Midnight Juggernauts: The Crystal Axis


RIYL: Future Sound of London, Flaming Lips, Air

After an all-too-brief stay at Astralwerks, where they dropped one of 2008’s finest with their dizzying alt-dance debut Dystopia, Australia’s Midnight Juggernauts return from the desert – or whatever planet houses their recording studio – with The Crystal Axis, currently available in the States as an iTunes exclusive but should see the light of day on CD in September. The band’s philosophy has not changed between albums, though the approach this time around is a bit different. Kicking the four-on-the-floor Daft Punk beats to the curb, The Crystal Axis downplays the Gothic vibe of Dystopia in favor of some technicolor psychedelia. “This New Technology” reimagines Love & Rockets as an electronic act, down to singer Vincent Vendetta’s Daniel Ash-like breathy vocal. Then, just to be perverse, they finish the track with a Moog-kissed breakdown that Air would have killed for circa Moon Safari. “The Great Beyond” has a great honest-to-goodness jam in the outro (always nice to see synth-driven bands put musicianship first), but the album’s clear highlight is “Lara Versus the Savage Pack,” a driving pop track with an explosive finale that will send the club kids climbing up the walls.

The production isn’t as clean as it was on Dystopia (they paid for this one themselves, which might explain why they stopped trying to sound like Daft Punk), and the songs overall are a bit more challenging than instantly accessible Dystopia tracks like “Road to Recovery” and “Into the Galaxy.” But that’s part of growing up, isn’t it? Eventually you’re on your own, and you can’t afford to do the same stuff you could when you still lived with your parents. Think of The Crystal Axis as the Midnight Juggernauts’ first apartment out of school; even the most talented people live in pretty dingy places when they first strike out on their own. It will not be long before the band’s budget catches back up with their talent. (Siberia Records 2010)

Midnight Juggernauts MySpace page

  

Lisa Papineau: Red Trees


RIYL: Air, Forget Cassettes, Zero 7

Singer/songwriter and electronic princess Lisa Papineau is back with Red Trees, the follow up to her critically acclaimed solo debut, 2006’s Night Moves. And while it’s hard to fault someone for being more experimental, as is the case on Red Trees from previous work (she’s worked with Air and M83 as well as with soundtrack composer Tyler Bates), it’s more difficult to full enjoy something when it’s lacking significantly in melody. That said, there is something eerily intoxicating about Miss Papineau’s music. It’s somber and moody and uplifting all at the same time, and a full set of her music packs quite a few surprises. And of course, her voice is intoxicating all by itself. One of the more melodic songs that stands out here is “White Leather Pants,” and there is an underlying lyrical theme that reflects Papineau’s move to France and the communication gap that ensued – such as on “Sorry I Cannot English.” But she also shines brilliantly on instrumental tracks like “Touch Time Out,” which has a freakishly haunting 30 seconds of climax. This album and Papineau’s music in general aren’t going to be universally loved, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t catered to both current fans and those who seek something different in their music on Red Trees. (Sargent House 2010)

Lisa Papineau MySpace Page

  

Air: Love 2


RIYL: Gary Wright, Tangerine Dream, Phoenix

The French electronic duo’s first album since 2007’s Pocket Symphony – and the first to be recorded in the band’s brand-new recording studio – Love 2 is a back-to-basics effort of sorts, dusting off several of the keyboards they used on their genre-busting 1998 album Moon Safari. But don’t think of Love 2 as a Moon Safari sequel; it shares a little bit of that album’s spacey loungey cool (hey, it’s Air, how can it not), but the goings here are much lighter and peppier. “Love” is the bounciest song the band’s done in years, and “Be a Bee” is a far better foray into rock than pretty much everything on 10,000 Hz Legend.

Air_Love2

Granted, it’s a bit slighter than their best work (we’ll pause while you crack your best ‘slighter than air’ joke), but as long as they give us something like “Heaven’s Light” every couple of years, you will get no complaints from us. (Astralwerks 2009)

Air MySpace page
Click to buy Love 2 from Amazon

  

Patrick Pleau: Hype-Moi

The power pop community is still abuzz over Catnip Dynamite, the second proper solo album from Jellyfish co-founder Roger Joseph Manning Jr., which makes one wonder what they will do when they hear Hype-Moi, the new album by Montreal multi-instrumentalist (and Manning sound-alike) Patrick Pleau. Our guess is that more than a few heads will explode, because Hype-Moi is the French equivalent of Catnip Dynamite, only…better? An argument could certainly be made in Pleau’s favor, considering his tendency to let the music do the talking and to know when enough is enough. The songs are huge, mind you – swirling, psychedelic jangle guitars, triple-decker harmonies, hyper-treated keyboard effects and Moogs abound – but compared to the absurdly over-the-topness of Catnip, Pleau is the model of restraint. The irony of ironies is that Hype-Moi sounds like a long-lost collaboration between Manning and French ambient synth popsters Air (particularly “L’écran Bleu De La Mort”), who have worked together on multiple occasions but have never put a meeting of the minds to tape quite like the one Pleau does on their behalf. You don’t need to speak French to appreciate the beauty of this record. (Orange Music 2009)

Writer’s Note: I don’t speak a word of French, so I cannot comment on Pleau’s lyrical prowess. Based on the complexity of these melodies and arrangements, though, I am pretty sure that he is not a moon/June guy, nor is he talking about date rape, incest or murder. At least I hope he isn’t.

Patrick Pleau MySpace page

  

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