On the cover of Limits Of Desire are a man and woman, both standing atop intersecting ladders in the nude, locked into one another’s arms and faces—if I may venture a guess, Brooklyn quartet Small Black have been contemplating intimacy. Digital personality extroversions and claustrophobic crowdedness bounced around my mind while combing through their second LP, and even if they shy away from making any musical statement louder than that of the album art’s, it’s enjoyable enough for those of us who still don’t mind the occasional dip into chillwave-style pop.
However quick each of them would be to dissociate from that tragically-named genre buzzword, Small Black fits neatly between Washed Out and Memory Tapes, stylistically: Quietly funky, insistently upbeat, obsessed with wet production and building warped, meditative towers of synth sounds. There’s a welcome mix of sequenced and live drums, with noticeable punches of electric guitar and trumpet bringing a live band’s aftertaste to tracks on which they commingle with mazes of keys. Penultimate tune “Shook Loves” is the tempo low-point and the most organic-sounding offering, something I hope they explore a bit further in the future. Other favorites, likely just for their palette of sounds, include the suavely-sad “Canoe” and ice-cold “Only A Shadow.” Josh Hayden Kolenik’s voice might be likened to a heavily-sedated Ezra Koenig or Thomas Mars, never quite as lithe or eloquent, but perhaps even more zeroed-in on grooming the perfect earworm. It’s probably those hooks that put Limits Of Desire a notch or two above the vast range of trippy-dance acts, but the textures are interesting enough. Even if the cover’s photographer may have found a more interesting way to communicate the weird loneliness of hyper-connectedness, Small Black’s latest is, at the very least, a stimulating backdrop for that train of thought.