PSEUDOCIPHER – Pseudocipher  

Pseudocipher's self-titled debut appeared two years ago, and the currently untitled EP is a showcase of the group's current direction and a sample of the upcoming Fragments Of Reality release, and a great improvement. The duo of Rhonda Amber and Christopher Anton's first release is very much a blend of Depeche Mode-like synthpop and Siouxsie or Cure-type goth rock, and the results are closer to tedious than promising. A clear sense of split personalities dominates the album; either Pseudocipher aim to be a DM cover band (such as the track Symmetry) or to recreate The Cure's Faith album (Time) or any given Banshees work (Daddy's Girl). Anton's vocals are as close to Dave Gahan's as anyone is likely to get, while Amber fits anywhere in the aggressive and extravagant goth-girl field. This quasi-schizophrenia prevents songs from ever really coming together; the energies and dynamics never quite match up. Confession is the most successful of the album, where the plaintive electronics gain a solid hook from the heavy bass playing and solid guitars. Embryo almost works, though the recycled guitar riffs are questionable. Pseudocipher is just not a convincing release, despite slight flickers of possibility. The EP, released two years later, is a different story. Four tracks from a soon-to-be-released album, and a huge growth and positive development. Everything is an improvement, from the production values, to the duo's abilities. Synthpop and goth are still the main ingredients, but the glaring reference points are blurred or vanished. The electronics are harder, clearer and driven; there is more in common with bands like Forbidden Colours, Somber View or Vision System are more apparent, and that is only a good thing. Amber's vocals have grown immeasurably as well; her range and control is excellent, with hints of Danielle Dax shining through. Where the first release would trail off or simply annoy, all four tracks here are powerful and engaging. Anton and Amber have, for three out of four songs (Rupert's Star still hangs on the spacey goth-rock accents), done away with trying to capture old sounds and atmospheres, and have forged ahead into their own sound. Frozen and Doubt are both powerful electro-pop songs, and Nothing Sacred loses some edge in favour of a softer form, yet all three are leagues ahead of anything on the Pseudocipher release. Only Rupert's Star lacks, but it's still an improvement. Fragments Of Reality could very well be a surprise club hit, and ought to be watched for when it's released.


review by: Phosphor

p+c 2000.
Label: Self released

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