Short Takes on 3 Albums

Tropic Of Cancer - Restless Idylls

Tropic Of Cancer – Restless Idylls

Tropic Of CancerRestless Idylls

This much-anticipated debut album from Tropic Of Cancer (AKA Camella Lobo) was released in September on the Blackest Ever Black record label.  Camella’s occasionally compelling mix of the coldwave and goth genres, however, doesn’t quite gel on this album.  The problem is two-fold and involves the instrumental and technical aspects of the music’s production; while Camella’s loomingly drop-dead vocals and the gloomy, sustained synth-work is mesmerizing, the mechanical beats have tinny, early-80s quality that breaks the spell of the carefully crafted bleak ambience that Camella is going for.  The drum machine beats are also pushed way too high in the mix and unfairly dominate the sound.

Camella has already set the template for her sound with the previously-released, burgeoning “A Color” which revels in a piercing, wasp-sting of a guitar line, extended, minor-key synths motifs, indecipherable vocals that float by like a dense fog, and a sometimes interesting dynamic where she pits a faster-paced drum beat against the slower tempo of the synths.

The highlight of Restless Idylls is “Court of Devotion” which showcases the best aspects of the Tropic Of Cancer sound.  Camella shrouds the tune in funeral organ notes, a death knell pacing, mournful attenuated synths, brooding guitar lines, and her dispassionate, androgynous vocals.  A few other songs on the album also register well, like opener “Plant Lilies at My Head” with its gentle synths, plucked reverb notes, and bereaved vocals.  “More Alone” snakes by with a sinister, buzzing vibe, while “Children of a Lesser God” plods at a moderate pace with brighter reverb guitar and shifting, wraith-like vocals.

Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy - Songs from the Real World

Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy – Songs from the Real World

Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy Songs from the Real World

Steve Kilbey (of The Church) and Martin Kennedy (of All India Radio) take their captivating musical collaboration in a new and involving direction with the creation of this album of commissioned songs.  Songs from the Real World contains 14 of their finest slices of bucolic to melancholic reflections that are crafted with care to the specifications of fans who paid a grand a pop for their own unique tracks.  Those who took part in the project sent Steve and Martin their concrete, and abstract, thoughts about the subject matter of the songs.  Steve then came up with the lyrics and Martin put together the music.  That’s a pretty sweet deal to have two artists at the top of their game tailoring a tune specifically to you!

All the hallmarks of Steve’s and Martin’s ongoing collaborative sound are present on these fully realized songs, from the laid-back to reverb guitar strum, sustained, pleasant synth work, mostly down-tempo pacing, Steve’s contemplative vocal delivery, and accompanying vocal harmonies. 

Standouts include, but are not limited to, the idyllic-sounding, but lyrically regretful “For All We Lack”, the sonic build up and wordplay of “A Short Song about Eternity”, the heartfelt and joyful “A Song for Kris” with the lines “You are my soul / you are my heart.”, “Transformation” with its shadowy instrumental pull and Steve’s deep musings to “…take care, be aware / the spirits of the transformation.”, and the delicate guitar notes, slowly-drawn, poignant strings, and Steve’s emotionally fragile, hushed vocals on “Elly”.

Hypo & EDH - Xin

Hypo & EDH – Xin

Hypo & EDH Xin

Xin is the second collaborative album from French electro-artists Hypo and EDH.  It was released recently on Lentonia Records in Europe and is being distributed by Allegro in the U.S.  Hypo and EDH’s debut album, The Correct Use Of Pets, dropped in 2006 and won first prize in the Discovery category at the Qwartz Electronic Music Awards. 

The winding and grinding opening track “Oshiri 24” pulsates with an enigmatic, hypnotic electronic and synth-based energy that informs the rest of the album.  Noise and melody, complexity and repetition, the upbeat and down-tempo all surge around and merge with each other on 12 tracks that lure the listener into a disquieting atmosphere.

Detached phrase fragments and cool-tone vocals are fitted together and extended amid the shifting sonic textures.  Unexpected instrumentation and song structures pop up throughout the album, keeping the listener alert despite the hazy, maze-like ambience.  The shadowy dancefloor number “Sunburn” is darkly propulsive with a grimy synth line, driving, crisp dancefloor beat, and lighter, looped, sing-talking vocals from EDH.

The flowing “Hoax” ties in a sinuous guitar line, finger cymbal tings, stardust sprinkles, little girl-like vocal delivery, and a repeated, densely sweeping orchestral descent that would make a depressed Disney (Yes, oxymoron alert!) proud.  A ruminating, nocturnal mood runs through “Verynice”, supported by EDH’s sustained, breathy vocal lines.