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

human

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

Portishead

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

concerted

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

During

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

Curve's

usual dark recklessness (on 1992's Doppelganger and

1993's

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

guitars,

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

sexy,

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

sensuality

and fragility, framed by modest, shuffling drums and piercing

guitars.

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" --

Garcia

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

of

cathartic dance-floor experiences that make life worth living

and

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

exactly, but

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

dimensions.

"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

more

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

as

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

of the

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

as

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

few

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

haven't

invented computers with those -- yet.