Promenade Cinema have rapidly gained popularity in a short space of time, and with their style of music, it’s clear why. Formed by Dorian Cramm and Emma Barson, they describe their sound as ‘Cinedramatic Synthpop’, influenced by 70’s & 80’s pioneers of electronic music, which is enough to invoke intrigue. Plus, hailing from Sheffield, a city with a bustling alternative/goth scene, and a rich musical history, they have no shortage of inspiration.
The ‘Cinedramatic’ elements within their debut album Living Ghosts become pretty clear early on, and help to drive the conceptual theme that the duo push for. There are song titles that refer to cinematography, and lyrics reference this too, making for cleverly woven metaphors. The way it all comes together, hoverer, is what really drives it all home. It genuinely sounds cinematic, as if it should be off a soundtrack, although I’d argue the album is a film in itself!
There are a lot of themes explored throughout the record, and there is a definite thematic arc to it. It’s filled with sweeping melodies, and has a haunting mood that can only be described as beautiful. The varying usage of electronic, orchestral and ambient elements have been carefully considered. This works in the album’s favour, and helps to create a diverse range of layering within each song. Vocal duties are shared between Dorian Cramm and Emma Barson, and the contrast in their differing styles plays to each of their strengths.
The pace starts off slowly, with opener ‘As The World Stops Spinning’. Haunting notes progress to broad melodies, switching between the two, making the track feel very dynamic. It may not be a mind-blowing way to start the proceedings, but it certainly eases the listener into their world. Things really get going in ‘Spotlight’, as beautifully arranged strings, piano and synth build up into an upbeat melody. ‘Polaroid Stranger’ keeps this up, with progressive electronic elements and the rhythm is extremely catchy. ‘Chemical Stranger’ is, in my opinion, the most Gothic, darkest sounding track on the record. Cramm and Barson’s vocals compliment each other perfectly here. Things slow down a bit for ‘Stock Image Model’, having a much more traditional synthpop style to it. ‘The Quiet Silently Wait’ has a fantastic beat, and great electronic hooks to boot, whilst ‘Cassette Conversations’ returns to the haunting themes explored earlier in the album, shifting to a sea of synths, and really upping the pace. ‘Softly The Sinister Hold’ and ‘Credits’ are both very beautifully eerie tracks, the former featuring a distorted arpeggio and the latter having a more orchestral feel. Closer ‘Norway’ definitely has a sense of finality to it with it’s melancholy atmosphere.
Living Ghosts is not only an extremely strong debut, it sounds stunning, and feels like a journey from start to finish. The influences are clear here, but they’ve truly made them their own, all whilst adding a modern twist. The cinematic qualities make for an epic, dramatic listening experience, with it’s spacey feel, haunting mood and solid production quality. There were genuinely moments where I’d zone out and get absorbed into the music, it was that engrossing. The atmosphere is so rich, that it’s like being drawn into a dreamscape. Once you start listening to it, you’ll be hooked.
Final verdict: A synthpop album that has a beautiful arrangement of electronic, orchestral and ambient elements, all backed by a unique cinematic feel. This debut transports the listener to all sorts of wonderful places, that results in an epic immersive experience, which is easy to get absorbed into.
Available for purchase now at the official Promenade Cinema Bandcamp page: https://promenadecinema.bandcamp.com/album/living-ghosts
The band will also play at Infest Festival, Bradford on Sunday 26th August: https://infestuk.com/
As the World Stops Revolving
A Chemical Haunting
Stock Image Model
The Quiet Silently Wait
Softly, The Sinister Hold
Special thanks to Babz, for proofreading this review for me, and making some excellent suggestions for edits! 🙂