Awesome Feeling 6: Black City Lights ‘Parallels’

Wellington’s Calum Robb has one of those amazing back stories that you would kill for. Who knows what he did before this? Not me! But all of a sudden in late 2010 — what happened? A vision from above? Brain injury? — he began writing and producing music. And what music: together with vocalist Julia Catherine Parr as Black City Lights, their effortlessly-gorgeous electro-pop is so assured that the story of the brevity of its inception invites disbelief. And all of a sudden they’ve been picked up by Stars & Letters — a boutique, New York record label operated by one Mark Roberts.

Robb and Parr have created a solid EP’s-worth of timelessly-lush synth-heavy 80s-aware pop but ‘Parallels’ is more than that. The emotional vocal performances are incredible. They’re affecting and cathartic yet not overblown. It’s full of unusual song structures and unorthodox production values. Most of the tracks are bookended in some way with weird spooky sound-beds. And its SO familiar sounding.. I’ve played ‘Parallels’ to few mates who are “of age” and like me they can’t believe the fondness it invokes: instant nostalgia for a sort of conglomerate of Vince Clarke / Yazoo / Eurasia, Bronski Beat, Cocteau Twins i.e. Liz Fraser, Alison Moyet, Annie Lennox, and Kate Bush. Sounds amazing, right? Apparently there’s a bit of Goldfrapp too, as well as all (according to their label) sorts of other up-to-the-minute shit with which I’m less familiar: M83, Little Dragon, Beach House, Dawn Golden, & Rosy Cross. And the Drive Soundtrack (of course).

Okay. What am I saying, really? How about: I guess that Black City Lights might be more in the vein of the EBM soundtrack at a goth sex’n’leather club than the top-40 playing at an intermediate school disco. This record, this band gives me the strong impression that they’re not afraid to sacrifice a few peer-review brownie points for the sake of darkness, for art. Which is ultimately the thing which I love about them.

Facebook / Bandcamp / Stars and Letters


From 2007, Real Groove magazine released four Awesome Feeling compilations, showcasing a diverse and exciting range of underground local talent. The Corner decided to pick up on that for the fifth volume and we’re back again for round six. We’ll be revealing one new artist/track every weekday throughout May, and posting the entire compilation for download at the end of the month.

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