When musicians sound like other artists that their listeners enjoy, the result can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, those listeners can engage the album with all of the positive feelings that the first artists have worked to ferment; the newcomer gets a free ride on the buzz train, so to speak. This does not come without a tradeoff, however. Even if the musician never intended to emulate anyone else, those same fans can subconsciously bind them to the same expectations that they would have for the group they are already familiar with. In other words, it can be harder for newcomers to break out with their own sounds and be noticed in their own right.
Get your envy ready, because Krassy Halatchev (who plays under the name Icicle) is getting the best of both sides in his second album, Theorems. The Bulgarian native, a Canadian resident since the ’90s, has managed to sound like a wide swath of great bands, all while pushing his own sound to the forefront. Growing up, he devoted himself to deconstructing and understanding the composition behind his favorite bands: Pink Floyd, The Police, Depeche Mode, The Cure, and others. Most notably of these, Icicle incorporates a smooth blend of synthetic sound that does evoke Depeche. Even without growing up on them, however, his tracks manage to remind me of a number of other artists. His voice has the ineffable alt-rock friendliness possessed by the likes of Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), but with a range closer to Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse). And tracks like “Calma Calma” almost sound like Modest Mouse could have written them.
In addition to all these positive associations, Icicle manages to keep his own mix at the forefront of what he’s doing. In tracks like the instrumental “Queue Me” (see video above), he breaks out with a finessed funk that complement and develop his strong but controlled rock elements. It’s impressive to hear the influences that go into his work, yes, but nothing quite compares to hearing him on his own terms. Krassy Halatchev is one of those artists who really does deserve to be taken that way. You might find yourself thinking of other great alt-rock groups as you listen, but you’ll leave remembering Icicle.