[album review] lali puna: our inventions
October 25, 2010
Lali Puna have been around ever since Valerie Trebeljahr dusted off her four-track in 1998, though it was the arrival of The Notwist‘s Markus Acher in time for first album Tridecoder (1999) that probably formalised the group’s electro-shoegaze template. This template – essentially unchanged across their dozen years and on the face of it designed to offend no-one – is surprisingly divisive among reviewers and listeners. Lali Puna seem to provoke bliss and boredom in equal measure.
On Our Inventions, the group’s first new record since 2004, these two feelings continue to politely fight for supremacy. And once again neither gains the upper hand for long. Ultimately they decide to down arms and play nice, in doing so capturing the essence of the album: Our Inventions plays nice.
The electronic lullaby of opening track Rest Your Head sets the tone for the album’s entire 38 minutes, and while some of the songs attempt to modulate it, albeit incrementally, none interrupt it. Even the presence of Yellow Magic Orchestra‘s drummer/vocalist Yukihiro Takahashi on album closer Out There doesn’t take take the listener any further out there.
Indeed, it almost feels that Our Inventions was deliberately composed and programmed to eschew peaks and troughs, making highlights difficult to discern. The sturdy Move On, whose chorus ably summons The Notwist’s “existential pathos” (to quote myself), is one; That Day, which recalls the simple melancholic pop of some of the Georgia Hubley-led songs in Yo La Tengo‘s catalogue, is another.
But there is virtually no light and shade across the album’s ten songs. Variations in texture are limited to infinitesimal changes in the glitches and crackle that sit beneath many of the tracks, and lyrically the mood is insightfully weary throughout. It is something of a relief, therefore, that the low-level despair that permeates the album has a poetry to it that suggests things will in the end turn out OK, slightly good even, but no more than that.
The same goes for Our Inventions. It is slightly good.
close to 94 rating: ★★★★★★★
This review is part of close to 94‘s [emusic club], which reviews one album from the eMusic catalogue every week from a selection refreshed every month.