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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Murcof
Utopia
The Leaf Label

Rating: 6.5/10 ?


October 1, 2004
There are two types of sound on this album: sweeping, vague synthesizers that are too ephemeral to grasp, and jarring string-plucks and bleeps that are too small to make a lasting impact.

It's like the distinction between the eternal and the earthly, emotion and language, or harmony and melody. Generally, the gap between each of these pairs can be bridged, forcing you to attend to some sort of grand movement, along with the individual parts that make up the whole. However on Utopia, these two elements are too disparate to sound unified.

As the synthesizers peacefully sink into the background, a myriad of tiny sounds take the stage. These fragments of noise are often too disconnected to present any truly memorable ideas; as they fight for your attention, any pretty background music goes unnoticed. Der Abschied von Dawson City's mix of "Maiz" simply sounds like a broken music machine placed in front of a quiet and simple progression of jazz chords. Murcof's original "Urano" is a collage of random sounds emanating from a glowing electronic swamp.

I was glad to come across a few more sensible tracks, such as Sutekh's Trisagion mix of "Memoria" and a.mor.re's aeroc mix of "Mo", in which these measly sounds in the foreground come together to form a thin, weird-yet-coherent beat. However, once Sutekh and a.mor.re establish these beats, they don't really take them anywhere.

Most of this album succeeds at deconstructing the listener's musical expectations, which isn't a bad thing. But, too often, the artists simply stop there, without reconstructing some new world of emotions and expectations.

At first, the only song that I could penetrate was Fax's mix of "Ulysses" - one of Utopia's most homey songs. It's heavy on the soothing background synthesizers, which take prominence over some lightly meandering beeps, and a soft, trancy, reverb-drenched electric piano. The song is unique: it's quiet and passive, yet, at over ten minutes, it manages to capture a grandiose, epic feel. And, most importantly, it doesn't go out of its way to defy your expectations with weird sounds and gizmos.

After I made sense of this song, I had a bit more appreciation for some of the other tracks. I was able to make sense of Murcof's original version of "Ulysses", "Una", and Colleen's mix of "Muim" by contrasting the pretty, orchestral strings and synthesizers in the back with the minimal sounds up front. Fax's "Ulysses" gave me an invaluable glimpse of Murcof's original vision: it's one of cinematic soundscapes that sweep over beeps and bits of alien-sound.

Still, the album is disappointing. Inspired by the success of Murcof's first full-length CD, Martes, Utopia is a worldly effort - it contains remixes from Berlin, Oslo, Paris, and San Francisco; not to mention the fact that Murcof himself is from Tijuana, and the album was released in England. But despite its vast roots, all of the tracks depict the same landscape of broken computer sounds. It gives me the image of a number of electronically-inclined artists buried deep in their basements, excited at the prospect of dissecting sounds until they're manipulated beyond recognition, then tossing in a tinge of comparatively bittersweet melancholy in the background. If only they'd let some light into those basements and show us some the diversity expected from most remix comps.

Reviewed by Josh Kazman
No infro.

See other reviews by Josh Kazman

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