Project Zero is the latest release from Bristol’s This Human Condition, an electronic pop duo who are more than a little odd to behold. Right from the beginning, this album provides a dark, twisting and introspective atmosphere, from the Erasure-esque soundscapes of the opening track “Breaking the Code”, to the pulsing, darkwave-meets-Prodigy nastiness of “Psychotropic”. The influences of early Depeche Mode and Boy George are clear, but the duo simultaneously employ a more modern production and attitude. The resulting sound is definitively 80s, but also breathes fresh D.I.Y air into an otherwise overworked sound, forming a style which they have aptly named ‘Handbag Electro Punk’.
Project Zero isn’t just a vague smorgasbord of modernised, ‘edgified’ 80s worship however. The subject matter of the album is at times painfully modern, whether it’s looking at the world as we know it through the lens of Alan Turing’s life, or focusing on specific events or personal afflictions. One such event depicted in “Telepathic Heights” is the riots which took place in Stokes Croft, an area of the duo’s hometown. Not only does the Progressive House sound of the track excellently summarise the feeling of claustrophobia when such a thing happens on your doorstep, but some of the lyrical content is genuinely moving.
All in all, I can only say that this album surprised me, serving up intensity when least expected and using subtlety as a device to leave the listener feeling all the more unsettled. Listen to it; scrutinise it like it was meant to be scrutinised.