words by Michael Hutchinson

Abnocto, meaning “to stay up all night” in Latin, is the name of the sophomore album from UK-based, Australian-born duo Monarchy. The album, made via a successful crowd-funded campaign, feels more personal than their debut, though not as immediate, but just as accessible if you’re willing to be patient. Musically darker than its predecessor, Abnocto thrashes about from minimal production to staple dance-worthy vibes.

The first single, ‘Disintergration’, was released over two years ago and features debut vocals from burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese. The unlikely relationship evolved after von Teese saw Monarchy (Andrew Armstrong and Ra Black) perform at Coachella in 2011. Its brash chorus is reminiscent of The Presets ‘My People’, which is apt given that the band was born out of the indie/electro movement alongside other Australian acts Empire Of The Sun and Cut Copy. The band performs as a live electronic band with drummers and bass players much like the others.

Though delivering a mood of darkness, there are several moments of light on the album; ‘Almost Human’ uses a keyboard synth transformed by a vocoder, creating an altered acapella sound, akin to Imogen Heap’s ‘Hide And Seek’, with very little other instrumental accompaniment. ‘It’s All I Know’ is flicked by gentle guitar, and alongside ‘Like A Soldier’ both are carried by Black’s vocals and dulcet falsetto and are as close as one gets to resembling a ballad. Both tracks still feel as though they are going to burst into another dimension, but Monarchy hold tight on the leash.

Reeling from a loved lost, ‘Living Without You’ captures plenty of raw emotion; whilst cathartic and freeing, it’s also empowering and uplifting. There’s a poignant beauty in Monarchy’s ability to arrest the idea of losing someone yet displaying that with an optimistic outlook.

Latest single ‘Dancing In The Corner’ is one of their best songs to date, captured by a thumping heartbeat bass with bleeps that envelop the lyrics; the lyrics which may refer to Armstrong’s recent coming out publicly. It’s as though there is deliberate light and shade implying the burden of keeping it a secret for so long and the sensitivity of strength once he became more open regarding his sexuality.

“We’re standing together, a world to discover” opens ‘The Beautiful Ones’, which could well be their ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’, ‘Black Widow’ sounds like a warped computer game, and ‘Fractured World’ is ablaze with a gritty electro grind. Whilst quite diverse musically, each track contains a similar lyrical depth.

Across Abnocto is plenty of intensity in terms of lyrics and experimentation of sound. Whilst as a collection of songs it is not as cohesive as their debut Around The Sun, there’s a subtle shift in the exploration of themes without a shortage risk, excitement or passion. There can be inevitable comparisons made on the overall substance of the album (SOHN, for example), though Abnocto very much paves the way for Monarchy to continue to distinguish their sound whilst broadening their electronic soundscape.

Abnocto is out now on iTunes, through Monarchy’s own label Hacan Sound.

Rating: ★★★★