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Tuesday
Jun012010

Von Spar - Foreigner

VON SPAR - FOREIGNER

Italic

Once in a while a band comes along that take a different look at the rulebook and come out with music that hasn’t quite been attempted by anyone else. Whilst it is easy in hindsight to hear the influences in this most intriguing of albums, they are camouflaged with a skill that makes the sound emerging interesting to listen to. Italic have an ear for what could be termed “Future-pop” rather than “Techno-pop”, always mixing organic ideas with technology

This is the third album by an evolving and enlarging German collective from Cologne and Berlin. They’ve transformed in sound from their 1st album, which took its major influence from the legendary Palais Schaumburg, adding more disco-orientated memes and throwing more experimental ideas into the mix. At 45 minutes in length with 8 songs, “Foreigner” covers a decent range of styles and atmospheres with a confidence that seeps through all the compositions. It’s a peculiar nugget that seeps into your consciousness, like all great pop albums do.

Opener “Scotch and Chablis” washes up on the shore with the sounds of surf before strolling along the beach. With a distinctive baritone vocal and a hazy, lysergic beat, it’s a delicious start to proceedings. The influence of Air is perhaps a little obvious, but it’s just deep down a great pop song. From that sweet point, matters take a much more rigid, angular turn with “You can shake down on my setee tonight”. Violins screech over the top of a heavy bassline, echoing Wobble and Czukay together. It doesn’t really go anywhere, yet has an insistent urgency to it that pulls it over the line. The influence of the latter comes to the fore in “trOOPs”, like a 21st century “Cool in the Pool”, albeit with the spidery touch of Ricardo Villalobos.

Matters take a cosmic turn with the meandering “I can’t stand the grain” and it’s unfortunate that this somewhat aimless jam threatens to derail proceedings. Whilst the glory of cosmic music can’t be denied, there’s a time and a place for it. Frustratingly, they follow this up with the sequencer-enriched cacophony of “Collecting animal matter” which again forsakes the fun of the first 3 tracks for a headless dive into the world of Manuel Gottsching et al. “HyBoLT” rescues us from a world of cosmic pain to a certain degree, a 3/4 beat breaking up the balearic bliss and by “Lambda” we’re back in the groove, as delicate guitar and synth interplay with a nuanced style. It’s a glorious little track and ties with the opener for best song on the album. They close out with a disco jam that just lacks a little of that sophistication that was heard earlier and it’s a slightly disappointing end to an album that promises a lot.

A disjointed affair then in all honesty, but the highs on this peculiar little piece soar and are well worth investigating. If they had refrained from too much cosmic jamming, then they’d be an early contender for album of the year. As such, it’s a 50/50 piece. However, I will be keeping my ear to the ground for future releases from them as they promise a great deal.

Toby Frith


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