it was chosen as the first public track. The song contains a single modified vocal warble and boasts a memorable left speaker guitar riff balanced by a right speaker synth pattern. One can imagine it being played in a club, perhaps with amplified bass.
Throughout the album, one continues to notice the clever use of stereo effects. Great attention has been made to the placement of sounds as well as to their execution. Stroetges has always been precise, but never more so than she is here. The vocals, few as they are, tend to be repeated, modified or both, typically sinking rather than floating. The only exception is “Wrong Beach”, in which the vocals are mixed upfront, finally disappearing to give way to the closing swarm of drone, while the most memorable line is “I wanna see you shine” in “Swarm of Bees”, echoed by glockenspiel. More often, the artist concentrates on flavoring her tracks with unusual spices. “Abandoned Chinese Fishing Village” sounds like the score to an Asian romance that might at any time launch into kung fu, while “Sundrunk” comes across as the swaying singsong of a religious pilgrim who has imbibed a bit too much sacred wine. By the dramatic nine-minute closer, “Lifelike Showdown”, Stroetges has left a huge impression while remaining elusive, an unusual trick that lies at the center of her appeal. The worlds she invents are easy to visualize, but as imaginary as the boys of the title. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 24 March