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Dean Roberts - Be Mine Tonight

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Artist: Dean Roberts

Album: Be Mine Tonight

Label: Kranky

Review date: Nov. 20, 2003

New Zealand must be an interesting place to spend your formative years. Maybe it’s the relative isolation of the bottom of the world or the weird magnetic fields; whatever the reason, this land down under seems a breeding ground for an eccentric/insular stance. The two islands are known for both the quirky pop of the Flying Nun label as well as the more experimental leanings of the Dead C. Dean Roberts seems to straddle the line of his country’s bi-polar nature, performing complex pop songs that are based as much in conceptual theory as they are in execution.

Roberts made his bones exploring the labyrinth of free improv playing or collaborating with among others White Wing Month, Tower Recordings and Thela. After the release of his well-received minimalist tour de force Aluminum, Roberts seemed ready to go the route of Jim O’Rourke, and add singer/songwriter to his improv credentials.

After repeated listens to Be Mine Tonight, its safe to say it’s got more going on then O’Rourke’s Insignificance. Be Mine Tonight comes off like the missing part of a triad that includes Talk Talk, and Bark Psychosis. Much like Talk Talk circa Laughing Stock, Be Mine Tonight is dominated by songs that rely as much on open spaces, preambles and codas as it is with the notion of song structures. Basically, Roberts creates classical movements over the course of the album’s four long-set pieces. Backed by deft performances from Valerio Tricoli, Christian Alati Giuseppe Ielasi, and Antonio Arrabbito, Roberts fills Be Mine tonight with touches of pastoral folk prog, similar to Tower Recordings, and a dash of Joan of Arc’s flair for laptop electronics, digital editing and circular guitar figures.

The relative ease with which these comparisons come to mind signals that Roberts’ distinctive talents are somewhat obfuscated on Be Mine Tonight. While he may be drinking from the same river of influences as, say, Talk Talk, Roberts’ past work is indicative of an artist who doesn’t need to hide behind other’s aesthetics. Hopefully Be Mine Tonight’s follow-up will be more a showcase for Roberts’ developing voice and a bit less a musical journey through his record collection.

By Paul Burress

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