We’re excited to premiere the new Empathy Test single, “Demons”, exclusively, before it goes live on Soundcloud on Wednesday, August 17; and goes on general release on Friday, September 9. They’re a dynamic electronic pop duo from London. They consist of childhood friends, with Isaac Howlett on vocals, and Adam Relf on production.
Apparently, the name Empathy Test is taken from the sci-fi film Blade Runner, in which an empathy test is used to detect highly advanced androids, known in the film as ‘Replicants’. They also try to evoke that genre in their music, too: whether that be taking inspiration from such films; or exploring the boundaries of sound, like using electronic instrumentation as if to sound mechanic and robotic.
The guys, with their endeavours, have stopped people in their tracks, pulling comparisons to the likes of Purity Ring and Chvrches. This is largely down to two four-track EPs in February 2014’s Losing Touch and December of the same year’s Throwing Stones.
Come 2015, they co-headlined their own UK tour, performed to an audience of 1,000 plus at Wave-Gotik-Treffen Festival in Germany, headlined Riba Rocks Festival in Spain and shared stages with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, The Japanese House, German synth pop veterans DE/VISION and Eighties New Wave superstar, Adam Ant. They also squeezed in one-off headline shows at John Dee in Oslo and Reithalle Strasse E in Dresden.
More recently, they released a 10-track remix EP, Throwing Stones Remixed, featuring remixes courtesy of a wealth of people in the industry, including Minuit Machine from Paris, Aeon Rings from the States and Black City Lights from New Zealand.
Now, at the present time, they are currently recording tracks for their début album and gearing up for a European tour in September. They will put, on general release, a double A-side single, “Demons/Seeing Stars”, on Friday, September 9.
The track we’ll discuss, though, in its entirety, is the leader in this pack of two, “Demons”. The song, which we’re premiering exclusively, opens, ringing and vibrating, seeming to build to a crescendo before that heavy bass kicks in. The drum sound, too, is massive. It really claps, and would probably get the heads bopping in a club scenario. It really gets in the head, like an earworm beating the rhythm in your eardrum.
The almost nasal vocals have a punky feel to them, as if disaffected but not necessarily snarling and spat with venom. It might remind one of the soundtrack to the Ryan Gosling film, Drive. Very retrospective Eighties, but not necessarily sci-fi in the strictest sense. Very ominous, and driving, however. There’s much common ground between this and more typical Eighties sci-fi, though.
There’s a mix of low and high register synthesiser, bass and treble. Low, driving bass, ominous, is set against a higher melody. These both serving a haunted purpose; but the higher melody serving something more the height of fear, than merely a tight chest. Electronic music put together in a manner such as this almost negates the need for real guitar and drum dynamics.
Its soundscape, generally, is loaded and evocative. If you’re not transported to another era, you end up on another planet, which’s very satisfying. Either way, sourcing your inspiration from the Eighties, in music or from film scores, is a winner. A winner in that a fair slice of the music listening public crave Eighties throwbacks, and this is done as such that it’s not totally derivative. A sense of invention pervades and permeates to the extent that it’s like a ‘new take’ on something very long established.
If this, “Demons”, is anything to go by, then we can expect promising things from this duo in future. If indeed there’s a full length album on the horizon, that’ll be a good indicator of their, hopeful, longevity. If childhood friends can stand the sight of eachother after that process, then it could daresay be said they’ll take on anything life throws at their faces with deft agility.
Empathy Test, with this offering, has provided something, like the clap of that drum from the aforementioned, the clubs will welcome on their sets and playlists. Conversely, the throwback aspects, and the sheer sense of invention, will pull in musical aficionados.
Words by Andrew Watson