There may be a newfound interest in one or two-man electro pop outfits since The Postal Service’s breakthrough 2003 release, Give Up, but few may realize that Ben Gibbard, himself, is a newcomer to bedroom electro-pop. While his partner in crime, DNTEL’s Jimmy Tamborello, may have been at it for some time, artists like Her Space Holiday’s Marc Bianchi have been making this sort of music for damn near ten years. The bespectacled San Franciscan may not necessarily be a “pioneer,” so much as one singular voice twisting indie pop into quirky new shapes. Since Her Space Holiday’s first album, Home is Where You Hang Yourself, many a hotwired laptop upstart has revealed himself with a keen sense of melody and a courier bag full of Atari samples.
In a way, I suppose, you could say that Her Space Holiday was a catalyst for enterprising computer nerd songwriters to come out on their own with gobs of delightfully synthetic, yet surprisingly warm songs. Few of them, if any, have surpassed HSH’s own home-recorded charm, however. On The Past Presents the Future, the fifth release by Bianchi, the formula hasn’t been altered much, though it is decidedly more professional sounding than earlier efforts. But all in all, it’s more or less filled with the beat-laden downtempo pop numbers that Bianchi has been squeezing out of his electro Play-Doh factory all along.
Bianchi’s voice is still soft and subtle, offering plain-spoken nuggets of wisdom like “misery loves company” and “a mouthful of ten-thousand wrong words/is all I got” on leadoff track “Forever and a Day,” a bouncy combination of DNTEL’s glitchy electro and Manitoba’s psychedelic orch-hop. A jazzy bassline drives “Missed Medicine,” a low-key, but cool-sounding track with an all-too subtle chorus that may not find its way out of your head for a while. “You and Me,” with all of its magnificent (sampled) orchestration could even be a hip-hop or R&B hit, were Bianchi not a skinny white guy. Regardless, it’s a fine song, and one of the album’s highest peaks.
A warm, fuzzy ambience surrounds “A Small Setback To a Great Comeback,” as samples of voices float in and out. One can’t help but be reminded of Kevin Shields’ instrumental contributions to the soundtrack of Lost in Translation here. The real disco pop hit on the album is “A Match Made in Texas,” something like a modern update to Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” with boy-meets-girl lyrics, somehow ending in the repeated refrain of “it’s the battle for America.”
Her Space Holiday’s pop is not one of extended dance remixes or soundtracking awkward drunken nightclub courtship. The Past Presents The Future is an electro-pop album for your headphones, mixtapes or bedroom daydreaming. If this album proves anything, it’s that when all is said and done, laptop or not, Marc Bianchi is a songwriter first.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.