Rating: 3.5/5Built out of swirling electronic dance tracks set forth to ricochet off the corners like a caffeinated beast trying to escape, the self-titled debut from Omaha’s Icky Blossoms has a sharpness that communicates all the experience in its lithesome grooves. It’s a debut, but it’s not the first time out for a lot of the key personnel involved with the band. It’s the latest outlet for Derek Presnell, a multi-instrumentalist who first made his name with the indie pop outfit Tilly and the Wall. Furthermore, Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio produces the album, infusing it with a finely measured dose of the sort of adventurous authority that characterizes the music of his day job. These are people who understand the challenges and rewards of crafting music, and it comes through on the record.
Besides Tilly and the Wall, Presnell also worked with a side project called Flowers Forever and it was with that group that he first collaborated with singer/keyboardist Sarah Bohling and fellow singer/multi-instrumentalist Nik Fackler (who also has an Independent Spirit Award nomination to his credit for Lovely, Still, the 2008 film he wrote and directed). They apparently hit it off, forming a trio and started in on crafting bright, fulsome dance pop. The benefits of their work together are evident right from the opening track, alit by a throbbing synth line before rhythm kicks in with thumping spirit of a latter-day Siouxsie and the Banshees track, after they’d given up on coddling the sullen goth kids and decided to have some fun. Bohling sings on the track, investing the lyrics with a yearning delicacy that heightens their poignancy. “I know nothing will last forever/ I still like the thought of being together,” and the dance floor lovelorn helplessness is piercing.
Bohling delivers a similar swaying, breathy croon on the hypnotic “Cycle,” but she can also don a robotic snarl as on the spookily percolating “Sex to the Devil” and the single “Babes” (which appealingly opens with something that sounds a little like a conversation between an electrified rubber band and a roiling beaker of mystery solution). The guys do their time with the microphone as well, but it’s Bohling who comes across as the enrapturing center, the Shirley Manson or Toni Halliday her generation needs and deserves.
I don’t mean to imply that Icky Blossoms is a star turn masquerading as a band. Despite the strength of Bohling’s presence, one of the things that makes the album works is the way the music does come across as the product of a band, several different sharp individuals bouncing creative ideas of one another until they can find a way to merge it all together into a satisfying hole. Even if a couple of tracks are negligible, there’s an overall sense of mutual discovery, a continual pushing to see what else they can do together and how they can make it just different enough from what’s come before to keep them interested. On the languid, six-and-a-half minute album closer “Perfect Vision,” they sing, “Nothin’ to do/ But get high in the afternoon,” and then deliver the sort of whirlpool of fuzzy sonic enticement that provides its own sort of luscious bending of the mind. It’s just further proof that Icky Blossoms know exactly what they’re doing.