MUSIC REVIEWS: Oceanlab and Caesars

Sirens of the Sea
(Ultra Records)

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All too many trance albums are a dime a dozen – nothing more than remixed musical templates playing like background noise while I sit in some trendy lounge at 3 a.m. trying to shake off whichever drug I experimented with on that particular night. Like everybody else, I shake my head like I am one of the Roxbury brothers and smile a big creepy smile, but I certainly will not remember any of these crap songs when the sun rises. So imagine my surprise when I sat back and took in Oceanlab’s debut album ‘Sirens of the Sea’ and actually heard some music that is beautiful, experimental and brave enough to attempt to transcend the all too creature comforts of most trance albums.

OceanLab is a vocal trance group made up of Jonathan Grant, Tony McGuinness, Paavo Siljamäki (Above & Beyond) and Justine Suissa, an English singer-songwriter whose lilting voice is melodic enough cast a haunting siren’s spell on your ears. As the centerpiece of this debut, Suissa’s gorgeously sad voice seems the perfect fit for the sublime sonic experimentation, which can be found on tracks like “Miracle” and “Ashes” among others.

During an interview in Riga, Latvia Tony and Paavo of OceanLab said, “We’ve been experimenting with a completely new sound – one of the tracks we’re working on right now features a 56 piece mouse choir. We went diving in Formentera too to record some noises from the dolphins.” And with that sort of strange and obsessive dedication to musical discovery, how could they possibly go wrong?

This is indeed an impressive debut, with moments of transcendence that seek to break out of the trance formula and reach for something more. I recommend it without reservation.

Adam J. Rodriguez

Strawberry Weed

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Do you like Swedish music? The question seems silly. Who’s from Sweden? Abba? Well, yeah, but these days Sweden is no longer just a purveyor of doom-metal and disco novelty acts. Swedish artists are some of the heaviest hitters on the contemporary music scene. The Hives, Jens Lekman, and Peter, Bjorn and John are just three of the many Swedish groups taking the U.S. by storm.

Riding the cresting wave of swedophilia is the Caesar’s whose Strawberry Weed is a fun, energetic dose of power-pop. Wisely cut in half from it’s original twenty-four tracks for attention-deficited American audiences, The Caesars provide twelve tracks of sugar-y fun, providing a rush of a ride, that though enjoyable, becomes quickly repetitive and is ultimately forgettable. Tracks like “Strawberry weed” and “Boo Boo Goo Goo” are great, but ultimately they blend together into a blurry soundscape populated by same-y riffs and identical chord progressions.

Nate Campbell

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