Any kid who frequents goth/industrial dance nights, such as the weekly Ceremony at Downtown's Pegasus Lounge, can tell you synthpop is still going strong. No longer represented by the Human League and Howard Jones (if the youngsters even know who they were), the genre has mixed in the past decade with the boot-stomping elements of EBM-industrial and the icy arpeggiations of trance techno, forming a hybrid called "futurepop."
In North America, this effort is still relegated to underground goth clubs, but in Europe, futurepop acts such as Germany's VNV Nation and Norway's Apoptygma Berzerk draw thousands to huge darkwave festivals. Which brings us to Seabound and Iris -- two prominent synthpop acts making their Pittsburgh debuts at Pegasus this Tue., March 18.
Seabound is a German duo consisting of Frank Spinath and Martin Vorbroot; the band name reflects their mutual love of the ocean. With a crossover sound pleasing fans of new wave as much as followers of Front 242, Seabound's third album, 2006's Double-Crosser (on indie-goth powerhouse Metropolis) was popular enough overseas to chart in its homeland as well as in Greece and Scandinavia. Spinath has also contributed vocals to albums by clubby cohorts The Azoic and Haujobb.
Texas-based Iris, meanwhile, takes a rock-based American approach to the synthpop formula. Its most recent album, Wrath, came out in 2005, and a remix EP called Hydra, with a behind-the-scenes tour-diary DVD, is due out next week. There are shimmery guitars galore in the extremely well-produced studio arrangements of programmer Andrew Sega, while on tracks such as "Intercede Light," Reagan Jones' voice soars prominently in an emotive style that wouldn't be out of place on commercial radio between Green Day and Evanescence.
That's not intended as an insult -- merely a puzzled query as to why bands like Iris and Seabound can't get more mainstream attention when they're making every attempt to be accessible. It's hard to believe that the goth stigma could still scare away major labels at a time when a Hot Topic flourishes in every suburb, and when the influence of '80s music is so pervasively back in vogue.
And they're not bad-looking guys, either.
Seabound with Iris 8 p.m. Tue., March 18. Pegasus Lounge, 818 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $12 ($15 at the door). 18 and over. 412-726-2925