Sunday, May 25, 2008

review: Dominique Leone

"High up on top, how do you feel..."
Dominique Leone has been one of the better writers at a certain score-obsessed website over the years, and his reviews tended to be of two varieties: either waxing historical about re-releases by the Beatles, Miles Davis, the Beach Boys, Can and John Lennon, or enlightening us on the forefront of burgeoning indie-superstars with reviews of early records by LCD Soundsystem, Animal Collective and Devendra Banhart. It would be easy to say that his self-titled debut draws inspiration from both sources, one foot in the past and one in the future, but that would be a mistake; although the (largely indecipherable) vocals contain allusions to Beach Boys harmonies and Beatles melodies, this record is uncompromisingly set in the 21st century.

Synths dominate, as melodies weave in and out and feedback explodes. Hyperactivity seems to be the running theme, with a touch of prog here and a dab of dance music there. Traditional song structures are abandoned save the gorgeous closer, “Conversational" and album highlight “Goodbye," an unbelievably catchy melding of neo-soul beats and stratospheric Beach Boys harmonies, almost like a lost track from 2007’s best (not a) mashup, Bullion's Pet Sounds: In The Key Of Dee. Elsewhere, “Tension” and “Duyen” feature vocals with minor-key melodies that, for someone reason, remind me of Sgt. Pepper’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!,” though no one would ever confuse the music behind them. “Nous Tombons Dans Elle” is extraordinarily fun, a schizo-dance track in the vein of Dan Deacon’s more psychedelic stuff.

In what seems to be a growing trend, this album is adorned with a massive centerpiece of a song, the 13-minute “The Return.” But while Panda Bear’s “Bros” was transcendental in its commitment to melody, Leone’s commits to nothing, wandering between quiet passages and massive bursts of feedback similar to the first few minutes of Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished. “The Return” is an abstract piece with a lot to decipher, but as of right now, it’s my least favorite thing on the album, feeling self-indulgent and unnecessary, even cold. There’s some good stuff in there, but it’s woefully buried.

It’s tempting to label this album as exceedingly “critic-friendly,” partly because it was made by one, and partly because it is the kind of mix of abstraction and familiarity that you can picture most critics getting behind. But that’s not really fair, is it? That’s like saying something is not good because it’s trying to be good. In reality, this is a fantastically ambitious affair that rewards multiple listens, even if you’re not sure what the fuck you’re hearing the first few go-rounds. For now, we should all be giving thanks that Dominique has put down the pen, and picked up the, err, Pro Tools.

Dominique Leone - Nous Tombons Dans Elle
Dominique Leone - Duyen

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