Currently based in Boulder, Colorado, Frain was previously keyboard player for the indie-pop band The Giranimals (where he developed a love for the staple sounds of the Minimoog and Melotron instruments) and bassist for the power-prog rock trio Tanuki. Frain decided in 2013 to begin a solo electronic music career after a chance viewing of the BBC4 documentary, “Synth Britannia” that lead to his falling back in love with the sound of the synthesizer.
In addition to krautrock legends like Kraftwerk, Cluster, Harmonia, and La Dusseldorf, the six instrumental tracks on the “Total Squaresville” exhibit Frain drawing heavily on influences from his childhood, including The Art of Noise, Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, and the 1980s iteration of King Crimson. Of particular note is the use of pre-Roland 808 sounds for the drum machine parts, placing this version of synthwave closer to the late 1970s than the mid-to-late 1980s sound that currently seems to dominate the sub-genre.
Tracks like “By the Time We Get There” and “Squaresville” sound like lost Conny Plank projects - complete with simple, direct melodies and motorik-beat rhythms,. The EP’s closer, “Le Chocs des Etoiles” (named after the original French title of campy science fiction flop “Star Crash”) could easily remind the listener of songs by A.I.R. and Stereolab with its liberal use of Melotron strings and bongo-heavy percussion. While almost unheard of in popular electronic music, “The Castellers” glides along in 3/4 waltz time replete with flamenco hand-claps. Electro and space disco-inspired “A Pattern Language,” along the moody minimalist piece “Deeply Recessed Windows,” round out the tracklist on this debut release.
‘Total Squaresville’ follows Chris’ remix on the most recent EP of fellow Happy Robots artist Rodney Cromwell; a remix which was described by Louder Than War as “Replete with keyboard accompaniments that could easily be by John Carpenter…one of the stand out tracks of the EP.”
released June 16, 2017
Produced by Chris Frain. Engineering Assistance by Rudi Thornburgh