Hot on the heels of Johnny Jewel’s score for Ryan Gosling’s much-maligned directorial debut, Lost River, New York producer Mike Simonetti (the other co-founder of Italo-disco label Italians Do It Better) returns to the fray under the guise of Pale Blue for his first album, The Past We Leave Behind.
Named after the Pale Blue Dot term used to describe the photograph of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe in 1990, it’s perhaps little surprise that Simonetti’s first project since the pair’s acrimonious split last year also possesses a certain cinematic quality, albeit of the cult sci-fi kind, rather than the pretentious arthouse variety.
As its title suggests, The Past We Leave Behind is also a rather meditative affair which reflects on everything from said behind-the-scenes troubles to Hurricane Sandy. However, thanks to the fairly indecipherable, if beautifully ethereal, vocals from recurring guest Silver Hands’ Elizabeth Wright, it’s a record which lets the music do most of the talking.
Drenched in a wave of gauzy synths and subtle electronic beats, the first half of the album often runs the risk of blurring into one homogenous mass, with the likes of the opening title track, “The Scars” and “Myself” providing plenty in the way of ambience, but little to hold onto.
Thankfully, Simonetti appears to wake up during the second half with a number of soundscapes which up the tempo while retaining the overwhelming sense of melancholy. “The Math” is an unexpected detour into nu-disco territory filled with sweeping strings. There’s a similar vibrant streak to the classic acid house of “The Eye,” while closer “One Last Thing” recalls the New Age techno of Opus III’s classic, “It’s A Fine Day.”
An album of two halves, The Past We Leave Behind is an exquisitely produced record, but Pale Blue could perhaps benefit from adding just a little more color next time around.