CD Reviews

PAN SONIC, Aaltopiiri (Mute) I'd completely forgotten about Pan Sonic until I visited this year's Bed of Sound installation at P.S. 1 in New York, at which patrons donned headphones and lay prone atop a giant futon bed to hear selected "audio art" from the Finnish duo and their contemporaries. The idea was to create a clean space for clean sounds, stimulate the senses, and tickle the earholes of budding audiophiles—but by the time I showed up, half the CD players were glitchy or broken, the signage and floors were worn from heavy use, and New York's largest futon bed was certainly not its cleanest. But the musty, slightly dented environment better suited Pan Sonic anyway—built from handmade equipment and recorded live in one take, the monochrome click-and-blip pieces collected on Aaltopiiri are hypnotic but not soothing, crisp and orderly yet richly damaged. I didn't want to get hipster cooties, so I skipped the Bed of Sound and sat on the floor—we were supposed to leave the installation feeling refreshed and stimulated and ready to soak up some art, but after a few minutes of Pan Sonic, I left feeling bleak and disoriented, fascinated more with the museum's corroded floors and rusty support beams than the paintings they enclosed.—Matt Corwine

HI-POSI, 4n5 (TokyoPop Music) Hi-Posi opens her new disc, her first with North American distribution, with a couple of songs that could be the annoyingly hyperactive theme for Sonic the Hedgehog. How strange, since Miho Moribayashi, the main force behind Hi-Posi, has been around since the late '80s in Japan, collaborating with Cornelius and Fantastic Plastic Machine and others who've crossed the Pacific successfully. It's an especially disarming opening statement when so much of what follows manages to genre-hop, mixing the past and future to create high-fashion lounge music, without becoming mere retro-pop rice candy. Behind the various keyboard bloops and bleeps and Moribayashi's unremarkable vocal delivery hide lyrics with genuine weight. "I Never Came 1nce," is bouncy and fun, but simultaneously declares, "I was never interested in sex with you. . . . I trained myself to get wet for any situation." This isn't Li'l Kim in a kimono, however. The introspective "Experimental Girl" is 4n5's poppiest offering but also its deepest; in it, Moribayashi asks, "What will lie ahead if every part of our desire is fulfilled?" Unless you speak Japanese (or consult the included lyric translation), Hi-Posi's intelligence may be lost in the strange array of influences that make up this sweet yet searching musical conceit.—Peter Buchberger

VARIOUS ARTISTS, Rarewerks (Astralwerks) Not definitive, but you knew that already, didn't you? After all, a label compilation either cherry-picks the good stuff and stuffs it into a time capsule, ࠬa Ruffhouse Records' Greatest Hits, or it unearths obscurities and remixes and the like. And this one's inherently limited formula is built into its title—how badly do you really need that previously unreleased in the US Fatboy Slim outtake, or a dubplate-only Scanty Sandwich track, or Cassius' remixing himself? Well, if you take into account Astralwerks' high batting average and change the question's wording from "need" to "want," the answer turns out to be more badly than you might think. By themselves, Slim's party-starting "How Can You Hear Us?" and Scanty's "My Sharona"-gone-electro "This One," and Cassius' considerably improving his original "Foxxy," all complement the albums they didn't make it onto. Even better, on Rarewerks they complement each other. And it's just as true when outsiders get their mitts on songs you already knew and loved: David Morales adding (even more) Latin flavor to Basement Jaxx's "Bingo Bango"; Massive Attack adding forward motion to Primal Scream's turgid "Exterminator"; Sasha turning the Chemical Brothers' glorious sing-along "Out of Control" into epic instrumental trance and making it sound great anyway. A rare quality, indeed.—Michaelangelo Matos

TRAM, Frequently Asked Questions (Jetset) Tram's Frequently Asked Questions should come equipped with a blankie. Taking a cue from American groups like Low and Codeine, Paul Anderson and Nick Avery, the masterminds behind Camden outfit Tram have arranged every note and each absurdly gorgeous nuance of their second release to induce sleep. Two songs in and you're yawning; after three, eyelids begin to droop; and by "Yes, but for How Long," the fourth delicate track, the desperate search for a pillow and a nice soft bed has begun. To the uninitiated, this might sound about as exciting as kindergarten naptime; after all, why bother with a record that serves only as aural NyQuil? You might not bother, but then you'd miss out on the sheer beauty of "Once I Was" and "Social Disease," in which guitars waft against breathy string and organ accompaniments, and Anderson relays his tales of loss and sorrow in a whisper reminiscent of Joe Pernice. It is tiny, subtle flourishes like these that steer Tram away from the dumpster of boredom. Besides, this is not music to replace the old rock standbys but rather to add a layer of gentle melody and calm to the abrasion of everyday life. Frequently Asked Questions does so skillfully, appealing to both insomniacs and deep sleepers alike.—Tizzy Asher

 
comments powered by Disqus