Who Are You Afraid Of?
Reviewed by Kahron Spearman, Fri., Nov. 25, 2016
Acquiring a more straightforward tack for round two, Austin duo Imperialists follows up its debut, the stormy alt-synth pop fusion Arrhythmia, with anthemic synth sweller Who Are You Afraid Of? Co-produced by renowned Austin producer Erik Wofford, the former Ghost of the Russian Empire members' billowing harmonies and cloudy ambience remain from the first full-length. Radio-ready lead track "Nuke (Look Me in the Eyes)" echoes early Mutemath and the better bits of Eighties arena synth, Genesis covering experimental Tortoise jams. "What more could you want to calm your nerve," sings drummer Brandon Whitten on the driving "What More Could You Want," which dissolves into itself as a standout indie rock-out with Pete Townshend-like guitar plucking. "A Strength Unmatched" distends outward, Roland 808-like bass hits swallowed by waves of synth. "Why not give up?" asks Whitten, on "Standing Stretch," featuring a skittering beat that mushrooms into an electronic hoedown. An unyielding and optimistic effort, Who Are You Afraid Of? represents a strengthening of the Imperialists' sound, now stable, compact, and ready for travel.