Breathe Carolina

Hell Is What You Make It

Although they’re known for laptop-pop seemingly swathed in neon, Breathe Carolina founders Kyle Even and David Schmitt like a bunch of different stuff. Because of that, Hell Is What You Make It comes off as slightly schizophrenic at first listen. Consider the album’s first track, “Wooly,” where house-techno sequencers and melodic vocals parry with screamo-metal breakdowns and growling. It’s followed up by “Blackout,” an irresistible synth-pop song with a constant refrain of “I’m only getting started/This won’t stop still I say so.” Don’t say you weren’t warned…

The band—and producer Ian Kirkpatrick—bring a lot of dishes to this sonic buffet—and most of them are to be consumed on the dancefloor. “Edge Of Heaven” features a circuit-encrusted bridge of electronic freakouts while Even gets his scream on behind the mix. The vibe emanating from the head-nod initiator “Waiting” would sound sweet bumping at a hipster club at 4 a.m. (Amanda Blank, the boys are waiting for your texts). The aforementioned “Blackout” is the best dance song of 1988, while robotic funk numbers such as “Get Off Easy” and “They Say You Won’t Come Back” just scream to be remixed by some French dude sucking on a gold foil-tipped Sobranie. On the downside, there are a number of tracks that play to BC’s Dayglo-pink fanbase. Songs like the fratboy-with-a-heart yearning of “Last Night (Vegas)” the putcha-hanz-in-the-air dance fodder of “Chemical” and the radio-chasing “Take It Back” just smack of blatant careerism.

Breathe Carolina are neither cloying nor completely mercenary in trying to start a love affair with the deaf platypuses who program radio stations. While their new music—and to an extent, their live show—makes the reconciliation of various electronic music cultures seem difficult, Even and Schmitt have made it clear they’re ready to pursue even more ambitious things. They have more heart then the morass of guylinered laptop jockeys and hip-hop carpetbaggers taking up bandwidth.