Memphis duo Optic Sink play minimalist postpunk to fuel isolation dance parties | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Music » Music Review

Memphis duo Optic Sink play minimalist postpunk to fuel isolation dance parties


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Natalie Hoffmann is best known as a vocalist and guitarist with Memphis noise-punk band Nots, but in Optic Sink, her new project with percussionist Ben Bauermeister, she trades quirky, garagey rock for stripped-back, electronics-heavy postpunk exploration. In recent years Hoffmann has been dealing with a creative block triggered by losing two loved ones, but she reconnected with her musical voice during a residency at Memphis multidisciplinary arts center Crosstown Arts. Ruminating on grief, pain, and freedoms both personal and political, she sketched out the album’s stark, synth-driven songs largely on her own, before joining forces with Bauermeister. The varying moods of these atmospheric tracks make them seem like messages from far-flung interplanetary expeditions, and Hoffmann is the voice of their dispatcher, whose deliberate, spoken-word-style vocals bind them together on their home planet. The grooves in “Personified,” a meditation on the dystopian world we increasingly seem to live in, have a subtle earthiness that makes them feel indebted to the B-52s’ most minimalist madness as much as to any coldwave stalwart, while “Soft Quiet” incorporates pulsating beats and what sounds like the gritty fuzz of an engine revving up for a wild ride. It’s easy to imagine Optic Sink over the sound system of a dark club, but as we head into another season of intense isolation, it could make a perfect soundtrack for more private dance parties.   v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment