Champagne Kiss is the latest offering from Michelle Maskovich and Russell White, the motivating forces behind Moog-happy bands The Shortwave Channel and Camera Obscura. The two abandoned West Coast noise capital San Diego – and their Camera Obscura bandmates – for the more culturally obscure Minneapolis, where they picked up bassist Jesse Johnson (who sports in the liner notes the same T-shirt I am wearing at this very moment). The trio creates a much sparser sound, cashing in a trap set for a drum machine that echoes tinnily behind Johnson and White’s slashes of guitar noise and Maskovich’s droning yet aggressive keyboards.
I have a feeling the band has yet to learn how to properly use the drum machine, and this dilettantism detracts from the sweep of the sound as often as it enhances. There are moments when the band seems to be pulling a deadpan New Order impression, but, just as often, they come across like castrated industrial. White’s screams are, as on every album he’s been involved with, so distorted and buried in the mix that I have to wonder why he’s the frontman.
Nonetheless, there are moments when the band proves the capacity for brilliance. “Black Violin” builds and trails in a manner that exemplifies and justifies the use of repeat-and-vary song structure, while the drum beat on “80’s Centric” (sic) is syncopated against the flesh musicians’ playing, thus keeping the listener off balance. The talent is there to turn Champagne Kiss into the noise band to watch – if the players involved tweak and tighten their sound.
Their fashion sense, however, is impeccable.