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A Soup of Soft Sounds

 

Lali Puna: I Thought I Was Over That: Rare, Remixed and B-Sides

Morr, 2005

Rating: 3.5

 

Posted: July 26, 2005

By Peter Landwehr

Give Up, The Postal Service's debut album, went gold this year. It's a small thing, but it quite possibly indicates bigger things: Are we entering a period of popularity for the blipped-up vocalist? Conor Oberst thought so and recorded his own Postal Service variation, Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, and less recently the Notwist received glowing praise for the cut up guitars of Neon Golden. Is the future to be filled with soft glitchy vocals over clicks, blips and bleeps?

Whatever the answer, it's a good time for Lali Puna, one of the spiritual parents of the current wave of synth-poppers, to release a collection of B-sides and remixes. Since 1998 the group has placed Valerie Trebeljahr's voice over smooth electronic production (focusing on guitar glitching on last year's Faking The Books and smoother synths on Scary World Theory and Tridecoder), and has done multiple remixes for other electronic groups. I Thought I Was Over That charts the best of these by combining a few B-side tracks with remixes both of and by Lali Puna. The result is a nice blend of mellow electro-pop that highlights the band's mastery of all things soft. LP is not especially aided by the B-Sides in this effort, as they mostly sound like, well, B-Sides (although there is a lovely cover of "Together In Electric Dreams", filled with backwards strings, staccato clicks and Trebeljahr's static-coated voice whispering "We'll always be together / Together in electric dreams").

The remixes, on the other hand, are better showcases of the group's skills. While the remix is generally haunted by accusations of being a cheap copy of the original, the two versions of "Nin-Com-Pop" by Thomas Leboeg and Two Lone Swordsman that bookend the compilation's second disc prove this to be a lie. The former takes the piece to a dreamy instrumental minimum (with added snore effects) while the latter strips it to Trebeljahr's vocals and a complicated, utterly characteristic TLS beat sequence; they are wholly different but evoke the nostalgic melancholy of the original.

Lali Puna returns these favors to its friends as well, trading a fast-paced, sigh-filled instrumental remix of "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan" with Dntel for his accelerating guitar-plucking take on "Faking The Books." In short, what we see is Lali Puna slowing down the work of its associates, while the other groups add darker beats and stronger bite to the band's own music. If there is an exception to this rule, it's Flowchart's remix of "Fast Forward", which cuts up Trebeljahr's vocals to form a complex a cappella beat structure -- a one-trick song that works.

Sadly, the album's consistency is also its failing; you can only take so much softness -- be it dark like the Alias' remix of "Alienation" or light like "The Daily Match" -- before you're just listening to elevator music, and after 19 tracks that's what this becomes. The band and its compatriots should be pardoned for this because the album is a collection of odds and ends, but it will probably turn off most newcomers, who would be better advised to pick up the more rounded Scary World Theory. This is a solid collection for the longtime fan, but the rest of us will just scatter the original songs across 19 mix CDs, or four homemade Lali Puna EPs.

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 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
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 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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