Switched On – Optometry: After-Image (Palette Recordings)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Optometry is a new collaboration between John Tejada, known as a quality source of largely instrumental techno, and March Adstrum, a guitarist and vocalist of intriguing musical stock – her parents played baroque violin and she toured backstage with a number of their ensembles.

The press release describes how the band focus on themes of life, love and loss, weaving seductively melancholic textures together with synths, drum machines, guitars and bass.

What’s the music like?

The reason for quoting the press release above is that it presents a wholly accurate description of what has the potential to become a very strong musical outfit. Optometry make intriguing and subtly unpredictable music, cool to the touch but with more than a little emotion bubbling beneath the surface.

When it starts, After-Image sets out its stall to become a quality source of sharp edged electronic pop, but as it unfolds there is actually more to it, as Tejada and Adstrum make room for some experimentation and a number original thoughts.

Chameleon struts out confidently, with a strong beat and a vocal of glassy clarity. Technicolor is bathed in bright harmonies, but the experimentation bears fruit in Falling, featuring Mason Bee, which adds an intriguing bit of bossa flavour with sighing strings. Bee reappears on Larger Than Me, a vulnerable song that asks repeatedly, “do you still think about me?” By contrast the closing Cathedral is worth noting, too, a short sound poem that paints an impressionistic picture of sound, with plenty of echo and refraction that brings snatches of vocal and great, wide spaces to the listener’s ears.

Does it all work?

Pretty much. The only criticism to level at Optometry is that on occasion it feels like their ideas could be more fully developed, especially Cathedral which hints at a haunting ambience it would be great to hear more of.

Is it recommended?

Yes. An interesting listen, and evidence of the musical versatility that John Tejada and March Adstrum hold. It’s a grower, too.