The Stereo Is Full Of Surprises

Belgian trip-hoppers Hooverphonic are a good band that could be great. Give

them a few albums.

His musical roots rising straight out of rock, the band's main songwriter Alex

Callier has played in several surf bands and a Sonic Youth sound-a-like band.

Somehow Callier's good old rock 'n' roll morphed into the sampled and synthed

sound that comprises Hooverphonic's debut, A New Stereophonic Sound

Spectacular.

The album's opener, "Inhaler," starts off with a hypnotic bass line and swirling

synthed waves of sound. A guitar comes in riffing off of the existing noise and

draws in Liesje Sadonius, whose wistful voice is the only constant on the 11

tracks that comprise A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular.

Remember Julee Cruise, the haunting voice behind the theme song to "Twin

Peaks"? Sadonius' voice is a combination of Cruise and Portishead's Beth

Gibbons. Toward the end of the song, a few sampled men's voices announce

"a new stereophonic sound spectacular, as I was saying, stereo is full of

surprises." However, as with most of the songs on this album, "Inhaler" provides

no real surprises, but rather offers up another pleasant, if not fantastic trip-

hoppy song to pop into the walkman to keep us mellow on the bus ride to work.

Hooverphonic's first single, "2 Wicky," which has scored considerable radio

air-time for the band, also held the opening spot on the soundtrack to

Stealing Beauty. The song snags a guitar sample from Isaac Hayes'

"Walk On By" and proceeds to build a blissed-out, funked-out, laze-about tune

around it, with lyrics that don't make sense, but fit the wacked out feel of the

song. "Prophet 60091-- this is the flight number of our galactic sun. Prophet

60091-- before we start you should know that you're not the only one who can

hurt me." Vocal drones fill out the background of "2 Wicky," which is one of the

strongest songs on the album.

On the other hand, "Wardrope," the third track, starts off with an annoying too-

loud-in-the-mix ping, that makes it a quick skip. "Plus Profound" propels itself

out of mediocrity with a propulsive drum beat and some indecipherable fresh

vocal raps. "Try not to lose, not to lose control" warns Sadonius in the song. A

dreamy flute-synth ushers in the song and leads us out of it.

It's hard to accurately describe the overall sound of A New Stereophonic

Sound Spectacular as each song has a completely different feel. The

fuzzy keyboard crunch of "Barabas" is a complete departure from the ambient

drone of "Cinderella." It's as if the band is searching for a sound, but in the

meantime seems content to play a little with every electronic toy. While this

makes for a somewhat confusing listen, the sound coheres around Sadonius'

consistent vocals.

"Nr 9" intros with a messy noise-rock sequence, then eases off into a

dreamscape of chorused guitars while Sadonious drawls in a mysterious

effervescent voice, "Saw her first a few months ago, spacing in Vienna--

oversea cargo. Saw her in the mirror, she has a stupid name." Obviously it's not the lyrics themselves, but the way in which they are sung, that makes these

songs work.

Mildly disturbing masculine grunts kick off the growl rocker, "Sarangi." The

closest Hooverphonic get to a straight-ahead rock song, "Sarangi" contains few

samples and electronic tricks save some vocal effects and the aforementioned

sampled grunts.

"Revolver" begins with a sampled dialogue, " -- Are there any smokies with ears

on? -- If you want a smokie good buddy." Guitarist Raymond Geerts gets his day

in the sun on this tune as his slide riffing carries the weight of the song, only

breaking off for the space drum solo.

It's not exactly fair to tout Hooverphonic as a great new band. It's clear they still

need time to develop away from the chaos of their current sound. When they

find their niche, and can make every song as cohesive as "2 Wicky," then

Hooverphonic will solidify into the great band they could be.