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splendid > reviews > 2/14/2003
Renee Cologne
Renee Cologne
The Opposite Of
Backdoor


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Nap"

Buy me now
There is surprising depth to Renee Cologne's glossy pop; she dishes out full compositions laced with Eastern melodies and jazzy instrumentation. Indeed, The Opposite Of offers an overdriven take on mainstream pop, layering lush vocals amid a forest of trumpets, violins and cellos. The sophisticated compositions showcase Cologne's skills as a multi-instrumentalist -- she's responsible for almost all of the album's string arrangements, drum programming, keyboard, bass and guitar playing. Oh, and she manhandles the lion's share of the backing vocals, in addition to her lead-vocal duties.

Eastern melodies offer persistent and exotic nuances. For example, album opener "Tired" quietly stomps through a subdued verse and a swelling chorus to arrive at Turkish-sounding reed licks, anachronistic strings and industrial thumps. All the while, an ethereal keyboard line tremolos on the periphery. The effect is fresh and smart.

But Cologne's most intriguing efforts are those structured around electro beats, which rear their heads in a number of tracks, including the relatively straightforward "Sylvia Says" and "Mad Hatter". The latter number is the closest thing the record has to a big rocker, though in Cologne's vernacular that means the guitars compete with strings and layers upon layers of gorgeous vocal harmonies.

The record's most compelling song is "Nap", whose dry humor and IDM foundation combine to draw the listener into its tiny world of nursery-rhyme keys and sultry singing. Unfortunately, we plummet from the album's highest point directly to the lowest -- "Sciatica", The Opposite Of's only true bomb. The song is passable until the verse in which Cologne sings "running down my leg like a train line from New York to Washington." From there, the song stumbles along for a bit, then hits rock bottom when Cologne raps, in a matter of fact voice, about the symptoms of and treatments for the disorder. It comes off as laughably hollow.

Of course, the album's bedrock is always straight pop, coating Cologne's experimentation with enough sugar to make almost all of the songs sweet, approaching unique. Indeed, Cologne's forays into electro and IDM are more of a sampling than a real fixation on those styles -- but fans of more progressive pop will be rewarded time and time again, listening to The Opposite Of and plumbing the depths of its intricate production.



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