Nicky Mao has taken a sizeable step forward with her Hiro Kone project. The New York City-based synth artist has delivered her first full-length disc under the HK moniker, and it's a crunchy, electronic thriller.
A lot has been made of the former Effi Briest and Up Died Sound member's Gotham underground cred — she's clearly legit. What's most striking about this new disc, however, is her ability to execute one killer hook after another. This isn't pop music for everyone, but it's a fine example of what electro-pop has the potential to be.
It's hard to pick highlights. "Rukhsana" marries a rich modular synth performance by Drew McDowall (ex-Coil and Psychic TV) with a choppy, minimalist vocal, and "Don't Drink the Water" would've been right at home in a 1983 nightclub, sandwiched between Skinny Puppy and Cabaret Voltaire. The album's not all dance club beats, though; "The Declared Enemy" is a detailed, imaginative ambient piece that sounds better and better as the volume rises, while "Less than Two Seconds" is all atmospherics and intricate beats.
Mao's work is not wholly original, but even when the music is a bit derivative, she compensates with an infectious enthusiasm for the genre. The album is fresh, even when it's not entirely innovative. (Geographic North)