Optic Sink Credit: Courtesy the Artist

Natalie Hoffmann is best known as a vocalist and guitarist with Memphis noise-punk band Nots, but in Optic Sink, her new project with percussionist Ben Bauermeister, she trades quirky, garagey rock for stripped-back, electronics-heavy postpunk exploration. In recent years Hoffmann has been dealing with a creative block triggered by losing two loved ones, but she reconnected with her musical voice during a residency at Memphis multidisciplinary arts center Crosstown Arts. Ruminating on grief, pain, and freedoms both personal and political, she sketched out the album’s stark, synth-driven songs largely on her own, before joining forces with Bauermeister. The varying moods of these atmospheric tracks make them seem like messages from far-flung interplanetary expeditions, and Hoffmann is the voice of their dispatcher, whose deliberate, spoken-word-style vocals bind them together on their home planet. The grooves in “Personified,” a meditation on the dystopian world we increasingly seem to live in, have a subtle earthiness that makes them feel indebted to the B-52s’ most minimalist madness as much as to any coldwave stalwart, while “Soft Quiet” incorporates pulsating beats and what sounds like the gritty fuzz of an engine revving up for a wild ride. It’s easy to imagine Optic Sink over the sound system of a dark club, but as we head into another season of intense isolation, it could make a perfect soundtrack for more private dance parties.   v