Illustration is the second album from Australian-based band Kosmetika (the Uzbekistan word for cosmetics). It’s a light and dark journey into icy synths, crisp bass and gritty guitars as it blends the synthesised with the organic. The band, normally a five-piece, was founded by Michael Ellis and Veeka Nazarova and this album was entirely recorded at home.

There is a nostalgic feel to the tracks which seem to hark back to the early days of synth music when it hadn’t been polished into bright nursery pop and still retained the anger and anti-establishment of punk (think ‘Being Boiled’ by the Human League or the over caffeinated jagged nerves of DEVO) with inspiration drawn from Krautrock. Add to that the perfect detached vocals of Nazarova and we have a winning combination.

There is a cohesive thread running through the album from the vibrating drones and shimmering arpeggios of ‘Strawberry Needles’ through to towering polar wind guitars on ‘Growing Up’. The short but icy sweet ‘Psycho TV’ with its ratatat chorus, the compelling bass line of ‘House’, which borders on synth-pop, ‘Eighty Four’ has a glorious synth hook, and ‘Pick Up The Phone’ is as dark as 1980s Berlin. Nazarova switches to singing in her native Russian on the epic ‘Opaque’ (which must contain the most major chords on the album), the instrumental ‘Institute of Kozmetika’ could easily be their corporate anthem, ‘Mne Nadoeli’ (tr. ‘I’m Fed Up’) is a barbed wire hurricane with Nazarova’s vocals sitting in the eye of the storm, ‘Mokryj Asphalt’ (Mokryj means ‘wet’) is a dark pop swirl that is surely number one in an alternate universe and ‘Rosaleen’ is helter-skelter ride in a haunted fairground.

Kosmetika could be on the same festival bill as Bleak Engineers, or Automatic and have all the chord power of The Coathangers. Their influences may be familiar, but this album sits head and shoulders above many acts trying to conjure the darkness from synths and guitars. This is noir-pop which still has a smile for us and feels like a flower growing the in shadow of an abandoned factory.

Illustration is released through Spoilsport Records

Kosmetika socials: Instagram | YouTube | Bandcamp

Review by Paul F Cook

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