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Laika
Laika
Good Looking Blues
Beggars Banquet

(CD)

click for Real Audio Sound Clip

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Laika was formed seven years ago by Moonshake alumni Margaret Fiedler and John Frenett. Like Moonshake, whose most recent outing, Dirty and Divine, was a unique construction of thick beats and sample collages, Laika approaches music from a non-genre-specific angle. Though they play guitars and drums, they're not rock music. Though they clearly have some sort of dance element, they're far from being techno. If I had to specify a genre for Laika I'd say trip-hop, although they've got just as much in common with Brian Eno or Sly and Robbie as they do with Tricky and Portishead.

The songs on Good Looking Blues are atmospheric and elusive, yet also pleasant and in one case even funny. The opener, "Black Cat Bone", combines sinister instrumental outbursts (the bass clarinet will sound forever sinister to me after my life-changing audition of Bitches Brew as an impressionable youth!) with Fiedler's seductive, half-whispered rap. It is at once diabolic and alluring, and the "little girl" quality of the chorus reminds me of Japanese cutey pie Takako Minekawa. "Uneasy" is more mellow and more melodic, yet Fiedler still sings in the husky, low part of her voice. It's an attractive song with sparse, yet balanced instrumentation.

The title track is more jungly than anything else on the album. It has a long instrumental introduction which quite effectively climaxes with vocals in the song's latter half. It's catchy and I like it! "Badtimes" is a paranoid yet hilarious spoof on the "Good Times" computer virus scare. Not only does this virus rewrite your hard drive, but it hides your car keys when you're late for work, seduces your grandmother and makes a batch of methamphetamine in your bathtub! Itís a funny song, yet also a musically subtle one, with a gently pulsing dub bass line, Latin-tinged percussion and minimalist melodic punctuation from the horns.

I like Good Looking Blues because it's intelligent and novel and manages to avoid sounding clichéd -- a bona fide feat these in these postmodern days.

-- Noah Wane

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