Review

Stacks

Love and Language

Knekelhuis • 2022

How much dark retro pathos fits on eight tracks? The Antwerp duo Stacks explored this question on »Love and Language« for the Amsterdam basement kids from Knekelhuis. The result has sacral traits, and the semi-human chorals, loaded with real echo, have something of Enya and priests alike. The difference: Stacks wear kid gloves to drag the devotional character of their music into the tomb, where it nibbles on all kinds of bones between the undead of Depeche Mode, Tropic of Cancer, Kavinsky and ’80s soundtracks to flicks like »Drive«.

There’s no skimping on vocoder use, and if there’s any ambiguity it’s damn well hidden. It doesn’t get much more gestural than the ballad »Freedom To Pretend«, afterwards »People Around« calls up so many eerie references with its step-tempo beat that it sounds like a world novelty. »Oh You« borrows its peculiarly disembodied atmosphere from The xx, with the vocals only managing to penetrate the synthesiser and electric guitar carpet in billowing swathes. Stacks combine the effects fetish of Shoegaze with the melancholy of the black scene to create finely produced and, above all, well arranged music that, with all-encompassing pop appeal, invites you to pine and grieve in equal measure – »To Be Near«. In its own way, a special album that one rarely gets to hear.