It’s hard to avoid the “Who do they sound like?” game when reviewing an album, and even harder when a band call themselves Simulation. The duo of Whitney Johnson and Laura Callier do evoke some precedents in their music, particularly the looping melodies of ’80s dance-pop. But their latest tape, Death’s Head Speaks, is more about synthesis than mimicry. The pair meld their influences into a distinct sensibility, bathing synth hooks and drum-machine beats in cosmic ambience.
This outward-bound aura is apt for a duo formed after a “paranormal experience… of the ghost or alien variety” that occurred when the two toured together with their solo projects (Johnson’s Matchess and Callier’s Gel Set). It sparked a collaboration whose sound is so thoroughly atmospheric, any move they make feels like part of a greater vision. They can fill “How the Universe Is With You” with laser-like streams that feel natural rather than tacked on, and say lines backwards in a song called “The Reverse Can Be Said” without sounding obvious. What sticks after every track—particularly the hypnotic rhythms and fluttering keyboard of closer “If The Light Cannot Escape”—is the sense that Simulation have traveled somewhere far away, and returned with something new.