Blaqk Audio - CexCells

Jorge Costa 10/01/2008

Rating: 3/5

An on-and-off side project of AFI's vocalist Davey Havok and guitarist Jade Puget, Blaqk Audio's conceptual beginnings occurred around 2001. Six years later, their debut 'Cexcells' arrives and it is possibly one of the most unabashedly camp records that I have heard this past year.

You would have trouble believing that this record was produced by people whose day jobs are as performers in the aforementioned hardcore-punk group layered as it is with programmed beats, heavy synths, grand breakdowns and Havok's over-emotive vocal delivery. It's like a poppier (read: softer) Front Line Assembly, but keeps industrial's foreboding gothic atmosphere and there's, admittedly, quite a bit fun to be had.

The album finds its catchiest tunes when Puget turns up the BPM to give tracks like 'Semiotic Love', 'Snuff On Digital' (if these track titles do not give any indication of what you're in for, I don't know what will), and 'On A Friday' a delirious euro-trashy Tekno!-Tekno! beat that would send a freshly 'Flux'-ed Bloc Party running back to their guitars. These tracks do deserve to find an audience and I wouldn't be surprised if their hyperactivity ended up in the company of happy pill-poppers doing the robot in London's larger dance venues.

The slower tracks, however, hit with varying degrees of success. Lead single 'Stiff Kittens' and second track 'Between Breaths (An XX Perspective)' sound like faithful throwbacks to the emerging dark electronica of the mid-eighties, but too many songs, unfortunately, fall into the realm of kitsch. 'Bitter For Sweet' is a clear example of this with its reliance on Casio's fake choir vocals (“oooh-oooh-aaah!”) adding an overblown theatricality which calls to mind Joel Schumacher's hideously garish adaptation of “The Phantom Of The Opera”. Where you can happily body-pop to 'Again, Again And Again' without getting distracted by Havok trying his damnest to channel Dave Gahan, the same cannot be said about “The Fear Of Being Found” where the only way you can ignore its saccharine melody and Havok's earnest emoting is to skip it all together.

You could come away from this record loving or hating the entire thing. It is confident, honest, seedy, moody, danceable, brash, irritating, in-your-face and artificial; it's Depeche Mode on crack.