Album Review: Contakta EP

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Contakta is a new Iowa group based in Des Moines, a project based on the singing and songs of Diana Weishaar, the featured singer in Iowa band The Host Country. The two acts share a drummer in Ethan Weishaar as well, with Des Moines production legend Phil Young doing his usual magic on Many Other Things.

They’ve just self-released an EP, which you can listen to, and purchase if you like, here.

There’s some vocal similarity with The Host Country, but from there things take a turn. Where The Host Country excel at rock songs in the Tom Petty school (which is high praise), and focuses more on vocal harmonies, Contakta offers synthpop of the highest order.

Weishaar shines as a pop vocalist here, with melody dripping from every line, and sounding huge, while not losing any of her bluesy undertones. She’s smooth, but ready to claw and soar in the next available chorus.

Phil Young is also the mastermind behind local rock/dance pioneers Tires, and that influence is strong here. Drums pop, synths burble and purr, and when everything goes technicolor, it’s probably usually because he tucked a few other glowing melodies in there beneath the surface, where you can hear them, but probably after a few listens.

Lead track “Fired” launches the EP with hook-laden lines, but the second song, “Housewife,” is the high point. With sharp lyrics and a catchy chorus, it’s the perfect, welded, airtight box of Midwest songwriting sensibility and high-level production quality.

It’s an incredible matching of talents, just diverse enough to seem weird, but just similar enough for it to work really, really well together.

Synthpop in Iowa, especially with a great woman vocalist, has been a little too quiet lately. This is a welcome return, and hopefully there will be an even more expansive Contakta full length album on the horizon.

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Bryon Dudley is a writer and musician from Ames. He has written about music and other topics for a number of local publications and blogs. When not playing music and putting out albums with groups such as Strong Like Bear, Liana, and Rockets of Desire, he is helping other Iowa artists record their music at his studio, The Spacement, and releasing it on the Iowa label he co-founded, Nova Labs. He has a tattoo of an aardvark and is adjusting to bifocals.