Lali Puna - Scary World Theory
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Lali Puna
Scary World Theory

With this release, I feel like I've somehow come full circle. All that silly 80's electro pop that I used to make fun of has now suddenly bloomed into this beautiful flower almost 10 years later. Once a rather obscure name has now become a band that's on the edge of many lips simply because of some big time name dropping. First, Colin Greenwood (of Radiohead) mentioned that over the course of the last year, he'd owned 4 different copies of Lali Puna's first album Tridecoder (and subsequently given them all away to friends that became enamored with the group after hearing them). Next, Andrew Weatherall (of Two Lone Swordsmen, Sabres Of Paradise) gave this newest release the glowing praise that it had been stuck in rotation on his own stereo.

While I stated above that the the group is basically electro pop, that doesn't really do them justice. Instead of encorporating all the clunky elements, Lali Puna has somehow taken the best elements of the genre (the damn catchy hooks) and encorporated sexy beats and excellent electronic programming into something that may be the first IDM release that could be labeled as "pop music." Either that, or like Greenwood's Radiohead, they've just used IDM and electronic elements to help spruce up the dying pop (aka bloated with the same old same old) music scene.

While the music is the thing with the group, it's the lyrics and vocals of lead singer Valerie Trebeljahr that stand out on nearly every track. Although she's been compared to singers like Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab and others, her range is actually pretty good. On some tracks she sings in an almost emotionless way, while on others (like the album-titled "Scary World Theory"), her vocals float by in a breathy drift and her accent adds another nice touch.

Musically, things range a fair amount as well. On the album opener of "Nin-Com Pop," the instrumentation flutters along with some keyboard and drum machine before locking into a more actual live band sound with drums and some simple guitars. From the explanation, it probably doesn't sound like they're doing anything revoluationary, and on tracks like the almost new-wave "Contratempo," (on which fuzzy German vocals float over a cheerful little instrumental track) they really aren't. The group is at it's best when they're incorporating more electronic flare into their tracks. "Middle Curse" mingles some glitchy type electronics into things while "Don't Think" cuts up vocals and layers them down for a makeshift two-part harmony.

By the time the album closes out with the excellent one-two punch of "Come On Home" (which probably uses the most digital trickery of any track on the release) and the short instrumental of "Satur-Nine," the 38 minute album feels like it's zipped by in even less time than that (and it's easy to see how Weatherall got stuck playing the group on repeat, as it just begs for more than one spin). It's one of those albums that manages to feel breezy and yet fairly moody at the same time, with tracks that are definitely grounded in pop, but have added to the basic formula in a good way. Somewhere between guilty pleasure and groundbreaking, it's another fine release on the Morr label and quite a solid disc for a sophomore release.

rating: 7.7510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00