t’s a gray day in late March and I feel somehow limited, somehow unwhole. Likes... is the perfect soundtrack. Dani Siliciano delivers up a painfully reserved selection of icy, nuanced, techno jazz-pop. Musically it’s detached, stylized and somewhat mechanical. The vocals are flat, breathy, half-spoken, yet delicate and feminine. Though her subject matter is emotional, her voice remains neither emotive nor nostalgic. Depending on your taste this might be an aesthetic triumph, or a self-defeating exercise of soulless black and white Euro-snobbery. For me, the music works, but the vocals do not. What is, to a great extent, a formalist deconstruction is not “helped” by bad torching singing thrown on top.
The songs, obviously constructed via computer, have a digital gloss and clean, sharp edges. Component parts, on the whole, mimic those of dark, minimal techno, but these are constructed into semi-conventional cabaret song forms. Each sonic piece is a well-placed addition to a linear tableau. The nine-minute opener “Same” sides with the more techno-esque linearity. A coded pattern of pops and hiss, with ticklishly delicate synth tones cruises on for a minute and half before the singular word “same” is repeated in a disembodied fashion. At about a third of way through the track a full lyric makes an appearance: “you’re the same”. As thoroughly as DNA replication, the beats slowly tense into a mid range tempo with this same lyric repeated here and there, with rhythms unwinding themselves just as smoothly for the song’s fading finish. Here and elsewhere nods to contemporary trends in electronic music are sprinkled liberally (“Walk the Line” contains the obligatory electroclash enh-enh keyboard stab, “One String” is an exercise in glitchy, ultra-minimalism), but never undermine the overall reserved tone.
Other tracks play up the bossanova aspect. Lyrical development and more diverse instrumentation mark these songs. “All of the Above” is formed mostly of plucked strings, accordion, and double bass, and features a male/female call and response duet. This is nightclub music, but not the kind of club where you would hear “Same” playing in the chill room. The jazz cover of “Come As You Are” (yes, the Nirvana song) should best be considered as an original song; first, for the mercy of Ms. Siliciano, and secondly, (deservedly) it’s so different from the rock hit that it would be absurd to compare the two. Considered on its own merits, it’s little more than soulless filler jazz. Perhaps she can get some money out of it if it’s used in a car commercial.
Despite these minor flaws (I mean it was ballsy to cover “Come As You Are”), what really compromises this album is the vocals. Siliciano has no range and her girlish whisper floats dead atop the music. Quantitatively, the lyrics are small; qualitatively, the lyrics are cliché. Can anyone disagree speak-singing “you’re the same” over and over again is a tad irritating? Either way, as mentioned before, this could be heard as a self-imposed aesthetic criterion. The starkness and dryness being intentional, therefore reinforcing the cold, removed emotional approach that permeates much of the album.
Perhaps most telling, though, as I finish this, the sun’s come out and the field out my window is spotted with patches of melting snow. The sky is blue and doves are at the feeder. The music simply doesn’t fit anymore. Like the fading winter, its delights are fleeting and cursory, generally obscured by a whole host of problems.
Reviewed by: Bryan Neil Jones
Reviewed on: 2004-03-30