Blade Runner is based on the premise that machines, no matter how advanced, lack compassion. But for childhood friends, Isaac Howlett (vocals) and Adam Relf (production), Empathy Test is all about wearing their hearts on their digital sleeves. With soaring synthetic chords, precision beats, and jubilant 80s melodies - all coated in soft, irresistible melancholy - the London-based duo takes inspiration as much from modern acts like CHVRCHES and Purity Ring, as it does from Vangelis and Depeche Mode. But, instead of sounding like a mere update of 80s' electro, Empathy Test produce a mesmerizing and immersive identity which sets them apart from pretty much everything else currently on the scene. Shadows envelop hymns, a note sustains too long, a lyric confesses too much: It's the heart of darkness, not compassion, that beats slow and steady.
While the lingering nighttime aesthetic that Relf conjures up provides the initial hook, Howlett's vocal mastery pushes the stakes ever higher, providing the urgency and romanticism to Relf’s crystalline production. Little wonder that the duo has amassed a sizable and passionate online following: With an insistence on glorious hooks and instantly memorable vocal lines, Empathy Test are refreshingly unafraid to be pop music. Since self-releasing their debut EP Losing Touch back in late February, Empathy Test have picked up thousands of fans via sheer word-of-mouth and late-night tweets, and collaborated with Richard Swarbrick on numerous viral animation videos for ESPN and Liverpool FC.
Earlier this year Empathy Test signed a record deal with Brooklyn's Stars & Letters Records (Black City Lights, Misfit Mod, We Are Temporary, etc) and are now getting ready to release their follow-up EP called Throwing Stones due to arrive on December 9th. Ahead of the EP's release, Empathy Test have just unleashed the EP's awe-inspiring and emotionally powerful title track, which you can stream below.
Pre-order Empathy Test's Throwing Stones EP here.
Premiere via Clash Magazine.