The studiously spooky or anonymous "faces" of groups such as
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
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
-- 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
is long when home is far away." Dean Garcia's sound
structures allow Halliday's voice to climb effortlessly. When her
all melody, his backdrop burns and scrapes, adding dimension.
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
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).
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
something similar-- to remind us that life comes in at least three
"A single sound has changed me forever," Halliday sings in
although she's talking about the sound of love, there's a broader
those words. The world of electronica is changing, returning to a
human source that allows listeners to enjoy the music because
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
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.