Pia Fraus - In Solarium
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Pia Fraus
In Solarium

With an average age of about 20 years old, Pia Fraus have created an album that's probably wise beyond their years with In Solarium. Rippling with layers of shimmering guitars and keyboards, it's as if the group have been studying the sounds of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine for years. Citing influences such as Stereolab and Sonic Youth on their early releases, this newest disc finds them at a completely logical middleground, mixing equal parts hazy guitars, layers of keyboards, and pretty male/female vocals into an efficient dreampop mix.

Opening with "400 & 57," the listener gets a good taste of things to come as fuzzed-out guitars and multiple layers of keyboards fly out of the gate and into a perfectly balanced mix. The dual vocals are mixed at almost the same exact level, nearly bleeding them into one track, offering only slight variance on subtle harmonies. "Right Hand Traffic" takes a slightly different approach, with a slightly less dense sound, allowing the different instruments to breath on their own (which is nice when everything has such a warm feel) and vocodored vocals.

"How Fast Can You Love" takes sort of the same route as the opening track, albeit one with a slightly more poppy feel. If you'd heard it side-by-side with a track by Lush from 10 years ago, you might get the two completely confused. Although the group has created track after track of warm and blissful pop tracks, that's also unfortunately the main problem with the album. The sextet have obviously created a sound that works, but so many of the tracks on the disc have such a similar sound that many times things just sort of bleed into one another. Despite very slight tempo changes and a couple slight variations (such as the vocodor vocals on the aforementioned track), it's almost always the same combination of instruments and dreamy vocals.

So, while the album sounds like it was created by a group who've been around a lot longer than Pia Fraus has, it ultimately drags a fair amount simply because there isn't much variety to it. The songs themselves are brief and snappy for the most part (the 10 track disc clocks in at a lean 36 minutes), but even slight changeups (like the pitter-patter drum machine rhythm and waltzing pace of "On You") feel like welcome reliefs. It's a young group that's definitely one to keep and eye on, and dreampop/shoegazer fans will find plenty of warm sounds to swim in, but In Solarium ultimately feels a bit empty.

rating: 610
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00