Welcome back to another edition of Retrocution! Yes, more than five months after our most recent edition of this column — during which your writer finished school, passed his licensure exam and, oh yeah, realized he needed a break from metal something fierce — we’re back to continue spreading the gospel of ’80s-loving electronic goodness. To (re-)kick things off, let’s take a closer look at We Are Hypersensitive, the latest album from the prolific French act, AWITW.
For the unfamiliar, AWITW is the brainchild of composer and producer Nicolas Bernard, formerly known under the pseudonym Elektrip. Active since the early aughts, Bernard’s AWITW discography boasts nearly 60 releases. Sonically, most of these fall comfortably into the dreamwave subgenre, though he’s also thrown in a few experiments with vaporwave for some extra color. Throughout, Bernard’s stayed meticulous in his production techniques, creating records that both appeal immediately and endear further over time.
We Are Hypersensitive, released on January 25, continues the trend. An album that Bernard dedicated to “the person who makes me feel life is rad,” it’s a near-hour of music that successfully wraps the listener in its longing, sentimental themes. That happens musically, sure, but we also see it throughout the arc of the song titles themselves; early on, we get “First San Junipero Night” — extra points for the Black Mirror reference — before then receiving a “Save the Date” midway through the album, and then a confirmation that “Love is Ecstasy” toward the end.
(Per Bernard, the story is also “about cats” in some capacity. I’m guessing that’s what the late-album cut “Kings of the Shelf” is meant to tackle, but… who knows?)
Feline forays aside, the album ends up being a great listen, and a rewarding exploration of, erm…hypersensitivity? Bernard’s got an impeccable feel for melodies, and deploys them deftly throughout. While things do slow down during the middle — perhaps a bit more than they need to — the album maintains a consistent feel throughout; even the more “upbeat” tracks — though that’s probably not the right descriptor — uphold the overall romantic mood he’s forged here. And that mood, for the most part, is a terrific one.
All told, it’s a solid start to the synthwave year, and well worth your time. Jump in and get hypersensitive!