Synaesthete – Array (4 stars)

Synaesthete – Array

Colourful new album from Sarah Tanat-Jones is rich array of sound and vision

(Kit Records)

Tropical electro-pop livewire Sarah Tanat-Jones, aka Synaesthete, first came to our attention as the glittering, drum-battering vocalist of Edinburgh alt-rock combo Come On Gang. Said troupe split up before they issued their debut – and needless to say, only – album, Strike A Match, in early 2011, but not before they’d earned a reputation as a promising power-pop band.

Since then, Come On Gang’s erstwhile members have been spotted in local raucous melodists Book Group, while Tanat-Jones has moved to London (she originally hails from Brighton) where she works as a visual artist, co-helms ace radio show / webzine / clubnight / label Kit Records, and records as Synaesthete, which sees the musician and illustrator explore – and express – the audio-visual symbiosis between sound and music. (Tanat-Jones herself has synaesthesia – a perceptual condition that confuses, and conflates, the senses – and experiences letters and numbers as colours.)

The album is terrific: a choral, often minimalist, percussion-led romp through disco, R&B, afrobeat, dark electro, a cappella vocals (reminiscent of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares) and shimmering, clattering pop. ‘The Beat’ sounds like a swooning tech-pop hit – all bone-rattling rhythms, electro rapture and glorious vocals (‘And I’m singing harmony, waking from a dream I didn’t want to leave’), ‘Fruit’ is verdant with exotic chimes, clacking beats, African chanting and gorgeous harmonies (‘Be careful ‘cos you hold my heart’), while the stripped-back, disjointed R&B of ‘Signs’ is equal parts euphoric and dystopian (‘This is not the end / can you see the signs?’) and gives FKA Twigs a run for her money.

Taken alone, the songs are superb – and increasingly catchy with each repeat listen – but the album pulls another colourful punch thanks to its accompanying booklet, created by Tanat-Jones as a visual representation of her songs. From dayglo soundwaves to bright fruits, rainbow tears, woozy typography and 3D sloganeering, it vividly reinforces the album’s rich array of sound and vision.

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