the Assembly, Meqqa, Villain vs. Villain, Heart-Set Self-Destruct Free Recommended Soundboard

When: Sat., Jan. 23, 9 p.m. 2010

The best dark synth pop of the past ten years has overwhelmingly come from Europe, particularly Germany, and the bands don't tour the States too often—so I was pretty chuffed to discover a sterling example of the genre right here in town. The Assembly (not to be confused with Vince Clarke's short-lived early-80s project) balance Nathan Suh's complex, soulful keyboard work with nimble but crunchy alt-rock guitar, and they've also got the element most vital to successful synth pop: a gorgeous voice, in this case belonging to Dave Suh. He delivers his angsty lyrics in a swooping, sensual baritone that would sound almost languid if he didn't have such great lungs. Dave is also the band's main guitarist, and part of me wants him to pack up the ax and turn the front line over to the synths, since it's obvious Nathan could handle it. But the Assembly's mix of rock and dance-pop instrumentation gives them lots of ways to change up the arrangements of the slower songs and keep them entertaining—on many keyboard- or sequencer-driven synth-pop records, the tracks can get so repetitive that you wonder if the whole band didn't just leave their gear playing loops and go out for clove cigarettes. —Ann Sterzinger

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