A Lush New Album

The studiously spooky or anonymous "faces" of groups such as

Prodigy, the

Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk are being replaced by powerful,

yet more approachable,

ones. The female voice is entering, bringing with it a slightly more


(still usually spooky) visage. Groups such as the Sneaker Pimps,


and Mono demonstrate how well women's voices blend with

techno undertones,

and Tricky understood this when he employed Martina Topley Bird

to sing on

much of his work.

Over the past year or so electronica -- thanks, in part, to a


effort by the record industry -- has become something of a big deal.


this time Curve has maintained a relatively low profile, with the

exception of the release of

an EP, the black-on-black Chinese Burn, in the fall of 1997.

This relative quiet has

piqued intense curiosity about the new album. And, as it turns out,

such curiosity was

merited, because Come Clean has a sound far different from


usual dark recklessness (on 1992's Doppelganger and


Cuckoo). The new album is lush with hard noises, jagged


urban-industrial soundscapes and blistering rhythms. But it's also


rich, glamorous and glittering.

Curve plunges listeners into the deep end with the expansive

"Chinese Burn"

-- the aural equivalent of running for your life, with the cops at your

heels -- then drops quickly into "Coming Up Roses," which is all


and fragility, framed by modest, shuffling drums and piercing


Toni Halliday's voice brims with rage, hurt and damage, with

lyrics such as, "Can you feel the way I've grown/And

disconnected?/A mile

is long when home is far away." Dean Garcia's sound

structures allow Halliday's voice to climb effortlessly. When her

voice is

all melody, his backdrop burns and scrapes, adding dimension.

When Halliday

howls -- as she does in "Something Familiar" and "Dirty High" --


counters with pretty harmonies that sometimes border on ambient.

What really makes Come Clean worth listening to is the

sheer force

of these songs -- the gut-punching "Dog Bone" and the

sing-along flavors of "Alligators Getting Up" (which also features a

background riff straight out of the James Bond theme).

Curve rides

the highs and lows, supplying ballistic rhythms perfect for the kind


cathartic dance-floor experiences that make life worth living


enough vocal harmonies and slow-paced tracks -- not ballads

exactly, but

something similar-- to remind us that life comes in at least three


"A single sound has changed me forever," Halliday sings in

"Sweetback," and

although she's talking about the sound of love, there's a broader

truth in

those words. The world of electronica is changing, returning to a


human source that allows listeners to enjoy the music because

they actually

can relate to it. "Let fate decide if our future's going as high


the sky above," she continues. Electronica may never reach the top

of the

charts -- although, like punk, it has the potential -- but bands such


Curve are here to show us why you can't get to the top with just a


loops and computers. It's music; it comes from the heart, and they


invented computers with those -- yet.