Divisions of Decency, the debut album from Winchester’s monochrome synth-pop warriors Scarlet Soho, is all hard edges, stylised sounds and sharply defined lines. Synths soar over tight, squalling guitars and the clipped sounds of a drum machine, with detached, coldly emotional vocals completing the picture. Scarlet Soho manage to pack a lot of noise into sparse-sounding arrangement to create a tight, claustrophobic and threatening sound.
_Divisions… _is an album which invites the listener to read between the lines. The vocals are cryptic, begging interpretation, and the melodies too have a sense of things left unsaid. There’s a sadness in the music, with the contrast of scratchy, pointed guitars against sweeping, cold synthesiser combining to produce something mechanical and yet somehow aching. That ache is buried under layers of sound, a subtext rather than something explicit, but it’s very definitely there. And it’s there that the impact of this album lies; in the sense of loss and distance, of depersonalised hurt and pain.
Scarlet Soho are a band of vicarious kicks from the news at night, a cold observer sitting back and watching the battle unfold. Divisions… is a disinterested, once-removed commentary on our disinterested, once removed culture of emotional scavengers. It’s a clicking, mechanical metronome counting out the seconds of an empty adrenaline rush; the sadness of cities and the desperate faceless speed of modern life. A half-hearted taunting, a hopeless sense of anger and loss. Scarlet Soho never actually come out and say that their social commentary is a manifestation of something desperately sad, but they don’t really need to. If a straightforward telling of the state of affairs becomes a tale of something sad, that sadness will come across in the telling. And so Scarlet Soho’s music packs a paradoxical deadpan ache, from the cold vicious jab of its opening bars to the soft sweep of synth in final track 'City Behaviour'. It’s edgy, frantic, powerful stuff, which manages to be incredibly self-aware without sinking into hideous self-parody and which packs tunes and punch aplenty.