March 29, 2010

Review: Lali Puna | Our Inventions [MP3]

According to its label, Lali Puna's fourth full length Our Inventions addresses modernity and "the driving forces of progress and technological obsession" -- themes that the Munich-based electropop quartet has plumbed since at least its 2001 sophomore set Scary World Theory. If there is an unexpected change manifested in Our Inventions it is the return of a softer tone and predominantly electronic palette. The change is perhaps too easy to associate with fronter Valerie Trebeljahr having become a mother for the first time since the release of the band's last record, but it also offers a ready raison d'etre for Lali Puna's retrenching its music nearer the minimalist style of its debut full-length, 1999's startlingly excellent Tridecoder. There is something to be cherished in the quiet and peaceful that new parents likely appreciate more than most.

The subdued tone contrasts sharply with the quartet's prior full-length, 2004's almost boisterous (and certainly Notwist-like) Faking The Books. That thrilling collection was replete with big guitar chords that complemented surprisingly well Ms. Trebeljahr's trademark electronics and wispy vocals. It targeted unpopular regimes and Orwellian corporations; we consider the set a strong rebuke of the U.S.-led "war on terror," and it is impossible not to recognize as criticism the coopting of a then-current Microsoft ad tagline for the chorus of the excellent (pardon this) rocker "Metronomic." There are hints of that outward-facing, critical voice on Our Inventions, such as the ominous, dense mid-album standout "Safe Tomorrow" (in which Trebeljahr repeatedly warns "never going anywhere" over pulsing laptop beats and droning synths). But for the most part the new set is the most insular and intimate since Tridecoder. Opener "Rest Your Head" and closer/album highlight "Out There" could prove serviceable as lullabyes.

Fans unfamiliar with Lali Puna's catalog prior to Faking The Books may find the limited dynamics on Our Inventions puzzling. But despite a mesmerizing (and perhaps hyperbole-deflecting) consistency across its 10 tracks, there is a degree of sophistication in the compositions that emphasizes that, in its 11th year of releasing records, Lali Puna continues evolving. Trebeljahr's quiet, breathy delivery is as arresting as ever (particularly on "That Day," which touts a Depeche Mode-mode rhythm track), and the intelligent electronic textures that underpin her pensive, quietly anxious tunes continue to present a captivating focal point. The wonderful unspoken truth of the music on Our Inventions is that, in fact, it is not minimalist at all: every synth tone or electro beat hides beneath still more layers of sound, be they understated guitars, chopped up vocals or more synths and beats.

Our Inventions will be officially issued by Morr Music in Europe April 9; it will be available in the U.S. on April 27, according to Newbury Comics' web site. The record was "pre-released" to ITunes last Thursday along with an ITunes-only bonus track "See The Wood For Trees," which was previously only available on the "Remember" 7". Fans who purchase the CD or vinyl version of Our Inventions directly from Morr receive a copy of the "Remember" 7" for free, which makes the ITunes exclusivity of "See The Wood For The Trees" seem less and less, well, exclusive. Lali Puna plan a European tour for May and early June, and you can inspect all the dates below.

Lali Puna -- "Remember" -- Our Inventions
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[buy Lali Puna records from Newbury Comics right here]

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05.13 -- Conne Island -- Leipzig
05.14 -- Lido -- Berlin
05.15 -- Lagerhaus -- Bremen
05.16 -- Gebäude 9 -- Köln
05.17 -- Übel und Gefährlich -- Hamburg
05.18 -- Ekko -- Utrecht
05.19 -- Cactus -- Brugge
05.20 -- Pavillon Theatre -- Brighton
05.21 -- Le Grand Mix -- Lille
05.22 -- Mousonturm -- Frankfurt
05.28 -- Ampere -- München
05.29 -- Immergut Festival -- Neustrelitz
05.30 -- SC -- Zagreb
05.31 -- Gala Hala -- Ljubliana
06.01 -- Lokomotiv -- Bologna
06.02 -- Spazio 211 -- Turin
06.03 -- Exil -- Zürich
06.04 -- Exit 07 -- Luxembourg
06.05 -- Furia Festival -- Cergy

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