It begins with a bloodcurdling scream, introducing the oppressive, metallic synths with which listeners of Apostille, a pseudonym for Glasgow musician and Night School Records captain Michael Kasparis, will be familiar. But it’s a bit of a misdirect; as his third album Prisoners of Love and Hate progresses, Kasparis lets more and more vulnerability glimmer through the cracks in his stony electro-pop.
After screechy MGMT-esque synths meet gloomy New Wave on opener ‘Saturday Night, Still Breathing’, ‘Rely On Me’ twinkles with hope under its taut, twanging Depeche Mode-inspired beat, as Kasparis pleads for the listener’s trust.
‘Spit Pit’ ushers in a rippling curtain of synths and a flurry of erratic, rattling snares, before giving way to the reassuring softness of Kasparis’ ode to Glasgow, ‘People Make This City’. A bubbling drumbeat is faint in the background behind dark, golden guitars, while a misty, Mellotron-like effect clouds the track in the halcyon haze of memory. A far cry from the tight, relentless grooves of Apostille’s previous two records, 2015’s Powerless and 2018’s Choose Life, this poignant track is the album’s most affecting moment.
Nostalgia is one of the strongest shades in the album’s emotional palette. A heartwarming sense of familiarity swells as ‘Natural Angel’ takes flight into extravagant, soaring contours, evoking life-affirming 70s guitar pop. The wistful vocals on ‘Summer of ‘03’ get a bit lost in the track’s shuffling 90s synth line and rubbery beat, but Kasparis squeezes out every last drop of emotion on closing ballad ‘Feel Good’.
Subtle it may not be, but when it comes to painting a vivid mood, Apostille excels.
Prisoners of Love and Hate is out now via Night School Records