For the past four years, the husband-and-wife team of singer and guitarist Jen Johnson and drummer Mike Latulippe have fronted Velah, a rather excellent Boston-area indie-rock outfit. Johnson went on record saying that Pale Hands, the duo’s barely year-old electronic band, came about after they wrote a bunch of songs that just couldn’t work for Velah. It’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to say when launching an electronic side project (see: Broken Bells, Postal Service), even if it’s not altogether true.
The songs on Spirit Hands, Pale Hands’ debut EP from last year, could work just fine if played on Stratocasters. But it’s how pumped the duo seems to be playing around with their new electronic toys that gives the band its draw.
Throughout, Johnson and Latulippe sound like a couple of rock kids finally getting a chance to work out their love for Depeche Mode and Cocteau Twins on record. How else to explain the cheesy but catchy ’70s retro-synth which sounds like it was pulled directly from Kraftwerk’s Autobahn. Or the “It’s Mechanical!” chorus on the robo-romantic single “Frantic.”
Mostly, Pale Hands seems like a sort of widescreen sonic atmosphere for Johnson’s cinematic voice to stretch out over. “Under Over” may be the best to that end, a slow-burning ballad that gradually boils over with a thrilling show of vocal prowess. That voice should have no trouble filling the Wandering Goat when the band rolls through Eugene this Friday.
Pale Hands plays 8 pm Friday, Dec. 18, at Wandering Goat, 268 Madison Street; $5. 21-plus.