Monarchy make pop music that fits squarely with their carefully crafted identity. 'Edward Nigma' and 'Peter Uzzle', the London-based, Australian-born duo behind Monarchy’s swirly synth-pop sound, have taken their chosen theme of outer space and run with it. Like NYC band Cults and Manchester’s Stay+ (formerly Christian AIDS), they’ve jumped on the “mystery band” bandwagon, being decidedly elusive as to their personal identities whilst carefully crafting their act’s cosmic persona that spans their visuals, the music itself, and their methods, succeeding in being the first band ever to perform into outer space when their debut live performance was broadcast from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Their first full length album, Around the Sun, is laden with enough spiralling synths, blips and beeps to satisfy any Roland-loving NASA enthusiast circa 1985, and comes complete with cover art featuring an ambiguous grey geometric shape orbiting the earth’s atmosphere while the sun bursts forth in cinematic glory on the horizon. These are two experienced musicians who know their craft well and have produced a slick, professional sounding debut album. The liberal use of VST instruments lends many of the tracks a decidedly dramatic feel, especially poignant in several intros. However, for all its futuristic noise making, pop sensibilities and skill, unfortunately there’s a certain lack of anything new or particularly interesting here to differentiate the material from the ubiquity of modern dance music.

The album starts off with the single 'Black, the Colour of My Heart', which was originally released on the well regarded New York label Neon Gold. The track is all orchestral strings and key changes, backed by a thuddingly danceable beat, which carries Edward Nigma’s funk-tinged, boyband-esque vocals silkily over the top.

'I Won’t Let Go' takes one part vocoder, one part laser effects, and two parts indie-disco hi hat, and winds up with a song that is well put together, but isn’t particularly original (Penguin Prison come to mind). 'Phoenix Alive' is beautifully done in a stripped down acoustic set I saw on YouTube, but sadly, the song’s emotional attributes get bogged down in layers of fiddly electronica on the album version. 'Love Get You Away' is awash in spiralling, delicate arpeggiated synths, which build into a reasonably danceable chorus but at points smacks of triteness.

Around the Sun is a skilfully created, if at times a bit cheesy, piece of music, but much of it has been done before. Hopefully we’ll see Monarchy using their clearly sizeable talents to deliver something a bit more original for their follow up album.

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