You can anticipate somewhat of a harrowing experience just by glancing at the song titles of Nervous Curtains’ new LP Fake Infinity, and there’s a not-quite-campy slasher-flick aura pervading the Dallas post-punk band’s music. “Moody Photos”, “The Crooked Telepathic”, “Come Around Viral”, “Something Sinister”, etc.; not exactly happy music, right? But there are rare moments on this album come when the creepy synths rise up to support a positive emotional release, just to keep you guessing. The production is very stark and minimal, relying on bare, bristling instrumentation to set the mood, and without ever overwhelming the senses with overdubs and reverb, the songs are freaky enough and the playing powerful enough to land a few stabs into the psyche.
As expected, there’s an ominous fade-in intro to the first track, and “Moody Photos” puts nearly everything on the table: edgy piano, vintage-sounding Mellotron and the half-sung lo-fi bark of mastermind Sean Kirkpatrick (formerly of the unfortunately now-defunct indie-prog project The Paper Chase). You might think you’re hearing some abrasive, discordant guitar chords at times, but that’s actually more keyboards; Kirkpatrick and Ian Hamilton combine for a frightening array of sounds and effects, but they never resort to noise. Everything is clearly audible and even the most dizzying arrangements don’t seem haphazard.
There’s an initial hint of uplift in the climax of “Wired To Make Waves”, and then there’s the uneasy beauty of “Something Sinister” that’s relatively soothing even given the ambiguity of the subject matter. Otherwise, this album is gloomy to the core; it’s the largely upbeat percussion and unscary vocals that keep it from being an oppressive listen. Even despite the monochromatic attitude, there’s enough dynamic in the songs themselves to keep things interesting. The freaky synth build/explosion of “Come Around Viral” is gut-wrenching following a mellow, dubby interlude, and the slow, self-destructive mini-epic “It’s The End Of Eternity” feels almost as catastrophic as its title suggests. “Cats In The Dark” features some downright unnerving piano/fuzz-synth interplay, a harrowing chase of a song, but also infectious.By the time you get to “Vacate The Premises” you might start to wonder if all this dramatic piano pop is endearing mainly because you miss The Dresden Dolls. That essence is certainly here, but there’s no overt theatricality, nor ebullience; the lyrical imagery is pessimistic, yet the record is catchy enough to not leave you completely depressed. Even though there’s no light at the end of this tunnel (closer “Letter Of Resignation” might be the most maudlin of all; “Kill your dreams/before they die” probably won’t end up in any commencement speeches), the journey is engaging enough to undertake multiple times.