Kris Bernard - The Face I Deserve
There's an oft cited quote, allegedly said by Mark Twain, "History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes" that fittingly describes the explosion of revival music online. While it can be said that more than ever retro styles provide a palette of sounds for producers to merely rehash the ersatz of past genres The Face I Deserve instead injects them into the zeitgeist of the present day. Demonstrating his composition ability honed in from his past IDM releases Kris Bernard doesn't merely work within the genre's aesthetics and sounds, he evokes the personal angst and brooding of 80s darkwave through meticulous production.
Bernard is an aficionado of darkwave and it's related movements, his appreciation of the genres are evident on The Face I Deserve, most immediately noted in the haunting cover of Marie Moor's "Pretty Day," the 1982 synthpop single since recognized as a minimal wave cult classic. The song is fleshed out with less frantic, breathier vocals set to a backdrop of crisp percussion and atmospheric synth pads that all augment the track without losing any of the hypnotic charm of the original. It's a treatment that encapsulates the overall tone of this album as no one style or genre is strictly emulated or evoked: touches of industrial, EBM, goth, new beat, even more straight-up acid, electro, and hardcore techno are all showcased at various points. The vast array of sounds utilized in such tactful and nuanced ways places The Face I Deserve into the same territory of hauntology that has been explored by artists like Pye Corner Audio, Jon Maus, Demdike Stare, and Hype Williams. Music that is at times hauntingly familiar in one moment and arrestingly foreign in another. "Under The Sheets" sounds like a horror OST deep cut, "Lord of The Wood" could have been ripped from a 90s era PC game soundtrack. Neither sound out place from the more gothic ballad driven songs like "Words" or "Reflected In Your Eyes." Bernard manages to extract musical references from a vast retrospective catalog of influences, often from seemingly disparate sources, and mix them into a cohesive work.
Bernard's vocals and lyricism provides a further depth to his work that is often so lacking in the vast sea of revivalist releases. His tone is distinct and consistent but pliable, allowing for some via the subtle vocal glitches in "More Ruminating," the Kraftwerk-esque vocoder in "Tomorrow Hides in Yesterdays Shadow 2." The existential dread, both internal and external, that was the backdrop of darkwave in it's original 1980s context is just as relevant now. "Mallatia Americana" sounds straight out of a Reagan era nuclear doomsday film when it's actually referencing 2018's nuclear missile alert scare in Hawaii. The spectre of the cold war never left. Neither have the emotional trials and tribulations universal to all individuals. Mark Twain has never been definitely attributed to the quote mentioned earlier, but he did write this, and it can be said of Kris Bernard's musical achievement: "History never repeats itself, but the Kaleidoscopic combinations of the pictured present often seem to be constructed out of the broken fragments of antique legends."
- Joshua Bradshaw