Thursday, January 3, 2008

Thoughts on some recent electronic music

I haven't seen any new movies since Sweeney Todd, so I thought I'd take a look at music for this entry instead. Nice to have some variety I suppose. I've been listening to several CDs over the break, some of which were released fairly recently. But the thing is, not one of them (to my knowledge) has been released on a major label, so it's unlikely that most of you have heard of any of them. So instead of writing useless reviews, I thought I'd just take a brief look at each of them. If my discussion piques your interest, then I highly recommend checking them out if you like anything electronic.

First we have Pulse of Pain by Michigan. I'm starting with it because it's my surprise favorite of this set. Their style is not at all unlike Depeche Mode in their middle period, but it is still their own, particularly with the songwriting. Although these 12 songs don't exactly reinvent songwriting, they are catchy and they work well with the heavy, but not overpowering, synthesizers. There is no lapse in quality between songs, with the exception of one or two. "The Nomad" starts off strongest, as the single on most albums does, but Pulse of Pain really keeps up the energy through the end, making it a very solid and worthwhile album overall. I highly recommend it to any fans of rock and/or electronic music.

Soft by Nevarakka. This album is a bit harder to evaluate. For the most part, it's generic trance through and through, but there are a few gems on it that really sparkle. "Angel on Earth" might sound like something off of DDR, but I just can't get it out of my head. The best parts of the album, however, are the slowest songs, "Meant to Last" and "Suddenly." Although neither one is incredibly complex, they both go far beyond what anyone would expect of basic trance and create something that can ultimately be described as beautiful (keeping in mind that it's Nevarakka, and not Mozart, that I'm talking about). But that is only two of the fourteen songs. As a whole, this album is a great one to listen to as background music when you don't want to concentrate too hard on it. There is a sameness to the songs, but the positive side of that is that they are all good, though not exceptional. It's a solid 70 minutes of trance in one album; you can't go wrong.

Help Yourself by Fantazja. The synth work here is very original. It works on a number of levels and complements the vocal style nicely. The melodies also deserve a lot of credit. The hooks are brilliant and the progression usually really works. The lead singer is the real problem here. If there is a polar opposite to spitting out words, this is it. His words seem to slide out, regardless of how small a percentage of English speakers can understand them, and it's really distracting. We also have the issue of a sharp drop in quality after the first three songs. "How I Feel," "Remedy," and "Kathy" are all very worthwhile; the rest are fillers. That's not to say that they're bad by any means, but the core of this album is definitely at the beginning.

Details by Frou Frou. If you've heard of Imogen Heap, Frou Frou was her project before she went solo. Personally I'm much more fond of this because of the strong synth work. In case you weren't already aware, Imogen Heap is well-known for her interesting vocal style, which centers largely on her ability to jump between her head and chest voice seamlessly. She does it very well, and I love the style overall, but I must admit that on a couple songs, she does go a bit overboard. Most of them, however, get well past the style and create real gems, especially "Let Go" and "Must Be Dreaming." It's not too heavy, but if you like a light, pop-esque style, then Details is a great one.

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