White Hex

Gold Nights

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"Gonna start again," Tara Green sighs at one point on Gold Nights, and in many ways White Hex's second album is a rebirth for the duo. Green and Jimi Kritzler replace the haze of their debut Heat -- which owed some of its murky allure to Kritzler's other project, Slug Guts -- with crystalline guitars and electronics that transform them from grimy post-punkers into dark synth pop purveyors informed by Gianni Rossi's Italo disco and Karl Lagerfeld's high fashion. Much like the makeover Lust for Youth underwent between Perfect View and International, Gold Nights' frosty glamour suits White Hex. With the help of Nihilistic Orbs labelmate Alex Akers (whose flair for sharply chiseled electronic music also shines in his work with Forces), Kritzler and Green hone their drama and give it a more expansive -- and expensive -- sound. But whether their surroundings are trashy or posh, White Hex remain wounded and remote. As on Heat, Green's severe, droning alto is the heart of the duo's music. Walking a fine line between hypnotic and monotonous -- on "Sisters," she recalls Siouxsie at her most glowering -- she adds just the right amount of humanity and imperfection to these gleaming tracks, and the rare occasions when she moves into her upper register are all the more striking thanks to her reserved approach. The single "Paradise" distills Gold Nights' appeal with its sweeping, catwalk-ready synths and exquisite yearning, a feeling that spills into the rest of these songs. On tracks such as the album bookends "Only a Game" and "Battleground," Green and Kritzler bring a more openly romantic dimension to their music than ever before, though as on their debut, they're so good at setting and sustaining a mood that midway through, Gold Nights threatens to become samey. However, the duo changes things even more drastically as the album comes to a close, unleashing more experimental touches like "United Colours of KL"'s asymmetric beats and "In the Night"'s avant-surf guitar work. If possible, songs like these are even more nocturnal than what came before, and offer intriguing glimpses of what could come next for White Hex. For now, though, Gold Nights finds them feeling moody, sounding fabulous, and leaving listeners wanting more.

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