The Mystic Underground: “Athletes” fuses guitar sounds with lush synth orchestration

The Mystic Underground: “Athletes” fuses guitar sounds with lush synth orchestration

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The Mystic Underground blend classic songwriting with an aim set firmly towards the heart and feet to spin melodic tales for the disenchanted, disillusioned and disenfranchised.  The project, made up of Benedetto Socci (production/keyboards) and Vladimir Valette (vocals/lyrics) has released their latest single “Athletes”, and its supporting video. The track written and produced by the duo, Valette and Socci, also features guitars played by Daniel Cousins. There is a bit of a time machine here, going back to Joy Division and New Order, to Depeche Mode and OMD, among others. All this leads me to wonder, where has this kind of music been for the past 3 decades? I have to admit, I was literally snapping my fingers as the bass notes, drums and synths feel like they could drive right though a brick wall.

The Mystic Underground straddle the rock/dance line crafting songs unlike any other on the charts today. The high point of “Athletes” is how the band fuses the guitar oriented sounds with a lush synth orchestration, above the driving groove.

Indeed, this has all the power, the glory, the musical hooks and the passion, that you would expect from a band belonging to the British New Wave movement in its heyday. So it’s surprising to note that this is an American band, in the year 2018, featuring an Afro-American singer. Now if that doesn’t smash stereotypes out of the window, nothing else will.

“Athletes” is fresh, it’s retro, focused and energetic; it sounds like something you’ve heard before and it sounds exhilaratingly brand new. Thanks to The Mystic Underground, this music is not over. It is right here, right now.

Singer Vladimir Valette beautifully punctuates this tale of young lust, love and angst, from both the male and female perspective. His vocal performance is dynamic and melodic, but it’s his lyrics which are so brilliantly sharp and insightful, explaining how love blooms, concedes itself, and then becomes an emotional and psychological battleground between the sexes.

This is the sound of a blisteringly confident band. It’s crisp, clean and pure. It’s a sound of a band pushing in the same direction rather than rocky guitars overpowering marginalized synths. This symmetry of sound and approach, makes for a most coherent and thrilling record.

The insistent electro pulse builds to a whooshing crescendo as Valette sings: “the girls against the boys / the newest contact sport / and the battleground is your school / some people do it for sport / while others do it alone.” Every minute is gloriously awash in post-punk synth and an infectious melody. At the same time “Athletes” has this Gothic sensibility, owing to its driving beat and the darker tones of the guitar and keyboard motifs.

Of course the cherry on top is represented by the music video directed William Murray and featuring Laura Holden. Shot in the perfectly 80’s MTV style, the visual offers a nostalgic trip back to a time when kids would spend hours on end watching the short film interpretations of their favorite songs.

The action packed performance of the song kicks off with a short interview with the band, which helps in shaping the sonic identity of The Mystic Underground. Both visually and musically, “Athletes” feels like a successful completion of a sphere of legendary influences.


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