Review: Diffuzion – Winter Cities

Sometimes we are taken completely by surprise by a new band, one we hear little-to-nothing about, one we go in with no expectations of, and they emerge to be nothing short of a revelation. Belarus darkwave band Diffuzion were one such band who took the Softsynth world by storm back in 2008 with their terrific, game-changing album Body Code. It’s been a long wait but the wait has, refreshingly this year when many anticipated releases felt like left-downs, been very much worth it.

Winter Cities is a very difficult album to classify. It’s not pop, it’s certainly not industrial, it’s not even really darkwave technically speaking. Much as Body Code seemed to carve out new musical ground, building a musical structure where one simply never stood before, Winter Cities is…something else altogether. Dark beats, heavy bass, dance rhythms, spoken harsh vocals mixed with occasional sweet underlying background vocals, it’s not any one identifying thing within the world of electronic music, it’s simply…Diffuzion. 

Extremely gifted with both hooks and wringing emotion out of clever use of key changes and note choices, this band shows staggeringly skilled craftsmanship. Their songs are catchy and dancefloor-oriented but they are so much more than that. These are thought-provoking songs, not just lyrically, but sonically as well. Singer Xev’s voice is buried under even more vocoder and auto tune than on the previous though while we miss the more melodic side of her lovely voice (as on the unprecedentedly good “Our Wings Are Gone” from Body Code) she does some bizarre, sometimes unsettling, but interesting-verging-on-brilliant things here. The muffled, claustrophobic “Playing God”, the jittery, catchy dance track “For the Prey”, the emotionally and musically heavy Dust2Dust, groovy pop tune “Pure Venom”, every track – literally, every damn track, works. It’s hard to pin down what kind of album this actually is, it’s near-impossible to classify, but it’s brilliant. It’s so fully realized, so fully formed and fleshed out that it’s a work of art better than we had any reason to expect.

The band is criminally underutilized and don’t have near the renown they deserve. People need to hear this album. People need to discover this band. People need to get their freak on with Diffuzion. Seriously. And soon. This is the perfect bridge band, the ideal crossroads where fans of electropop, darkwave, industrial, EBM – pick your poison – can all come together to appreciate this ultimate hybrid. It’s lovely and right up there with the best of the year.

Watch: Winter Cities trailer

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