Put your feet down. Wake up. The time to relax, veg out and drift away to soothing, surreal tones has ended. Operators, the new project from Dan Boeckner of the great Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs and Divine Fits, have dropped their debut EP, simply titled EP 1, and it’s strikingly energetic and forceful.
In terms of comparisons, Operators are probably closest in sounds to Handsome Furs. Not to be confused by the hard rock band of the same name, Operators sport a peppy electronic sound that splits the difference evenly among its songs between clean, exciting beats and softer, fuzzier sounds. It mostly works quite well, and with the different types of ideas and sounds Boeckner experiments with on the album, it’s exciting to anticipate what he’ll do with the next Operators release, especially if that release is enabled by the expanse and budget of a full-length album.
EP 1 leaps into action right from the very beginning with “True,” a satisfying blend of dark and catchy. The undercurrent of deep, throbbing bass keys supplements the sparkly electronics, coming to a head in the final third of the song as the chorus continues to shout “One/One/One/One/One/One/Truelove.” The lyrics of “True” aren’t complicated but it’s easy to find yourself humming along to it hours after listening. The pounding percussion doesn’t hurt either.
“Book of Love” isn’t quite as interesting. While the vocalization here is very satisfying, the minimalist musicianship focusing on just a couple of keyboard riffs is just too simplistic and doesn’t do too much. It redeems itself in the second half during which the keyboard breaks away for some different and very satisfying soloing. Things get much less generic with “Cruel,” which despite the title is musically one of the happiest-sounding cuts on EP1. The driving bass line is simple yet completely effective, and gets better once it pairs with a tempo-matching synth tone. This, however, is one of those songs that continues to stack pieces on top of each other, and a third sliding guitar joins the mix to make it even more eclectic.
While Operators do occasionally drift into softer pieces, those are still driven by that power that fuels the rest of the cuts. It’s not explosive in its delivery, opting instead to pulse beneath the surface. It’s a good way to get the toe tapping. “Ancient” starts out more mellow than the rest of the album on the surface, but an exciting crackling of electronics just beneath eventually comes to a head for a much more invigorating house-flavored vibe that continues to truck along for several minutes before slowly tapering off. “Start Again” might be the best track on the EP, with a low, omnipresent synth surging through the base of the track and assorted other electronic samples interspersed with some of the strongest vocalization of the EP. Of all of the tracks, it’s the dark musical vibe of this and “True” that offer the most exciting potential for Operators.
We’re on an incredible hot streak for electronic artists this year. With City States, Panama and now Operators, the growing number of notable acts on the rise continues to impress. Boeckner himself, following such greats as Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade, is once again making waves. One fan commented that “Anything Dan touches turns to gold.” This observation becomes more and more accurate with each successive release, and while EP 1 is not perfect, it’s still quite good and worth listening to as yet another example of Boeckner’s surprising skill at adding that secret ingredient for successful alternative rock.