You’d think Fab Moretti would be pretty busy these days, between kicking off an art auction with another guy named Fabrizio Moretti and rumblings of a new Strokes album. That being said, everyone knows whatever might be happening in the world of the Strokes has been long-gestating, and individual members have delved into other projects along the way, from the Voidz to Albert Hammond, Jr. solo albums and, now, to Machinegum, the new band from Moretti.
Attentive fans might’ve caught some hints of Machinegum along the way — Moretti previously unveiled the band onstage at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right last year, in a quietly-announced but still packed show. Similarly, the band has now appeared with a debut album, sneakily dropped onto streaming services over the weekend. It’s called Conduit and you can hear the whole thing now — no singles, no rollout, just a secret surprise release from one of the Strokes.
Moretti was not alone in his new endeavor. He got some friends together, including Ian Devaney, vocalist of Stereogum Band To Watch Nation Of Language. Moretti was an early supporter of the band, playing drums on their single “Indignities” and even filling in on bass for one DIY tour around the States. Along the way, it appears Moretti and Devaney became pretty close, and that Moretti was taken enough with Devaney’s own music that he wanted him involved in Machinegum, too.
As you might expect when combining Moretti’s pedigree with a new wave-influenced singer like Devaney, Conduit mixes elements of contemporary indie with synth-pop. There are a lot of synth textures, and a lot of swooning, then melancholic melodies. But the project also explores directions new for each artist, like the weathered late night funk of “O Please,” which dances this close to yacht-rock. Most notably, they spend a lot of the album delving into a spaced-out and occasionally gothic atmosphere. The whole thing is blearier and dreamier than one might expect, by and large, from the punchiness of either the Strokes or Nation Of Language. There are songs like “Atomized” that warp Moretti’s — who also sings on some tracks — voice almost beyond human recognition, but Conduit isn’t without comparatively more direct jams, either, like late-album highlight “Act Of Contrition.” Check the whole thing out for yourself below.
Conduit is out now on Frenchkiss Records.