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splendid > reviews > 12/13/2003
Laika
Laika
Wherever I Am, I Am What's Missing
Too Pure


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Barefoot Blues"

Buy me now
Laika is not a rock band in the same way Radiohead is not an electronic band. Laika use guitars as accents to their electronic-based, loop-generated music, while Radiohead utilizes electronic blips, loops and squeals to accent their guitar-driven music. Yeah, Ed O'Brien, keep telling yourself that.

The point is, Laika have made interesting music and defied categorization for the better part of a decade, drawing from the part of the music world Venn Diagram where rock and electronica overlap.

Margaret Fiedler's breathy vocals comandeer her songs with rock star swagger while effect-laden instrumentation swirls around her. This steely, relaxed air of mega-star confidence sets Laika above the electronic beat jockeys and soundscape purveyors whose work adds tedium to your visits to trendy clothing stores. While Laika's music would still be at home in teen fashion stores, the surprising elements in their songs make it more likely that you'll hear them in the hipper shops in trendy enclaves like SoHo, South Beach and SoMa. They do this by adding unexpected elements from related (and not-so-related) genres. Your first clue to this uniqueness is the distinctive wah-wah guitar in "Girl Without Hands" -- an isolated burst of funkiness in an otherwise not-particularly-funky song. "Barefoot Blues" and "Fish for Nails" venture into muddy, hip-swiveling, bass driven IDM, unifying sub-genres in the process. In "Leaf By Leaf" we again hear the wah-wah guitar -- but this time it's reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, and you almost expect Fiedler to sing "Roll away / roll away the dew." (Jerry may be gone, but there are ways of keeping his guitar style alive, and decidedly hip.)

Fiedler's grounding vocal swagger keeps these tracks focused, and the mind-numbing, linear repetition that dogs so many electronic artists is pleasingly absent. Wherever I Am, I Am What's Missing remains grounded in electronic composition, but the subtle distinctions between spacy trip-hop epics (see "Diamonds and Stones) and booty-shaking dance-floor numbers help to keep the band's dynamic fresh, even after ten years. It's about time the rest of the music world caught up with Laika.



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