A new idea for an old sound

New EP from Computer Magic delivers something different to 80s electro.


For the time being, we shall overlook that it has become a cliché for modern electropop artists to turn to the 80s for sonic inspiration for tracks. To consider that as a ‘lazy’ or ‘stereotypical’ approach to songwriting would be to dismiss approximately 70% of that genre at the moment.

Not included in that is Computer Magic, aka Danielle Johnson, whose latest musical offering Obscure But Visible is a unique set of electronic soundscapes that don’t find themselves set in the 80s. This makes it a bigger risk than many of the other 80s-worshipping electropop releases, one with no guarantee of quality. Yet to disregard it on that basis alone would be to willingly deny yourself the fifteen minutes of eargasmic pleasure that the EP provides.

The bass swells and vocal sampling of opening track Dimensions immediately cuts a clear distinction between Computer Magic and the tired, recycled sounds that have come before. As the EP opens, it feels much more like a contemporary track with little reverence for the past, melding together Metric and Chvrches in a burst of synth-led glory with elegant instrumentation. This feeds into the shuffling rhythms of Lonely Like We Are, another modern offering with no hint of the 80s.

It isn’t until the very end of the EP, after four tracks of unstoppable momentum, that things become a bit more familiar. Final track Been Waiting is cleverly typical of any modern electropop band, strangely making it extraordinary in the context of the rest of the EP. And the reason for this more mainstream sound is obvious: this is the final throes of the release, with Danielle crafting a crowd-pleasing anthem. She succeeds and, while this is the least inspiring musical moment of the EP, it is the most anthemic and the most likely to incite endless singalongs. It’s a celebratory close to a glorious release.

Computer Magic is a very brave musical project, going against the grain in a small but significant way and succeeding. It might only be a slight generalisation that electropop artists are all 80s indebted, but there are certainly exceptions worth highlighting – and this is one.

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