Album Review: Sons Of Magdalene ‘Move To Pain’

With an alias like Sons of Magdalene that conjures the legacy of fallen women, an album title like Move To Pain, and songs named “Bitter Soliloquy” and “O, Death” one might correctly presume that Joshua Eustis is working out some heavy issues through his latest offering. One would not only be correct, but hard pressed to criticize him for it. Not only because he’s had to deal with heartrending events like his father’s cancer and his Telefon Tel Aviv’s partner Charlie Cooper’s 2009 death, but also because Eustis, one of the most creative artists in electronic music, has managed to alchemize his surfeit agony into a musical victory.

Originally an unfinished Telefon Tel Aviv project, Move To Pain came together over the last five years in bits and pieces. The album opens with “Hold On Hold Still For A Moment”, an Italo number awash in shuffles, pings, and melancholy vocals that sounds like a very introspective Pet Shop Boys song. Similarly, the title track “Move To Pain” and “Can’t Won’t Don’t Want To” could easily drive nostalgic B-boys who don’t mind swirling harmonies haunting their Cabaret Voltaire-friendly beats to whirling like urban dervishes on flattened cardboard. “The Whip” oscillates and squelches on a parallel acid-soaked plane, while “Bitter Soliloquy”, “Strange Sound”, and “Unfortunate Phone Call” wander into ambient, film noir soundtrack territory, evoking Depeche Mode’s brooding synth-pop and Apparat’s crystalline emotive techno along the way. Two of the more sublime surprises are the aforementioned “O, Death” – a deep, bottom-heavy, minimal techno behemoth – and the closing track, “Crows On The Eaves Of My Father’s House” – a mix of crisp, mid-tempo staccato rhythms and atmospheric vocals.

By the time his beats sputter down and his “Ahhs” fade at album’s end, one is left with a profound sense of having emerged from a heavy haze, squinty-eyed and spent, but also relieved and energized. Eustis himself summarizes the experience best: “This may all seem melodramatic, but I assure you, it isn’t. It feels great to finally let go of something that weighs one down, and gain perspective from it. Even if it’s in hindsight.”

Move To Pain is out on Audraglint on June 24. Stream “Can’t Wont Don’t Want To” after the jump.