Songs for the Gentle
y My,” “Songs for the Gentle,” a bucolic cover with trees, rolling fields, and grazing horses. It slips off the tongue like a pedestrian cliché. My My are more than willing to sell themselves short on presentation. And as much as I’d like to say it’s deceiving, there’s just enough modesty in My My’s debut album that confirms (and conforms to) the underwhelming pastoral impressions. My My stands in stark contrast to labelmate Isoleé: Whereas last year’s Wearemonster was immediately recognizable as virtuosic, Songs for the Gentle arrives at a similar plateau practically unnoticed.
Given their background, the approach doesn’t seem too surprising. The Berlin-based group might be linked to a consistently superb label (Playhouse) and hold down residencies at an uber-chic venue (Panorama Bar), but they’ve always side-stepped such clout with their recordings. Take, for instance, their first single, “Klatta.” Although the A-side centers on a pleasant lob of a synth, the vinyl’s B-side, “Bel Etage,” is the one that swirls with the explosive flurry to smash dance-floors.
Beginning with the slink of “Clean Break,” Songs for the Gentle doesn’t sound particularly bothered by finding the coveted middle ground between the home and club. While the skipping and humming vocal samples beg headphones, the second-half’s schlocky synth point towards dancefloor peak-time. The group’s ability to interlock these two competing elements effortlessly is what makes this album work so well. It’s also one of the reasons that the transition to the long-player format goes so smoothly—a transition that has been shaky for more than a few artists (e.g. Trentemoller’s glide into the downtempo cul-de-sac).
Coupled with Akufen-style microsampling, the group reactivates the dry sound of plip-plop in a variety of ways (bicycle-bell rings (“Eleventh Hour”), sandpaper flutters (“Reverse Charge”), and Gondry-sized finger snaps (“Propain”) among them). The microsampling gives Songs for the Gentle a crispness that hearkens back to a time before the ketamine-fuelled daze. The album’s lucidity also allows for a variety of textures—something that allows for one of the few missteps on the album. The bland pairing of the similar “Blue Skies” and “Pelourinho” smack in the middle of Songs for the Gentle drags down what had been a terrific run.
Luckily, it’s followed by one of the album highlights: “Propain.” The song’s elastic bassline might provide the springy plastic anchor for the group’s collection of zips, pans, and skids, but My My never gets stuck dawdling in their sandbox. Instead, they slowly whittle away at “Propain”—carefully crafting new shapes from the discarded scraps of microhouse. It’s a technique that might not shock and awe, but it’s one that leaves Songs For the Gentle with more than enough room for My My to play in their rolling fields.
Reviewed by: Nate De Young
Reviewed on: 2006-11-02