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| Highest Rated 2006
A Soup of Soft
Lali Puna: I Thought I Was Over That: Rare, Remixed and B-Sides
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
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
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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