Retro Stefson - Retro Stefson

by Amy Putman Rating:7 Release Date:2013-03-25

Retro Stefson make music Moby would make if he was a space elf on ecstacy. It's simultaneously nostalgic, forward-thinking, and switching between moods and modes in a charmingly jerky, mind-twitching manipulation. I wouldn't bother dancing to it; I would marvel at it...

Although after a little marvelling I would probably wander off to do something else, something simple and fun, soulful and easy on the brain, like eating a hot dog or feeding the ducks. This is the musical version of Ai Weiwei's sunflower seeds. You want to experience it so you go and look at it, hoping to feel something profound. Then, after a while, you think "Wow, isn't that clever - wasn't this a nice little trip, totally worth it", and promptly leave and feel inordinately pleased by the fresh air and how beautiful your cup of tea seems.

It is both mind-expanding and underwhelming. This is thoughtful, careful, precise music which at times does very interesting things: Revolutionary tempo flourishes, and soft harmonies which are a sort of wonderful neon grey (I like grey - it's a very underrated colour). It's the moment the sun is obscured by a storm cloud and the cumulus is backlit, contrasting deep, fluffy water vapour with pure white brilliance.

This album is also undeniably a crowd-pleasing, popular take on experiment. At times, it could be what the Scissor Sisters would create if they were bright-minded and less annoying, but perhaps that is partly because of the swinging-back-and-forth, undeniably bonded relationship of the two vocalists. They work together perfectly and yet separately, similar and yet distinct, like two same-pole magnets being constantly pushed together against the resistance, veering off at the last minute, related yet without total connection.

This works to beautiful effect. It's what I'd like to think colloids sound like. In a metaphorical manner, obviously - most people's experience of colloids sounds like snapping styrofoam, squirting cans, and the slurping of a million cheap American diners, but I digress. The point is that this is to the Scissor Sisters what Scandinavia is to the Deep South; Colder maybe, but infinitely more intellectual and with a clean, fresh taste in the mouth. I don't mean its potential mass appeal to be in any way a criticism; they have taken some difficult bases and transformed them into something understandable and palatable for people who perhaps do not want to spend time on the experimental fringes of mixing.

Unfortunately, there is also something a little chilly and soulless about this album. Something that speaks more of old light bulbs than roaring fires. It's not a total deal-breaker but, for me, it relegates this album to something I might enjoy in an art opening or a cutting-edge fashion bar. It would go really well with the Saatchi collection; Damien Hirst's preserved animals would enjoy it. It would sooth edgy supermodels and pep-up tired PR people.

I'm sure there are cooler people than I out there who would find a way to shake their bodies around to it, but I'm saving my Friday nights for something with just a little more vim. Something with warmth and energy. I'm waiting for the soundtrack of sublimation.

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