Athan Maroulis should need no introduction. However if you are unfamiliar with the man, his associated projects Spahn Ranch and Black Tape For A Blue girl should be some indication of the prowess of his back catalogue. Now he returns with Noir, a project which blends the gothic and industrial elements of his past with filtered through a retro-futurist conceptual view of New York City. The end result is a dark mix of minimalistic electro-goth and beat-driven futurepop.
The opening track (and lead single), 'My Dear', sounds like a stripped-back take on 'Beat Noir' era Spahn Ranch with its compulsive beat and dance floor pace make this simply a must have track. 'The Grifter' is a little more layered with more vocals and synths building throughout the mix, but again it keeps that nice dance pace for an upbeat counter balance to the dark melodies. The first of the covers on the album, Maroulis' take on The Cure's 'A Forest' is simply divine, transforming the morose pop of the original into decadently dark electro hinting at the atmosphere of albums like 'The Coiled One'. Whereas 'The Voyeurs' ventures into the dark cabaret of Black Tape For A Blue Girl with it's sombre lead and reverb drenched vocals.
The synth-driven and beat-free formula formula of 'The Voyeurs' is then carried over into 'The Tragics', which blends the likes of David Bowie's 'Warszawa' and Wendy Carlos' soundtrack for 'A Clockwork Orange'. However, 'Timephase' brings the album back into more dance friendly waters with its filthy bass grove. The penultimate track, 'The Satin Box', is simply an excellent dark pop song which, despite it's straightforward style, is very addictive. The album then finishes off on a cover of 'Roxy Music's 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache', which until now was definitively done justice to by Rozz Williams, however Maroulis still manages to wrestle out some originality of this gloomy glam favourite.
'Darkly Near' is like a computer-generated art deco poster for a forgotten film. The the beats are clean and sparingly used, while the synths are dark and haunting. There is no over saturation, and Maroulis' distinctive vocals permeate every layer with emotion. This is an excellent consolidation of the two distinct musical strands of Maroulis' career that have come together to open up a whole new chapter for him.