The third album from Spanish quartet Melenas finds the band radiating light, turning their taut and tensile post-punk into something a bit more incandescent on Ahora. For the new record the band makes a subtle shift away from their past anchors in brittle rhythms and punk signifiers, leaning into the dreampop gauze that occasionally shrouded moments on Dias Raros. Here, the band sands their edges smooth, letting synths and an electric pulse of percussion take the forefront, though they’re careful not to truly spill over into synthpop. There’s a softening here, but it eschews slickness. The record finds the band picking through more motorik meadows, leaning heavily on Electrelane’s The Power Out for inspiration, then tracing the through lines to Broadcast, Stereolab, and Neu along the way.

The band’s previous albums had a rougher jocularity about them, but now, atop the skip-hop of percussion, the band glazes in layered harmonies. The vocals plume into the mix in fogged forms, dancing through the synths and knotted bass lines. The focus on folding those vocal harmonies into the grander glow elevates the record, giving it a depth and shading that’s never quite shone through in the past. The album plays on themes of immediacy, communal action, identity, and most importantly, time. The focus on being present and in the moment hits home in times when distraction looms. It’s hard not to feel the hourglass getting shaken daily, and even while the band’s exterior is cooler to the touch, its clear there’s plenty of tension below the surface. The band has embraced their pop side, without diluting their drive, turning that tension into one of their most accomplished records yet. It’s nice to see them bloom on Ahora.

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